The Latest: Gay Rights Activist Pleased With Papal Message

Here are the latest developments from Pope Francis' trip to South America:


7:45 p.m.

The Paraguayan gay rights activists who attended a gathering that Pope Francis held with 1,600 members of so-called civil society says some in his own movement thought he should have skipped it.

But Simon Cazal told The Associated Press after Saturday night's event that he accepted the Paraguayan bishops' conference's invitation because he doesn't think the Catholic Church will use his attendance for publicity purposes.

Cazal is executive director of SomosGay. He noted with satisfaction Francis' statement that people's richness is in their diversity and no one should be excluded from anything.

Cazal told AP he hopes Paraguay's government is listening. He said 54 killings of transgender Paraguayans have gone uninvestigated in the past decade.

The church and the pope oppose gay marriage. To them, marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Cazal is married to an Argentine. Their union is not recognized by Paraguay. In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalize same-sex marriage.


7:15 p.m.

A leading Paraguayan gay rights activist was in the crowd at the Catholic Church's invitation when Pope Francis met with "civil society" in an Asuncion stadium.

His husband called it a huge gesture of tolerance.

Simon Cazal, the executive director of SomosGay, was invited by Paraguay's bishops' conference. Cazal is legally married to an Argentine, Sergio Lopez, though their union isn't recognized in Paraguay.

Lopez told The Associated Press that Paraguay's church had made history with the invitation, calling it "a baby step" but also a "huge (gesture) of tolerance for our organization."

Pope Francis opposes gay marriage in line with church teaching. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he tried unsuccessfully to prevent Argentina from becoming the first country in Latin America to legalize gay marriage.

However, as pope he has also showed great openness to gays, advocating a church that ministers to everyone without judgment.


6:45 p.m.

Pope Francis is balancing out his apology for the crimes the Catholic Church committed against indigenous during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas with high praise for the Jesuit missions in Paraguay that brought Christianity, European-style education and economic organization to the Guarani Indians.

Francis praised the Jesuit "reductions," as the missions were known, as an almost utopian social and economic experiment — one that was immortalized in the 1986 film, "The Mission." He said they were "one of the most important experiences of evangelization and social organization in history."

He said in a speech to indigenous groups, unions and political figures in Paraguay: "There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression. This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible."


5:00 p.m.

Pope Francis has used a long-scheduled lunch break to make an impromptu and moving stop at a religious clinic for the terminally ill poor.

The Italian Rev. Aldo Trentto is director of the Fundacion San Rafael clinic. He fought back tears as he recounted how emotional the visit was for patients. He said Francis at one point leaned over to kiss a terminally ill patient who was too weak to sit up.

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