WASHINGTON - A U.S. bishop says homosexuals will be able to attend a global meeting of Catholic families in Philadelphia during a visit by Pope Francis. About 15,000 people are expected to attend lectures and take part in workshops during that five-day event in September, aimed at strengthening sacred family bonds. The pontiff will visit during the last two days of the meeting.
Same-sex parents are becoming a reality despite religious and civil laws. The Catholic Church has firmly opposed same-sex marriages, but Pope Francis has expressed more tolerance for homosexuality than his predecessors.
On Thursday, a U.S. bishop visiting the Vatican announced that homosexual groups and families can have official representation at the congress in Philadelphia. At an event dedicated to gay issues, Ron Belgau, a well-known celibate gay Catholic will share his experience, said Philadelphia Bishop John McIntyre.
"He will talk about his own coming to terms with his sexual orientation and the manner in which he embraced the teaching of Christ and the Church in that process. And his mother will also speak about her own acceptance of her son's sexual orientation and shed light on that whole experience in terms of, from her perspective as a mother within that reality within the family," said McIntyre.
But Philadelphia church leaders made it clear that meeting attendees will not be allowed to speak against the teachings of the church.
"So we are not providing that kind of lobbying opportunity, but certainly everyone is welcome for everything all the time, without exception. And we have to also be aware that we are going to be dealing with very real issues and not just speculative issues, and that is very real for many families today," said Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.
The Vatican is not likely to change its stance on marriage in the near future, but under the leadership of Pope Francis it seems prepared to embrace families in more than one form.