First gay Catholic congress to press pope for change

Gay and lesbian Catholic groups are holding an international
congress in Portugal this week as they seek to make their
voices heard by the Vatican.
Opening on Monday in the southern resort of Portimao, the
three-day event aims to formally federate some 30
associations representing homosexual Catholics from
around the world.
Together they intend to press for an “urgent change of
attitude from Catholic authorities” towards gay parishioners,
said Jose Leote whose group Rumos Novos (New Directions)
is organising the event.
Their congress coincides with an extraordinary synod which
began at the Vatican on Sunday to review the Church’s
attitude to marriage, cohabitation and divorce.
Fifteen to 20 delegates will meet in person in Portugal, with
the same number joining in by videoconference, to draw up
a statement to send to Pope Francis and the nearly 200
bishops meeting for two weeks in Rome.
“Jesus began with 12, and look at what that has become,”
said Francis DeBernardo, head of the US-based “News Ways
Ministry” which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender (LGBT) Catholics.
DeBernardo intends to act as a bridge between the congress
and the synod that opened Sunday in Rome, where he will
also be holding a seminar on the place of gays in the
Church.
The US group wrote to the pope a few months ago, thanking
him for his openness to discussing LGBT issues and urging
him to go further.
“I think this will be a major question of the synod,” said
DeBernardo. “The topic of homosexuality is so widespread
in so many societies and it affects so many people, not only
those who are LGBT, but their families, friends, co-workers.”
The Catholic synod could potentially lead to change in
attitudes to marriage, cohabitation and divorce. While the
Roman Catholic Church is certainly not about to embrace
gay marriage, it could send out a signal of compassion by
making it clear priests should be ready to baptise the
children of same-sex couples.

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