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Pope’s message leaves Chicago LGBT leaders hopeful, awaiting Cardinal George’s reaction

Pope Francis waves faithful as he arrives for his weekly general audience St. Peter's Square Vatican Wednesday. (AP Photo/Riccardo De

Pope Francis waves to faithful as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)

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Updated: October 21, 2013 2:13PM



One Chicago-based equality organization called Thursday “a good day for Catholics.” Another called Pope Francis a “game changer.” But many Chicago Catholics have one big question: How will Cardinal Francis George react to Pope Francis’ message about homosexuality, abortion and contraception?

In an interview with America magazine, Pope Francis warns that the Roman Catholic Church’s ministry cannot be “obsessed” with a “disjointed multitude of doctrines,” and that without a new balance, “the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”

Pope Francis said he is “no one to judge” homosexuals who are of good will and in search of God. And expressed his desire for the church to be accepting of all people.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” Pope Francis said in the interview.

Chris Pett of Dignity/Chicago — a LGBT Catholic organization — applauded Pope Francis’ comments, calling it a shift in tone and message when it comes to the church’s stance on homosexuality: “It’s very satisfying to us as LGBT Catholics that he is speaking about the real truth of the church, which is a message of inclusion — the ministry of the church is to include people, to care for them, to provide sustenance and spiritual growth.”

But Pett says he’s curious to see whether the pope’s words will trickle down locally.

“Cardinal George is our local church leader, head of the Archdiocese and so my question to him would be, what action will you take in sharing the word?” Pett said. “What is it that you’re willing to do to spread the words the Pope has shared regarding the church being more inclusive? How does this compare to your message in the past few years of intolerance and the Illinois Conference of Catholic Bishops against marriage equality in Illinois?”

In a statement, Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois said: “The Pope has offered opened arms instead of the back of the hand to gay and lesbian Catholics, and he’s also offered a new prescription to Catholic bishops and faithful for considering inclusion of LGBT people.

“. . . Based on the words and guidance of Pope Francis, we look forward to conversations with Catholic leaders where we can discuss how to build a more just society for all Illinoisans.”

Cardinal George and the Archdiocese of Chicago declined comment on Thursday: “The Cardinal is out of the office and unavailable today. He has not read the article yet so he will not be able to comment at this time,” spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said.

Call To Action, a national Catholic equality organization with roots in Roscoe Village, said the pope’s comments show a man who is grappling with the same issues Catholics have been struggling with for years.

“I’m excited for what it means for Catholics, excited for what it means for Catholcs who have felt marginalized from the church — former Catholics who have left the church who might find themselves veering to the next Catholic church this weekend,” Kate Childs Graham, co-president of Call To Action said.

“I think he didn’t overturn any doctrine or change canon law today, but I think certainly he has the potential to transform some hearts and minds, which is not nothing,” Childs Graham said. “…It was a good day for the Catholic church.”

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