NEWTOWN’S Catholic Church has become one of the world’s first churches to apologise to LGBTI people for the hurt caused by the action and inaction of Catholic and Christian people and churches.
In June, Pope Francis called for an apology to gay and lesbian people and St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Newtown become one of the first to respond holding a Liturgy of Apology organised by the Rainbow Catholic Interagency for Ministry on Friday.
“As organisers we wanted to make sure the event was ethical, respectful and safe for all. There are so many heartbreaking stories of our LGBTIQ siblings.
“Some have been badly hurt by us as a church community. Others we have failed completely, to the point of suicide, because of prejudice, ignorance and fear, and worse still, in God’s name.
“Tonight, with Pope Francis’ encouragement, in the name of God, we apologise for religious LGBTIQ-phobia, and we pledge to work towards healing and reconciliation in this Year of Mercy.”
One of the stories shared at the liturgy of apology was of a gay man who attempted suicided after he was forced to undergo gay conversion programs promoted by the church.
The liturgy included a symbolic Well of Tears which the congregation was invited to interact with and triggered a lot of emotion for people at the event.
“It was a powerful and raw moment of letting go and of forgiveness” said an attendee.
“I came tonight with trepidation and deep reservation having not been to church for over 20 over years, having been deeply hurt by homophobic actions and words of Catholic church leaders. I feel hope and peace. That there are many ordinary and good Catholic people working hard to hold the church accountable for the violence they have inflicted on LGBTIQ people, including LGBTIQ Catholics here and elsewhere”.
Dignitaries from various Catholic parishes and other faith communities attended the event to hear St Joseph’s parish priest Father Peter Maher issue the apology to the LGBTI community.
“I couldn’t believe the diversity of communities leaders who are here this evening for this historical ceremony, and the fact that Christian leaders actually came up to us and other LGBTIQ folks saying how sorry they are for the way by which the church has in the past and some parts that still lend support to those who wish to vilify and hurt LGBTIQ people,” Benjamin Oh, Chair of the Rainbow Catholics InterAgency for Ministry said.
Melody Gardiner from Australian Catholics for Equality said “Saying sorry is a good start. There are thousands of LGBTIQ people and families in our parishes and many more who no longer feel they belong or are welcome. The majority of Australian Catholics support and celebrate LGBTIQ people, we are their families and friends.”
“Some church leaders don’t care to hear our stories, let alone ask for forgiveness for what they have done to us. Tonight is the beginning of new possibilities for our Catholic and Christian communities here in Sydney and across Australia.
Rainbow Christians globally are watching and we hope to see other Churches and communities follow the example Liturgy of Apology we have seen tonight”.