During the brief encounter, the Pope told about 40 parents that "the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God."
A recent comment by Pope Francis gestures at the possibility of the Catholic Church becoming more accepting of parishioners from the LGBTQ+ community in the future. According to America, the Pope met with Tenda di Gionata (Jonathan’s Tent), an Italian association of parents who have L.G.B.T. children. During the brief encounter, he told about 40 parents that "God loves your children as they are" and that "the church loves your children as they are because they are children of God." Jonathan’s Tent, the name of the group in English, works as a support group for LGBT Christians, their families, and pastoral workers to contribute information and advocate for the LGBT Christian community. It was reportedly founded in 2018 by people who were inspired by the late Rev. David Esposito, a Catholic priest, from the Diocese of Fermo situated in the Marches region of Italy.
The exchange happened in the Renaissance courtyard of San Damaso in the Vatican. The vice president of this group, Mara Grassi, and her husband Agostino Usai presented a booklet titled "Genitori Fortunati" (Fortunate Parents) to the Pope. The booklet contains unfortunate experiences that parents have had with the church and their pleas to be accepted despite being often considered “undesirable” by church communities. While speaking the daily paper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Avvenire, Grassi shared that she told the pope "our association aims to foster dialogue between the church and the families of L.G.B.T. [people]."
Referring to the booklet's title, she continued, "We consider ourselves fortunate because we had to change the way that we had always looked at our children. We found a new way of looking that enabled us to see in them the beauty and love of God." Furthermore, Grassi told the Pope, "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." After listening carefully to what Grassi had to say, Pope Francis reassured her that the church does not exclude them. "The church does not exclude them because she loves them deeply," said the Pope according to Grassi.
Grassi, a mother of four—the eldest being a gay person—told the Italian daily, La Repubblica, that she felt "very strong emotions" during her encounter with the Pope. She went on to reveal, "for many years I was like a blind person. After I came to know that my son was homosexual, I suffered a lot because the rules of the church made me think that he was excluded from the love of God. Nobody helped me." But this changed after she met other parents while attending a vigil against homophobia at the church of Regina Pacis in Reggio Emilia.
During this, she met other parents who were believers just like her and had kids who were gay. Through them, she met the Rev. Paolo Cugini, who then helped her understand that "faith and homosexuality are not in opposition, and that God loves my son as he is." Grassi reportedly told the Pope that her gay son had "left the church because he did not feel accepted in his diversity," before revealing that she is thankful for her son who showed her a different way of seeing things. She explained how like other persons in a similar situation, she too was "destabilized at first" after learning about her son's homosexuality but had finally come to understand that "we are fortunate parents."
When she requested the church to change it's ways so no one feels excluded as her son did, Pope Francis assured her, "The church loves our children as they are." Before parting ways, the association presented him with a rainbow-colored T-shirt which had the words "In love there is no fear" decorated on it. The Pope has been applauded for being one of the most progressive heads that the Catholic Church has ever seen. Previously, he told reporters that parents of LGBTQ children should not condemn their kids, instead listen to them and understand what they are going through.
"There have always been gay people and people with homosexual tendencies," he Pope Francis, adding, "Don’t condemn. Dialogue. Understand, give the child space so he or she can express themselves." Addressing parents, he said "ignoring child with this tendency shows a lack of motherhood and fatherhood," and that keeping one's family intact is far more important than anything. "This child has the right to a family. And the family not throwing him out," he told reporters.