One week from today, Pope Francis will open the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops to discuss the topic, The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. For Catholic LGBT advocates, there has been great anticipation of the event, perhaps mainly because Pope Francis asked the bishops of the world to consult the laity on marriage and family topics, and, even more so, because pastoral care of families headed by same-gender couples was one of the areas for which input was sought.
Today has been set aside as a day of prayer for the Synod, and Pope Francis has composed a Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod. You can access this prayer, and other prayer intentions for the Synod, by clicking here. Of course, we ask that you include in your prayer for the Synod that the concerns of families with LGBT members or those headed by same-gender couples will be heard and responded to pastorally by the bishops.
When the Synod opens on Sunday, October 5th, New Ways Ministry representatives will be in Rome. Both Sister Jeannine Gramick, Co-Founder, and Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, will be traveling there to participate in several events surrounding the Synod, and also with the hope that they will be able to provide a pro-LGBT voice in the public discussions of the Synod that the media will offer. In addition, DeBernardo will travel to Portugal for the first international meeting of Catholic LGBT groups.
Joining them, too, in Rome will be Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia. Bishop Robinson spoke at New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium in 2012, where he called for a total re-vamping of the Church’s system of sexual ethics.
The following are the various events that these three people will participate in:
- “The Ways of Love: International Conference on pastoral care with homosexual and trans people,” Friday October 3, 2014, at the Waldensian Faculty of Theology, Aula Magna, via Pietro Cossa 40, Rome. For more information, and to see the line-up of speakers, click here. (For a previous blog post about this event, click here.)
- “Lets’s witness our hope,” a forum for Italian Christian LGBT groups, Saturday and Sunday, October 4-5, 2014, at Centro Pellegrini Santa Teresa Couderc, Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9, Rome. For more information about this event, click here.
- “The Path from the 2014 Synod to the 2015 Synod: The Pastoral Challenges for Welcoming LGBT people,” a lecture by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, Wednesday, October 8, 2014, Via Marianna Dionigi, 59, Rome. This lecture is sponsored by Nuova Proposta, a Christian LGBT organization in Rome. For more information, click here.
- “When Identity Becomes a Crime: Criminalization of Homosexuality Globally,” an international conference, Saturday, October 11, 2014, 4:30-6:3o pm, at the Capitoline Museum, Sala Pietro da’ Cortona, piazza del Campidoglio 1, Rome. The speakers will be Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan LGBT activist, Jules Eloundou, a human rights defender from Cameroon, André du Plessis, UN program and advocacy director for ILGA World, and Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry’s executive director. Dr. Michael Brinkschröder, a co-president of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, will moderate. Bishops participating in the Synod are invited to attend. The event is sponsored by the City of Rome and Dutch Ministry’s Department of Education, Science & Culture.
While in Europe, New Ways Ministry’s Francis DeBernardo will also travel to Portugal to attend a meeting of Catholic LGBT groups from around the globe who are gathering to discuss the inauguration of a world-wide association for those who work for LGBT equality in the Church. The meeting will be held in the city of Portimão on October 6-8, 2014.
28 organizations from 16 different countries will be attending this first World Congress of Catholic Homosexual Associations. Organized by Rumos Novos, a Portugese Catholic gay and lesbian group (whose name, incidentally, translates as “New Ways”), this meeting’s theme will be “Building Bridges.” According to the meeting’s website:
“This congress invites us to look with serenity and deepness towards our Church and our life, allowing that on ‘both sides of the bridge’ light can brighten the view of all, often distorted by prejudices, fears and sorrows.”
DeBernardo will be a speaker at the conference, addressing the topic of the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church.
José Leote, the coordinator of the conference, in an interview with Algarve Daily News, said the meeting’s participants will send a letter to Pope Francis. They will ask the pope, among other things, that gay and lesbian people will experience “integration at all levels of the Church and the possibility of working in parishes without the stigma of sexual orientation.”
The Portugal News described the two-pronged parts of this meeting:
“The congress will take part in two phases, the first being a public phase and open to anyone interested, and a second part reserved for representatives of the associations in which the basis of the future World Organisation is to be set.”
While New Ways Ministry asks for your prayers for the Synod, especially that LGBT concerns will be heard, we also ask your prayers for Sister Jeannine and Francis DeBernardo, as they journey to these events. Please pray that God will bless them with wisdom, courage, and fortitude during these important events.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry