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Sen. Durbin asks Pope Francis to defend gay U.S. ambassador in Dominican Republic

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a news conference to discuss U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration, on Capitol Hill, December 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama traveled to Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, where he defended his actions on immigration and again called on Congress to pass an immigration bill. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) speaks during a news conference to discuss U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration, on Capitol Hill, December 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama traveled to Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, where he defended his actions on immigration and again called on Congress to pass an immigration bill. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)  (2014 Getty Images)

A high-ranking Democratic senator called on Pope Francis Tuesday to personally intervene with a cardinal in the Dominican Republic who has made derogatory comments about the openly gay man who is the U.S. ambassador to that country.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said that Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez has launched "hateful" attacks against U.S. ambassador James "Wally" Brewster.

Lopez said earlier this month that Brewster should "focus on housework, since he's the wife to a man." He also used an anti-gay slur and accused Brewster of promoting a gay rights agenda on Dominican soil.

Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, is a Roman Catholic and longtime friend of Brewster, a business executive and fundraiser for President Barack Obama. Brewster became just the seventh openly gay U.S. ambassador when appointed two years ago.

Durbin said the cardinal's comments are inconsistent with Francis' call for tolerance on homosexuality.

"Since your selection as pope, you have shared a message of compassion, tolerance and love," Durbin wrote in a letter to Francis.

Durbin said he distinctly remembered when Francis spoke to a joint session of Congress in September and "reminded us of our responsibility to defend and preserve the dignity" of fellow citizens in pursuing the common good.

"I accept that challenge and I am calling on you to ask nothing less of the hierarchy of the church," Durbin wrote.

Durbin urged Francis to ensure that Lopez treats Brewster with respect.

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