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‘Of course’ LGBT couples welcome to volunteer says Archbishop: ‘It’s also a Catholic event’

Full details of the Pope’s participation in the World Meeting of the Families were confirmed today.

Archbishop Eamon Martin speaking in Maynooth this morning.
Archbishop Eamon Martin speaking in Maynooth this morning.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE LEADER OF the Catholic Church in Ireland has said that LGBT couples are “of course” welcome to volunteer at the upcoming World Meeting of the Families event in Dublin.

The Church is seeking thousands of volunteers to help with the organisation and the running of the event, which takes place from 21 to 26 August, and recently extending the deadline for volunteer applications. Pope Francis will visit for the final two days of the meeting, which is held every three years.

The question of whether LGBT couples who are members of the Church would be welcome was raised earlier this year after it emerged pictures featuring same-sex partners were removed from a reissued booklet about August’s event sent to parishes.

A US-based bishop’s welcome to same-sex couples was also edited out of a video promoting the World Meeting of the Families – a move described by Association of Catholic Priests as being “very damaging” to the event.

“I’ve absolutely no idea that anyone would be asked about their sexual orientation in becoming a volunteer,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said in response to questions from TheJournal.ie at a press conference this morning.

“But I imagine that all of those who attend the World Meeting of the Families as visitors as participants … the difference here is we don’t necessarily reveal our particular sexuality when we’re coming along to any event and I imagine it’s the same for the World Meeting of the Families.”

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Asked again whether same-sex couples would be welcome to volunteer, he said:

“Of course. At the world meeting of the families this is a gathering of people to whom everyone is welcome. I know the families who are going there would be the last to say that they are perfect in any way

“Even in terms of living up to the teaching of the Church, we all struggle in that. As a bishop I struggle in that. I’m welcome, I hope, at the World Meeting of the Families, but so is everyone where they are at in their particular journey of faith.

It’s also a Catholic event, the World Meeting of the Families is an event of the Catholic Church. So I don’t think we make any apologies for the fact that the Catholic Church has a very clear teaching on marriage and the family.

Martin said that the Amoris Laetitia (a 2016 exhortation from the Pope that stresses every person regardless of sexual orientation ought to be respected) would be the guiding document of the week’s events.

Full schedule

The Archbishop, accompanied by Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, announced full details of Pope Francis’s planned itinerary in Ireland at a press conference in Maynooth this morning.

Journalists from several other publications also asked about the Church’s approach to LGBT members at the event. Asked to confirm the Church’s official view, Eamon Martin said the week’s events would allow for the exploration of the kinds of challenges and realities of modern family life in Ireland.

“Only two weeks ago I met with a mother whose daughter has just come out and said she’s a lesbian,” the Archbishop said.

That particular mother… Her question for me is like she says ‘I love my faith and I love my daughter’. And I suppose as a mother church we too love our faith, we love the teaching of our church and all it stands for but we also love our people.

An event that “addresses that particular reality” will also take place as part of the week’s events. The programme for the World Meeting of Families was described in press material today as being ‘lay-led’ and ‘couples-led’.

Other themes exploded at the gathering will include: ‘The future of marriage preparation in parishes’; ‘Exploring the impact of technology on the family’ and ‘The vocation of fatherhood in today’s world’.

We can also expect, according to the press release, ‘fun cookery demonstrations with faith and family themes’.

Clerical abuse

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was also asked this morning whether the Pope planned to meet with victims of clerical abuse during his visit to Ireland.

He said that the itinerary released this morning did not include a full list of everyone the pontiff planned to meet while in the country.

The Pope, Martin said, “has been and will be” briefed on the extent of the abuse. He had generally met with victims’ and survivors’ groups quietly during his international visits in order to respect the anonymity of those involved, the Archbishop added.

Listing the various groups who might seek a meeting with the Pope – including survivors of institutional abuse, women from the Magdalene Laundries and from Church-run mother and baby homes – he said:

We’ll find a way in which all of those … the Pope will be able to address the concerns of all of those people.

Martin, who is the official host of the World Meeting of the Families, said he had been receiving about five letters a day from people who want to meet Pope Francis. Victim and survivor groups, he said, are “very high on the list of priorities”.

Pope Francis will arrive in Dublin Airport on Saturday morning 25 August and will pay a visit to Áras an Uachtaráin on his way to events at Dublin Castle and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral that afternoon (you’ll find the full schedule here).

He will speak at the Feast of Families at Croke Park on Saturday evening, and will visit the shrine at Knock the following morning before saying mass at Dublin’s Phoenix Park at 3pm on Sunday afternoon.

Advice if you’re going

A government website dedicated to the visit also went live today. The public are being advised that the engagements in Knock and at the Phoenix Park on 26 August are the main events of note that are open to the public.

  • Visit to Apparition Chapel, Knock Shrine, Knock, Co.Mayo (9:45am)
  • Closing Mass for the World Meeting of Families, Phoenix Park, Dublin (3:00pm)

Both events will be ticketed and people are being urged to plan their transport and prepare for a long journey. More information is available at www.gov.ie/popeinireland.

“While disruption is unavoidable for a visit of this scale, the Government is aiming to ensure that any disruption to businesses and individuals due to the visit is minimised as much as possible,” a Government press release said.

“Necessary alternative arrangements are being developed and will be communicated to those impacted well in advance.

“More information will be rolled out in the coming weeks for those who may be affected.”

500,000 tickets will be made available for the Phoenix Park mass. 45,000 is the site capacity at Knock.

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