Pope Francis on Monday gave a high-profile private audience to a prominent American Jesuit priest who has been attacked repeatedly by conservative Catholics and media outlets for ministering to queer people.
By meeting Father James Martin during the morning, when the pope's meetings are part of his published schedule, instead of privately in the afternoon, Francis appeared to be defending Martin pointedly from the attacks.
In the last two years, a number of Catholic seminaries and universities have cancelled lectures and appearances by Martin, often after pressure from conservative groups.
Martin, a Jesuit like the pope, is the author of the 2017 book "Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity".
In a Tweet after meeting the pope, Martin said he "shared with him the joys and hopes, and the griefs and anxieties, of LGBT Catholics and LGBT people worldwide. I was so grateful to meet with this wonderful pastor".