Pope Francis has told a gay comedian that people who "select or discard" people because of their sexuality "don't have a human heart." The Pope made the comments to Stephen K Amos in the final episode of the BBC2 series Pilgrimage: The Road To Rome which was screened on Good Friday.
The three-part series took eight celebrities - actors Les Dennis and Lesley Joseph, professional dancer Brendan Cole, comedian Katy Brand, Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford, television presenter Mehreen Baig, and Irish Eurovision Song Contest winner and former Euro MP Dana Scallon - walking on the Via Francigena pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome.
In the final episode, the celebrities were offered an audience with the Pope. Amos told a British newspaper that he initially refused the meeting. He explained: "I've been quite vocal in my criticism in certain aspects of the Catholic Church. I thought a private audience meant you go and see him, he blesses you and you leave. I couldn't in all conscience go and do that, it's not me."
Amos only agreed to attend if he could ask the Pope questions. The Vatican said Amos could ask anything he liked.
During the audience, Amos told Pope Francis: "I lost my mother, three months ago I buried my twin sister, who were both very religious. So me coming on this pilgrimage, being non-religious, I was looking for answers and faith. But as a gay man, I don't feel accepted."
Pope Francis responded, through an interpreter: "Giving more importance to the adjective than the noun. That is not good. We are all human beings and have dignity. It does not matter who you are or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity. There are people that prefer to select or discard people, because of the adjective. These people don't have a human heart."
He told the group: "I feel myself among brothers and sisters and I have not asked any of you what your faith or belief is. because we have a basic faith in humanity. For those of you who are believers please pray for me. For those of you who do not believe, could you wish me a good journey so I do not let anyone down. Thank you."
The meeting left Amos in tears.
Speaking later to the Press Association he said: "It was life-changing. It's given me faith in human beings. It's opened my eyes about not judging religious people based on my own negative experiences I was carrying around a lot of grief. In a weird way it did alleviate some of that sadness. When I left that meeting there was joy in my heart. I had lost a couple of people who were very close to me who were particularly religious. Lots of things come into your mind, like 'is there an afterlife? Will I see you again? In a weird way, he took that off my shoulders. I don't know if I will see these people again, but he has told me the door is open."
Watch the encounter here: www.facebook.com/bbc/videos/2599047176832089/?v=2599047176832089
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