One of America’s most influential LGBT magazines has named Pope Francis as its “Person of the Year”.
The Advocate said in a statement: “Pope Francis is leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics all over the world. There are three times as many Catholics in the world than there are citizens in the United States. Like it or not, what he says makes a difference.
“Sure, we all know Catholics who fudge on the religion’s rules about morality. There’s a lot of disagreement, about the role of women, about contraception, and more. But none of that should lead us to underestimate any pope’s capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT people, and not only in the US but globally.
“Francis’s view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, ‘A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person’.”
The Advocate added: “In this statement, however, as some bishops have explained, Pope Francis was simply reinforcing what has always been the teaching of the Church: that all persons are to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The magazine goes on to paint a glowing picture of Pope Francis compared to his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
In 2005, Pope John Paul II attacked advances on gay rights including same-sex marriage, saying: “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [same-sex marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil”.
Pope Benedict XVI’s opposition to equal marriage during his papacy was notorious. In 2012, he warned that introducing equal marriage around the world would risk the future of humanity itself.
Speaking to reporters in July during a plane journey back to the Vatican following his trip to Brazil, Pope Francis said that gay people should not be judged or marginalised and should be integrated into society.
It was a departure from a more strident tone – if not in doctrinal position – as he also referred to the Catholic Church’s universal Catechism, which states that while being gay is not sinful, homosexual acts are.
Conceding that Pope Francis still has a long way to go in supporting equality, The Advocate said: “As Pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his Church.”
Many remain in awe of Pope Francis’s new found tolerance.
Paying tribute to the Catholic leader in August, Sir Elton John said Pope Francis was “a miracle of humility in an era of vanity”.