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May 23rd, 1999

PRE EVENT RELEASE:                              POST EVENT RELEASE and PIX


This Sunday, May 23rd, at St. Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne, Gay Catholics will lay a wreath in honour of Lesbian and Gay youth who have suffered abuse or attempted suicide because of homophobia in church schools.

15,000 students are at risk in Melbourne alone" said Michael Kelly, spokesperson for the Rainbow Sash Movement.

The action will take place after the 11 a.m. Pentecost Sunday Mass where up to a hundred Gay Catholics, their families and friends, will wear the Rainbow Sash and seek Holy Communion. It is expected that Archbishop George Pell will refuse them the Sacrament.

"The Church must face the consequences of its treatment of Gay and Lesbian people", said Mr Michael Kelly "It teaches that our sexuality is ' a disorder and an orientation to intrinsic evil', that our relationships undermine the fabric of society, and that our civil rights should be restricted. This is a shocking burden for young people to bear. It also fuels prejudice and abuse -- and it is being supported with public money.

Kelly says that research in Australia and overseas shows
that 30% of all youth suicides are Gay related,
that Gay youth attempt suicide three to five times more often than other youth,
that 69-90% of Gay identified youth report physical or verbal abuse.

"Every teacher knows that Gay kids are suffering", says Kelly, who was a Catholic teacher and chaplain for 17 years, "yet the church has no systematic programs to address homophobia in schools or to support Gay youth. In fact, many Gay friendly teaches fear for their careers.
We challenge the Archbishop to declare Catholic schools "safe places for Lesbian and Gay youth".
All young people have the right to grow up being affirmed, encouraged and protected from ignorance and abuse.

After the 11 a.m. Mass, The Rainbow Sash Movement will lay a wreath outside the Cathedral, then raise a Rainbow Flag to honour Gay youth who are making a life for themselves and finding pride and hope. "We want to stand up and show them that they are not alone" concluded Mr Kelly.

PLEASE NOTE: The action will take place outside the Cathedral AFTER the conclusion of the Mass, sometime after 12:30. Michael Kelly and members of the Rainbow Sash movement will be available for comment.


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