ROME – Pope Francis has sent a short, hand-written note to American Jesuit Father James Martin thanking him for his “Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry” webinar, held Saturday with 1,000 people taking part.
“I want to thank you for your pastoral zeal and your capacity to be close to people, with that closeness that Jesus had and which reflects the closeness of God,” Francis said in the note, addressed to Martin, which the priest shared with participants of the Zoom webinar late Saturday.
“Our Father from Heaven becomes close with love to each of his children, each and every one of them,” the pope wrote. “His heart is open for everyone one. He’s Father. The ‘style’ of God has three characteristics: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is how he comes close to each one of us.”
Francis also told Martin that, thinking of his pastoral style, the pope sees he’s constantly “trying to imitate this style of God. You’re a priest for everyone. I pray for you so that you continue this way, being close, compassionate and with a lot of tenderness.”
Lastly, Pope Francis said that he prayed for Martin’s “parishioners” whom God “has placed within your care [for you] to protect them, and to make them grow in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Though at no point in the five-graph letter does Francis mentions the LGBTQ+ Catholic community, the priest said it comes as a response to an email in which the Jesuit, who’s also editor-at-large of America Magazine, shared with the pope some personal information, particularly about his nephew, and the Outreach conference. Martin also serves as a consultant for the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications.
“The Outreach conference is designed for those who minister to LGBT Catholics and LGBT Catholics themselves,” Martin told Crux ahead of the event. “It was originally scheduled for 2020, but needed to be postponed because of Covid. This year it’s a one-day webinar that had 1,000 people signed up to participate.”
“I had informed the Holy Father of the conference a few weeks ago, and last weekend he sent this beautiful message,” Martin said.
Based in New York, the Jesuit priest long has been known for his ministry with gay Catholics, and has written a book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity.
Outreach 2021 was sponsored by Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture and AmericaMagazine.
Among those taking part in the Outreach 2021 LGBTQ Catholic Ministry conference was Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, who opened the day with a prayer: “All loving Creator, who reveal your power in mercy and compassion, look upon us as we gather from many places united in our desire to serve, learn from and lift up your LGBTQ+ children. Help us from true bonds in this time together to bridge more than our geographical distances, so as to truly reflect and be the Body of Christ, your Love incarnate.”