A pilgrimage of LGBTQ+ Catholics celebrated Mass a Mexico City’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the pilgrimage organizing group, the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), was publicly recognized at the liturgy.
The Mass at the famed shrine church was held on September 14th as part of GNRC’s Fourth Assembly, which brought together Catholic LGBTQ+ advocates from around the world for a week of organizing and prayer.
At the outset of Mass, pilgrims from GNRC processed down the basilica’s main aisle, led by a rainbow flag, and were seated at the front of the church where they then received a blessing. The shrine was about two-thirds full, and many of the other visitors the shrine joined the liturgy. Antonio Ortiz Siliceo, who led the team of assembly organizers, wrote of the Mass:
“We carried in our hands, like Saint Juan Diego, the rainbow tilma filled with symbolic flowers that represented the souls of those who, because of our diverse sexuality, have been victims of marginalization and oblivion in many of our spaces of faith. . .Our rainbow hearts burned, we could see it, we could feel it, it was enough to look around to feel the presence of God in those who were present and participated in such an emotional celebration. At no time did we feel tension, but rather love and acceptance for those of us who for a long time have suffered intolerance and exclusion.”
The celebrant, Fr. Gonzalo Rosas, SJ, a pioneering LGBTQ+ advocate in Mexico, referenced GNRC multiple times in his homily. He offered a prayer that the “studying, praying and organizing” of the assembly would lead to inclusion and a synodal church. Rosas continued:
“We present to you with humility and joy, the communities that little by little are emerging in our countries, because they are true spaces for dialogue, listening, respect, acceptance, and dignity of the person throughout the world. With pain and tears, we ask you for consolation for all the victims of intolerance, exclusion and rejection full of hatred and violence, which have taken many brothers, sisters, friends and relatives from us; just for being different. . .
“Mother, thank you very much because we feel heard in our deepest longings and desires, because you remedy and heal the different miseries and pains that afflict us, to accomplish what your compassionate merciful gaze intends. We leave full of consolation and joy to continue working to build a fairer world for all, a world with more peace and justice, a world with more inclusion and respect.”
Beyond the Mass, the GNRC assembly included five days of workshops, conversations, liturgies, and meals together that helped build bridges among the participants, many of whom lead Catholic LGBTQ+ groups in their home countries. GNRC’s new board was also elected, including co-chairs Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA and Christopher Vella of Drachma LGBTI in Malta. For more information about the assembly’s activities, click here.
At the assembly’s end, the outgoing co-chairs, Christopher Vella and Ruby Almeida, released their letter to the Jesuits’ Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa, to thank him for the religious congregation’s support of priests doing LGBTQ+ ministry. The letter specifically named Fr. Luis Correa Lima of Brazil and Fr James Martin of the U.S., while also acknowledging that many people connected with the Jesuits are likewise doing such work. The letter includes a request, too:
“[M]ay the Society of Jesus, in its discernment, find full awareness of the need to open spaces for theological and philosophical reflection in its universities. It is very important to create spaces for formation and to work on the elaboration of solid arguments to enter into a sincere and fraternal dialogue within the Church. In order to offer hope that Catholics and LGBTBIQ+ people can be Catholic, it is essential to be in the public debate or to share knowledge. It is convenient to make a postulate for a rainbow that saves lives and caresses so many hearts in need of respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
Taken together, the week’s events were moving for participants. In testimonies about the assembly published by GNRC, many attendees highlighted the positive impact that celebrating Mass at the basilica had, given the acknowledgement that they were recognized as rainbow Catholics. Ana Ruiz of Mexico called the Mass an “unforgettable moment,” while Ines Pujol of Costa Rica commented, “there with the Guadalupana we could all recognize ourselves as her diverse children, full of dignity and love of God.”
More generally, Lula Ramirez of Brazil stated of the assembly:
“It is always a strong and overwhelming experience to (re)meet representatives of Catholic LGBTQIA+ groups from different countries. We are sure that we are not alone in this journey and that little by little our struggle, our longings are advancing. Cultivating spirituality following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, supported by the treasures of the Catholic tradition, strengthens and pushes us to build the Kingdom of God starting with the Church itself.”
I can personally attest to the remarkable energy and spirit of my fellow pilgrims and participants, having attended the assembly on behalf of New Ways Ministry, along with my colleague Dwayne Fernandes. It was a powerful moment to pray as out and faithful LGBTQ+ Catholics in one of the hearts of Catholic devotion, particularly for Latin American believers. Certainly, there were stories of pain and difficult moments in the course of the week’s events. But, more so, the “joy of the Gospel” about which Pope Francis exhorts the faithful so often was truly incarnated at our retreat center in Mexico City. To repeat Antonio’s words, “our rainbow hearts burned” for surely we knew the presence of God was in our midst.
This coming Sunday, New Ways Ministry is hosting the webinar “A Rainbow Synod: Global LGBTQ+ Perspectives on Synodality So Far.” Seven panelists from around the world will converse about their experiences of the synodal process so far. Participants will explore questions like: Which insights were most pronounced? What lessons have been learned? How do we proceed from here?
If you are interested in attending, you can register by clicking here.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, September 27, 2022