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In new letter to Outreach, Pope Francis calls Catholics to foster a “culture of encounter”

Views James Martin, S.J. / August 2, 2022 Print this:
Pope Francis sits with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (at left) at the Citadelle de Quebec in Quebec City on July 27, 2022. The pope made a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada to offer apologies for the historical genocide of indigenous peoples by Catholic clergy. (Photo courtesy of Facebook/Vatican News)

Editor’s Note: A few weeks after the Outreach LGBTQ Catholic Ministry conference at Fordham University on June 24 to 25, we mailed Pope Francis a copy of the conference brochure, along with a letter describing what happened at the conference, especially the panel conversations among people with various viewpoints. This morning, we were surprised to receive this warm letter, dated July 20, seen below, in response. We are grateful to the Holy Father for his encouragement and prayers.

The letter was translated from the Spanish by J.D. Long-García, Sean Hagerty, S.J., and Adam Rosinski, S.J.

Spanish text of Pope Francis’s letter

Querido hermano,

Gracias por la carta que me hiciste llegar hace unas semanas junto al folleto “Outreach 2022“. Felicitaciones por haber podido concretar este año el evento de manera presencial.

Soy consciente que lo más valioso no es lo que aparece en los folletos y en las fotos, sino lo que ocurrió en los encuentros interpersonales. De hecho, la pandemia nos hizo buscar alternativas para acortar las distancias. También nos enseñó que hay cosas que son irremplazables, entre ellas el poder mirarnos “cara a cara”, aun con aquellos que piensan distinto o con quienes las diferencias parecieran separarnos y hasta enfrentarnos. Cuando superamos esas barreras, nos damos cuenta de que es más lo que nos une que lo que nos aleja.

Los animo a sequir trabajando en la cultura del encuentro, que acorta las distancias y nos enriquece con las diferencias, tal como lo hizo Jesús, que se hizo cercano a todos.

Les aseguro mi oración. No dejen de rezar por mí. Que Jesús los bendiga y la Virgen Santa los cuide.



English translation of the letter

Dear brother,

Thank you for the letter you sent me a few weeks ago, along with the “Outreach 2022” brochure. Congratulations for having been able to make the event happen this year in person.

I am aware that the most valuable thing is not what appears in the brochure or in the photos, but what happened in interpersonal encounters. In fact, the pandemic made us seek alternatives to shorten the distances. It also taught us that certain things are irreplaceable, among them the possibility to look at each other “face to face,” even with those who think differently or those whose differences seem to separate or even confront us. When we overcome these barriers, we realize that there is more that unites us than separates us.

I encourage you all to keep working in the culture of encounter, which shortens the distances and enriches us with differences, in the same manner of Jesus, who made himself close to everyone.

I assure you of my prayers. Don’t stop praying for me. May Jesus bless you and the Blessed Virgin care for you.



James Martin, S.J.

James Martin, S.J., is the founder of Outreach and the editor at large of America Media.

All articles by James Martin, S.J.

Outreach is part of America Media. To support Outreach you can make a donation or subscribe to America.

  1. He speaks to me.

    • Can someone try to clarify what the holy father means here:
      I encourage you all to keep working in the culture of encounter, which shortens the distances and enriches us with differences, in the same manner of Jesus, who made himself close to everyone.

      Is he referring to people who hold to different views on the lgbtq issue? Also is this in view of the different viewpoint shared in the panel?

  2. A wonderful warming and supportive letter from our Holy Father. Be assured of my prayerful support, let me know how to make a contribution.

    Maxie Valenzuela.

  3. Such a good Pope! We are blessed. Future looking and oh so holy!

  4. Thank God for Pope Francis! Sadly, I don’t think his message/s are reaching Idaho USA.

  5. Beautiful! I am happy to see the letter from Pope Francis.
    I was only able to watch the videos but it must have been so wonderful to be in person! Blessings and thank you!

  6. Through Pope Francis’ courage, humility, willingness, and ability to be a discerning leader, God blessed our world with his election as Pope. In his recent visit to Canada, where he so humbly shared in the pain of the indigenous people, Francis described his vision of the church: a church that serves, a church that does not seek power, a church that engages in dialogue, that seeks cultural encounter, that reaches out to people in need; a church that’s not afraid of living in a secular culture and doesn’t need to condemn the culture around it but to enter into dialogue with it and find ways to be faithful. Could there be any more beautiful vision for our church? Pope Francis’ trust in the Spirit is what leads him forward in peace, following the Spirit of consolation rather than desolation. If we engage in cultural encounters without condemning the culture of others, I believe the Spirit of consolation will guide us forward into new beginnings in ways we have not yet seen. “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love him.”
    (1 Corinthians 2:9).

  7. I am so grateful to God for through the anointing of the Holy spirit encourage the Cardinals to elect pope Francis to be God’s Vicar over the Catholic Church. He has opened wide the doors of the Church in it’s understanding of how we need to work together as one Body with Jesus Christ as the Head. Every step of his appointment as the Vicar of Christ to us the Catholic Church brings us a deeper understanding of how we should work together with Love and Unity, reaching out to everyone as Brothers and sisters no matter what race colour cast creed or tribe we belong to. God bless him in a special way always. Amen. Gerard Anthony Lacroix. The Cross

  8. “Love flows unstoppably downward, around every obstacle – like water. Love and water seek not the higher place but always the lower. That’s why forgiveness is often the most powerful display of love in action.”-Richard Rohr

    Thank you Pope Francis for your encouragement and humility of reaching and loving us in the peripheries