A British Catholic lesbian leader has met with one of Pope Francis’ most trusted advisors, and she discussed outreach to LGBT people with him, reports QueeringTheChurch.com.
Ruby Almeida, the chair of Quest, a British Catholic LGBT organization, met with Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, India, while she visited the country on a personal trip. During her visit with Gracias, who is one of the eight cardinals that Pope Francis has chosen to be part of his closest advisory council, Almeida discussed LGBT experience with him, and received a very favorable response. In a report to the Quest governing committee, she writes:
“On a recent trip to India, I took some of our new Quest leaﬂets when I met with a group of local lgbts. We had an in depth discussion about the reality of their lives under a colonial law that does not recognise their rights as Indian citizens. A few individuals were keen to try and set up something similar to Quest, to act as contact point for social and pastoral support for lgbts. Whilst there I was also able to organise a meeting with Cardinal Oswald Gracias who is one of the Group of Eight Cardinals to help reform the Church. I took along a young gay man who is actively involved in lgbt issues there and is also an organiser for Pride in Mumbai. ! ! The Cardinal was very welcoming and interested in the problems that Catholic lgbts face in India. He was honest enough to say that he was not aware of the difﬁculties and pain that they suffered as he isolated from grass roots issues and only aware of what he is informed of by his advisers. I suggested to him that if he could appoint a priest as a point of contact for the gay community, so that their needs could be addressed and a level of support could be made available. The possibility of a Mass under the banner of ‘all are welcome’ was also something in which Cardinal Gracias showed an interest, and the hope is that this could be the start of something positive for the Catholic gay community there.”
Terence Weldon, who is the editor and main contributor of QueeringTheChurch.com, commented on this encounter:
“What excites me about this meeting, is simply that it took place, and that we’ve had an attentive hearing from a man so close to the pope, and who will surely be influential in the synod on marriage and family.
“What disappoints me (but doesn’t surprise me) is that he confessed to knowing so little about the real hardships faced by ordinary gay and lesbian people, as he is ‘removed from grassroots issues.’ That is precisely the problem with the Catholic cardinals and bishops as a group they are necessarily far removed from real life issues at the coal face, especially those concerning sex, marriage and family – and yet they continue to pontificate to the rest of us on issues of which they are largely ignorant.”
I agree with Weldon. I think this is a wonderful and important step for the Catholic LGBT movement! Cardinal Gracias has already shown he can be courageous about LGBT issues when last year he was India’s only religious leader to speak out against the possible re-criminalization of homosexuality in that country. The fact that he is also so close to Pope Francis means that his opinion on these matters can have a lot of weight. In addition to being a close papal advisor, Gracias is also President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, so his influence can also be horizontal to other bishops, as well as vertical to the Vatican and Pope Francis.
And we also know that a personal encounter can move someone so much more than any theological or political argument about LGBT issues. Almeida’s account of the meeting indicates that Gracias’ heart indeed seems to have been opened. This is certainly an occasion for prayers of joy and thanksgiving!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry