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Gay man shares letter sent to him by Pope Francis

"When I saw the white envelope with the return address of the Vatican Embassy in Washington, I froze," Michael O'Loughlin recalls.

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Wiki

A gay man has offered insight into his correspondence with Pope Francis.

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Michael O’Loughlin reveals he wrote to the Pope to tell him about his new book – and to his surprise, the head of the Roman Catholic Church wrote back.

O’Loughlin, who is a Catholic, is the author of Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of the Fear.

In the book, he recounts conversations he’s had as an out gay man with other Catholics – including the nun Carol Baltosiewich, who spent 10 years caring for young men dying from AIDS at the height of the crisis.

“When I saw the white envelope with the return address of the Vatican Embassy in Washington, I froze,” O’Loughlin recalls, before revealing what he calls a “decades-delayed papal blessing” of Catholics who cared for people living with HIV and Aids.

“A discreet mercy”

In his letter, the Pope wrote: “Thank you for shining a light on the lives and bearing witness to the many priests, religious sisters and [laypeople], who opted to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters who were sick from H.I.V. and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation.”

“Instead of indifference, alienation and even condemnation,” he continued, “these people let themselves be moved by the mercy of the Father and allowed that to become their own life’s work; a discreet mercy, silent and hidden, but still capable of sustaining and restoring the life and history of each one of us.”

The Pope made headlines last year when he said in the documentary Francisco: “Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family. They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable because of it.”

He added: “What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

However, this year the Vatican ruled that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, after a Pope Francis-approved decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated: “God does not bless sin.”