ASUNCION, Paraguay – Pope Francis arranged to have his first-ever public meeting with a married, gay activist next month in Paraguay, according to a letter obtained by Buzzfeed.
The pope is due to meet activist Simón Cazal, the executive director of SOMOSGAY, a group that lobbies for better protections and legal rights for those in the LGBT community in Paraguay. The country currently has no legal protections for gay people.
SOMOSGAY recently launched a campaign asking the Catholic Church to accept gay people. Paraguay is one of South America’s most conservative Catholic countries.
The meeting will take place July 11 at the Paraguayan Episcopal Conference in Asuncion, the country’s capital. It will be the pope’s last stop on his South American tour.
“One can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender AND a Catholic at the same time; there is no contradiction between being an LGBT person and being a religious person. Respect for personal beliefs is inherent in democracy,” Sergio López, a SOMOSGAY activist and Cazal’s husband, said in a press release.
Catholic conference organizers approached Cazal earlier this month with an invitation to meet the pope. in which they noted the “impact of SOMOSGAY on Paraguayan society.”
SOMOSGAY said the letter marked a significant shift in the Catholic Church’s attitude towards gay rights groups.
The invitation “symbolizes an openness and progress towards the LGBT community, remembering the ultraconservative context that has always characterized the Vatican,” the organization said in a statement.