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Pope meets with LGBT charity leader in Paraguay

By Will Stroude

The Pope has met with an LGBT charity leader in Paraguay, in what is believed to be the first encounter of its kind in history.

During his ongoing official visit to the Latin American nation, Pope Francis invited Simón Cazal, LGBT activist and leader of SomosGay [We Are Gay], to a meeting of civil society groups.


“I thought it was a joke,” Cazal told CNN ahead of the meeting, adding that though many Latin American LGBT activists had encouraged him to turn down the invitation out of principle, he felt it was important to engage with the pontiff in a country still heavily dominated by conservative Catholic attitudes.

“We have to go. Ninety percent of the country is Catholic; they all love the Pope,” he said. “We have to take this step because otherwise we are the ones who are closing the doors.”

He added: “We need his strong voice on the side of defending the life and integrity of LGBT people.”

Some have credited Pope Francis for taking a less hostile stance towards the issue of homosexuality since he took over the post two years ago. In 2013 he told reporters: “If someone is gay and is looking for the Lord, who am I to judge him?” and earlier this year he held a private audience with a trans man.

However, the Pope remains ideologically opposed to same-sex marriage, and only in January was quoted as saying: “The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage”.

Cazal explained that his group SomosGay helps about 6,000 people a year, the vast majority of whom are young LGBT people who have been abused and rejected by their own families.

“The message I would want to hear? Please don’t kick your sons and daughters out of the house because they’re gay,” he said, but went on to say that even if the issue wasn’t addressed directly during the meeting, the very fact it was happening was a sign of progress.

“The invitation is already serving a purpose,” he said. “It sends a symbolic message of inclusion and respect.”

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