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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 4, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 1
Gay-friendly Masses halted in London
Section One
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Gay-friendly Masses halted in London

Archbishop says 'open and affirming' service has to go

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

The Catholic Church has put a stop to the Gay-friendly, 'open and affirming' biweekly Mass in a central London church, Our Lady of the Assumption.

The church, located in Soho, London's main Gayborhood, has held such services for six years.

In a statement issued January 2, London Archbishop Vincent Nichols said that he would like to see Gay Catholics 'attend Mass in their local parishes rather than going to separate services.' He added that he still supports 'pastoral care' to help LGBT Catholics 'take a full part in the life of the church.'

PROMPTED BY POPE?
The church's decision may be due at least in part to recent criticism of same-sex marriage by Pope Benedict XVI and bishops in both Britain and France. Archbishop Nichols has increasingly vocalized his opposition to same-sex marriage in recent weeks.

However, church officials, as well as a spokesman for Our Lady of the Assumption, have said the decision to discontinue the Masses was not linked to the same-sex marriage debate.

'We don't see any direct cause and effect,' said Joe Stanley, chairman of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council.

Since Gay-friendly Masses began in 2007, many conservative Catholics in Britain opposed them through protest and complaints to the Vatican, saying they flouted church teaching on homosexuality.

A CHANGE OF POSITION
Archbishop Nichols reaffirmed his support for Gay-friendly Masses just last year, while Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco, still held the position of Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Now, however, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, who replaced Levada, said that he wants to clarify the contradiction between the Masses and church teaching.

'Given what's happened over Christmas, where there were vitriolic and mean messages from the pulpit about same-sex marriage, there has never been a more important time to provide a safe space for Gay Catholics to pray,' said Ruth Hunt, a spokesman for Stonewall, a large U.K.-based LGBT charitable organization, who is Catholic herself.

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