Pope Francis, during the World Youth Day festival in Portugal, emphatically asserted that the Catholic Church is open to “everyone, everyone, everyone” (todos, todos, todos). His proclamation came on Sunday amidst a vast crowd of hundreds of thousands gathered before him. The Pope’s statement was poignant and all-encompassing, encapsulating everyone – the sick, elderly, young, old, ugly, beautiful, good, and bad. The message was a moment of profound inclusivity and an iconic instance of the Pope’s public addresses.
Questioning Church Sacraments and Rules
On his way back from Lisbon to Rome, journalists questioned the Pope about the way the Church handles LGBTQ+ people and women, who are not allowed to take part in specific sacraments. The Pope acknowledged that there are indeed rules within the Church, but he emphasized that the Church remains accessible to everyone.
“Having rules doesn’t mean we’re not inclusive,” he made clear. “Each person encounters God in their own way inside the Church.” He asserted that Church ministers must accompany all people with the patience and love of a “mother”, even those not conforming to the regulations of the Church.
Seeking Better Treatment for LGBTQ+ Community
Pope Francis’s comment resonated with many, including Pia Held, a German pilgrim who attended the event in Lisbon’s Parque Tejo, advocating for improved treatment of LGBTQ+ people within the Church. Although Held isn’t gay herself, she became a symbol of the cause, carrying a rainbow flag during the prayer service. She showed her commitment to making the Church more inclusive, saying, “My beliefs tell me that everyone is loved and accepted.”
Even though the Pope says the Church is inclusive, it’s true that the Church still doesn’t allow women to become priests or same-sex couples to marry. Pope Francis, while navigating these sensitivities, has nonetheless aimed to make the Church a more welcoming environment, particularly for the traditionally excluded LGBTQ+ community. This outreach has been a hallmark of his papacy since his appointment ten years ago.
In 2013, he famously said, “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?” later, in 2020, urged parents of LGBT+ children to love them as they are “because they are children of God”.
Addressing Child Sex Abuse and Failing Eyesight
When he went to Portugal, Pope Francis had a discussion with 13 people who were sexually abused by Catholic Church members when they were young. He talked about this experience, explaining that while it is difficult to hear about their suffering, it helped him understand their pain. He emphasized how critical it is for the Church to seriously address such incidents of child sexual abuse and suggested that they tackle this issue directly.
Future Plans and Return to the Vatican
Looking ahead, the Pope announced plans for a Youth Jubilee in Rome during the Jubilee Year in 2025, before the next World Youth Day in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. He expressed his joy about the universality of the Church and the dream of unity to which the youth are witnesses.
After concluding his trip, Pope Francis returned to the Vatican, making a customary visit to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Vatican officials reported that he paused in prayer before the icon of the Virgin Salus Populi Romani, before heading back to the Vatican.
Pope Francis is focusing on making the Church more welcoming, even if there are current rules that say otherwise. This tells about a shift in the Catholic Church’s thinking. The effects of these thoughts on the Church’s future activities are yet to be revealed.
To get more information on Pope Francis’s efforts to make the Church more inclusive, visit Vatican News.