Randy Berry, the U.S. State Department’s first Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, met this week with senior representatives from the office of the Cardinal Secretary of State at the Vatican. He also met with officials from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
The meeting focused on discrimination and violence against LGBT populations, and marked the first time senior U.S. officials have engaged with the Catholic hierarchy on issues related to the human rights of LGBT populations.
Berry told TIME he requested the meeting, which occurred during a three-week trip through Eastern Europe and Israel, because “I wanted a chance to brief Vatican officials myself. The issues of violence and extreme discrimination are of concern to us all.” He further stated, “it was an important first dialogue and I hope that we will continue.”