Article by Maria Cristina Carratù. Published in Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Florence Edition, on October 8, 2013. Translated by Peter Luntz
Increasing numbers of letters and messages to Pope Francis are coming out of Tuscany (Italy). Among these, there is a letter from the gay Catholics of the Kairos group asking to be recognized as persons and not as a “category”. They invoke openness and dialog from the Catholic Church and recall that closure “always feeds homophobia.” Francis responded and also sent a blessing.
Pen and paper. Among the many revolutions of Pope Francis, phone calls to common people […] now see the addition of the “mail effect.” Everyday a mountain of letters are sent directly to the Pope at his residence in Santa Marta. These letter writers hope to avoid the ‘obstacles’ of the Roman Curia by reaching the Pope directly. Now some believe that it may have been one of these ‘messages in a bottle’ to inspire Bergoglio’s breakthrough about gays.
Last June, gay Catholics, headed up by the highly active Kairos group in Florence, wrote the Pope a letter. In the letter, gays and lesbians ask Francis to be recognized as persons and not as a ‘category’. They invoke openness and dialog from the Church, recalling that closure “always feeds homophobia.”
This was not the first letter they sent to a Pope. But Innocenzo Pontillo, one of the leaders of Kairos, said that “before there had never been even the slightest hint of a response.”
However, this time a response did come. A letter was sent from the Vatican Secretariat of State (the specific contents of the letters is private and only recently was it decided to share news of the exchange). Pontillo explains how the Vatican letter reveals that Pope Francis “highly appreciated much of what we wrote, calling our letter a gesture of ‘spontaneous confidence’.” He also appreciated “the way we expressed ourselves.”
That is not all. “The Pope assured us of his benedictory greeting. None of us had gone so far as to imagine anything of the sort,” said the Kairos representative. Pontillo recalled how the Archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, on the contrary, “has always refused merely to receive us, maintaining that, if he did, we would be legitimated as homosexuals.”
Now Pope Francis has gone so far as to send his blessing. One can only wonder if his comments regarding homosexuals (“Who am I to judge a gay person?” on his return flight from Rio de Janeiro, and his shocking words to Civiltà Cattolica: “When God looks upon a homosexual person, does He approve of their existence with affection or does He refuse and condemn them? One must always consider the person.”) might truly be due to this exchange of letters. […]