Pope Francis penned a personal response to a letter sent to him in June by a group of gay and lesbian Italian Catholics, reports The Tablet, which bills itself as "the international Catholic news weekly."
Italian Catholic LGBT group Kairos of Florence wrote a letter to the pope in June, asking for "openness and dialogue" and noting that a lack of such "always feeds homophobia," according to the paper. While Kairos and other groups of LGBT Catholics have written to previous popes, Francis's reply marks the first time the leader of the Catholic Church has formally responded.
The group declined to reveal the contents of its original letter or of Pope Francis's response, but confirmed that the pope issued his blessing to Kairos and its members. Kairos also received a letter from the Vatican's secretariat of state, which reportedly said Pope Francis "really enjoyed" the letter and the way it was written, according to The Tablet.
Pope Francis continues to make headlines for statements that seem more tolerant and accepting of LGBT people than those of his predecessors, though there has been no change in official Catholic doctrine condemning homosexual acts and opposing marriage equality. In September, Francis said the church shouldn't "interfere spiritually" with the lives of LGBT people in a wide-ranging interview in which he also said the church cannot focus solely on opposing abortion, contraception, and marriage equality. A month earlier, the pope told a group of reporters that he wouldn't judge gay priests, asking, "If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?"