From “No” to “Ok”. Italian Catholic Dioceses Change their Tune About Anti-Homophobia Prayer Vigils Held by LGBT Catholics
Article by Valerio Gigante, taken from “Adista Notizie” News Weekly n.18 dated May 18, 2013, pp. 9-10. Translated by Peter Luntz
ROME. For the seventh year in a row, Christians from various denominations and faith traditions will be holding prayer vigils with Gay Christians in order to remember the numerous victims of homophobia (who are threatened, tortured, sentenced to death and discriminated against based on their sexual orientation).
Ecumenical vigils will be celebrated in various locations on and around the International Day Against Homophobia on May, 17 2013. The inspiration for this year’s vigils comes from a Bible verse in the First Letter of John «There is no fear in love!» (1 John 4:18).
One of the major new aspects this year is the high number of Catholic churches involved in hosting these events. For the first time, the actually majority of events will be held at Catholic churches in proportion to other Christian denominations, such as Waldensian and Methodist Churches, which have traditionally been more sensitive than Catholics to gay issues.
This (implicit or explicit) recognition of many dioceses testifies to the growing number and influence of Gay Christian groups across Italy, as well as the effect their initiatives at different churches have had on the Catholic hierarchy, which can no longer ignore them – even among the Catholic factions that are traditionally considered more theologically and pastorally conservative.
The best example of this is perhaps Milan, where conservative Cardinal Angelo Scola has led the diocese for the last two years. Nonetheless, some of the anti-homophobia events in Milan planned by local Gay Christian group “Il Guado” will take place within a Catholic church.
On May 13, the city’s Christians and others will first gather in the Baptist church in via Pinamonte da Vimercate 10, near one of the city’s most popular nightlife areas.
After an initial evening prayer service, participants will form a candlelight procession along Corso Garibaldi (a popular evening gathering place) to a Renaissance-era Catholic church called Incoronata parish. The procession’s aim is to testify to believers and non believers that gay people are a resource for both society and the church.
Their presence and witness can help churches and institutions improve dialog and discover the value of diversity, as well as understand the need, usefulness and beauty of respect, dialog and mutual understanding.
Milan, however, will not be the only large diocese to host an anti-homophobia prayer vigil. This may be due to repercussions from what happened last year when the Diocese of Milan awkwardly tried to halt a vigil because the date was too close to the Seventh World Meeting of Families. This caused a strong backlash that provoked the Diocese to issue an embarrassing, eleventh-hour about-face (see ‘Adista Notizie’ Editon no. 12/12).This may have convinced many bishops and dioceses to hold off on preconceived hostility towards these events.
In Florence, where the bishop is Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Cardinal Camillo Ruini’s former right-hand man), the ecumenical prayer vigil is led by Gay Christian group Kairos and other organizations and will be held at the Madonna della Tosse Catholic parish. In Bologna, a city led by ultra-conservative Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, an event has been organized for May 17th with ‘Noi Siamo Chiesa Emilia-Romagna’ group at the parish of S. Bartolomeo della Beverara.
In Rome, just like last year, the vigil (led by local gay Christian groups ‘Nuova Proposta’ and ‘La Sorgente’) will be held at the Basilica of Ss. Bonifacio e Alessio all’Aventino. On the same day in Genoa (the city of Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops), it will be San Benedetto al Porto church to host a vigil organized by Ligurian LGBT Group, Bethel.
In Padua, Emmanuele Group has set aside May 17th at Santa Caterina d’Alessandria Church in via Cesare Battisti. In the city of Pinerolo, parish church Cuore Immacolato di Maria will hold an ecumenical celebration for victims of Homo-Transphobia on May 26.
This initiative is organized by the Pinerolo (Turin) Committee Against homophobia and Transphobia (in collaboration with San Lazzaro parish, the Waldensian Church of Pinerolo and the “Viottoli” Christian Community Group of Pinerolo).
The city of Palermo perhaps deserves special mention since many notable church organizations were involved in planning and promoting anti-homophobia initiatives, including Palermo LGBT Christian group ‘Ali d’aquila’, Comboniani Lay Missionaries, San Gabriele Arcangelo parish, San Giuseppe Artigiano parish, the Community of San Francesco Saverio all’Albergheria, S. Maria della Pietà alla Kalsa parish (where vigil attendees will gather after a short candlelight procession starting from the Foro Italico).
And, most of all, the local II Vicariate of the Archdiocese, the Lutheran Church of Palermo, the Waldensian Church in via dello Spezio and the Waldensian Church of Marsala and Trapani.