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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis told a homosexual activist and theology professor to continue in his efforts to make the Church more open to homosexual unions during a private visit in May.

Professor Aaron Bianco, who is in a same-sex “marriage,” attended the International Conference on Moral Theology in Rome, which occurred between May 11-14, as an invited guest.

The conference was held by the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute and organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. It focused on Amoris Laetitia for the fifth anniversary of the Pope’s controversial apostolic exhortation on the family.

The Los Angeles Times ran a story on Bianco’s interaction with Pope Francis while at the conference. Bianco was “coached” on how to interact with the Pope, and was told to not bow or genuflect or to kiss his ring as it “makes him angry,” but was told to take off his mask in order to show his face.

He told the Pope: “I work with LGBT Catholics in the United States, and I want to thank you for speaking up that all people should feel welcome in the church.”

According to Bianco, Francis told him: “You need to continue that work because they need to feel welcome in the church, and we need more people like you.”

READ: Pope Francis allegedly tells divorced homosexual man to take Communion

Bianco teaches in the University of San Diego’s theology and religious studies department, and was in Rome giving a presentation on Catholics who identify as LGBT. He previously served as program outreach associate for heretical organization Call to Action, which supports same-sex “marriage.”

He presented his paper and made it clear to the audience that he was a “gay man living in a committed relationship for 17 years.”

Part of his presentation focused on LGBT couples who have lived in homosexual relationships while outwardly practicing as Catholics. He spoke of one lesbian couple who were said to have avoided attending Mass because they risked “the pain of being denied the Eucharist” due to the fact they lived in grave contravention to Church law.

Bianco criticized priests and bishops who deny the Eucharist to Catholics who act on their same-sex attractions. “Eucharist is the pinnacle of God’s love and dwelling within us,” he told the conference. “Should we not find ways to bring all those in ‘irregular’ situations back to the Lord?”

Actively participating in sinful sexual behaviour constitutes mortal sin according to the teachings of the Church, and Pope Francis has been clear that Catholics are not to receive Holy Communion unless they have confessed all their known mortal sins.

Although Bianco was greeted by the Pope and given an opportunity to present his ideas that encouraged Catholics to act in contravention to the Church’s teachings, he lamented that Francis has referred to homosexual unions as “irregular.”

Bianco also made it clear that he wanted to work to change the Church, and has praised the Pope’s decision to elevate San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy to cardinal.

RELATED: Pope Francis’ new cardinal pick has a horrifying record on homosexuality and abortion

In 2016, Bishop McElroy installed Bianco as pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Church in San Diego, where he led education programs and young adult and pastoral outreach ministry and hosted an “LGBT Bible study” group. Bianco was even identified as the point of contact for couples preparing for marriage and allegedly promoted dissident pro-LGBT group New Ways Ministry (NWM) before resigning amid backlash. Bianco also worked as the diocesan coordinator for “LGBT ministry.”

McElroy’s elevation was criticized by Cardinal Gerhard Mueller who said “no one can understand” why he was promoted. McElroy has long promoted LGBT ideology in the Church and was embroiled in an alleged coverup of the notorious Theodore McCarrick scandal.