concerning recent remarks by Pope Francis
Quest, the UK association for LGBT Catholics, their families and friends, welcomes Pope Francis’s recent words on homosexuality on his return to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil. Quest believes this is a Pentecost moment for two reasons.
- Unlike his predecessor Benedict XVI who often appeared uneasy and defensive with the press, Pope Francis’s approach is more in keeping with the Apostles who preferred the risk and uncertainty of leaving the Upper Room in order to take the message of the risen Christ to the wider world. His eighty minute press conference on board the plane showed a leader who was unafraid to tackle a wide variety of questions and he engaged freely and openly. This is in contrast with traditional protocol which has often seen journalists having to submit written questions in advance, questions which were often selected with a view to avoiding controversy and in which ecclesiastical control frequently did not permit spontaneous exchange of question and answer. Pope Francis has changed all expectations.
- Francis used the word, “gay” not once, but five times. He is the first Catholic leader to do so. This is deeply significant. “Gay” is the term that originated in the struggle for human rights and it is a word that the many in the LGBT community use to refer to themselves. This shift of language suggests empathy and engagement. After the Pentecost, the Apostles left the Upper Room and spoke in many languages. This shift in language enabled them to be understood more widely among many people who had not heard the Christian message.
Many have reacted by suggesting his words, “if a person is gay, who am I to judge?” suggest no essential change of Church teaching which still condemns sexual acts between members of the same sex. But that is to miss the point. Quest believes the Spirit is blowing forcefully in Pope Francis’ recent remarks and sincerely hopes these will not be his last words on the subject.