A key Vatican official has affirmed that LGBTQ families will be welcomed at the World Meeting of Families occurring later this month, but any specific mention of LGBTQ issues is so far absent from the program.
The tenth World Meeting of Families will be held in Rome on June 22-26, 2022. The theme this year is “Family love: vocation and a path to holiness.” According to Vatican News, one of the gathering’s leaders offered a welcome to LGBTQ people and their families during a Vatican press conference:
“Among those participating in the [press conference] was Professor Gabriella Gambino, Undersecretary at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. . .
“Asked about participation by LGBT families, Professor Gambino said that in the spirit of Amoris laetitia it was important to accompany everyone with mercy and welcome towards the love of the Father, and that all families need to feel accompanied by the Church.”
In keeping with Pope Francis’ emphasis of synodality, Gambino said this gathering would be different from previous World Meetings of Families by focusing on encounter rather than academic theology. From Vatican News:
“The aim, she continued, ‘is to develop the theme chosen by the Pope, taking into account some strong indications emerging from Amoris laetitia, a text that presents itself with very clear programmatic lines for the possible developments of family pastoral care in the coming years.’
“The Congress will be built around five main conferences on a number of fundamental themes, such as difficulties of families in today’s societies; the preparation of couples for married life; and some situations of ‘existential periphery’ within families.”
According to the National Catholic Reporter, some 2,000 people from 120 nations will participate, most of whom are laity and some clergy focused on marriage and family issues. While there will be 30 panels with 62 speakers, mostly married couples, there is no explicit mention of LGBTQ issues in the program. The closest that LGBTQ issues may possibly be addressed is in a workshop “Educating young people in sexuality and affectivity” in a panel on training carers. Other topics include: intergenerational support, dealing with families where abuse or addiction is present, migrant families, supporting young couples, and how to engage digital media.
The last World Meeting of Families held in Dublin in 2018 drew controversy for organizers’ approach to LGBTQ issues. While late in the planning, they added a talk by Fr. James Martin, SJ, on the LGBTQ ministry, they also barred LGBTQ-supportive Catholic groups like We Are Church Ireland and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics from exhibiting, leading to a months-long public saga discussing the absence of LGBTQ people and ideas. (For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage and reporting from Ireland that year, click here.) There were similar disputes over LGBTQ issues at the 2015 World Meeting of Families held in Philadelphia.
The absence of a dedicated panel or talk related to LGBTQ families is notable given how prominent discussions of gender and sexuality are in many quarters of the church today. LGBTQ issues, which are a leading reason young people are leaving the church, are about far more than just LGBTQ Catholics; they are key issues in the wider discussion of the church’s pastoral outreach. Hopefully, even though the program does not yet reflect a dedicated space (could there be another late addition, as happened in 2018?), the current speakers should take up Dr. Gambino’s invitation and include LGBTQ families’ concerns and needs as part of their talks about broader topics.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, June 6, 2022