“What do you say to an LGBT Catholic who has been rejected by the Church? asked the North American Jesuit priest. Jacques Martin to Francois. The pope’s brief response came through a handwritten text in which the highest authority in the Catholic Church said that “I would like you to recognize this (rejection) not as ‘rejection from the Church’, but as ‘people in the Church’”. For, continues the pope, “the Church is mother and calls all her children. Take for example the parable of the guests: “the righteous, the sinners, the rich and the poor, etc. (Matthew 22:1-15; Luke 14:15-24). And François categorically closes his answer by affirming that “a ‘selective’ Church, of ‘pure blood’, is not the Holy Mother Church, but a sect”.
The interview was published by Father Martins himself on the website ” Sensitization ” which defines itself as a resource for LGBTI+ Catholics, their families and friends. The North American priest, in regular contact with the pope, who defines himself as an activist for the rights of LGBTI+ Catholics, is editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America and since 2017 he has been a consultant to the Vatican Communications Secretariat by appointment of Francis.
Since his election as Pope (2013) but especially in the last stage of his pontificate, Francis reiterates his declarations of closeness towards LGTBI+ people and, in particular, those who, being homosexuals, consider themselves Catholics. On many occasions, Bergoglio refused to pronounce judgments against the members of this community, in spite of the criticisms which he receives for this reason from the most conservative sectors of Catholicism who accuse the pope of contradicting Catholic teaching on the matter.
What do you think is the most important thing LGBT people need to know about God? Martin asked the pope. “God is a Father and does not reject any of his children.. And the “style” of God is “nearness, mercy and tenderness”. On this path you will find God,” Francis replied. “What would you like LGBT people to know about the Church? insisted the North American priest in his interview. “I would like you to read the book of Acts of the Apostles. There you will find the image of the living Church,” Bergoglio said.
On different occasions, the pope has expressed his support for Martin’s pastoral work with the Catholic LGBTI+ community. A little less than a year ago, he sent a message to the priest in which he underlined: “I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your ability to be close to people, with this closeness that Jesus had and which reflects the closeness to God. Our heavenly Father draws lovingly close to each of his children, each and every one. His heart is open to each and everyone.
In similar terms, Francisco wrote a handwritten letter on December 10 to Jeannine Gramick (80), American nun from the community of the Sisters of Loreto and founder of the Catholic apostolate News Ways Ministry. On this occasion, the pope thanked the nun for her 50 years of work and support for the LGTBI+ collective, even speaking out against the criticisms that several North American bishops have leveled at the woman, even asking that she be removed from his job.
In his letter, Francisco praised Gramick for his willingness to suffer for love. “You were not afraid of ‘closeness'”, he writes, “and in approaching you did so ‘feeling the pain’ and without condemning anyone, but with the ‘tenderness’ of a sister, of a mother.” Earlier, the pope, acknowledging that the nun had been persecuted by church authorities for her work with the gay community, said he knew “how much she suffered” and described her as “a courageous woman who makes her decisions in prayer”.
In 2013, when Francis was asked about homosexuals, the pope’s response was “Who am I to judge?” In 2016, in the document Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Pope stressed the importance that in the Church’s pastoral care with the homosexual community, human dignity be taken into account “above all” and any violence intended to be exercised against these people be put to the test.
On different occasions in recent years, Bergoglio has marked a significant shift in the Church’s pastoral approach to the LGTBI+ community, emphasizing “closeness” and “accompaniment” although The pope has so far refused to review the Catholic magisterium that condemns these people.