Pope to Jesuit Fr Martin: ‘Jesus is close to everyone’
By Lisa Zengarini
“I encourage you all to keep working in the culture of encounter, which shortens the distances and enriches us with differences, in the same manner of Jesus, who made himself close to everyone.”
Pope Francis wrote these words in a short message in response to a recent letter mailed to him by Father James Martin, SJ.
The Jesuit priest, who ministers to LGBTQ Catholics, had written the letter informing him of the outcome of the annual Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry Conference, which was held in-person at Fordham University on June 24 to 25, after a two-year break imposed by the pandemic.
More that unites us than separates us
In his reply, dated July 20 and written in Spanish, Pope Francis congratulated Father Martin for being been able to make the event happen this year in person, highlighting the importance of interpersonal encounters in human relationships.
“In fact," he wrote, "the pandemic made us seek alternatives to shorten the distances. It also taught us that certain things are irreplaceable, among them the possibility to look at each other ‘face to face’ even with those who think differently or those whose differences seem to separate or even confront us.”
The Pope further remarked that when we overcome barriers, “we realize that there is more that unites us than separates us.”
In conclusion, the Pope assured Father Martin of his prayers, and invoked the blessing of Jesus upon him and the protection of the Blessed Virgin.
Third letter to Father Martin
This is the third letter Pope Francis has written to the American Jesuit priest, who in 2017 was appointed as consultor of the Dicastery for Communication. The first time he wrote to him was in July last year, on the occasion of “Outreach 2021”.
In that letter the Pope pointed out that “God is close to and loves each and every one of His children. His heart is open to all" while encouraging Fr Martin to continue in his ministry.
"Thinking about your pastoral work," he said last year, "I see that you continually try to imitate this style of God. You are a priest for everyone, as God is Father of everyone. I pray for you that you may continue in this way, being close, compassionate and full tenderness."
Early in May this year, Pope Francis replied to another letter in which Fr Martin had asked him to answer some questions that he is most commonly asked by LGBTQ Catholics and their families. The Pope, again, explained that: “God is Father and he does not disown any of His children” and that “the style of God is closeness, mercy and tenderness.”
Referring to LGBTQ Catholics who experience rejection from the Church, the Pope reiterated that: “The Church is a mother and calls together all her children.” A “selective Church, one of ‘pure blood’, is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect,” he said.