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Elizabeth Fernandez, bottom right, addresses Pope Francis on the Building Bridges across Asia Pacific online forum yesterday (Building Bridges website)

Pope Francis participated in a live video call with university students yesterday in which an Australian student expressed concern that teachers in Catholic schools are espousing gender theory. Source: CNA.

Elizabeth Fernandez, a law and business student from Parramatta Diocese, said many Catholic university students feel “bombarded by circular ideologies, mock for our faith, and outnumbered in our mission to be beacons of hope”.

“We are also concerned that many young people receive shallow faith formation. Some religion teachers in Catholic schools use class time to preach their own agendas of abortion, contraception, and gender theory,” she said.

“We propose that all religion teachers be trained catechists and that young people be incentivised to become catechists themselves,” Ms Fernandez said. 

“We want young people to also have greater access to confession and to have Christ integrated into all school subjects, thereby fostering a culture of greater reverence for the Eucharist.”

Jack Lorenz Acebedo Rivera, a psychology student from a Catholic university in Manila who introduced himself as “JLove,” told the Pope about how he feels stigmatised.

“I myself am outcasted and bullied due to my bisexuality, my gayness, my identity, and being the son of a single parent,” Mr Acebedo said.

“My mother cannot divorce my father. Please allow divorce in the Philippines and stop using offensive language against the LGBTQIA+ community. This leads to immense pain. Due to this, I developed bipolar disorder and I am stigmatised.”

The video livestream showed Pope Francis carefully taking notes on a piece of paper on his desk as each of the university students spoke and shared their concerns. The Pope listened to multiple students before answering their questions all together as a group.

In his response, Pope Francis noted that the question of one’s personal identity was a recurring theme mentioned by many of the students. 

He underlined that problems of discrimination can be solved with closeness and proximity.

Pope Francis also addressed the issue of Catholic education, stressing the importance of having good faith formation so that young people know their faith well and are led to become “authentic Christians”.

The Building Bridges conversation is available online here.


Pope Francis fields questions from students about gender identity and LGBTQ discrimination (By Courtney Mares, CNA)


Parramatta youth leader, Elizabeth Fernandez, the only Aussie chosen to meet with Pope Francis (Catholic Outlook)

Pope to university students: ‘Stay true to your convictions and faith’ (Vatican News)