By Mark Segal

Your Holiness,

Many of us in the United States are looking forward to your visit, especially here in Philadelphia, where you will attend the World Meeting of Families. You have told us time and again that the “Church isn’t a toll house” but the house of God “where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems.”

However, I’m sorry to tell you that, while you have been fostering an atmosphere of dialogue, tolerance and pastoral understanding, all is not well with your family here. There is hate speech and discrimination of a vast scale. Those issues are affecting Catholic families and especially their children. Children of married LGBT couples have been refused entry into your schools and long-standing respected LGBT teachers are being fired from them. The harm this does to children, teachers and their families is palpable, manifesting into further hate.

Sadly, while you call for a Church that listens, encounters and welcomes everyone, our local church has practiced a culture of exclusion. You said two years that ago that “if someone is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Therefore, while you are in Philadelphia, Catholic LGBT organizations from around the nation have joined with the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Fund, the developer of Philadelphia’s LGBT-friendly affordable senior living facility, to invite you and your representatives to meet those children, teachers and families who are only wishing to have a dialogue with you and express how their families have been affected.

They will gather in the private courtyard of the John C. Anderson Apartments on September 26 to celebrate their faith, share their stories and their struggles and to practice Christian hospitality and fellowship.

If the LGBT family is a part of your church, you’ll not find them represented in any events at the World Meeting of Families. Organizers have erased them completely.  LGBT families are calling out to you, and your pastoral view to bring them back into the fold of their church. In many cases, the people and families you’ll meet are those who have helped build those strong Catholic communities into the pillars they are today.

They hope to see you there, and they look forward to continuing to work with you to build the Church you dreamed of: “a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.”

Mark Segal, Philadelphia Gay News publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarkSegalPGN or Twitter at https://twitter.com/PhilaGayNews.