Pope Franics has sent a personal blessing to an Italian gay Catholic group who had been ignored by their own archbishop for years.
The major breakthrough has just been revealed and may have been the inspiration for the new pope’s comments when he said he wouldn’t judge gay people who have goodwill.
Catholic LGBT group Kairos of Florence, gathered signatures from a number of Italian gay Catholics for the letter they sent to Pope Francis.
In the letter they asked Francis to be recognized as people and not as a ‘category’.
And they called for an open dialogue with the Catholic Church, saying being closed about the subject ‘always feeds homophobia’.
They expected no response. But instead they got a major surprise – as the Florence edition of La Repubblica, Italy’s leading newspaper, today reports.
The Vatican Secretariat of State replied and, according to Innocenzo Pontillo from Kairos, said Pope Francis ‘really enjoyed that we wrote, calling it an act of “spontaneous confidence” and the way in which we had written’.
Even more significantly, Pontillo reports Pope Francis also gave them ‘his blessing’.
While the exact content of both letters in private and their existence has only just been made public today, it is seen as a major breakthrough.
La Repubblica speculates the exchange in June may have inspired Francis to make his comments on 29 July when he said: ‘'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?'
Even if that is not the case, it was still a significant moment for Kairos who said nobody from the Catholic hierarchy had event given even ‘a nod of response’ before.
In particular they had been ignored for years by the Archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori.
Pontillo told La Repubblica: ‘[He] has always refused to even receive us, arguing that otherwise he would have been legitimized us as homosexuals.’
The Kairos group was partly inspired by the death of Alfredo Ormando who set himself on fire in the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square on 13 January 1998 to protest the attitude of the Catholic Church towards homosexuals. He died 10 days later in agony.