Saluti di Roma! Greetings from Rome!
I am here in the Eternal City to observe the upcoming Synod of Bishops which will be discussing marriage and family issues, including LGBT topics. In preparation for the Vatican’s synod which begins on Sunday, October 4, 2015, an international group of Catholic LGBT leaders is gathering in Rome this weekend to launch a global organization to lift up concerns of LGBT people in the church.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) Inaugural Assembly has been organized by a coalition of groups, including New Ways Ministry, under the leadership of the European Forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups. Representatives from over 30 nations will meet for three days to discuss the governance and objectives of this coalition designed to foster international cooperation, as well as to present a strong united voice of LGBT Catholics and allies to Church officials. The Assembly’s theme is “LGBT Voices to the Synod,” and it will conclude on Sunday with a statement of pastoral concerns to be sent to the Vatican and to all the bishop participants in the synod.
During the weekend, the Assembly participants will attend an international conference on pastoral care of LGBT people which has been organized by the same coalition. The conference is entitled “Ways of Love: Snapshots of Catholic Encounter with LGBT People and their Families.” Among the featured speakers will be Mary McAleese, former president of Ireland and the mother of a gay man; Bishop Raul Vera, head of the Diocese of Saltillo, Mexico, and an outspoken supporter of LGBT equality; and Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder and longtime advocate for LGBT issues.
Sister Jeannine and I will represent New Ways Ministry at the GNRC Assembly. Also attending from the USA will be DignityUSA Board Members Jeff Stone and Leo Egashira, as well as Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, head of the Human Rights Campaign’s Catholic and Latino/a Programs.
The four-day Assembly, with a full program of meetings, will work to initiate joint projects, mutual support and exchange of best practices, while seeking dialogue and serene engagement with the whole Catholic community and institutions.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) is an international network of organisations and people involved in the pastoral care of, and search for justice for, LGBT people and their families. By means of joint projects, support and interchange, the Network strives for the inclusion, dignity and equality of LGBT people, their parents and their families, within the Catholic Church and wider society. Representing, as they do, a great variety of sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions, cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds, the members of GNRC are united in a common Catholic Faith which leads them to pray and work so that LGBT people may be guaranteed full and equal inclusion in all sectors of the Catholic Church, and the protection, by both civil and ecclesiastical law, of their human dignity, rights and equality of treatment may be upheld.
Rooted in the tradition of Catholic Social Justice teaching, the GNRC proposes the equal and intrinsic value of all people, independent of sexual orientation, relationship status or gender identity. According to a press release from the group:
“GNRC members long for a Catholic Church in which ALL the people of God – LGBT and heterosexual people – can live, pray and offer their own service together in harmony.”
The group which organized these events consisted of representatives from: European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, Associació Cristiana de Gais i Lesbianes de Catalunya (ACGIL)(Spain), Dette Resources Foundation (Zambia), DignityUSA (USA), Drachma (Drachma LGBTI and Drachma Parents Group) (Malta), Ichthys christian@s lgtbh de Sevilla (Spain), LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council (UK), New Ways Ministry (USA),Nuova Proposta (Italy), Ökumenische Arbeitsgruppe Homosexuelle und Kirche (Germany), Pastoral de la Diversidad Sexual (Chile), Wiara i Tęcza (Poland).
Following this historic weekend gathering, I will be staying on in Rome to observe the synod proceedings, and, hopefully, to meet with some of the bishop delegates. Please keep Sister Jeannine and me in your prayers during this time, as we can benefit from your support.
In blog posts in the coming week, I’ll be reporting from Rome about the GNRC Assembly, the international conference, and, of course, the synod of bishops.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry