A gay French man says Pope Francis called him to tell him his sexual orientation doesn't matter and that "we are all children of God."
Christophe Trutino, a 25-year-old sales assistant from Toulouse, told France's La Depeche du Midi that he received a call from Francis on Aug. 29 after penning a letter to the pontiff. As a gay Catholic man, Trutino said he has struggled with bullying and self-doubt throughout his life. So, he decided to write Francis -- who he believes is a different sort of pope -- a letter about his troubles.
And the pope purportedly responded.
"Yes. I know it's difficult to believe, but it really happened like that. From that moment on, I no longer had any doubt. I was convinced that it was him. His voice, his tone, the rhythm of his words … I was simply certain of it," the young man told La Depeche, according to a Huffington Post translation.
While Trutino addressed the pope formally, the pope supposedly addressed him informally, as if he were a peer.
"'I received the letter you sent me,' he said. Then we talked about my situation in my life. He told me, 'Your homosexuality, it's not a problem. One must remain brave, one must continue to believe, to pray and to stay well.'"
La Depeche du Midi reported a Vatican representative would neither confirm nor deny Trutino's claims. However, the Vatican is now saying the pope never called the gay man.
Father Federico Lombardi, the official spokesman for the Holy See, "firmly denied" the claims to French newspaper Le Figaro.
"The only time the Pope has called France was to speak to Cardinal Barbarin," he said. "I absolutely deny this information. There is always the risk that people pretend to be the pope over the phone."
Germany's The Local contacted the Vatican about the phone call as well, and the Holy See said it could not confirm whether or not it ever even received a letter from Trutino.
Either way, Francis is regarded as a progressive pope willing to openly express progressive ideals. After news surfaced of an alleged gay lobby within the Vatican, Francis spoke out about the difference between a gay lobby and a gay individual and offered the gay community his support.
"A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will -- well, who am I to judge him?" the pope said at a press conference in July, per Catholic News Service. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation -- we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby."