A priest in Spain shared encouraging words and a blessing for those virtually gathered at that country’s largest event for lesbian and bisexual women.
Father Ángel García Rodríguez offered his positive message during an online conference organized by LB Talks, a group described by Novena News as one that “fights against the double discrimination suffered by lesbians and bisexual women and works for the equal rights and opportunities of LGBTIQ+ women and men.”
Fr. García was introduced to the conference as someone who is “an example of diversity, because in his church, in San Antón, all families are welcome, nothing is taken for granted. LGTBI families and other types of families.”
Novena News reported that the priest “welcomed all forms of diversity as a gift to society and the Church, and recalled that Pope Francis himself has called the Church to unconditionally welcome LGBTIQ+ people.” Bondings 2.0 reported earlier this summer on a new documentary about the priest, Renegade in a Cassock, which highlighted his work for inclusion.
In his remarks, García reflected on the current state of LGBTQ acceptance in the church, recalling that “the Synod of Bishops on the Family, which took place in 2014, produced an extensive document which launched a reflection on the problem of the family today. It supported that the Catholic Church should welcome everyone, including homosexuals, lesbians, and those of different sexual orientations.”
Turning to his own vision for inclusion, García expressed his regret that LGBTQ persons sometimes have to “go through an ordeal to receive the sacraments, as if they were something different from everyone else.” Novena News reported:
“Padre Ángel also told his audience that he recognised that ‘many of you have suffered in your childhood and youth the pain of rejection because of your sexual orientation.’ But the priest told them: ‘You have been champions and I tell you that it has been worth your while to fight.’
“Telling the LB Talks attendees that it makes him ‘sad to think that there are people who might feel different’ because of their affective orientation, Padre Ángel reiterated his recipe for unity in diversity: ‘We all must be one… we have to love each other without making distinctions.’
“‘This is why I tell you that it has been worthwhile to attain social acceptance, although there is still much to be done,’ the priest stressed to the group, congratulating the organisers by telling them that ‘with events like this, you are going to make – we are going to make – this society richer in values, in equality.’”
His Madrid parish is known as a refuge for LGBTQ persons in Spain. García said, “couples come to our church from Bilbao, from Almeria…” – hundreds of miles from Madrid– “and they come asking only to baptise their children; they want to be part of the Christian family and have found difficulties”. García said, “I always tell them that, truly, we are always happy to have people in the church. Not just one, but every one.”
The priest also acknowledged that he blesses lesbian and gay couples “who ask for it,” despite the church’s “continuing veto on blessing same-sex relationships.” He asks, “If we bless cars, pets… how can I not bless two people who love each other?” Speaking about those who may oppose his decision to bless LGBTQ couples, he said we ought to “…pity those who question blessing people, or even condemn them.” Instead, “We were born to bless, to love, to be with the people.” García concluded his remarks by blessing the conference attendees, saying: “Blessed are you, truly blessed because you are making this a better world. You are helping us all to be happier.”
Father García’s words and blessing at this conference are significant because they are a sign of inclusion and a willingness to go beyond the walls of a church to welcome the LGBTQ community. His practice of welcoming and blessing LGBTQ persons in his parish lights the way for other pastors to be more welcoming and inclusive, which in turn would make a more welcoming and inclusive Church.
—Madeline Foley, New Ways Ministry, October 2, 2020