VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican’s Wednesday general audiences are often chances for ordinary people to get rare access to Pope Francis, and this week’s gathering was no different: A group of LGBTQ+ Catholics got a papal photo, and clergy abuse survivors from Germany who biked to Rome handed Francis a letter demanding a better response from the church to the crisis.
In between, Francis stopped the proceedings in St. Peter’s Square midway through to take a cellphone call. The Vatican didn’t provide any information on the content.
Members of the LGBTQ+ group Mosaiko said they wanted to visit Francis at the audience on Wednesday to send a message of inclusion and unity on the international day against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
“The appeal we want to send to Pope Francis is for the church to finally, let’s say, to welcome us,” Tiziano Fani Braga, the group’s coordinator, said after the audience. “We try to be an integral part of the church, as all believers are, without discrimination and to fight all discrimination.”
Also in the square were 15 survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their companions who left Munich on May 6 on a bicycle pilgrimage to Rome. They are trying to draw attention to a campaign to change the way the Catholic Church deals with priests who rape and molest children and vulnerable adults, and how it cares for victims.
The group delivered a letter to Francis urging him to “do everything in your power to ensure that in all corners of the universal Church the issue of sexual and spiritual abuse is seen, addressed and prevented through appropriate preventive measures.”
The letter acknowledged initial steps have been taken, but that more must be done and “a clear signal must be sent to perpetrators and bishops who have not fulfilled their responsibilities and who, to a certain extent, still do not do so today.”
Francis’ weekly catechism lesson focused on the life and vocation of St. Francis Xavier, and ended with another appeal for peace in Ukraine.