School him!

Pope Francis receives an insight into LGBTQ lives from US priest

Father James Martin (Photo: Facebook)

A US Jesuit priest has revealed more about visits he made this week with Pope Francis and other Vatican officials in Rome, Italy.

On Monday it was reported by several news agencies that Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, had met with New York City-based Jesuit priest Father James Martin.

Father Martin is well-known for his views on welcoming gay people to the Church. The cleric is seen as a liberal voice in the higher echelons of Catholicism.

In 2017, he published a book: Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the L.G.B.T. Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity.

He serves as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.

On Monday, the Vatican listed the private audience the Pope had with Fr. Martin. As it only publicly acknowledges a few of the Pope’s private meetings, this was seen by some as a tacit sign of approval for Martin and a wish to publicize the meeting.

Related: Vatican uses ‘LGBT’ for first time in report on why youth are fleeing the church

Martin’s views have upset more conservative voices in the Catholic Church. Several talks he has previously been booked to give in the US have been canceled.

Last year, almost 10,000 people signed a petition demanding Fr. Martin was dropped from speaking at a panel at the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families in Ireland. The petition failed and his appearance went ahead.

On Monday, Father Martin took to Twitter to reveal more of the 30-minute meeting with Pope Francis.

He called the private meeting, “One of the highlights of my life. I felt encouraged, consoled and inspired by the Holy Father today. And his time with me, in the middle of a busy day and a busy life, seems a clear sign of his deep pastoral care for LGBT Catholics and LGBT people worldwide.”

In an interview with the press afterward, Martin said, “I felt encouraged, consoled and inspired by our meeting … It was like talking to the most compassionate parish priest you can imagine.”

Martin was in Rome for the plenary meeting of the Vatican’s communications department.

Following his meeting with the Pope, Fr. Martin has revealed he also met with other Vatican officials to talk about welcoming LGBTQ people to the church.

“Dear friends: I am happy to say, with their permission, that I met with Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the prefect of the Congregation for Education, and Fr. Friedrich Bechina, undersecretary, for a dialogue about the Congregation’s document “Male and Female He Created Them” …” he posted.

This controversial document, issued by the Vatican in June, questions gender theory. It rejects the idea that transgender people can be any gender besides what they are assigned at birth. It claims modern concepts around gender destabilize the family and society.

Related: Vatican declares trans people will ‘annihilate the concept of nature’

“During our meeting I read aloud letters from a Sister who ministers to transgender individuals, from a family with LGBT children, and a transgender person himself,” says Martin. “Again, with their permission, I can share that they spoke about the context and purpose of their document, which was focused on Catholic schools.

“His Eminence expressed sorrow if people thought the Congregation was accusing people of being ideologically distorted, and they wish to share their care for transgender people and want to continue dialogue to reflect on their experiences.

“As I said, they gave me permission to share this with you, but the rest of the meeting will be kept private. I was happy to bring LGBT voices to this warm meeting and very grateful for their openness to dialogue.”

Martin tweeted again last night about sharing the stories of LGBTQ lives with Vatican officials, saying he will continue to do so until his trips ends this weekend.

“Dear friends: Thanks for all your prayers over these last few days of meetings, which I had asked for when I left. So far I’ve shared the stories of #LGBT people with the Pope and Vatican officials and have tried to build bridges. I’ll continue to do so in Rome until I return!”