Pope Francis, who has sent mixed signals to the queer community, sent a positive one this week when he told parents of LGBTQ+ people, “God loves your children as they are.”
He made the comment Wednesday to a group of about 40 parents from an Italian organization called Tenda di Gionata, which translates to Jonathan’s Tent, America Magazine reports. The pope held a brief private meeting with the parents following his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
Maria Grassi, vice president of Tenda di Gionata, and her husband, Agostino Usai, gave the pope a booklet titled Genitori Fortunati (Fortunate Parents), detailing interactions between parents of LGBTQ+ people and the Roman Catholic Church. Grassi, who spoke to Italian media after the meeting, said she told the pope of the parents’ desire for full acceptance of their children within the church.
“We consider ourselves fortunate because we had to change the way that we had always looked at our children,” she told him. “We found a new way of looking that enabled us to see in them the beauty and love of God. … We wish to create a bridge to the church so that the church too can change its way of looking at our children, no longer excluding them but fully welcoming them.”
Francis replied, “The church does not exclude them because she loves them deeply.” He also said, “The church loves your children as they are because they are children of God,” according to Grassi’s account.
Yet the church considers same-sex sexual activity to be a sin, and it expects faithful Catholics who are attracted to the same sex to remain celibate. Regarding gender identity, it takes the stand that gender is fixed at birth and immutable.
Francis has reiterated these stances many times. Despite his “Who am I to judge?” comment about gay people early in his papacy, he has cautioned against admitting gay men to the priesthood and said same-sex couples are not families. Still, he told a gay man that God made him and loves him as he is, and met privately with a transgender man who said he saw the pope as “kindness personified.” Francis has also said a “culture of hate” targeting LGBTQ+ people is Nazi-like.
Grassi is the mother of four, the oldest of whom, at 40, is a gay man. She told Italian reporters that she suffered for many years after she learned he was gay “because the rules of the church made me think that he was excluded from the love of God.” But a sympathetic priest helped her see that “faith and homosexuality are not in opposition, and that God loves my son as he is.”