Pope Francis has told parents of LGBTIQ+ offspring that “the Lord loves your children just as they are”.

– “The Church too must love them just as they are”

“Of course, the Lord loves them just as they are, because they are all children of God. And the Church too must love them just as they are”, Pope Francis said September 16 in the course of a meeting in the Vatican with around 40 Italian parents – mothers and fathers – of LGBTIQ+ children.

The recounting of the Pope’s words came from Mara Grassi, a Catholic mother of a gay son who is also the vice-president of the ‘La Tenda di Gionata’ (“Jonathan’s Tent”) association.

The group – committed to pastoral outreach to LGBTIQ+ Christians and their families and to dialogue on LGBTIQ+ issues with the Church – organised Wednesday’s audience with the Pope.

– Creating “a bridge” with the Church “so that it can change her way of looking at our children”

La Tenda di Gionata recently produced a book – Blessed Parents – containing stories of Catholic parents and families learning to live with the reality of LGBTIQ+ children and facing in many cases the incomprehension, or outright hostility, of the Church.

Blessed Parents is “a useful resource for those who want to eradicate prejudices and barriers and help build bridges”, the president of La Tenda di Gionata, Innocenzo Pontillo, explained.

Pontillo added that given the richness of Blessed Parents the group wanted to present a copy to Pope Francis, out of a desire to “familiarise [him] with our journey” and to seek “his affirmation of our quest for what is true and good”.

La Tenda di Gionata vice-president Mara Grassi told of her experience of presenting a copy of Blessed Parents to the pontiff:

The Pope spoke about contemplation, about the need to discover the love and light of God in all creation, all people and all things.

“As I handed him our booklet, I explained to him how lucky we are because we have been compelled to change the way we have always seen our children and notice in them the beauty and love of God.

“We want to journey with and create a bridge with the Church so that it too can change her way of looking at our children by no longer excluding them but fully welcoming them”.

– “There is no fear in love”

As Italian Bishops’ newspaper Avvenire reported, the parents of La Tenda di Gionata gave the Pope – along with the book – a rainbow T-shirt emblazoned with the words “There is no fear in love” (1 Jn 4:18).

According to Grassi, the pontiff “looked and smiled” as he accepted the shirt, “in a moment of profound empathy that we will never forget”.

A copy of Blessed Parents and the rainbow T-shirt aside, the group also handed the Pope a number of moving reflections penned by parents of the association.

In the Church, diversity “must find full belonging because it is a sign of the mystery and love of God”, read one of those reflections handed over to the pontiff.

Another spoke of the pain of a son who “chose to become an agnostic to safeguard himself from this lack of acceptance” of LGBTIQ+ people in the Church – an ostracism made manifest above all in the Church’s teaching documents, which became for him “a crown of thorns”.

More on Novena on the fight for LGBTIQ+ rights in the Church:

Spanish priest encourages lesbians, bisexual women: “We are all human beings, equal in dignity”

With support from Pope, nun helping Trans women won’t back down: “Jesus asks me to care for people just as they identify”

“Literally a matter of life and death”: Rainbow Catholics urge Pope, Vatican to rein in LGBTIQ+-phobic prelates

Global Catholic group calls on Polish Bishops to use “every means available” to “protect the dignity” of LGBTIQ+ people

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Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.