The Catholic church opens its doors to gays: parish churches hosting vigils for victims of homophobia
Article by Paolo Rodari published in the newspaper La Repubblica (Italy) on May 10th 2017, page 21, translation Simone Romacci
Following the exhortation of the Pope, no more vetoes: from Genoa to Milan and Palermo tens of churches join the vigils. We must “welcome and accompany” homosexual and transgender people, “this is what Jesus would do today”.
Part of the Catholic world has sought a change after Pope Francis spoke these words less than a year ago (October 2016), returning from his visit of Georgia and Azerbaijan. So much so that from tomorrow until the end of May many parishes, in Italy and abroad, will take part (starting from Milan and Seville) in the International Day Against Homo-transphobia.
These parishes will also be joined by Catholic communities in Genoa and Palermo, two dioceses whose bishop had previously forbid any involvement with the remembrance vigils.
In 2011 Paolo Romeo, cardinal of Palermo, stopped the vigil organised by Fr Luigi Consonni, vicar of Santa Lucia, saying: “We were inspired by the Letter signed in 1986 by Joseph Ratzinger”. In 2015 cardinal Angelo Bagnasco from Genoa halted at the last minute the event organised in the church of the Holy Family, “Everywhere but Genoa” was the substance of the comment leaked from the dioceses.
Yet, as Francis often says, “time is above space”. In this case time was kind with the gay believers who decided to join the many who will gather to ask for an end to homophobia, transphobia and any other form of discrimination. A verse from Paul’s epistle to the Romans, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not” will be the theme of their vigils.
The Synod on the necessity of providing pastoral welcoming to LGBT people
This is not the only news for this year, for the first time religious orders and Catholic associations will also publicly take part in the vigils. In Genoa the vigil will not only be hosted by a parish but, last minute changes notwithstanding, the general vicar for the dioceses Nicolò Anselmi will participate. “I think this is the most visible sign of how the Church is beginning to really ask itself the questions brought forth by the Synod in regards to providing pastoral welcoming for LGBT people and their families” says Innocenzo Pontillo, from Progetto Gionata – a network on faith and homosexuality.
In Milan a candle light vigil will simultaneously be held in the Waldensian temple and the parish of Santa Maria della Passione.
Meanwhile in Palermo the vigil was organised not only by the Evangelical Lutheran Church but also by the Cambonians and the Jesuits from Chiesa del Gesù. Furthermore, parishes will also join in Florence, Reggio Emilia, Catania, Trieste, Bologna, and many other cities.
Fr Franco Barbero, from CCB, during the presentation of the book “L’inutile fardello” (the Useless Burden) by Ortensio da Spinetoli on the necessity of “a healthy theological renewal in the Church” beyond “medieval thinkers”, said: “In Pinerolo we organised a vigil in the parish church of San Lazzaro with the CCB, the Waldensians and Scala di Giacobbe; we decided to go out and leave the church to hold the vigil in a square, publicly, in front of the monument for the victims of all persecutions.
These vigils are a sign of a Church which wants to change even though, truth be told, there is still a faction resisting this and one who is indifferent. There are still those who do not share in the suffering of gay people but also laughs at them and distance themselves from them. The reason is simple: those who distance themselves do so because they are afraid of themselves.
If the Church looks inside itself, it can see homosexual people are present in the hierarchy and it is afraid of this. It is afraid to see in others what is also in itself. Our fears make us suspicious of others. Welcoming must have no terms and conditions, otherwise it is not welcoming”.
Ratzinger’s Letter: In 1986 the then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote a letter expressing how homosexual tendencies, which are morally wrong, must be considered “objectively disordered”.
Francis in Brazil: Coming back from Rio in Augusto 2013 the Pope said homosexual people should not be discriminated against but welcomed. He asked: “If a person is gay and seeking the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
Bergoglio latest statement: Last October, coming back from Georgia, Francis replied to a question about people changing sex: “People ought to be accompanied on their journey like Jesus does”.