Pope Francis applauds the ministry of accompaniment given by clergy, laity and religious to AIDS/HIV people.

In an example of true Christian Compassion – like that if his Master, Jesus Christ – the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, leads the way amongst Christian Leaders of the world, in commending the pastoral work of those in the Catholic Church who have accompanied the victims of AIDS/HIV in their journey of suffering.

Does this seem like a repudiation of the moral force of Christianity? On the contrary, it follows the direct insruction of Jesus to care for the sick and suffering, and to befriend the marginalised of society. It was Jesus’ demonstration of this very spirit of Compassion which cause the Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day to question his propriety in preventing them from stoning a woman to death for her part in an act of adultery. Despite public criticism from some of his own Church followers, Popr Francis leads the way to a ‘Gospel of Compassion’, rather than a message of Hell Fire for those who are considered the least in our society.

Jesus warned the Pharisees that their judgement of others would rebound in their own downfall. We are all sinners in need of redemption. However, the amazing Good News is that Christ has redeemed us!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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In new letter, Pope Francis praises priests, nuns who cared for AIDS victims

Nov 12, 2021by Christopher WhiteVatican – NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER

An LGBT choir sings outside the Pastoral Congress at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin Aug. 23, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)An LGBT choir sings outside the Pastoral Congress at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin Aug. 23, 2018. (CNS/Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne)

ROME — Pope Francis, in a new letter, praised the work of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people who ministered to HIV and AIDS victims at a time when much of the church hierarchy was at odds with the LGBTQ community during the height of the AIDS epidemic. 

“Thank you for shining a light on the lives and bearing witness to the many priests, religious sisters and lay people, who opted to accompany, support and help their brothers and sisters who were sick from HIV and AIDS at great risk to their profession and reputation,” Francis wrote to Catholic journalist Michael O’Loughlin.

The cover of Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear, written by Michael O'Loughlin.

The cover of Hidden Mercy: written by Michael O’Loughlin.

O’Loughlin is the author of the forthcoming book, Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear, which will be released later this month. 

The pope’s words, dated Aug. 17, came in response to a personal letter from O’Loughlin, along with a copy of his book. The full text of the letter was provided to NCR by O’Loughlin and published for the first time in a New York Times essay on Nov. 15. 

Francis goes on to cite the scripture passage from the Gospel of Matthew: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” 

These are the words by which “we will one day be judged,” Francis wrote.

“Instead of indifference, alienation and even condemnation,” Francis continued, “these people let themselves be moved by the mercy of the Father and allowed that to become their own life’s work; a discreet mercy, silent and hidden, but still capable of sustaining and restoring the life and history of each one of us.”

In his book, O’Loughlin chronicles nearly two decades of the work of priests, nuns and Catholic lay people who ministered to individuals dying from AIDS at a time in which some of the most vocal leaders of the Catholic Church, both in the United States and in Rome, were cracking down on homosexuality and opposed the use of condoms to prevent the transmissi

An advanced review of Hidden Mercy from Publishers Weekly describes it as a “poignant account” that “shines a well-deserved spotlight on Catholics who chose compassion over fear.”

Francis, while signaling a more welcoming, pastoral approach to gay people, has also upheld traditional Catholic teaching when it comes to homosexual relationships, including approving a Vatican decree last March forbidding priests from blessing same-sex unions. 

In his own ministry, Francis — while Archbishop of Buenos Aires in 2008 — kissed and washed the feet of 12 HIV and AIDS patients during a Holy Thursday service. More recently, during a 2019 visit to Panama, Francis visited a home of HIV-positive residents and pleaded for an end to the stigma surrounding those with HIV and AIDS. 

Editor’s note: Christopher White received and provided comments on an advanced copy of O’Loughlin’s book manuscript.

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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