V A T I C A N C I T Y, July 9, 2000 -- Pope John Paul todayslammed a gay rights march in Rome as an “offense to Christianvalues,” prompting outrage from gay groups for his condemnationof homosexual acts as being “against natural law.”
The pope’s unexpected and forceful remarks drew a stinging response from Italian gay rights activists who accused theVatican of fuelling homophobia.
Rightist politicians, many of whom had tried to stop or postpone Saturday’s 70,000-strong World Gay Pride march,applauded the Pope and hit out at members of the center-left government who had joined the parade.
One of them described the march as “a depressing spectacle.”
The 80-year-old pope, speaking to tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square, reaffirmed that theChurch considered homosexuality “objectively disordered.”
‘Offense to Christian Values’
“In the name of the Church of Rome, I must express sadness for the affront to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 and theoffense to Christian values of a city that is so dear to the heart of Catholics of the whole world,” he said.
He said the Church “could not keep quiet about the truth”and had a duty to “distinguish between good and evil.”
He then quoted from an entry on homosexuality in theChurch’s Catechism, which calls it “objectively disordered”but also says that homosexuals should be treated with compassionand respect and should not be subjected to “unjustdiscrimination.”
Within an hour of his speech, Franco Grillini, honorarychairman of gay rights group Arcigay, hit back.
“The real offence is the homophobia and the anti-gayprejudice which is fuelled by the Vatican hierarchy,” Grillinisaid in a statement.
“The pope is mistaken when he says homosexuality isunnatural. Who decides what is natural and what is not?,” heasked. “‘Objectively disordered’—what does that mean?”
Parade Headed By Priest
Grillini pointed out that a Catholic priest had headed theparade through the heart of Rome and many other priests fromacross Europe had joined the march.
But the pope’s words gave succour to rightist politicianswho were largely silent on Saturday as the protesters, includingdrag queens in leather thongs and stiletto heels, snaked theirway around the side of the Colosseum in a colourful parade.
“The Gay Pride march, with ministers and leaders of theleft at its head, was a depressing spectacle,” saidPierfrancesco Casini, leader of the centre-right and ChristianCCD party.
Francesco Storace, president of the Lazio region of whichRome is the capital, described John Paul as “an extraordinarypope” and said his words vindicated opponents of the parade.
Adolfo Urso, spokesman for the far-right National Allianceparty which had threatened a counter-demonstration, said heunderstood the pope’s ire.
“The Gay Pride march took on a clearly provocative natureagainst the Catholic Church and all those who believe in thenatural and constitutional values of the family,” Urso said.
“We always said the march was inopportune in terms of bothtiming and location.”
Marchers Had Protested Vatican
Many protesters on Saturday’s march carried banners andplacards denouncing the Church’s attitude towards gays.
“1943: The Vatican says nothing about the deportation ofGays and Jews; 2000: The Vatican speaks out against Gay Pride,”one of the placards read.
A group of eight men draped a huge banner across the streetwhich read simply: “In memory of all those homosexualspersecuted and killed by the Catholic Church.”
The Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but thathomosexual acts are.
“Homosexual persons are called to chastity,” one sectionof the Catechism which addresses honosexuality reads. It alsosays Scripture calls homosexual acts “acts of gravedepravity.”