Student forum sees Pope challenged on his LGBTQ language


The Pope and his LGBTQ language were raised – and not in a good way – during an online student forum last Thursday.

The forum provided an opportunity for 12 students from across the Asia-Pacific region to speak directly to Francis about their ideas and reflections about their shared social concerns.

The Loyola University Chicago-organised “Building Bridges Initiative” has seen similar online forums take place across the globe.

Anti-gay slurs hurt

The Pope heard from one forum member that reports of his disrespectful comments about gay people caused hurt.

Filipino Catholic university student Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivero (pictured wearing rainbow scarf) confronted the issue straight-on, telling the pontiff  to please “stop using offensive language” against LGBTQ people.

Slurs cause “immense pain” he said.

“I myself am outcast and bullied due to my bisexuality, my gayness, my identity and being the son of a single parent.”

Rivero says his situation is made worse because the law in the Philippines does not allow divorce.

“Due to this, I developed bipolar disorder and I am stigmatised.

“My mother cannot divorce my father. Please allow divorce in the Philippines” he begged the Pope.

Isolation, mockery and no formation

Among the concerns students spoke of were land injustices, systemic poverty, gender discrimination against Muslim women, fears of terrorists.

Others offered ideas.

One student from Australia spoke of young Catholics’ isolation in an increasingly secular culture.

“Many of us feel lonely in our schools and universities. Daily we are bombarded by secular ideologies, mocked for our faith and outnumbered in our mission to be beacons of hope” Elizabeth Fernandez told Francis.

We are committed to serving others and building a “culture of charity” she said.

Another big concern in Australia is faith formation for young people.

“Some religion teachers in Catholic schools use class time to preach their own agendas of abortion, contraception and gender theory.”

This could change if all religion teachers were trained catechists and if young people could be incentivised to become catechists themselves.

“We want young people to have greater access to confession and to have Christ integrated into all school subjects, thereby fostering a culture of greater reverence for the Eucharist” she said.

Pope responds

After listening to everyone, Francis responded to their concerns.

Personal identity was a recurring theme many mentioned, he observed.

He urged those being mocked for their faith to love those who mock them in turn, without settling for a “lukewarm” Christianity.

Good faith-based education helps us be “authentic, real Christians”  he stressed.

Barely touching on the LGBTQ issue, he said problems caused by discrimination can be resolved with closeness and proximity.

Focusing mostly on discrimination where women are treated as if they are in “a second category”, he noted “we see that today in the world women are the best leaders … and are superior to men in their ability to create community.

“The capacity for motherhood gives women a much more effective position of action than men – and this is important” he said.




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