Mark Segal

is publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News

Like many Philadelphians, I welcome with open arms the recent report from Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput that Pope Francis will grace our city with a visit in 2015 as part of the World Meeting of Families.

There are two reasons for my joy.

First, as a Philadelphia chauvinist, I love this city and wish to showcase it to the world as a vibrant place of diversity.

Second, I hope the pope's visit will bring people together to learn tolerance and understanding. It is almost the same mission espoused by the World Meeting of Families.

The event's mission statement says, "The Pontifical Council for the Family is responsible for the promotion of the pastoral ministry and apostolate to the family, through the application of the teachings and guidelines of the Church's Magisterium. Thus, Christian families can be helped as they accomplish their educational and apostolic mission in response to the realization of the Gospel of the family in the modern world."

Pope Francis has truly embraced that spirit and, in that spirit, there is an opportunity to further his attempt to bring the church up to date while keeping it within the faith.

But let me add this: While the pope's visit here would be about promoting the value and values of families - and I believe that is something we all can embrace - it must include all families. That would mean including families in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community who, unfortunately, have not felt comfortable and at times have been aggressively targeted by the church.

In recent months, members of LGBT families have been fired by church organizations; children have been asked to leave its schools; and, with the Philadelphia archdiocese's support, the National March for Marriage has endorsed "conversion therapy for minors."

This so-called therapy, simply put, promotes violence against LGBT children. It allows counselors to take girls and boys who say they are LGBT, or whose parents believe them to be LGBT, and incarcerate them in institutions whose treatments include humiliation, forms of corporal punishment, and solitary confinement. This treatment has been called cruel by the American Psychiatric Association and several states have made it illegal.

This denial of LGBT families denigrates those family members and makes them feel less than human. Imagine how the children in those families feel when other children belittle them for having two mothers or two fathers. Or how do parents explain to their child that they were fired because they married their spouse?

Through dialogue, the Catholic and LGBT communities can reach common ground, but that can't happen if the church can only ridicule these children and their parents.

It is my hope that, during Pope Francis' visit to Philadelphia, he will begin to heal the wounds that exist by meeting with members of families who so much want to be a part of the church, but have instead been shunned.