In a historic first, a married gay activist met with Pope Francis on Saturday — and walked away with a sense that the pope genuinely believes “dignity is for everyone.”
Simón Cazal, executive director of Paraguay LGBT group SomosGay, was among a delegation of 1,600 Paraguayan civil society leaders and members who met with the Holy See in Asunción, reports The Washington Blade.
"No hay personas de primera, de segunda o de tercera, la dignidad es de todos"
— Simón Cazal (@scazal) July 11, 2015
Although the pope did not directly address LGBT issues during his speech, Cazal told the Blade the pontiff “did mention others in which they are included.”
“The pope’s speech was very productive,” Cazal added. “The local church insisted on talking about the family and other conservative issues… [But] he distanced himself from this discourse and highlighted diversity in its place.”
Cazal was invited to the meeting by the Paraguayan Catholic bishops’ conference, which cited his group’s impact on society. The Blade notes that the bishops’ conference invited other LGBT activists, but Cazal was the only one who accepted the invitation. He married fellow SomosGay activist Sergio López in Argentina in 2012, but their marriage is not recognized in Paraguay, which has few civil rights protections for LGBT people.
While Cazal is the first married LGBT activist to meet with the pope in a public forum, Francis, a former archbishop of Argentina, had a private meeting in January with a transgender man who was rejected by members of his church in Spain. In March, the pope organized a lunch with 90 inmates from a prison near Naples, Italy, including 10 from a unit reserved for gay, transgender, and HIV-positive people. Both meetings were positioned as part of the pope's outreach and ministry to those "marginalized" by the church.
Francis’s tenure as pope has also been notable for his adoption of a more conciliatory tone toward LGBT people than that of his predecessors, although he has also made some less positive statements — for instance, criticizing “nontraditional” family structures and the concept of gender fluidity. And his papacy has seen no policy changes on LGBT issues.
Nevertheless, in advance of the pope’s visit to Paraguay, part of the pontiff’s ongoing tour of Latin America, anti-homophobia billboards appeared throughout Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción, showing same-sex couples embracing, and including the pope’s famous quote asking, “Who am I to judge” gay people who “seek the Lord with good will.”
— SOMOSGAY (@SOMOSGAY) July 11, 2015