No, the Pope did not ‘praise’ a gay children’s book

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Inaccurate reports are circulating that the Pope ‘praised’ a children’s book featuring same-sex couples – despite denials from the Vatican.

The row began after the far-right Mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, decreed that primary schools and nurseries should be purged of books featuring same-sex couples.

Over a thousand copies of ‘And Tango Makes Three’, which is about two male penguins bringing up a chick, were removed from circulation, along with around 250 copies of Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg) by Italian author Francesca Pardi.

Following the row, Pardi sent a parcel of books to the Vatican – along with a letter explaining she is a same-sex parent and pleading for the support of the Pope.

In a courtesy thank-you letter, the councillor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Monsignor Peter Brian Wells wrote: “His Holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.”

Media outlets including the Guardian reported the response as “Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children’s book” – but the Vatican has moved to deny that the Pope endorsed the books in any way, shape or form.

A spokesperson for the Vatican said in an official statement that the letter was entirely taken out of context – with Father Ciro Benedettini insisting the reply was a standard courtesy, and not any kind of endorsement.

He said: “In no way is the letter from the Secretariat of State intended to endorse behaviours and teachings that are not in line with the Gospel.

“The Pope’s blessing at the end of the letter is to the person, and not to the teachings which are not in line with Church doctrine on gender theory, which in no way has changed, as the Holy Father has recently confirmed many times.”

He adds that the letter has been “exploited” and taken “entirely out of context”.

As of publication the Guardian’s story does not appear to have been amended, despite the official denial from the Vatican.

Despite an early ‘who am I to judge’ PR blitz attempting to bolster his image, the Pope is yet to lift any of the actively homophobic and transphobic policies of his predecessors.

Proposals to ‘reach out’ to gay people were scrapped by the Church last year – and despite claims that the plans would return at a 2015 Synod, a working paper recently showed the Church has no plans to discuss the matter again.

The Pope has also rallied against same-sex marriage, inviting representatives from listed hate groups to a ‘traditional marriage’ conference, and urging Slovakians to vote against equal marriage, which he claims “disfigures God’s creation”.