Pope Francis pays surprise tribute to passionately pro-LGBT+ priest for embracing queer Catholics

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Pope Francis has heaped praise on a priest for his ministry to the LGBT+ community, in stark contrast to the Vatican’s recent actions against queer people.

Jesuit priest James Martin has been advocating for LGBT+ inclusion and equality within the Catholic Church for many years – and he got a surprising endorsement from the pontiff on Saturday (26 June).

Pope Francis thanked Martin for his “pastoral zeal” and his “ability to be close to people” in a handwritten letter after Martin hosted the Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Webinar, which saw more than 1,000 people take part.

The letter came after Martin sent a note telling the Pope about his plans to host the outreach event, which went ahead on Saturday (26 June).

“Regarding your PS [about the Outreach LGBT Ministry Conference] I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your ability to be close to people, with the closeness that Jesus had, and which reflects the closeness of God,” Pope Francis wrote.

“Our Heavenly Father comes close with love to each one of his children, each and everyone. His heart is open to each and everyone. He is a Father.

“God’s ‘style’ has three elements: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is how he comes closer to each one of us.”

Pope Francis praised pro-LGBT+ priest James Martin for his ‘compassion’

Pope Francis continued: “Thinking about your pastoral work, I see that you are continually seeking to imitate this style of God. You are a priest for all men and women, just as God is a Father for all men and women.

“I pray for you to continue in this way, being close, compassionate and with great tenderness.

“And I pray for your faithful, your ‘flock’, and all those whom the Lord places in your care, so that you protect them, and make them grow in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis closed out his letter by asking Martin to pray for him.

Martin heaped praise on Pope Francis for the letter, describing it as “beautiful”. Meanwhile, other Catholics have pointed to the significance of the Catholic leader’s words.

Christopher Lamb, Rome correspondent for The Tablet, noted that the letter is “the first ever written papal endorsement of a priest’s ministry to LGBT Catholics”.

The letter is just the latest chapter in the Catholic Church’s turbulent, highly complicated relationship with the LGBT+ community – and specifically with queer Catholics.

The church has resolutely refused to modernise, and early statements perceived as being supportive of the LGBT+ community from Pope Francis have largely amounted to nothing.

Most recently, the Vatican banned blessings for same-sex couples, prompting younger Catholics to leave the church in their masses. Countless churches in went on to stage blessings in direct contravention of the Vatican policy.

The Vatican has also been condemned in recent days for attempting to interfere in an Italian anti-homophobia bill.