Jubilant LGBT Catholics cheered loudly as Pope Francis waved at them on Wednesday as his motorcade drove past the headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign on its way to the nearby Cathedral of St. Matthews the Apostle, where he led a prayer service.
Members of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity Washington, who assembled on the lawn outside the HRC building at 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., said they were hopeful that Francis and the large entourage of Catholic bishops who accompanied him in the Papal motorcade recognized them as proud and faithful Catholics.
“He was looking at the other side of the street and then someone who was in the car sitting next to him made him look over at us,” said Daniel Barutta, president of Dignity Washington.
“He did wave at us as he went by,” Barutta said. “So that’s awesome. We had a great crowd. It’s been great working with HRC. It’s just the topper to a wonderful week, and we’re just really glad to be here.”
HRC President Chad Griffin was among those gathered outside the HRC building, on which a 50-foot-tall banner was hanging that HRC staffers were hoping the Pope would notice. It read, “We Are Your Children, Your Teachers, Your Faithful. Welcomed By God. Dismissed by Our Bishops. Pope Francis, Will You Welcome Us Home?”
Griffin said he was hopeful that Francis took notice of the banner and the LGBT Catholics who greeted him.
“The Pope did look over at our headquarters and waved to the LGBT Catholics here who were gathered,” Griffin said. “So it was great that his route took him by our headquarters and perhaps the next time he’ll stop by for a meeting.”
Griffin noted that HRC sent Francis a letter asking for a meeting.
“As far as I know, we didn’t hear back,” said Griffin. “I know he has a very busy schedule but we had a great display of action out here. We were able to respectfully welcome him and respectfully advocate that LGBTQ Catholics be welcomed home.”
While waiting for the Pope to arrive, members of the Dignity Washington choir sang Catholic hymns. Members of the group also displayed their own banner, which read, “Pope Francis, the Spirit is Speaking Through Us – LGBT Catholics – Dignity Washington.”
“It was that Fiat among all those big security SUVs,” said Dignity member Tom Bower, who was referring to Francis’s decision to ride around the nation’s capital in a small black Fiat rather than a limousine.
“It was exciting to see it,” he said.
Maria Desangeles and her partner Adrienne Andrews, who came from Baltimore to see the Pope, said they too were thrilled to see the Pontiff drive by the HRC building in his modest Fiat.
“It was great,” Desangeles said. “Hopefully he saw our message of welcoming home LGBT Catholics,” she said. “We also saw him at the White House. We appreciated his thoughts and comments around inclusivity and welcoming diversity.”
Asked if he thought the actions by LGBT Catholics would have an impact on church policy, Griffin said he was hopeful that it would.
“You never know what one thing ultimately would move an institution and move a Pope,” he said. “But he has had great words over the last couple of years. Our goal is to move those words to action.”