Pope Francis told a gay British comedian that “it doesn’t matter who you are or how you live your life, you do not lose your dignity.”
Stephen K. Amos, a prominent face on British TV, was on the BBC2 show Pilgrimage: The Road To Rome, which followed eight celebrities as they traveled a section of the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome.
Participants also included 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 Member of the European Parliament Dana Scallon.
They begin their pilgrimage in Switzerland and have 15 days to travel the more than 600 miles to Rome. The program lasted 3 episodes, with the finale airing on Good Friday. During the episode, the participants were given the opportunity to meet Francis.
When he found out the day before that the pilgrimage group was meeting Francis, Amos said no.
“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,” he told iNews.
“Then I said I’d only go if we can ask questions. The producers asked, well, what sort of questions, as we don’t want to spark a diplomatic incident. So we gave in some questions and the answer came back from the Vatican that the Pope will answer any questions that you have,” Amos told the news website.
During the program, Amos asked: “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.”
The pope responded through an interpreter.
“Giving more importance to the adjective rather than the noun, this 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,” Francis said.
Speaking later to iNews, Amos said he was “blindsided” by the response, which he called “quite magnificent.”
“He didn’t shut anybody down, he was very clear in what we said about all being God’s children, all the things you don’t normally hear. So I was in full respect of the man. I had already planned what I would do if he had said something I didn’t agree with or that would add more shame on people’s lives. I would have respectfully excused myself. I couldn’t live with myself otherwise,” he said.
Scallon, well-known in Ireland for her strong Catholic views, told the pontiff that “at this difficult time for our Church we long for truth, and we know that it is very difficult” and assured Francis of her prayers.
Speaking in English, the pope said “You pray for me. I need it. This job is not easy.”
The pope told the group that life is a journey, whether “you have faith or do not have faith.”
“For those of you who are believers, 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,” the pope said at the end of the encounter.