Toni Reis and David Harrad’s three children — Alyson, 16, Jessica, 14 and Felipe, 11 — were baptized on April 23 at a cathedral in the city of Curitiba, which is located in southern Brazil.
Reis, who is president of Grupo Dignidade, a Brazilian LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Tuesday in an email that he sent a letter and pictures to Francis “telling him about the baptism” in June. Reis, Harrad and their family then took a month-long vacation to Europe.
Reis told the Blade a letter on official Vatican letterhead with a signed picture of Francis “were waiting for us” when he and his family returned home.
The letter was dated July 10.
“Pope Francis wishes you happiness, invoking for your family the abundance of divine graces in order to live steadfastly and faithfully as good children of God and of the church,” wrote Monsignor Paolo Borgia of the Vatican Secretariat of State in Portuguese.
Borgia also wrote that Francis asked Reis and his family to “pray for him.”
“We are extremely pleased to have received this unexpected message and what it means for families with same-sex parents,” Reis told the Blade.
The Vatican’s tone towards homosexuality and other LGBT-specific issues has become more moderate since Francis became pope in 2013.
The Argentine-born pontiff in July 2013 told reporters in response to a question about gay priests as he returned to Rome from a trip to Brazil for World Youth Day that gay men and lesbians should not be judged or marginalized.
The church last December reaffirmed its ban on gay men in the priesthood. The Vatican’s position on marriage rights for same-sex couples, homosexuality and other LGBT-specific issues has not changed under Francis’ papacy.
A Vatican official on Tuesday told the Catholic News Agency the letter that Reis received was a “standard model of courtesy response that the Vatican sends to all the people who write to the pope.” The official added it “was not a letter (that was) expressly thinking about them.”