Pope Francis recently met with a group of Italian LGBTQ+ advocates to discuss building a more inclusive church, telling them to seek a church “that excludes no one.”
The advocates were part of La Tenda di Gionata (The Tent of Jonathan), which serves LGBT Christians. They met privately with the pope after his Wednesday general audience, and members had the chance to discuss ministry to queer people, as well as the way that children of same-gender couples are treated within the church.
The National Catholic Reporter noted that members of the group met the pope while wearing t-shirts featuring a scriptural passage: “In love, there is no fear” (1 John 4:18).
Because the group was invited to a private audience with the pope, there is no transcript of the event. However, members who attended the meeting left feeling encouraged by the Francis’ receptive attitude toward their concerns, according to L’Avvenire.
The group included Francesca and Modena, a lesbian couple who delivered letters to the pope from children of LGBTQ+ parents describing their experiences of isolation and mistreatment in the church. Francesca offered a positive assessment of their meeting:
“‘We presented ourselves as a couple, without showing off anything but also without hiding. Our group is called ‘Come and see’ and is led by two extraordinary priests who have the full support of our Archbishop Erio Castellucci. We are making an important journey. I wanted to explain it to the Pope, but there was no time. I only told him how much we love him.'”
Her partner was also moved by the meeting, and forecasted LGBTQ-positive changes to church teaching at some point in the future, according to La Stampa:
“Meeting the Pope is a confirmation of the journey of faith that will lead us to civil unions.”
Fr. Gianluca Carrega, a biblical scholar and leader of LGBTQ+ ministry in the Archdiocese of Turin, was granted a few extra minutes to speak with Pope Francis:
“[He] asked the Pope to continue his work aimed at building a hospitable Church that excludes no one. And his answer? ‘He smiled at me and nodded.’”
Carrega also expressed to Pope Francis the seriousness of LBGTQ-negative attitudes which still reside within the church. The priest asked the pope for a more stern position on Catholic messages against discrimination. Progetto Gionata reported Carrega’s words:
“‘Holiness, you have two hands. With one you show us the way and with the other you protect us, because there is still prejudice in the Church’…on the one hand, [I have] gratitude for a pastor who really tries to build a Church in which there is room for everyone; on the other, [there is] need for an ever stronger and clearer commitment. Because it is true that prejudices are still cultivated in the Church.”
The meeting occurred just a day after the Flemish bishops released guidelines for blessing same-gender couples, signaling broader LGBTQ-positive changes within the church.
Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the meeting:
“Encounters like the meeting between Pope Francis and La Tenda di Gionata’s members are critical for becoming a church ‘that excludes no one,’ to quote the pope. It is critical LGBTQ+ Catholics and their families keep pursuing dialogue with church leaders because, in sharing our stories, understanding grows and positive change comes. Thank you, too, to Pope Francis for his consistent willingness to encounter LGBTQ+ people and so many others who are marginalized.”
La Tenda di Gionata published a collection of stories by Italian parents of LGBT children in a book released last year. At the group’s request, New Ways Ministry published an English edition, which is available here.
—Andru Zodrow (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 30, 2022