Pope Francis has said this week that “God loves your children as they are” while addressing about 40 parents from an Italian organisation called La Tenda di Gionata in a brief private, meeting following his weekly general audience at the Vatican.

Tenda di Gionata which translates to English as Jonathan’s Tent was founded in 2018, and as an organisation aims to inform Christian LGBTQI members, their families, and pastoral workers.

Maria Grassi, vice president of the organisation said to local media following the meeting that she had told the Pope of the parents’ desire for full acceptance of their children within the church.

Grassi, and her husband, Agostino Usai, had giving the Pope a booklet titled Genitori Fortunati (Fortunate Parents) which detailed interactions between parents of LGBTQI people and the Roman Catholic 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.”

To this, Pope Francis simply replied, “The church does not exclude them because he loves them deeply” and that “The church loves your children as they are because they are children of God,” according to Grassi’s account.

Of course, Pope Francis has not always shown such outwardly support for LGBTQI communities,

 In 2013, Francis formerly approved a 2006 document from the US giving priests guidelines on pastoral care for ‘Persons with Homosexual Inclinations’ in it, homosexuality was described as a ‘disorder’.

In 2018 he was quoted as saying the idea of gay clergy “was a very serious issue that influences the life of the church and was therefore something he was concerned about.

“In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.”

Grassi, who’s oldest of four children is gay, also said to Italian reporters that she had 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.” 

These recent comments from Pope Francis, despite being addressed to only a small group of parents, should perhaps provide some hope for other families around the world, who like Grassi had felt nothing but rejection from the Catholic Church until now.

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