A gay friend of Pope Francis says he’s witnessed a gay-inclusive turn in the religious figure for years.
Yayo Grassi recently spoke with the Washington Blade about his longtime friend and religious leader. Grassi is a catering business owner who has worked in the D.C. market since 2005. Before that, he was the director of catering for the National Gallery of Art. But before he moved to D.C. in 1978, Grassi lived in Argentina.
It was in Argentina that Grassi met the future Pope. In 1964 and 1965, Jorge Bergoglio, who would later be known as Pope Francis, was teaching Argentine literature and psychology at Inmaculada Concepción in Santa Fe, Argentina.
“He was an extraordinary teacher and a great mentor,” Grassi told the Washington Post in 2015. “He kept pushing my horizons, to oblige me to keep looking. He asked me to put on the skin of my fellow man, to feel their pain.”
The two then struck up a mentor-mentee relationship before eventually losing touch after Grassi moved to the U.S. They then rekindled their friendship in 2008. At their first meeting in D.C., Grassi brought his boyfriend of 19 years, Iwan. Then when news broke out about Kim Davis’s attendance at the Vatican, Grassi confronted his mentor and friend.
“Although I didn’t know any details, I knew immediately that he had nothing to do with this, that this was arranged by other people without telling him the real character [of Davis,]” Grassi said. “I received from friends of mine a lot of quite disturbing mail, telling me that ‘This is your pope, look what he did, and he’s a coward,’ and my defense is ‘We don’t know anything. Just wait until things come out.’ And I’m extremely pleased that I was right. And I never had any doubt that I was right.”
Since then, the two have continued their friendship, and Grassi has been thankful to oversee Francis’ shift in attitude toward LGBTQ people and same-sex couples.
Grassi sees Francis’ comments in support of civil unions, which were recorded in the documentary Francisco, as “an affirmation of everything that I know about him.” Though Grassi acknowledges the concerns of LGBTQ people that supporting civil unions, and not marriage, is “not enough,” he says that Pope Francis is in a tough spot of this conversation.
“Obviously he can’t say that,” said Grassi to the Washington Blade “It is impossible for the pope … it’s (not) like the pope will go out and say I support abortion or I support the death penalty. Those are things that are so extreme (within) the church that it is going to be difficult for him to say it.”
“I don’t think he would ever say it,” he added.