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Pope Francis addresses the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress via video address, Feb. 18, 2021.RECongress / Youtube screen grab

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LOS ANGELES, California, February 23, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis praised the pro-LGBT Los Angeles Religious Education Congress last week for its “long and fruitful journey” over the past 65 years, thanking the various dissident “ministers and teachers” at the event “for what you do.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, a warm greeting to all the participants in the Congress on Religious Education sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary,” the Pope said in a February 18 video address to the conference which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles headed by Archbishop José Gómez.

“Congratulations for these initiatives, which have already undertaken a long and fruitful journey, and which are currently taking place in virtual form,” he added (read full address here).

The congress, forced to go online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, is billed as the largest annual gathering of Catholics in the U.S., sometimes drawing as many as 40,000 people for the three-day event. Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, the conference has a history of providing a platform for dissident Catholic speakers, pushing for the normalization of homosexuality within the Catholic Church, and promoting liturgical novelties.

Last year, the congress displayed works by openly homosexual Jesuit priest William Hart McNichols whose portfolio includes “AIDS Crucifixion” which is an image of the crucified Christ in underwear with the sign “AIDS, homosexual, faggot, pervert, sodomite” pinned on top of the cross.

The theme for this year’s event was “Proclaim the promise.”

Speakers at the conference included pro-LGBT Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin; Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle, who openly dissents from Church teaching on homosexual “marriage,” women “priests,” and worthiness to receive Holy Communion; and San Diego’s pro-LGBT bishop Robert McElroy, who has challenged abortion being labeled as the “preeminent” issue by his brother bishops in the U.S. election. McElroy’s keynote address at this year’s event was titled “What is Truth?”

It does not come as a surprise that Pope Francis would speak at an event with a reputation for pro-LGBT activism. Last year, the Pope in the documentary “Francesco” called for the creation of a “civil union law” for homosexuals, which is contrary to Catholic teaching, so that “they are legally covered.” He also allowed Fr. James Martin to speak at the 2018 World Meeting of Families and met with him personally in an audience in 2019. Pope Francis began his pontificate with his now-infamous “who am I to judge” comment in 2013 when asked about homosexuality.

Terry Barber, founder of Saint Joseph Communications and Lighthouse Catholic Media, told LifeSiteNews that it “makes sense” that Pope Francis would be invited to speak at the congress and that the Pope would accept the invitation.

“Pope Francis is welcomed to a congress like this because he represents a lot of those people thinking that the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ is here in Francis, even though that ‘spirit of Vatican II’ has nothing to do with Vatican II.”

Barber, who currently runs The Terry and Jesse Show on Virgin Most Powerful Radio, said that he has been thrown out of the LA Religious Education Congress “many times” since he first started attending it in 1973 as a vendor in his attempt to bring some orthodoxy to the event. 

“There are so many dissenters who speak at this congress,” he said.

He pointed out that Francis is “not giving Catholics a good example of what his predecessors have taught.”

“Pope Francis does not teach the perennial teachings of the Church. As a successor of Peter, he is supposed to confirm us in the faith, and unfortunately, he is not confirming us in the faith in coming up with different teachings in morality, as in Amoris laetitia.”

Barber said that the Pope speaking at the congress will only lend credibility to the dissident positions it advocates for.

He said that Catholics need to pray for the Pope.

Pope Francis told young people participating in this year’s congress that they must become “the poets of a new human beauty, a new fraternal and friendly beauty.”

While the Pope did not explain what he meant by a “new human beauty,” he did quote extensively in his 553-word address from his latest encyclical Fratelli tutti where he writes about human brotherhood.

He also spoke about the COVID-19 outbreak as an occasion to “build tomorrow,” a theme that has been taken up by global elites who champion what they call the “great reset.”

“The pandemic has marked the life of the people and history of our community. Faced with this and other situations, it is necessary to build tomorrow, to look to the future and, to do so, it takes effort, strength and dedication on the part of everyone,” the Pope said.

“Crises confront us with the need to choose and to commit ourselves to a path,” he added later in his address.

Francis greeted young people “especially,” inviting them to “hope.”

“I greet young people especially. I invite you to hope, which ‘speaks to us of something deeply rooted in every human heart, independently of our circumstances and historical conditioning’ (Fratelli tutti, 55). You young people, be the poets of a new human beauty, a new fraternal and friendly beauty!”

Catholic U.K. commentator Deacon Nick Donnelly had hoped that Pope Francis would use the occasion of his address to help steer the conference back toward authentic Catholicism.

“The LA Congress has a history of promoting dissent from the doctrines of the Faith, especially by giving a platform to LGBT activists who publicly repudiate Church teaching on the immorality of homosexual sex,” he said in comments earlier this month.

“Pope Francis has a real opportunity in his online appearance to address and correct this scandal. It would give hope to faithful parents, teachers and clergy who have had to endure this annual assault against the Faith for decades. However tragically for the US Church, this pope has professed himself unable to judge on such matters.”

“Under his pontificate emboldened clergy, such as Fr. James Martin SJ and Bishop McElroy, have sunk to new depths of subversion against the dignity of human sexuality safeguarded by natural law and divine revelation,” Donnelly continued.

“I fear that instead of a chastened LA Congress we will witness it descending into even more extreme defiance of God and His Church. This will have very dangerous consequences for the children subjected to this corrupted vision of Catholic education,” he concluded.

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