Pope Francis, the spiritual leader of more than 1.6 billion Roman Catholics, on Saturday held his first public meeting with an LGBT rights activist.

Simon Cazal, executive director of LGBT advocate SOMOSGAY (We Are Gay), was invited to join the conversation with the pontiff as he visited Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.

He said that he was surprised by the invitation.

“We have to go. Ninety percent of the country is Catholic; they all love the pope,” Cazal told CNN. “We have to take this step because otherwise we are the ones who are closing the doors.”

Cazal called the meeting – which included hundreds of civil society leaders – “productive” and quoted Pope Francis as saying, “There are no people of first, of second or third class. Dignity is for everyone.”

Cazal married Sergio Lopez, who is also involved in SOMOSGAY, in 2012 in neighboring Argentina, the first South American nation to legalize such unions.

In April, SOMOSGAY announced a campaign asking the Catholic Church to respect LGBT people in Paraguay.