In Italy, author Francesca Pardi has become the target of backlash from religious conservatives for promoting a "pro-homosexuality gender theory" with her latest children's book, Piccolo Uovo (or Little Egg). Pardi takes the reader on a journey with the egg as it meets different animals with various family situations, including gay, single and mixed-race animal parents.
Luigi Brugnaro, the new mayor of Venice, banned Piccolo Uovo and some 50 other books from schools, a move that prompted widespread criticism from hundreds of Italian authors.
But Pardi has a powerful religious authority firmly on her side — Pope Francis. The author had sent the pope a package of children's books, some that dealt with LGBT issues. The books were attached with a moving letter from Pardi herself about the attacks she has suffered recently for Piccolo Uovo.
"Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us," she wrote, according to The Guardian. "We have respect for Catholics ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can't we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?"
Through his staff, Pope Francis responded to the author with this letter.
His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values.
Pardi was surprised to even receive a reply, but grateful nonetheless. "It's not that I think that he's for gay families, because there's the Catholic doctrine, but we mustn't think that we don't have rights," she told The Guardian.
Pope Francis is regarded somewhat as a revolutionary — or, to some, a radical — leader of the Catholic Church. He has been vocal on climate change, called for the acceptance of divorced Catholics and gay people, and directed fiery criticism at global capitalism and the Vatican bureaucracy, among many other unexpected moves.
The Vatican considers homosexuality "an intrinsic moral evil," a stance that alienates many gay Catholics. But Pope Francis has struck a more conciliatory tone. In 2013, while speaking to reporters, Francis said, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
The statement was lauded by many, but many Catholics across the globe are urging Pope Francis to reaffirm Catholic teachings on gay people and divorcees.
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