Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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An open letter to Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 03:  His Holiness, Pope Francis, leaves after hosting an audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in the Pope´s study during their one-day visit to Rome on April 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During their brief visit The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will have lunch with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The Queen was originally due to travel to Rome in April 2013 but the visit was postponed due to her ill health. The audience with Pope Francis will be the fifth meeting The Queen, who is head of the Church of the England, has held with a Pope in the Vatican.  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 03: His Holiness, Pope Francis, leaves after hosting an audience with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in the Pope's study during their one-day visit to Rome on April 3, 2014 in Vatican City, Vatican. During their brief visit The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will have lunch with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The Queen was originally due to travel to Rome in April 2013 but the visit was postponed due to her ill health. The audience with Pope Francis will be the fifth meeting The Queen, who is head of the Church of the England, has held with a Pope in the Vatican. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) Getty Images

Your Holiness,

A couple of weeks ago a delegation from Pennsylvania came to visit you to urge you to come to Philadelphia next year when our city hosts the 8th World Meeting of Families.  Let me add my voice to the list of those who hope you grace our city with your presence. 

Like millions of others I have been impressed with your views and acts of tolerance and human dignity. For one who has been downright angry at your church in the past, your statements have been a beacon of light in a dark tunnel.  

Your Holiness, I'm a gay man and to be polite about it, your church has not always been kind to the LGBT community. There is no need to list the numerous injustices that have been done in the church's name, but it is my sincere expectation that they are in the past.

This is not to suggest that we will always agree, we will not but we can agree to disagree with politeness.   But this letter is also a plea. A plea for your help. While we can agree to disagree on marriage equality, I believe we can agree on nondiscrimination.  You yourself expressed as much in your call with theologian Marcelo Márquez after Argentina passed its marriage equality law.  Here in the northeastern part of United States, Pennsylvania is the only state that does not protect its LGBT community from discrimination.  This means that gay people are fired simply because of who they are, gay people lose their homes, and are denied services.  Fellow human beings should not be treated with such disregard.  It is my belief that you feel the same.  

Unfortunately the church in Philadelphia and its political lobby in the state capital have not changed their position on nondiscrimination in 40 years.  Your holiness, if we cannot agree on the human value of non-discrimination how can we move on to more complex issues like the family?

Your trip to Philadelphia to address the issues of family's is at a time when the definition of a family is changing.  You can add a soothing voice in a turbulent time of societal change.  Family issues need to be addressed not ignored.  Divorced family's, single parent families interracial and interreligious families and yes, even LGBT families.  

Your words have brought new hope to a world tired of strafe, we need to find common ground and move on to greater issues.  Please come to Philadelphia, and please do as you've done since the beginning of your pontificate by bringing your special kindness and sense of human dignity.  

Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News, has been recognized by the National Newspaper Association, Pennsylvania News-media Association, Suburban Newspapers of America and the Society of Professional Journalists, among others. He can be reached via facebook or twitter.

Mark Segal for Philly.com
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