HEWLETT HARBOR - As Pope Francis arrives in the United States for the first time, one Long Islander says he considers the pope's message of non-judgment a glimmer of hope.
Michael Serao, a gay practicing Catholic, says his faith has been rekindled.
Serao, who now lives in Hewlett Harbor, grew up in a large Catholic Italian family in Flushing.
During his time at Catholic school, he says he had to hide his sexual orientation. Despite that, Serao devoted his life to the church - teaching catechism, serving on retreat teams and volunteering for outreach programs.
Serao believes the message he learned of love and acceptance at Saint Andrew Avellino Roman Catholic Church is the message the pope is bringing to the world.
Last year, Pope Francis commented on same-sex marriage, saying he would tolerate same-sex civil unions, though not marriage.
When asked about gay priests, the pope was quoted as saying, "If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge."
David Kilmnick, who heads up the Long Island LGBT Network, believes the pope's message of acceptance is a start, but does not address church doctrine which considers same-sex unions a moral disorder.