Pope Francis personally responded to a letter sent by Kairos di Firenze, a group of Italian Catholic LGBTQ who wrote a letter to his residence in Santa Marta last June.
The letter asked the pope to recognize the LGBTQ community as “people” and not as a category, asking for openness and dialogue from the Catholic Church, and reminding the Pope that closing down conversation “always feeds homophobia.”
The group has sent letters to popes past, asking for the same respect for the LGBTQ community, but this is the first time the pontiff has responded. The group was astounded to receive a hand written letter from the current head of the Church.
“No one had ever given even a hint of an answer,” said one of the Kairos leaders, Innocenzo Pontillo to La Repubblica, a local Florence newspaper.
In addition to responding to the letter, the Pope “assured us of his benedictory greeting,” said the Kairos representative.
“None of us could have imagined anything like this,” he continued.
In addition to receiving the hand written response, the group also received a letter from the Vatican’s Secretary of State, in which Pope Francis wrote that “he appreciated very much what we had written to him, calling it a gesture of ‘spontaneous confidence.'”
The letter, which was sent last June, reached the Pope before his now infamous pro-gay remark, “Who am I to judge?” uttered on a plane last July.
The article in La Repubblica speculates that the letter sent by the Kairos group may have inspired the change in sentiment towards homosexuals expressed by the Pope.
“Who knows whether his subsequent remarks about homosexuals… might not actually be due to this exchange of letters,” writes Maria Cristina Carratu for La Repubblica, translated by The Dish.
The personal response received by the LGBTQ organization from the pope has already inspired other advocates of LGBTQ causes within the Catholic church to call for more involvement and personal interaction with church leaders in an effort to create change.
New Ways Ministry, a blog dedicated to building bridges between the LGBTQ community and the Catholic Church has taken up the call to write, seeing this incident as an example of a way effective change can be made within the church.
“There are broader lessons for the LGBT and ally Catholic community in this experience,” the organization remarks in a statement on their blog.
“First, the wisdom that relational encounters with people are the most effective form of advocacy is relevant even for the pope,” they continue, emphasizing that reaching out to individuals on a personal basis changes opinions.
“Second, if reaching out to the pope is effective, perhaps it is time for Catholics to reach out to their local Church leaders, namely priests and bishops,” states the blog.
“Sharing personal stories to replace philosophical constructs with human faces and relationships might lead to further conversions.”
This most recent development points to a change—slowly but surely—of long held anti-gay beliefs by those in power within the Catholic institution.
A single letter may have sparked an international response from the Catholic community around LGBTQ acceptance within the church.