LGBTI Catholics from around the globe have met in Rome this month to announce the formation of a Global Network of Rainbow Catholics to advance the cause of LGBTI people within Catholic communities and the Catholic Church.
The group formally launched on Sunday following a Foundational Assembly conference held from 1-4 October in Rome to coincide with the Vatican’s Synod on the Family which is being held to reexamine how the Catholic Church approaches issues to do with family life, relationships and reproduction – including its approach to LGBTI issues.
The ‘Ways of Love – Snapshots of Catholic Pastoral Encounter with LGBTI People & their Families’ conference was attended by over 120 people and included an interview with former Irish President Mary McAleese and a keynote closing address by Bishop Raul Vera from Saltillo, Mexico.
Other speakers from Chile, England, Italy, Kenya, Thailand and the United States spoke at the conference about positive approaches to pastoral care for LGBTI people within the Catholic Church.
Delegates from 31 countries met to elect a steering group for the network representing Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania, including a range of ethnicities, gender balance and younger people.
Further office holders will be decided in a future round of elections by member organizations.
The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics Assembly has sent an open letter to bishops attending the Vatican Synod on the Family announcing their formation and their willingness to work with the church.
‘We come from over thirty countries, both as individuals and as representatives of groups, who have been involved with the flourishing of people like ourselves in the lives of our local churches, (as well as with many other tasks),’ the open letter reads.
‘The last years have not been an easy ride! Many in our Church thought that they were serving God by hating us, and some still do, especially among the hierarchy; but we can tell you with joy, that we have kept alive our Confession of the Catholic faith.’
‘We need to support each other, and others more vulnerable than ourselves, at a worldwide level, especially in countries which criminalize us, and even think they are honoring God by killing us. We need to be able to share information, counter falsehood, encourage each other in our needs, and strengthen our families, especially where civil law does not yet respect them. So we have decided to set up a Global network, to bring together groups of LGBTI Catholics, our families and friends, as well as other Christians and people of good will. This will enable us to be much better prepared to share experiences, life stories, examples of best-practice: little miracles of love.
‘We want to set up our network in such a way that we can even be useful to you, though we know from long experience how frightened many of you are of communicating with us discreetly, even less talking to us on the record! Having learned, by living with Jesus, not to be dismayed by the falsehoods and calumnies concerning us to which some of you still seem wedded, and even pass off as “teaching of the Church”, you will find us resilient, because we know that we are loved. In the near-absence of visible shepherds, we have come to trust and love a Shepherd who was not ashamed to give himself to death for us, One whose voice we hear, with whom we are not in rivalry, and in whose light all others who call themselves shepherds can be tested for their fruits. Because of this, you may even be surprised to find us meek!
‘So we write to you to wish you encouragement for these days of your Synodal gathering, as well as for the months and years to come as we all begin to live the hints of the new that are coming to birth, discovering new ways of celebrating the family, rather than condemning wine that threatens to burst old wineskins. We are thrilled that you heard with us Pope Francis’ wonderful homily in Philadelphia last week, where he drew out the consequences of both Jesus’ and Moses’ rebuke to those who would hold back the Spirit.
‘We have prayed for you at every Mass at our meeting, and we ask you to pray for us, confident that we will soon be able to meet transparently, with joy. For we are amazed to have discovered that over the last few years, despite everything, and because nothing is impossible to God, we have become insiders with you in the life of the Gospel, and co-sharers in all your joyful tasks.’