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San Francisco Archbishop: 'Interactions with Gay Catholics Tenderizes Us'

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In an interview with "KQED Newsroom" Friday, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone talked about sports, gay marriage and the power of Pope Francis, who last week was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Cordileone had a rough landing in famously liberal San Francisco when Pope Benedict XVI named him archbishop last year. As a leading supporter of Prop. 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California until the Supreme Court threw it out, Cordileone’s appointment generated anger and concern in the LGBT community.

In 2008, when Cordileone was still a bishop in San Diego, he helped organize efforts to get Prop. 8 on the California ballot and he personally contributed at least $6,000, according to state campaign finance records.

In our discussion, Archbishop Cordileone said he’s been reaching out in hopes of “getting to know gay Catholics,” joining parishioners for meals at Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro.

“When we don’t interact with each other, we can make decisions or get images based on stereotypes – that happens on both sides,” the archbishop said.


When asked what he’s learned from those interactions, Cordileone said he’s come to understand how gay people have “suffered.”newsroom-115x65

“They’ve been disowned by their families,” he said. “They’ve been harmed and they want to come to a place that will accept them for who they are. And affirm them. So it tenderizes us.”

And yet, Archbishop Cordileone still chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. Just last month in that capacity, he responded to the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in Hawaii, saying, “The decision in Hawaii is disappointing and shows the need for rebuilding a culture of the family in our country,” adding that “changing the meaning of marriage in the law does not promote the common good or protect authentic rights.” So clearly, the archbishop’s views have not changed, even if his rhetoric is softer.

During our interview, Cordileone, a big supporter of the DREAM Act, also explained why immigration reform was so important to him and his flock.

“Immigration is sort of a metaphor for who we understand ourselves to be spiritually,” Cordileone said. “We as believers are not at home here. We’re on a pilgrimage.

“We’re kind of immigrants," he added, looking up toward the ceiling, “trying to immigrate to our homeland of heaven.”

While Cordileone seemed a bit uneasy discussing the pope’s comments about homosexuality (“Who am I to judge?”), he warmed up when asked how a San Diego native could root for the San Francisco Giants over his hometown Padres, especially given their name and mascot (the Swinging Friar).

“I love watching the Giants,” Cordileone said, adding he’s also a big 49ers fan. “I was so happy to get to the Stick before it closes,” he said, adding he’d heard rumors from someone high in the 49ers organization that Pope Francis was invited to appear at Candlestick before it’s demolished.

Now that would be a hot ticket.

KQED NEWSROOM is a weekly news magazine program on television, radio and online. Watch Fridays at 8 p.m. on KQED Public Television 9, listen on Sundays at 6 p.m. on KQED Public Radio 88.5 FM and watch on demand here.

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