Rome, Italy: Day One – January 3, 2001

Rome Day OneAs rain fell on the streets of Rome, the Soulforce – Dignity/USA delegation of 21 activists ventured out for a morning ritual at the Circus Maximus, where Christian martyrs met death at the hands of the Romans 1000s of years ago. As the sun broke through the clouds, a rainbow appeared, a sign of love and peace to begin 4 days of non-violent actions at the Vatican.

After the morning worship, the delegation returned to the hotel to meet with press from a dozen media outlets, including National Public Radio, Associated Press, ANSA, National Catholic Reporter, Catholic News Service, and friendly and not so friendly press from Italy and around the globe.

Our first action started as a bus took us to the police barrier at the Via Della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square. The barriers are placed there to separate the city of Rome from the Vatican City State. No protesters are allowed past these barriers, although thousands upon thousands of "pilgrims" gathered in St. Peter’s Square to visit the Vatican. Several journalists rode the bus with us; others met us at the barriers. We filed past police and stood vigil in T-shirts which read, "God’s Gay Children Bring Gifts … Bless Them", with the gifts we had brought for an orphanage outside of Rome. We stood in silent vigil, waiting for a representative of the Vatican to come out and bless our gifts as we had requested.

Several people began to notice our presence, as journalists and tourists took pictures and police started asking questions. We stood vigil for approximately 30 minutes, waiting. No one came to bless our gifts, so we started for the bus. Police stopped several of the people in the Soulforce – Dignity/USA delegation as we were leaving the site. Although no arrests were made, the police requested the documents of our translator and our Italian attorney.

Rome OrphanageShortly thereafter, we headed to the orphanage, with our gifts of toys, candy, baseball caps, dolls, books, and ourselves, unblessed by the Vatican, but blessed by God nonetheless. After a nice drive through the Italian countryside to the Mediterranean Sea, we arrived. We were greeted by a nun and a dozen or so cheerful children, excited to see "the people of America" bearing gifts. Despite the language barrier, and with the help of our translator, children joked and laughed as we all said one by one in broken Italian, "my name is… I come from…" The children warmed up to us, sitting on our laps, allowing us to open candy for them, smiling and laughing and enjoying the company and the gifts.

As we said goodbye to our new friends and boarded the bus, we chatted about our new friends and our successful first day, anticipating the days yet to come, and hoping for another rainbow across the sky.

Written in Rome, January 3, 2001 by Laura Montgomery Rutt