Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement
Pope Francis makes headline after headline for personally reaching out through letters and phone calls to people who have written to him, and speaking pastorally with them. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica now reports that the pope sent a handwritten reply to a group of gay and lesbian Catholics in Italy, and the original letter may have prompted the pope’s recent warm remarks on LGBT people.
Based on a Google translation (and Bondings 2.0 will update with a more reliable translation when that becomes availabe), La Repubblica writes:
“Pen and paper. Among the many revolutions made by Pope Bergoglio, in addition to phone calls home to ordinary people…there is also the ‘post effect,’ the mountain of letters delivered every day at his residence in Santa Marta, and sent directly to him…
“Some people think it may have been one of these ‘messages in a bottle’ that inspired the breakthrough of Bergoglio about gays. A letter sent in June to the Pope by various Italian gay Catholics…where gays and lesbians asked Francis to be recognized as people and not as a ‘category’ and called for openness and dialogue on the part of the Church, recalling that the closure ‘always feeds homophobia.’ “
Further information comes from America Magazine, which only weeks ago carried a groundbreaking interview with Pope Francis where his remarks on homosexuality were positive and welcoming, which reports:
“A leader of the impromptu committee said as gay Catholics they had in the past written to other members of the church leadership in Italy and had always before been rewarded with silence…
“The Kairos group said they also received a letter from the Vatican Secretariat of State, which informed them that Pope Francis ‘really enjoyed’ their letter to him and the way it was written, calling it an act of ‘spontaneous confidence.’
“One Kairos leader said Pope Francis had also assured the group of his blessing, something they could not before have imagined happening. The members of Kairos have decided to keep the rest of the message of both letters private.”
When New Ways Ministry led a pilgrimage to Italy in 2011, the Kairos group met with our American travelers to share stories and perspectives. Francis DeBernardo, our executive director, is contacting them currently to learn more about this papal letter. If we receive more information from them about the correspondence, we will update you.
While the contents of the pope’s letter remain private, truly as if between a pastor and the people he serves, there are broader lessons for the LGBT and ally Catholic community in this experience.
First, the wisdom that relational encounters with people are the most effective form of advocacy is relevant even for the pope. If La Repubblica‘s conjecture is correct that the personal letter from Kairos of Florence led to Pope Francis’ “Who am I to judge?” and other comments that have greatly shifted the Church’s tone on LGBT issues, then everyone should be writing letters to Rome. New Ways Ministry wrote a letter to Pope Francis, telling him about the goodness and holiness of Catholic LGBT people and pastoral outreach to them here in the U.S. Would you consider writing your own thoughts to him?
Second, if reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local Church leaders, namely priests and bishops. Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.
The pen and paper revolution underway with Pope Francis offers each person an opportunity to write their own message in the model of the Kairos of Florence authors. If you do write to Pope Francis or a local church leader, please consider sharing your message in the ‘Comments’ section for this post.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
From words we are getting via media sources, the personal exchange of letters and other forms of communications between individuals and Pope Francis seem to be working and appreciated by the writers and recipients. Such one-on-one dialogue is a breakthrough to be appreciated and respected as privileged and private communications unless otherwise permitted and granted by the authors. LGBT activists and media journalists need to exercise caution so that the flow of letters is not abrogated to get information into the public domain. Otherwise, writers will quickly size up what is happening as a breech of trust and respect.
Your observation that “Pope Francis’ Letter-Writing Revolution Requires Our Involvement” is of major importance, one that I have reached myself, and so fully endorse. I have just published my own post on this story, in which I reach this conclusion:
“For too long, the only letters to the Vatican that seemed to receive any attention seemed to be those from a small but vociferous minority of conservative Catholics, pleading for disciplinary action against those they regard as out of line with their own narrow understanding of Catholicism. Pope Francis has already said plainly that such letters of complaint should no longer be dealt with by the Vatican, and will be simply referred back to local bishops. On the other hand, it is becoming ever plainer that letters to the Pope that describe the difficulties encountered by ordinary Catholics grappling with the harsher aspects of Catholic doctrines in the reality of their life situations, are receiving considerable attention.
It’s time for lesbian and gay Catholics, individually and collectively, to seize the moment – take up your pens, or keyboards, and write to Rome.”
Reporting earlier on the extraordinary synod on the family, you invited your readers to offer their suggestions on what they would like the synod to consider. I suggest that we should send those suggestions, individually as well as collectively, directly to Rome, to the Pope, to his eight cardinal advisors – and to our own local senior bishops likely to attend.
Excellent observations, Terence! And excellent suggestions! For those who don’t know, Terence Weldon blogs at QueeringTheChurch.com, an excellent source of news and opinion on Catholic LGBT issues.
Writing a letter to the Pope. What a concept! What would I say? First I would tell him about my atheist friends and non-Catholic friends who find his words are speaking directly to them and not to just Catholics. It’s like they were waiting for him to affirm them. Then I would praise his compassion to all peoples and note how his remarks about the goodness of gays has changed a majority of people’s acceptance of them. Then I would suggest he welcome back with open arms those thousands who are denied the Eucharist because they are “not properly married.”I believe this is the single most important action he could take because these Catholics have been hurt the most and are among the largest group. A good start for the pope. Of course, women’s roles in the church looms greatly in need of change, as well as celibacy as a choice for priests. I am 80 years old, I would tell Francis, and how I yearn to see again parishes where the clergy both knew and understood their parishioners. Yes, though not perfect, it did once exist. And then I would end with a Blessing for him because he has asked us to do that and sign it “Your sister in Christ.”
Your second suggested lesson, to reach out to local church leaders, is worthwhile. To do so would be the gift of an act of trust on the part of the writer. As a gift it might be refused by some leaders who don’t know how to deal with such a gift, and gratefully received by other leaders who might respond with a similar gift of their own. It might be worth taking a chance. Is there any way Bondings can give this idea wider exposure?
Thanks for your suggestions and affirmation, Phrogge. The best way to help spread the word about writing is if Bondings 2.0 blog readers would spread the word to your families and friends via social media, email, and traditional forms of communication (i.e. talking, phone calls, letter writing).
YES, YES, YES
I have come to see our struggle as much bigger than LGBT liberation. I believe in liberating LGBT people, we are freeing religions themselves from the grasp of doctrinal application based ultimately in judgment. Homosexuality, ironically, as the focus of religious animosity, is turning out to be our collective and individual salvation. As each person who transcends a misguiding teaching of man to find the love of God for all people, is saved by their own epiphany. And we – the 10% of the world that exists in every corner of humanity – are the catalysts for this soul-searching, challenging the most sacred learned ideas with the more profound journey to oneness with love.