OCEANSIDE - An Oceanside man was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to listen to what Pope Francis had to say during his first full day in America.
Nicholas Coppola said that seeing the pope in person was an unforgettable experience. Coppola was invited to be in the audience as the pontiff made his historic visit to the White House.
"He means hope," Coppola said. "His words of encouragement are just words I've never heard."
Pope Francis spoke of the importance of tolerance for everyone, regardless of their beliefs, race or sexual orientation. His address on equality had special meaning for Coppola, who is openly gay.
Two years ago, Coppola was ousted from his parish duties because he married his boyfriend. He had been an active member of St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside for 10 years. He served at the altar and taught children about the faith, but the pastor stripped Coppola of his duties, saying that same-sex marriage violated Catholic teachings.
Coppola said that his faith remains strong, despite the fact that the church's practice of removing parishioners who marry their same-sex partners is ongoing.
Coppola said he hopes the pope follows his message of inclusion with action. He said he would also like to see the pope meet with members of the LGBT community before he wraps up his U.S. trip.