Catholic officials recently welcomed Xavier Bettel, the openly gay 44-year-old Prime Minister of Luxembourg, and his husband Gauthier Destenay to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, a 1957 trade agreement that helped reconstruct the continent’s economies and provide for lasting peace after World War II.
The commemorative event hosted Bettel and his husband alongside other European heads of government, an eyebrow-raising development after Pope Francis personally rejected France’s gay ambassador to the Vatican back in 2015. While the Pope met with Bettel and other leaders during the event, Bettel and his husband were initially welcomed to the Vatican by Catholic church leader Archbishop Georg Ganswein. Ganswein served as personal secretary to the previous Pope, Emeritus Benedict XVI, a man who was said to be ousted by the Vatican’s not-so-secret “gay lobby.”
Below is a picture of Ganswein welcoming Bettel and his husband posted on Twitter by Spanish politician Pablo Iglesias. His caption reads, “Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, received in the Vatican with his husband. And here Cañizares [the anti-gay Archbishop of Valencia, Spain] says that gays go to hell”:
Xavier Bettel, primer ministro de Luxemburgo, recibido en el Vaticano junto a su marido. Y aquí Cañizares dice que los gays van al infierno? pic.twitter.com/EM6tzRqEwh
— Pablo Iglesias (@Pablo_Iglesias_) March 24, 2017
Bettel is currently the world’s only openly gay government leader, though at the time of his ascent to Prime Minister in December 2013, he was the third openly gay head of government. The other two were Iceland’s Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
Bettel proposed to his husband in August 2014 and married him on May 15, 2015, five months after Luxembourg enacted laws reforming same-sex marriage. Bettel has said that his country’s citizens increasingly “do not consider the fact of whether someone is gay or not,” and he successfully ran for office on a platform promising to improve Luxembourg’s same-sex marriage laws and to replace his religious instruction in his country’s schools with more secular ethics classes.
While Pope Francis is considered more progressive and open to LGBTQ people than his predecessors, even going so far as to say that the church owes LGBTQ an apology for its centuries-long queerphobia, he has also called trans people an “annihilation of man” and opposes teaching about LGBTQ issues in schools.