The jesuit priest and author of the bestselling book “Building a Bridge” brushes off criticism of his invitation to Spring Hill College as “homophobic.”

The Rev. James Martin told local media Friday he’s excited to give the commencement speech to the more than 300 graduates of the college Saturday despite some backlash and planned protests due the book that calls on the church to open up more fully to LGBTQ parishioners.

“[Pope Francis] has asked us to work with LGBTQ community,” he said. “Treat them with respect compassion and sensitivity. The book is calling on people to listen to one another.”

Doubling down, Martin said many of the comments are based in fear.

“The book is firmly within the gospels,” he said, adding that his book has received a lot of support from the top levels of the church. “If they read the book they’ll notice there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

In response to a planned protest where participants will pray the rosary, SHC President Christopher P. Puto, PhD. said he “welcomes prayers for my well being.” He added that the group planning the demonstration comes from outside SHC and the selection of Martin hasn’t caused any internal strife for the college.

“This one is very much on the side of right,” Puto said. “The criticism comes from confused people who misunderstood Father Martin’s work. They’re not bad people … ”

On the other hand, Puto said the accolades for the move have been “heartwarming.”

“Because of his lifetime of commitment to the church and the church’s mission, we’ve invited him to be here,” he said of Martin.

For his part, Martin said he is very pleased to be in Mobile and be at the historic college established by the Jesuit order.

“I was delighted to receive the invitation,” he said. “It’s gorgeous. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve sort of fallen in love with it in 24 hours.”

About his commencement speech, Martin said it’s going to be life lessons. It will also be “short, funny and hopefully relevant,” he said.

The SHC commencement begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 5.