The interview with Corriere della Sera, translated by the Catholic News Service, suggested that Francis viewed the unions as a practical way to protect property rights and access to health care.
"Matrimony is between a man and a woman," he said. But he added that efforts to "regulate diverse situations of cohabitation (are) driven by the need to regulate economic aspects."
The news service notes that a year ago the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family said some legal arrangements are justifiable to protect the inheritance rights of non-married couples.
But the news service says that Francis is the first pope to "indicate even tentative acceptance of civil unions."
Click on the following for more details: Pope Francis leaves door open for same-sex unions