e-mail us
Gays note barriers in Rome


To mark the final four days of the Jubilee year, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians staged protests at the Vatican and in nine U.S. cities to dramatize what they call the “refusal” of the Catholic church to bless homosexuals.

In Rome, a delegation of 24 activists announced plans at a Jan. 3 news conference to assemble each day through Jan. 6 at a barrier that separates St. Peter’s Square from Italian territory, holding gifts such as teddy bears and toys. They had previously asked for a Vatican official to meet with them and to bless their gifts.

On the first two days, after no Vatican official appeared, the group delivered the gifts to an orphanage and an AIDS hospice. Protesters wore shirts that read: “God’s gay children bring gifts … bless them.”

As NCR went to press, the group was planning to enter the square after the papal Mass Saturday, Jan. 6, and to remain there until a Vatican official conferred a blessing or police forced them out. If neither happened, a representative said, they would remain at their post for an undetermined time, “until we feel we have made our point.”

In San Francisco, three groups -- Dignity, Metropolitan Community Church and Soulforce -- planned a march for Jan. 5, to begin at Castro and Market streets and end with a vigil in front of the Catholic Chancery at 445 Church Street. Soulforce is headed by Mel White, an Anglican priest.

Similar activities were planned for Washington; New York; Columbus, Ohio; Philadelphia; Seattle; Hartford, Conn.; and Richmond and Lynchburg, Va.

In Rome, protesters served as more of a curiosity than a provocation during the first two days. St. Peter’s Square has been packed with pilgrims seeking a final chance to walk through the basilica’s Holy Door, and several have talked with the protesters. A few have applauded, or asked to have their picture taken with the group.

Thus far, the Roman police did little more than ask for information. One wanted to know if the protest was “against Catholicism,” and was told it was not. A plainclothes officer sparred briefly with a reporter from the Associated Press over where journalists could stand, then relented, noting that the reporter seemed “particularly spicy.”

Mary Louise Cervone, president of Dignity-USA, an activist group for gay Catholics, told NCR that she plans to follow Saturday’s protest with delivery of three demands to the office of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal czar. The group will ask for “apology for centuries of oppression,” halt to the policy prohibiting Masses for the organization from being celebrated in Catholic churches and creation of a commission of clergy and laity, including gay persons, to “begin a dialogue.”

National Catholic Reporter, January 12, 2001