Probably the most famous gay news magazine, the Advocate, has picked Pope Francis as its Person of the Year.
The Advocate’s standard for person of the year is to choose the “single most influential person of 2013 on the lives of LGBT people.” (LGBT is an onerous and ever-changing abbreviation used to mean lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and sometimes many others.)
Francis was also TIME’s choice for Person of the Year.
While Pope Francis hasn’t exactly changed church doctrine on gay people or gay rights, he has toned down the rhetoric, a lot. And while sometimes rhetoric is “just words,” at other times words can have great power. Such as when the most powerful religious leader in the world seems to suggest that his church may no longer hates your living guts.
The Advocate explains some of its thinking:
As pope, he has not yet said the Catholic Church supports civil unions. But what Francis does say about LGBT people has already caused reflection and consternation within his church. The moment that grabbed headlines was during a flight from Brazil to Rome. When asked about gay priests, Pope Francis told reporters, according to a translation from Italian, “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
Francis’s view on how the Catholic Church should approach LGBT people was best explained in his own words during an in-depth interview with America magazine in September. He recalled, “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.”
One good sign: Conservative Catholics, including the American cardinals, are starting to freak out. That means they see something bigger happening here. And if they see it, we should all pay attention. Here’s more evidence as to why the conservatives are running scared:
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that an Italian Catholic LGBT group, Kairos of Florence, wrote a letter to the pope in June, asking for “openness and dialogue” and noting that lacking it “always feeds homophobia.” LGBT Catholics had written to previous popes, but Francis is the first to write a reply. Both sides have largely kept the content of their conversation private, except to note with a level of amazement that the pope gave the LGBT group his blessing.
In the end, we’ll see just how far the Catholic Church is willing to go. The church has balked before when confronted with liberal popes.
And the church has a lot of making up to do to the world gay community, starting with finally punishing Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez down in the Dominican Republic who recently referred to the US ambassador nominee as a “maricon,” the Spanish word for “f*ggot.”
In the civilized world, you’d lose your job after using language like that about anyone. So why does Lopez Rodriguez still have his?