A congratulatory letter sent by Pope Francis to a same-sex couple about the baptism of their children was a standard set letter sent to all who write to the Pope, a Vatican source has clarified.
The source told the Catholic News Agency (CNA) that the letter was not an endorsement of gay unions, and that the Pope may not have known that the letter was going to a gay couple, as it was addressed to an individual.
The story goes back to April, when Tony Reis, an gay rights activist, and his partner David Harrad wrote on Facebook that they had sent a letter to the Pope, telling him about the baptism of their three adopted children at a church in Curitiba, Brazil.
The couple told the AFP news agency that they had received a congratulatory letter in return, signed by the Vatican Secretariat of State, Monsignor Paolo Borgi.
The letter, translated from the Portuguese in which it was sent, said that Pope Francis 'looks with appreciation' at the letter to the Pope and 'expressed his feelings of esteem...and his wishes for the good spiritual fruits of his ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church'.
It continued: 'Pope Francis wishes him well, invoking for his family the abundance of divine graces, so that they may live constantly and faithfully the condition of Christians, as good children of God and of the Church, and sends them a propitious Apostolic Blessing, asking them not to stop praying for him.'
The pair also received a photograph of the Pontiff.
The Vatican source told CNA: '(T)hat letter is the standard model of courtesy response that the Vatican sends to all the people who write to the Pope, and therefore was not a letter (that was) expressly thinking about them.'
The source added that the letter is addressed to one person – 'further evidence that the Secretary of State was unaware that it was a homosexual couple' who had written the first letter. The couple has not published the text of the letter they sent to Pope Francis, so it is unknown whether they presented themselves as a same-sex couple, CNA pointed out.
In an official statement to CNA, the vice director of the Holy See press office Paloma Ovejero confirmed that the perception that this letter was an affirmation of same-sex marriage 'is false. The letter was directed only to him (Reis)'.
The Vatican letter is only addressed to one person with the greeting 'Dear Sir'.
Ovejero told CNA: 'Although it is true that in the body of the response there was a reference to a blessing of the family of the recipient, in Portuguese this expression has a generic and ample meaning, equivalent to 'all the people close to you.'
In 2015, the Vatican clarified a similar incident, with Ciro Benedittini, the deputy director of the Vatican Press Office, confirming that a standard form letter sent to a lesbian couple who had written the Pope was not an endorsement of same-sex marriage.