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November 13, 2000

GAY CATHOLICS Claim Their Place in the Church, and Call on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to Welcome Them at  Mass in the National Basilica in Washington DC

 A group of Gay Catholics, called the "The Rainbow Sash Movement", has notified America's Catholic Bishops that they plan to attend Mass at the National Bishops' Conference in Washington DC on November 13. 

Members will make themselves visible at Mass by wearing rainbow coloured sashes.
The Rainbow Sash will signify that they are Gay Catholics, who "embrace and celebrate their sexuality as a Sacred Gift", and that they "call the Church to seek a new appreciation of human sexuality in all of its diversity and beauty".

The group is calling on the U. S. bishops to publicly welcome them to the Eucharist.
Leaders of the group have assured the Bishops that they will participate in the Mass with reverence and respect.  "We are simply gay Catholics attending Mass", said the group's international spokesperson, Mr Michael Kelly.  "We will be praying for the bishops and for the church as a whole, and prayerfully taking our place at the table of the Eucharist.  The only real difference is that we will not be invisible."

The Rainbow Sash Movement has its roots in Melbourne, Australia, where Rainbow Sash wearing gay Catholics have been attending  Mass in the local Cathedral over the past three years.  On every occasion Archbishop George Pell has refused to give them Holy Communion.  This refusal, which has been supported by all of Australia's archbishops, and by the late Cardinal John O'Connor, is the second most serious sanction the church can impose.

Despite this, the movement has developed into a strong voice of challenge within the church, attracting national and international attention.
"The refusal of Holy Communion exposes the injustice gay people continue to suffer in the Catholic Church", says Mr Michael Kelly, who trained for the priesthood with the Franciscan Order and spent 17 years as a Catholic educator.

"In wearing the Rainbow Sash we call the church to move beyond fear and prejudice, and to find new ways of living the gospel's message of freedom.  The church needs the gifts of courage, wisdom and integrity that gay people have to offer.  We must make the journey to justice together".

 The group's action at the Bishops' Mass in Washington DC will be its first major action in the United States.  The American, convenor, Mr Joseph Murray of Chicago says, "We call on the United States bishops to welcome us as  gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, to share the Eucharist with us and to work openly with us for justice and understanding.  The Catholic Church needs to embrace conversion of heart around issues of human sexuality.  We hope the bishops will have the courage to welcome public dialogue and embrace change."

 The Rainbow Sash action will be held in conjunction with a candlelight vigil at the National Basilica, which the gay rights movement "Soulforce" is organising as a national statement of protest at the Catholic Church's continuing discrimination against gay and lesbian people.

 For more information on Soulforce: http://www.soulforce.org/

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