Members of the LGBT community in the Philippines are urging Pope Francis to use his upcoming visit to help stop discrimination from Filipinos and for the local Catholic Church to embrace them as human beings.
Aian Perucho, a founder of the LGBT group Kapederasyon, has called on the pope to ensure that gay people like him are treated with respect and that people would stop labeling LGBT members as “salot (plague).”
Bishops in the Philippines should treat LGBT people the same way as they do others, he said but pointed out that the local Catholic “Church intensifies discrimination against us,” according to The Inquirer.
Sexual health activist Luz Francess Chua was quoted as wanting the Catholic Church in the Philippines to not judge anyone based on sexual orientation “just like Pope Francis.”
Elena Felix a member of Babae Plus, a support group for women with HIV said: “We want to stop the discrimination against outcasts like the LGBT, the HIV/AIDS positive.”
The urging by LGBT activists are inspired Pope Francis’ message of compassion for “outcasts” such as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the need for tolerance and inclusion by encouraging the Church to reach out to the gay community.
Activists hope that Pope Francis’ scheduled visit Jan 15-19 to the Philippines will help change Filipinos’ attitude toward the community.
In an interview with a Catholic magazine, Pope Francis was quoted as saying: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
The pope said he speaks “with affection and with the best of intentions, quite apart from any personal interest or political ideology.”
Pope Francis has also said his bishops, who are local leaders of Catholic communities, should support “a family that has a homosexual son or daughter… (and consider) how can they raise him or her.”
Since his election in March 2013, Pope Francis has ruffled the feathers of many conservative Catholics by refusing to condemn same-sex relations long considered sinful by his Church.
Last year Pope Francis said of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.”
More than 80 percent of the Philippines’ 97 million people belong to the Catholic Church that has been active in opposing any civil rights legislation for the local LGBT community.
A recent UN-sponsored study has confirmed that gay people in the Philippines continue to face discrimination despite pockets of increased tolerance for the LGBT community by Filipino society.