Gay rights pilgrims get VIP treatment at papal audience

A group of United States gay and lesbian Catholics was given VIP treatment at a papal general audience in St Peter’s Square on February 18.

Fifty members of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to homosexual Catholics and promotes gay rights, made a pilgrimage to Rome.

Their requests for VIP seats at the weekly audience were forwarded to Rome by the Vatican’s ambassador to Washington and San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

The group was invited to sit in the front row at the audience by Archbishop Georg Ganswein, the prefect of the papal household.

Sr Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, said their treatment was “a sign of movement that’s due to the Francis effect”.

“Pope Francis gives me hope,” she told The Associated Press.

“To me, this is an example of the kind of willingness he has to welcome those on the fringes of the Church back to the centre of the Church.”

The group’s executive director, Francis DeBernardo, said New Ways Ministry had tried unsuccessfully under the previous two popes to get VIP seats for its Rome pilgrimages.

On their previous pilgrimages to Rome, they were ignored by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the pilgrims told media.

When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he permanently prohibited the New Ways Ministry co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and the Rev. Robert Nugent, from ministering to gays.

In 1999, the CDF determined that New Ways didn’t sufficiently adhere to Church teaching on the “intrinsic evil” of homosexual acts.

Rev. Nugent abided by the directive and died last year.

Sr Gramick has continued her ministry, changing religious orders to the Sisters of Loreto, and was at Wednesday’s audience.

But the Vatican’s list of attendees only identified the New Ways Ministry pilgrims as a “group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loreto”.

When a Vatican official read out the list of groups of pilgrims at the audience, he skipped over the group altogether.

Pope Francis didn’t mention them, either.

“We didn’t get the shout-out, but we were very, very close,” Mr DeBernardo said.

As the Pope passed by, the group sang “All Are Welcome,” a hymn symbolising their desire for a more inclusive Church.


Additional reading

News category: World.

Tags: , , , ,