LGBTQ+ Catholics at World Youth Day Mass Undeterred By Right-Wing Protest

Members of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics at World Youth Day 2023

A Mass for LGBTQ+ pilgrims at World Youth Day was temporarily disrupted by right-wing protests last week. Despite protestors’ claims to the contrary, one of the celebrating priests said the Mass “was clearly in line with the Holy Father’s message.”

About two dozen pilgrims gathered for Mass in Lisbon, which hosted World Youth Day last week, co-hosted by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics and a Catholic LGBTQ+ group in Portugal. According to the National Catholic Reporter:

“Fr. James Alison, an openly gay priest who was one of three concelebrants of the Mass, [said] the group of a dozen protesters wore long mantillas and held crucifixes and increasingly raised their voices in an effort to drown out the priests and congregants during Mass.

“Police who had already been notified of a potential disturbance were soon on the scene to escort the protesters out of the church, and the Mass continued without further incident. Alison told NCR that the interruption highlights the challenges that LGBTQ Catholics face in trying to practice their faith. . .

“Much of the protesters’ motivation, Alison said, was their mistaken belief that Jesuit Fr. James Martin would concelebrate the Mass. While Martin — a prominent LGBTQ Catholic advocate — had been in Portugal for Jesuit-related events ahead of World Youth Day, he had already left the country.”

Earlier, the Mass had to change locations after the first church backed out of hosting it. While the protestors were upsetting, Alison, who is also a theologian and hosted roundtable discussions on LGBTQ+ issues last week, offered a compassionate, forward-looking perspective on the incident:

“I was terribly sorry to see these people who have been led to this terrible ideology of hatred,’ [Alison] said. ‘They live in a weird, alienated world and did not look happy. We were principally sad for them.’

“‘I don’t blame them,’ Alison added. ‘I blame the intellectual authors who seem to bear the responsibility for this.'”

“Alison said that the fact that the protest occurred on the same days that Francis — who arrived in Portugal Aug. 2 for a five-day visit for World Youth Day — used three speeches to repeatedly emphasize that everyone has a home in the Catholic Church, showed that the Mass for LGBTQ Catholics was ‘clearly in line with the Holy Father’s message.'”

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics issued a statement about the incident, explaining, in part:

“Our resolve is only strengthened by such adversity, and we look forward to continuing our mission to ensure that the Church truly is a home for everyone.

“The incident in Lisbon is a clear reminder of the work that lies ahead. We are called to shine a light on exclusion, foster dialogue, and affirm that all are indeed welcome in the house of God. As Pope Francis himself reflected, ‘They are daughters of God!’ – a statement that serves as a beacon of hope and love for all LGBTQ Catholics.”

Bondings 2.0 reported on Saturday about the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics’ many World Youth Day events, LGBTQ+ pilgrims from DignityUSA, and other LGBTQ-related news. You can read that report here.

Fr. James Alison will lead New Ways Ministry’s next retreat for LGBTQ+ people, family, friends, and pastoral ministers in February 2024. Exploring the theme of “A Reasoned Hope,” Fr. Alison will share a vision of highly positive happenings in the global Church and discusses how growing into truthfulness as LGBTQ+ people and allies is intimately connected to basic Christianity. The retreat will include time for prayer, silence, conversation, and participation in the Sacraments. The retreat is February 16-18, 2024 at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee airport). You can find more information and register for the retreat by clicking here.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, August 7, 2023

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