When Pope Francis travels to Paraguay in July, one of the meetings he will have will include a married gay man. It is the first known public meeting that the pope will have with a gay or lesbian person who is legally married.
What’s more, the individual is a leading gay activist: Simón Cazal, executive director of the Paraguayan LGBT rights group SOMOSGAY (“We Are Gay”). Cazal married another gay activist, Sergio López, in Argentina in 2012.
Buzzfeed.com broke the story about this meeting, noting that Cazal will be meeting with the pope in a roundtable setting with other Paraguayan civil leaders. Also significant is that this meeting was initiated by the Vatican, Cazal having never requested to be part of the event. Buzzfeed reported:
“López told BuzzFeed News that the invitation came as a total surprise — the group had not requested to be included in the meeting. Paraguay also is one of the few South American countries where no protections exist for LGBT people or same-sex couples; their marriage in Argentina has no legal force in their country.”
Bondings 2.0 provides an unofficial English translation of the letter which you can access by clicking here. The meeting will take place on July 11th, in the capital city of Asunción. Though Francis has made pastoral gestures with LGBT groups, including New Ways Ministry’s pilgrims, the meeting with Cazal marks the first time he will meet with an LGBT civic leader.
While Cazal did not make a request to be invited, the invitation came shortly after SOMOSGAY initiated a campaign, in light of the papal visit, to urge the Catholic Church to show greater respect for LGBT people. A press release on the organization’s website explains the need for the campaign, in the words of their executive director, Noting Pope Francis’ many affirming statements to the LGBT community, Cazal stated:
“ ‘One can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender AND a Catholic at a time; there is no contradiction between being an LGBT person and being a religious person. Respect for personal beliefs is inherent in democracy’ says Sergio López, activist of SOMOSGAY. ‘We recognize that human diversity also exists within the Catholic Church, especially in Paraguay, being the Latin American country with the highest percentage of Catholics, with a rate of 89%. We hope that the religious leaders of our country catch up with the Holy Father and join his stance of openness and reconciliation.
“In that sense, SOMOSGAY calls the Church to abandon the positions of intolerance and insults dehumanizing LGBT people. ‘Denying rights, attacking people and ignore their families goes against Catholic principles of love and respect, we hope that -as in the days of the dictatorship, the choice of the Paraguayan Catholic Church is in favor of and unprotected and persecuted in our time, among those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, ‘ said López.
Buzzfeed added that Cazal’s hope for his meeting with the pontiff will result in Pope Francis speaking out against violence directed toward the LGBT community, particularly in response to an oppressive incident that happened last year:
“SOMOSGAY made international news last June when riot police violently removedLGBT protestors supporting a resolution supportive of LGBT rights when they clashed with religious conservative protestors before the beginning of a meeting of the Organization of American States in Asunción last year.
“López told BuzzFeed News on Thursday that they are counting on the pope to ‘address the issue’ of violence targeting LGBT people ‘since the OAS repression went completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the church here.’ This was especially galling, López said, because ‘the whole repression happened during a Catholic march.’ ”
This invitation is very good news. Let’s hope that this meeting will help Pope Francis clear up the diplomatic standoff that the Vatican currently has with France, since he has not yet approved the new French ambassador who happens to be gay.
Let’s hope, too, that Pope Francis replicates the invitation by inviting LGBT Catholics to meet with him when he visits the United States in September. It is wonderful that he is visiting in Paraguay with an LGBT civic leader who can explain to him how civil society harms LGBT people. It’s now incumbent upon him to hear from LGBT people of faith, specifically Catholics, who can explain to him how church structures and policies cause harm.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry