Police in Rome Ban Soulforce Protest, Advance Team Sets New Plan of Action

Soulforce-Dignity/USA Shape New Plan To Oppose Anti-Gay Teachings
Gay Italian Activists and Catholics Offer Assistance and Support

Soulforce and Dignity/USA Press Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell: 717-951-7712
Email: soulforcemedia@aol.com
Rome Contact: 011-39-3807052353

Laguna Beach, CA – Shortly after a bloody confrontation between police and several thousand Italians protesting the Vatican visit of a right-wing Austrian extremist, a Soulforce advance team met with police officials in Rome to obtain permits for a nonviolent protest. According to Italian police, no demonstration of any kind is allowed in or near the Vatican City-state. A Soulforce – Dignity/USA delegation is scheduled to bring their STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE Campaign to the Vatican during the first week of the New Millennium, January 3-7, 2001, to protest the anti-homosexual teachings and actions of the Roman Catholic Church.

"Although all of our protests are done in the spirit of non-violence as taught by Gandhi and King, we decided not to stage our demonstrations in the Vatican City-state, " explained Dr. Mel White, Soulforce Executive Director. "After meeting with Vatican officials and police, and taking our goals of spiritual renewal, non-violence, and reconciliation into account, we will conduct a very different kind of action, initially staying outside the barriers in hopes that the Vatican will recognize us there."

With the support of gay Italian activists and Catholics, the American delegation will arrive in Rome bearing gifts for orphans, for people living in an AIDS hospice, and for occupants of a home for battered women. At 12 noon, everyday from January 3-5, delegates will walk together carrying gifts up the Via Della Conciliazione to St. Peter’s Square, wearing shirts that say, "God’s Gay Children Bring Gifts. Bless Them." ("I Figli Di Dio Gay Portano Regali. Dategli La Benedizione.")

January 3 at 12 noon, prior to the scheduled action, a press conference will be held at Hotel Spring House, Via Mocenz 07 in Rome, detailing the plans for the actions taking place that week.

The Soulforce delegation will stop at a police barrier separating Rome from the Vatican City-state. Soulforce leaders have informed Cardinal Ratzinger and other Vatican officials of their intentions. The delegation will wait for a priest to bless their gifts before a large Nativity scene built on St. Peter’s Square. Blessed or not blessed, the gifts will be delivered to the orphanage, the hospice, or the home for battered women by the Soulforce – Dignity/USA delegation.

"On January 6, after the Festive Mass led by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, we will repeat our march to the barrier, only this time the gifts will be ourselves," said Mary Louise Cervone, President, Dignity/USA. "Representing the millions of gay Catholics who love and serve the Church, we will carry gifts marked gay priests, gay nuns, gay bishops, gay laity. In asking to be blessed we are asking the Church to take one small step towards reconciliation." Current Roman Catholic teachings describe homosexual orientation as "objectively disordered" and homosexual acts as "intrinsically evil." In recent months, Vatican statements have reaffirmed the Church’s views that homosexuals should not be allowed to adopt, teach, coach, be married, ordained, or serve in the military.

On November 14, over 250 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) individuals, and their families, friends and allies from all over the United States joined together with Soulforce and Dignity/USA at the National Shrine in Washington, DC to protest the exclusionary policies of the Catholic Church toward GLBT Catholics. 104 people were subsequently arrested in a non-violent civil disobedience.

Soulforce (www.soulforce.org) is an interfaith network committed to applying the principles of nonviolent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities. Dignity/USA (www.DignityUSA.org) is the oldest and largest independent national lay movement of GLBT Catholics, their families, & friends.

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