ROME — Pope Francis has praised the controversial Jesuit Father James Martin for his LGBT ministry, urging him to continue forward with “compassion and tenderness.”
In a personal, handwritten letter posted on Twitter by Father Martin (pictured above, left) on Sunday, the pope thanked the priest for his “pastoral zeal” and his “ability to be close to people, with that closeness that Jesus had and that reflects the closeness of God.”
“Our Heavenly Father approaches with love every one of his children, each and every one,” the letter states. “His heart is to open to each and every one. He is Father.”
“God’s ‘style’ has three qualities: closeness, compassion and tenderness,” the pope wrote. “This is how he draws closer to each one of us.”
Last month, a left-wing Catholic paper in the United States accused the pope of “hypocrisy” after he personally approved a Vatican declaration banning blessings for homosexual unions.
God Himself “does not and cannot bless sin,” the Vatican text stated, adding that “the Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex in the sense intended above.”
The pope said at the time that a man with an ingrained homosexual tendency “should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life” since the priesthood “is not his place.”
Same-sex attraction, the pope said, is “not just an expression of an affection. In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection.”
Regarding those already ordained as priests who are practicing homosexuals, it would be better for them to leave the priesthood than to continue living a “double life,” Francis said.
In his letter to Father Martin, dated June 21, the pope praised him for his pastoral outreach to gays, asserting that the priest is “continuously looking to imitate this style of God.”
“You are a priest for all men and women, just as God is the Father for all men and women,” Francis wrote. “I pray for you to continue in this way, being close, compassionate, and with great tenderness.”
“And I pray for your faithful, your ‘parishioners,’ and anyone whom the Lord places in your care, so that you protect them, and make them grow in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he wrote.
In his letter, the pope was responding to a letter Father Martin had sent him prior to the Outreach 2021 LGBT Catholic ministry conference, which took place by webinar on Saturday, June 26.