Rome (CNSNews.com) - Organizers of World Pride 2000, the homosexual march and weeklong rally being held in Rome, took direct aim at the Catholic Church Thursday with a panel discussion on religion and homosexuality attended by several dissident Catholic priests.
"Homosexuality, Religion and Minority Freedoms" was noteworthy for the attendance of Father Severino D'Amico, a Catholic priest who addressed the panel at the International Lesbian and Gay Association world conference against the orders of his superior, Archbishop Silvano Piovanelli of Florence.
"It is time for the Church to recognize that the right to sexual identity is a civil right that must not be denied," said D'Amico, who called for "a new focus in the Church" on ministry to homosexuals.
Questioned about whether that "new focus" should include a reinterpretation of traditional Catholic teachings against homosexual behavior, D'Amico replied, "Change in the Church is slow, but it will and must come."
Another Catholic priest, Father Gianni Baget Bozzo, spoke on the topic of homosexuality in the priesthood, which he described as widespread. Bozzo, a former Socialist delegate to the European parliament who is now an advisor to Italian center-right opposition leader Silvio Berluscioni, said he himself experienced "homosexual feelings" toward male friends, but "kept the expressions of eroticism on the level of theory."
Bozzo is a prominent proponent of what he calls "a new approach to the problem of homosexuality" for the Catholic Church, one that mediates between the present condemnation of homosexual acts and D'Amico's call to accept homosexuality.
However, the Vatican Thursday made a move to clarify its position against homosexuality in the pages of its official newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano.
Father George Cottier, a prominent church theologian and close advisor to Pope John Paul II, wrote in L'Osservatore that while homosexuality itself was not condemned, homosexual acts were.
"A person cannot be blamed for the former, but the latter are a sin," wrote Cottier.
The Vatican has also moved to quiet critics of the church's stance on homosexuality within the church hierarchy, most prominently Bishop Jacques Galliot, who was scheduled to address ILGA.
Galliot, who was stripped of his diocese five years ago for supporting those who criticized the church's stance on homosexuality, revealed that he was ordered by the Vatican not to attend the conference or Saturday's World Pride March.
The International Lesbian and Gay Association conference has largely proceeded unnoticed by the hundreds of thousands of tourists attending Millennium Jubilee celebrations throughout Rome this week, including the 65,000 Poles expected to attend a rally at the Colosseum Friday.
The Poles are everywhere throughout the religious sites in Rome, visible by their signature red and white scarves.
At St. Peter's Basilica Thursday, for example, Jubilee officials say more than 10,000 pilgrims lined up to tour the Scavi, the excavations underneath the high altar that reputedly hold the bones of St. Peter the Apostle, whom Catholics revere as the first pope.
Thursday night, more than 5,000 people are expected to pack the Piazza Navona, the famous circular piazza outside the Church of St. Agnes in Agony, for Eucharistic Adoration, a Catholic religious ceremony.
On the Streets of Rome, An Uneasy Peace (6 July 2000)