Pope Francis Will Hold His First Public Meeting with a Gay Activist in Paraguay

The activist is counting on Pope Francis to address the issue of violence toward LGBT people at the meeting in July

Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty

Pope Francis will hold his first public meeting with a married gay activist during a trip to Paraguay in July.

The activist, Simén Cazal, the executive director of the Paraguyan LGBT rights group SOMOSGAY, was invited to a round table with the pope and civil society leaders in Paraguy’s capital city of Asuncién on July 11, BuzzFeed News reports.

The sitdown will mark the first time the pope has met with an LGBT political activist, though he has held private pastoral meetings with LGBT people in the past.

Cazal, who married another SOMOSGAY activist, Sergio Lépez, in Argentina in 2012, was extended the invite from the committee of the Paraguayan bishops’ conference, due to the “high impact of your organization on Paraguyan society,” according to the invitation obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Lépez told BuzzFeed News SOMOSGAY was shocked to be included in the meeting, which comes after the group called on the Catholic church to “abandon the positions of intolerance and insults dehumanizing LGBT people.”

Paraguay is one of a handful of countries in South America that offers no protection for LGBT citizens or same-sex couples, BuzzFeed reports. In the eyes of Paraguayan law, Lépez and Cazal’s marriage is not even legal.

Lépez tells BuzzFeed News the group is expecting Pope Francis to “address the issue” of violence toward LGBT people, after riot police last June used force to remove LGBT demonstrators protesting for gay rights ahead of a meeting of the Organization of American States in Asuncién.

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“The OAS repression went completely unnoticed and unrecognized by the church here,” he says, even though “the whole repression happened during a Catholic march.”

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