LGBT youth and their supporters will have a safe place to meet each other and share faith perspectives at World Youth Day in Poland, thanks to Faith and Rainbow, a Polish LGBT Christian organization, and the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, an ecumenical organization.
“Pilgrim’s Haven,” which will be housed in a cafe in Krakow’s Kazimierz Jewish quarter, will offer hospitality, as well as a program of presentations and discussions for pilgrim’s attending the week-long World Youth Day (WYD) program which is sponsored by the Vatican and hosted by the Polish bishops. The Pilgrim’s Haven is not an official part of the program, but organizers feel that it fills an important purpose since there is no other place for LGBT pilgrims and supporters to connect. WYD will take place July 26th-31st, and hundreds of thousands of young Catholics are expected to attend.
Misha Czerniak, one of the organizers, told Queer.pl (article in Polish):
“We wanted to create so-called. ‘safe space’ where people who participate in World Youth Day can talk, discuss topics of faith, orientation, or gender identity in the situation safe, friendly and accepting. Such a space missing in the WYD.”
Czerniak said that members of Faith and Rainbow contacted Bishop Damian Muskus, auxiliary of Krakow who is overseeing WYD, but they were told that the Pilgrim’s Haven could not be part of the program. Still, the Polish LGBT group will invite the Polish bishops to stop by to meet with youth who gather there. Czerniak said that organizers had cordial meetings with Krakow’s Bishop Grzegorz Rys and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz. He hoped that these bishops’ kindness “will inspire Pope Francis to make positive statements about LGBT people.”
Pilgrim’s Haven has a Facebook page, which includes a schedule of events in Polish and English. The first presentation at the center will be a screening of “In Good Conscience: Sister Jeannine Gramick’s Journey of Faith,” a documentary by award-winning filmmaker Barbara Rick, which chronicles the life and LGBT outreach of New Ways Ministry’s co-founder (whose heritage, coincidentally, is Polish).
On successive days, two films by Brendan Fay will be shown: “Remembering Mychal” about New York Fire Department chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, who was openly gay and who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11; “Taking a Chance on God” about John McNeill, the theologian who first critiqued the church’s ban on gay/lesbian sexual expression.
Among other events, Marcela Kościańczuk, a religion scholar who is a member of Faith and Rainbow, will offer several pastoral presentations, and Michael Brinkschroder, a Catholic theologian and sociologist who has served as co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, will discuss spirituality and advocacy topics.
In addition to the schedule of presentations, the Facebook page describes the opportunities that the Pilgrim’s Haven will offer:
“The point is open for those who wish to rest a bit from the heat and the crowds. Several lay and clergy volunteers will also be available and ready to listen, to talk about issues of faith, sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to offer advice and counselling, or to pray together.We invite LGBT believers as well as non-Catholics or those who do not belong to the Church but want to spend some time together with us.”
Die Zeit: “Homosexual Christians want to participate at Catholic World Youth Day in Poland” (article in German)