The Italian author of an LGBT-inclusive children’s book, criticized recently by the mayor of Venice, has now received praise from an unexpected source — Pope Francis.
Francesca Pardi’s book Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg) portrays an egg that encounters a variety of families in the animal kingdom, including “a pair of gay penguins, lesbian rabbits successfully bringing up a family, as well as other family models, including a single parent hippo, a mixed race dog couple, and kangaroos that have adopted polar bear cubs,” reports U.K. newspaper The Guardian.
Luigi Brugnaro, who was elected mayor of Venice in June, quickly ordered that Little Egg and several other LGBT-inclusive children’s books be removed from the city’s schools. “We do not want to discriminate against children,” he said. “At home parents can be called Dad One and Dad Two, but I have to think about the majority of families where there is a mother and a father.”
Pardi then sent the pope a letter about the attacks on her work, along with a package of children’s books from her Milan-based publishing company, Lo Stampatello, some of which deal with LGBT issues. “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us,” she wrote, according to The Guardian. “We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”
A Vatican official responded on Pope Francis’s behalf in a letter dated July 9 and viewed by The Guardian. “His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican secretariat of state. The letter emphasized, however, that it was meant as personal praise for Pardi and should not be construed as supporting ideas about gender and sexuality that go against church teachings. While the pope has displayed a more conciliatory attitude toward LGBT people than his predecessors did, he has held fast to those teachings, including a belief that children do best when raised by a married mother and father.
Pardi was surprised and gratified to receive the letter, she told The Guardian. “It’s not that I think that he’s for gay families,” she said of the pope, “because there’s the Catholic doctrine, but we mustn’t think that we don’t have rights.”