Gay Houstonian to welcome pope at White House

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On a whim, a gay Catholic blogger and Houston native asked for an invite to welcome Pope Francis to the U.S. The White House called his bluff and on Wednesday Aaron Jay Ledesma will be on the South Lawn for the arrival ceremony. 

Ledesma, 23, blogs at the Gay Catholic, where he writes about reconciling his faith as a gay Hispanic man. So when he heard that the pope was visiting the U.S., he wrote to President Obama to tell his story and ask to be a part of the event. It worked. 

Via Fusion:

Then on August 13th he got the call. It was an unblocked number. Ledesma says it was the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence telling him the office was moved by his letter and extending an invitation to the ceremony with the pope. 

“I thought to myself, ‘I hope no one is messing with me and I’m not getting punked.’ There’s just no words to describe what I felt,” Ledesma said.

Ledesma, born and raised in Houston, left to attend Marquette University before relocating to Richmond, Va., for a job managing communications for a fraternity headquarters. He was bullied in school and didn't come out until age 21. 

But in Pope Francis, Ledesma sees a religious leader making it easier for gay Catholics like him. On Monday, Ledesma published an open letter to the pope on the Huffington Post, explaining why the “proud Catholic” wants to be in on the big welcome to the pontiff during his first trip to the U.S.

Thank you for welcoming me back to the Church.

Your words of love, compassion and acceptance inspired me to explore my faith in a way I had never done before. As an openly gay man, I have struggled. Not in gaining people's acceptance or respect, but internally.

My fears and doubts once clouded my ability to see clearly. There was a time I believed that the Church would never accept me for who I am and that I could never find happiness in life as a gay Catholic. Heroes like my mom, my spiritual advisors and you have helped me on my journey to discover that I can be happy and practice my faith.

Today, I'm a proud Catholic.

Sunday masses have become routine, praying has become meaningful, and parishioners have embraced me.

I've never been so proud to call myself a Catholic and to practice my faith.

You made all of that possible. It is my firm belief, along with many others, that you are the Pope the Catholic Church has been waiting for… the one we have needed.

Ledesma also pointed out that despite his optimism over Pope Francis, he hasn't approved of gay marriage or changed church doctrine on homosexuality. And critics say although the Pope preaches more compassion, gay Catholics still have to fight for equality. But Ledesma said the pope's approach makes a difference. Via the Guardian:

“I think what Pope Francis has done has opened the doors of the Catholic church to Catholics who are lesbian, gay, transgender, and what that has done in my opinion – for me, in my experience – it has allowed me to embrace my faith again, go to church and practice my religion a little bit more freely and without worry,” he said.

“For a while, I wondered if I would be judged if I was out at church, but I think what he’s done is he’s shown the world and the Catholic community that it’s OK to be gay, lesbian, transgender – you’re still loved and supported.

“He’s not changing rules, not changing laws, he didn’t change the Bible and he didn’t take the catechism and change it. He simply prioritized what was already there – that we should all be loving and compassionate and accepting of one another.”

The White House has issued 15,000 invitations for the event on Wednesday. The diverse guest list includes several LGBT people, including the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, and a transgender activist, according to NPR. Guests will also include LGBT activists and gay Mayor Bao Nguyen of Garden Grove, Calif., the Washington Blade reports.

Ledesma is ready, planning his outfit and his personal plus one, according to Fusion.

Ledesma said he plans on wearing his Brooks Brothers suit to the White House ceremony welcoming Pope Francis. He plans on bringing his boyfriend as his guest.

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