10/10/2013 05:58 pm ET

Pope Francis Sent Letter To Gay Catholics, Offered 'Benedictory Greeting:' Report


Did a letter from gay Catholics influence the pope's comparably progressive stance on homosexuality?

Italian-language newspaper La Repubblica reports that in June, Pope Francis received a letter from a group of gay and lesbian Catholics using the name Kairos of Florence. The letter's authors had written to the pontiff in hopes of starting a dialogue, noting that the absence of open lines of communication "always feeds homophobia," according to a translation by The Huffington Post.

While in the past, the group's letters to various Catholic officials had been received with silence, the group was shocked when Francis and the Vatican Secretary of State responded.

Kairos member Innocenzo Pontillo told the paper Francis said “he appreciated very much what we had written to him" and "also assured us of his benedictory greeting.” In contrast, Pontillo said the Archbishop of Florence, Giuseppe Betori, had responded to similar letters by refusing to meet with the group so that he would not be seen as legitimizing homosexuals.

It should be noted that the contents of the letters remain a secret, and La Repubblica was quick to point out the paper was dependent on Kairos for information about the exchange.

The pope's correspondence was heralded by the progressive Catholic magazine "America" as part of Francis' continuing "informal outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics."

The news comes on the heels of claims by a gay French man who said Francis called him and said, "We are all children of God." (The Vatican has denied that such a call ever took place.)

However, at a news service in July, the pope made similarly progressive comments about homosexuality, telling reporters, "A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will -- well, who am I to judge him?" Francis later expanded on that surprisingly candid statement in a wide-ranging interview, concluding the church should not "interfere spiritually" in the lives of gays and lesbians.

(h/t Daily Dish)