Fall 2017 Features Many Exciting LGBT Catholic Events–and You’re Invited!

There are many exciting Catholic LGBT events happening this fall. Today’s post highlights a few of them, and provides links for more information if you would like to attend and/or spread the word about them.

calendarIf you have other Catholic LGBT events of which Bondings 2.0’s editors should be made aware, please leave a comment below or email office@newwaysministry.org.  We will try to let folks know about them via our social media.


Following Jesus in Holy Honesty

New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a retreat for gay priests, brothers, deacons,  and all diocesan clergy personnel, congregational leadership, and formation personnel. The title of the program is “Following Jesus in Holy Honesty.”  The retreat facilitator is Fr. Steve Wolf, pastor of Immaculate Conception parish, Nashville, Tennessee.

Fr. Wolf describes the program:

“For gay priests, brothers and deacons, the retreat is designed to develop better self-understanding, spirituality, friendships, and relationship with the institutional Church.

“For diocesan clergy personnel, congregational leaders and formation ministers, the retreat will develop better understandings of the personal and spiritual journeys of gay men in clerical and religious life.

“Retreatants will explore ways gay clergy and religious answer the call to beloved celibacy, keeps searching for God in good will, ministers to anger, resentment, and fear as did Jesus, and accepts the grace of a kind of symbiosis of the incarnation and resurrection as an apostle in the world.”

Monday-Wednesday,  November 13 – 15, 2017

Siena Retreat Center
Racine, WI (near Milwaukee Airport)

If you are a gay priest, brother, or deacon, please consider attending the retreat to gain support and insights from the facilitator and others. . If you know anyone who fits this description, please let them know about it.

Similarly, if you are diocesan clergy personnel, a congregational leader, or a vocation/formation minister of any sexual orientation, please consider attending to learn more about the gifts and needs of gay clergy and religious.   If you know of men who are involved in these kinds of ministry, please let them know about the program and encourage them to attend.

For more information, click here.


All Are Welcome: The Way You Are

The LGBT Initiative Team of the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative is hosting a faith-filled and affirming retreat weekend  entitled “All Are Welcome: The Way You Are.”  The program is for LGBT persons, allies, friends, family members and those who minister with the LGBT Catholic community. Presenters will speak on topics such as finding your true self, creating welcoming spaces, and recognizing your call.

The LGBT Initiative Team of  the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative describes itself as responding “to the Church’s call to be welcoming and compassionate by offering effective
pastoral care and spiritual support for LGBT Catholics and their families. We foster dialogue, education and understanding among the diverse communities and institutions affiliated with the Marianist family. Our goal is to fully welcome our Marianist LGBT members into all aspects of our communities.”

Friday-Sunday, October 27-29, 2017

Sisters of Charity Retreat Center
Cincinnati, Ohio

For more information, click here.


Rolling the Stone Away

An ecumenical team is bringing together an unprecedented array of elders, saints, and prophets of the interfaith community’s work for LGBT justice and equality.  The purpose of the gathering is to preserve history, share stories, and dialogue on issues today. Many Catholics will be participating, as well as attending.  Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, will be one of the speakers.  You can read about Catholic participation by clicking here.

Tuesday-Thursday,l October 31 – November 2, 2017

Saint Louis, MO

For more information, click here.


“Hear a Just Cause” Assembly

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC), a growing international coalition of organizations and individuals who work for LGBTQI justice and equality in church and society, will be hosting their Second Assembly under the theme “Hear a Just Cause” (Psalm 7:1).  New Ways Ministry will be represented there.

Thursday – Sunday, November 30 – December 3, 2017

Dachau, Germany (near Munich)

For more information, click here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 23, 2017

Scottish Parish Announces “All Gay Catholics Are Accepted and Welcomed”

A Catholic parish in Scotland made a splash on social media recently when it posted a statement that “all gay Catholics are accepted and welcomed” by the church.

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St. Bride’s Catholic Church

St. Bride’s Church in Cambuslang posted its welcoming statement on Facebook late last month, reported The HeraldThe statement began by saying the welcome contained within it was one that pastor Fr. Paul Morton wanted reiterated. The post continued:

“In God’s house all are welcome and are the blessed and loved children of God. There should be no place in our language or our attitude which allows for prejudice or exclusion.

“Anyone who is gay and who wishes to share or discuss this with Fr Morton please feel free to come to the parish house. Also any family member who wishes to discuss or share this please come along.

“We must do everything we can to redress the harm that has been done in the past by the negative stance we seem to have taken up. We must join with others who are seeking to build a more inclusive society.”

In May, the parish posted a statement acknowledging that lesbian and gay people often feel excluded, and saying the parish wants “to emphasise in the strongest terms that we are a welcoming and inclusive parish.”

Not surprisingly, the parish’s statements have been well received and shared widely. Yet being a parish that openly affirms LGBT people can also be risky. It seems the people of St. Bride’s are willing to take a risk because they understand the realities of harm and exclusion which too many lesbian and gay people face. Fr. Morton’s recent homily on the Gospel story of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13: 44-46) offered insight into the relationship between risk and faith:

“Jesus tells a slightly risky story here in this parable and maybe it wasn’t lost on his listeners. . .Cautious, conservative, narrow is sometimes things that people say about people who have faith. But this parable seems to saying something different: that we are reckless, that we are gamblers, that we are risk takers, that we fly high, not content with what life offers we are looking for something more, the peril of great price, the hidden treasure. . .

“The parables very often give us not answers but leave us often with more questions than answers. Here is a question: are we a Church of the comfortable or a Church of risk takers?”

Over time, more Catholic parishes have chosen to take risks. They have taken intentional, public steps to become welcoming spaces for LGBT people and their families. Bondings 2.0 recently reported on how much New Ways Ministry’s list of gay-friendly parishes has grown in the last two decades, reflecting the movement’s growth.

In this age of Pope Francis and a reinvigorated conversation about Catholic LGBT issues, let us hope and pray more parishes will follow St. Bride’s parishioners in their eagerness to share messages of unconditional welcome.

The ALL ARE WELCOME series is an occasional feature on this blog that highlights Catholic parishes and faith communities that support and affirm LGBT people. To keep up to date on this and other Catholic LGBT news, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 by entering your email in the upper right hand corner of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, August 3, 2017

 

Pope Francis Offers Support for Nun’s Ministry with Transgender Women

Pope Francis has written a supportive note to a Catholic sister who works with transgender women.

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Sr. Monica Astorga, right, and Romina

Sr. Monica Astorga ministers to transgender women in Argentina, particularly those women who are in sex work or have substance abuse issues. Crux reported on her most recent interaction with Pope Francis, whom she has known for many years:

“Astorga wrote an email to Francis last Thursday, to update him on the new developments in the ministry she does in the southern Argentine province of Neuquen. It didn’t take long for her to hear back from the pope: She told Crux his answer came in the next day, on Friday.

“Astorga had written to the pope to inform him that the city had given her a plot of public land, where she planned to build 15 one-room homes for the transgender women she works with.

“‘I have you and the convent close to my heart, as well as the people with whom you work, you can tell them that,’ Francis wrote in his message.”

Pope Francis had visited Astorga in 2009 when he was then-archbishop of Buenos Aires. At the time affirmed her work, telling the sister in a note, “don’t leave the frontier work you were given” because transgender women were the “lepers of today.” In that 2009 note, Crux reported, the future pope notably used female pronouns for the trans women.

Church leaders, including the local ordinary, Bishop Virginio Bressanelli, have supported Astorga’s ministry, even when the local community has rejected and even harassed some of the women Astorga helps.

The ministry began over a decade ago when Astorga first encountered a trans woman, Romina. Bondings 2.0 covered her work in 2015, which you can read about here. The nun described the experience of meeting Romina:

“I listened to her for two hours without being able to say a word. . .I invited her to search for others who wanted to leave prostitution, and she came back five days later with four more. I invited them to pray, and then asked them to tell me their dreams. . .I felt stabbed when Katy told me, “I want a clean bed where I can die.”‘”

The ministry has cared for 90 transgender women in various ways, including housing, addiction recovery, and employment help. Astorga also keeps growing the ministry:

“[S]he’s received a house where some of the transgender women live on a temporary basis, and she’s now working on building a home for the elderly managed by transgender women, because they ‘have a special sensibility but also the strength needed.’. . .her ministry is now growing beyond those who look for her in the convent. She’s been added to several Facebook groups around the world by transgender women in similar situations.”

Sr. Astorga’s faith and Carmelite community have helped her branch out into this ministry, but she also notes the role that trans women’s faith has had on her, saying:

“They’ve always told me that ‘without believing in God, we wouldn’t survive. Each night, before going out on the street, we light a candle and ask God to take care of us.’ “

Trans women, especially those involved in sex work, are extremely vulnerable in Argentina, as in many places around the globe, where there are high rates of abuse and violence against them. But Astorga presses onward, and offers these wise words that should  inform the global church’s respond to trans people:

“I always say that to accompany one of them, we have to listen to them from the heart.”

Pope Francis’ note to Sr. Astorga is a positive mark for the pontiff’s mixed record on transgender issues. Last fall, the pope responded to a reporter’s question about how he would care pastorally for a person who is gender dysphoric. Francis answered by saying he had “accompanied people with homosexual tendencies,” even since being elected pope. He also spoke about meeting a transgender man, Diego Neria Lejárraga, in 2015. In his response, the pope used the man’s correct pronouns, and said at one point, “He that was her but is he.”

In that same interview, however, Francis’ joked that the press should not report “the Pope blesses transgenders.” He criticized as well, as he has done repeatedly, undefined concepts of “gender theory” and “ideological colonization.” The pope told a strange anecdote of a father who found out his child was being told in school that gender could be chosen.

When Pope Francis follows the path of Sr. Astorga, listening from the heart to trans voices, his response is always pastoral. The pope’s trans-negative moments seem to come when he stops listening from the heart and, despite his own critiques of such thinking, speaks about ideological theories that are entirely separated from lived realities.

It is good that Pope Francis wrote to Astorga and affirmed her ministry; it would be great if he learned from her witness, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, July 26, 2017

 

 

 

Bishop: Pastors Must Deny Funerals to Catholics in Same-Gender Marriages

An Illinois bishop has released guidelines about same-gender marriages that may greatly restrict participation in his diocese’s parishes by people in such marriages.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki
Bishop Thomas Paprocki

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield issued his “Same-Sex Marriage Policies Decree 6-12-2017” earlier this month, which instructs lesbian and gay Catholics along with pastoral ministers on several aspects of ecclesial life.

Addressing the sacraments, Paprocki said people in same-gender marriages should neither seek to receive nor be admitted to Holy Communion because their relationships are of an “objectively immoral nature.” Most strikingly, the bishop decreed about funeral rites:

“Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites. In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary [bishop], whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).”

Further restrictions on people in same-gender marriages include the following prohibitions:

  • “[They] are not to serve in a public liturgical ministry, including but not limited to reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion”;
  • “[They may] not serve as a sponsor for the Sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation”;
  • “[They are] not to be admitted to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) or receive the Sacrament of Confirmation unless he or she has withdrawn from the objectively immoral relationship”.

Paprocki’s decree also includes restrictions for pastoral ministers. No church worker, acting in a professional capacity, may participate in same-gender weddings. No church properties may host such weddings, and the bishop even forbids “items dedicated or blessed for use in Catholic worship” from being used in such ceremonies. Church personnel are also forbidden to bless same-gender marriages.

Pastors are further instructed to accept children whose parents are in a same-gender marriage for the Sacraments of Initiation, though pastors must use “due discretion in determining the appropriateness of the public celebration of the baptism.” Likewise, such children are to be admitted to Catholic schools and religious education, but the family “must agree to abide by the Family School Agreement.” To read more about that Agreement, which is LGBT-negative, click here.

Finally, the bishop threatened pastoral ministers that a “culpable violation of any of these norms can be punished with a just penalty.”

This Decree is not entirely novel. Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles Chaput sought last summer to bar LGBT people from both Communion and liturgical ministries in his restrictive pastoral guidelines. Elsewhere, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit and former Archbishop John Myers of Newark both told LGBT Catholics and their allies not receive Communion. What is notable about Paprocki’s guidelines is its treatment of funeral rites and threat of punishment for pastoral ministers.

The Decree is also not Bishop Paprocki’s first damaging act against LGBT people and their families. Last year, he implicitly criticized Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich for suggesting that reception of Communion is to be determined by each person according to their conscience. When Illinois passed marriage equality in 2013, Paprocki held a public exorcism because of the law, and had previously suggested that supporters of marriage equality should be disciplined like children.

Beside the obvious pastoral insensitivity, there are a few other things wrong with Paprocki’s new guidelines. In canon law, Canon 1184, which the bishop referenced in regard to funeral rites, says restrictions on such rites should be imposed on “notorious apostates, heretics, and schismatics,” those persons who are cremated for “reasons contrary to Christian faith,” and “manifest sinners” whose funerals would be publicly scandalous.

It is discrimination to target LGBT people when, in a certain sense, all Catholics could be deemed “manifest sinners.” Who among us, including Bishop Paprocki, does not publicly sin at different moments? Yet, funeral rites are not denied to Catholics who pay employees an unjust wage, publicly advocate for the death penalty, or deny climate change.

It is cruel to suggest that people who have, by the dictates of their conscience, entered into same-gender marriages should uniformly be equated with apostates and heretics.

Secondly, threatening Catholic pastoral workers with a “just penalty” is improper for someone who is to be a loving shepherd for the diocese. It borders on spiritual abuse to tell pastoral ministers and LGBT Catholics that, should they adhere to a most fundamental church teaching and follow their properly formed consciences, they could be punished by ecclesiastical authorities.

In a moment when a growing number of church leaders, led by Pope Francis, are opening doors to LGBT people and their families, it is tragic that Bishop Paprocki has chosen to act so harmfully. Despite his claims, it is the Decree itself which is the real scandal in this incident.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 22, 2017

Fired Gay Minister: “Archbishop has done us and all the church a great wrong.”

Barring LGBT Catholics from parish ministries is deeply wrong and personally wounding, wrote one gay man who had been forced from ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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William di Canzio

Last October, William di Canzio was dismissed as a lector at the Daylesford Abbey parish community in suburban Philadelphia where he has been active for 35 years.  The abbot said the decision was influenced by Archbishop Charles Chaput’s directive not to allow coupled gay men or lesbians to perform liturgical roles.

Di Canzio first broke his story on Bondings 2.0, and you can read the original report here. He has since written in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Abbot Richard Antonucci of Daylesford Abbey in Paoli requested a meeting with me, though he declined to tell me his purpose in advance. . .The abbot started our conversation by saying that he’d heard I had married my partner of 12 years, Jim Anderson. ‘I want you to believe this,’ he said: ‘I sincerely wish you both many, many years of happiness together.’

“Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput. . .[and] said that, with reluctance, he must enforce the directive.”

Antonucci told di Canzio that, despite the abbey being a community that is formally outside archdiocesan control, the abbott was “unwilling to take the risk” of retaining an LGBT person in liturgical ministry. Di Canzio asked the abbot, “You’re the spiritual leader of the place I’ve been part of for 35 years. . .How do you counsel me?” The abbot’s only response was asking di Canzio to remain at Daylesford Abbey.

Di Canzio said of the Abbey, “I felt welcomed there and at home.” He described in his Inquirer essay the many ministries at the abbey in which he has participated for more than three decades: revising the hymnal and arranging a psalter, writing a three-year cycle of Sunday penitential rites for the Norbertine Order, lectoring, and helping with other aspects of liturgy. Di Canzio concluded:

“Forgive me if this sounds like a resume. Here’s my point: the archbishop knows none of this. The abbot himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not know how very long had been my history there. Nor did he know that the man who is now my spouse decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford.”

Di Canzio said the archdiocesan directive itself is “very offensive,” especially its claim that same-gender couples are “a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community.” The directive continued to say such couples are “without undermining the faith of the community, most notably the children.” The former lector commented:

“The hypocrisy of the last phrase, concerning children, is so transparent it seems rhetorical suicide, because it calls to mind the sexual abuse of children by priests that has plagued the Catholic Church for decades.

“Here’s the truth: my sexual nature, like that of all human beings, is holy; my marriage is a sacrament where I encounter the love of God every day in the love of my spouse and bestow it likewise on him. The archbishop has done us and all the church a great wrong.”

A great wrong for sure, and Di Canzio’s story is not an isolated incident. More than 60 church workers and volunteers since 2007 have lost their position over an LGBT identity, same-gender marriage, or public support for equality.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of such church workers and volunteers, as well as other information and resources about the topic..

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 5, 2017

Catholics in India Help Found New School for Transgender Students

Catholic ministers in India recently formed a group to offer pastoral care for transgender people, reported ucanews.com, and they are already making an impact by helping to found a new school for trans students.

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Attendees, including Catholic religious, at the opening ceremony for Sahaj International School

Clergy, religious, and lay people in the Indian state of Kerala have joined together to establish “one of the few outreach programs for the transgender community by the institutional church in India.”

According to Fr. Paul Madassey, head of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council’s Pro-Life Support ministry, under which the transgender initiative is carried out, transgender people in the state are particularly vulnerable. Sex traffickers in northern India prey on trans people who are discriminated against and economically disadvantaged.

Fr. Madassey explained that the transgender initiative had been inspired by Pope Francis’ call to accompany the LGBT community and that “the whole church has a big role to play” in providing such pastoral support.

One project by the group has been helping found a new school inclusive of trans people called Sahaj International School. It opened last week with ten students seeking their high school certificate. Catch News explained further:

“Led by six [transgender people] from TransIndia Foundation with activist Vijayaraja Mallika at the helm, the school promises to provide residential facilities for a short period, free textbooks, gender neutral toilets, a meal for those in need, and tuition to pass Class X and XII. . .

“Mallika says that zir [a gender-neutral possessive pronoun] efforts are focused on introducing inclusive education. . .[Mallika said] ‘We are providing them a safe space for security and sustainable education.'”

The need for such a school is immense. Of the estimated 25,000 trans people in the state of Kerala, 57% did not complete a high school education, according to Mallika. There are also issues of social discrimination, family rejection, and derogatory language.

Mallika, who previously worked on transgender pastoral care with the Archdiocese of Bombay, said the church has been “very supportive” and that “[r]eligion plays an important role in social and behavioral change at the grass-roots level.” The church’s role in the school was instrumental, according to ucanews.com:

“In mid-December, Sisters of the Congregation of Mother Carmel offered their buildings to form an exclusive school for dropouts among transgender people, considered the first of its kind in the country.

“The nuns offered their venue after at least 50 building owners declined to let out their buildings, indicating the discrimination prevalent in the society, says Father Madassey.”

This work in Kerala comes quickly after Caritas India, the official development agency of the nation’s bishops, announced it would be initiating more transgender-inclusive policies and outreach programs. Though Caritas India’s approach is not perfect, the announcement of the program is a key moment for the global church.

The Catholic Church in India is widely respected for charitable efforts, despite Catholics being less than two percent of the nation’s population. The church has been a positive voice for LGBT communities, too, as when Bombay’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias twice spoke against the criminalization of gay people. In an exclusive interview with Bondings 2.0, Gracias said that the church embraces, wants, and needs LGBT people. Virginia Saldanha, an Indian lay woman who formerly led the Office of Laity for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said the 2015 Synod on the Family needed to bring LGBT “in from the cold.

Earlier this week, I suggested that findings from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey were a helpful pastoral examination for all Catholics about our awareness of and advocacy for trans equality in the church. These efforts in India are helpful models, too, for how the church can and should be responding to the urgent pastoral needs of trans communities — and how we can become more receptive of the gifts and contributions which trans Catholics are making to our church’s mission.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 5, 2017

 

“There Is No Place for Homophobia,” Pope Francis Told Gay Former Student

Pope Francis explicitly rejected homophobia in his pastoral ministry, according to the pope’s former student and friend Yayo Grassi.

 

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Yayo Grassi

In impromptu remarks during New Ways Ministry’s Bridge Building Award Ceremony on Sunday, Grassi, who made headlines in 2015 because of his personal meeting with Pope Francis in Washington, DC,  shared about his relationship with the pope and Francis’ approach to homosexuality, saying:

 

“I have known Pope Francis since he was my teacher, my professor in high school when I was seventeen years old. I know that he knew then that I was gay, and we have been friends ever since. I visited him in Rome and then we visited when he came to Washington. He met who was at the time my boyfriend both times, and he’s always asking about him.”

Grassi and his partner met with Francis in Washington, D.C. during the 2015 papal visit to the United States last fall. This private meeting was made public after it was alleged the pope had met with and blessed Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who had denied marriage licenses to same-gender couples. Grassi told reporters at the time he felt he needed to defend his friend, the pope, from unfair criticism.

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Fr. James Martin, SJ, and Yayo Grassi

Grassi also told attendees at the New Ways Ministry event (which honored Jesuit Fr. James Martin for promoting dialogue in the church on LGBT issues) about an exchange he had with the pope, when Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina:

“When the gay marriage law was being discussed in the Senate in Argentina, I read on the internet that then-Cardinal Bergoglio was very much against it and that he had said really painful and hateful things about the approval of the law. I was very surprised. I was very surprised more than anything else because knowing him, and knowing how much love there is in his heart, it was difficult for me to understand that he would do such a hateful thing. . .

“So I wrote him a quite extensive letter. I sent him an email telling him how much I admire him, how important he was in my life, and how much he did for me. How he had brought forward through his education the most open and progressive thought in my life. And then I went on saying, I will never be able to thank you, so you might think its a very strange way to thank you if I tell you I’m very disappointed by the way you treated the gay [marriage] law.”

Cardinal Bergoglio replied to Grassi’s letter in two days. He first asked forgiveness because of the hurt his former student felt and continued, as paraphrased by Grassi:

“Believe me I never said any of those things. The press picked up from two letters that I sent to the nuns asking them not to give any kind of opinion on this, and they were distorted and they were put as my words.”

Concluding his brief remarks, Grassi offered what he considered to be “the most beautiful thing. . .the most amazing thing” about Pope Francis, which came at the end of that reply letter:

“[Bergoglio in 2008] ends his letter, besides asking me to pray for him as he always does, saying, ‘Yayo, believe me, in my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.’ And that is the first time that I realized what an amazing person he was. He not only said, ‘Who am I to judge?’, there is something very important that he said later, he said ‘Who are we to judge?’. . .The we was the whole church, and the whole humankind.”

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Yayo Grassi offering his thoughts at the Bridge Building Award ceremony

Fr. Martin’s address was about bridge building, an invitation to a two-way bridge on which LGBT communities and the institutional church can dialogue. You can read a report on the address here. What Grassi’s experiences with Pope Francis reveal is a model for just how the institutional church can be changed by encounter and by friendship.

Equally important, however, is the necessity for church leaders to explicitly and unequivocally reject homophobia in the church and in society. It would be a wonderful step towards building bridges if the supreme pontiff in the church, Pope Francis, were to publicly declare what he told Grassi privately, that “in my pastoral work, there is no place for homophobia.”

Watch Yayo Grassi’s full remarks below or by clicking here.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 1, 2016