GNRC WYD Special – Part III : A Young Pilgrim Experience

Universality, Unity and Inspiration were three values that the WYD assistant Eros Shaw found in his trip to Polland.

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Chinese gay Catholic community logoBy Eros Shaw – Chinese missionary, activist of the Chinese Catholic LGBTQ Group China Catholic Rainbow Community (CCRC), GNRC Steering Committee member and participant of the China Rainbow Witness Fellowship.

 

I participated in the World Youth Day from its beginning and till its end, including all the preparatory activities during the previous week, from July 19th – 31st in Warsaw. Considering that this was my first WYD, there were a few points that had a profound impression on me.

  • The first one was the Universality of the Church/ Let´s remember that this is the original meaning of the word Catholic, where so many young people from different nations gathered in one place with no boundaries of race, gender or sexual orientation! About 1.5 million people attended the Pope Francis’ closing mass, according to the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, so I couldn’t stop wondering how many LGBT people were among them.
  • The second point was Unity. Many of the assistants came from countries or regions with internal/external geopolitical conflicts, but the Catholic young people gathered there shared in the basis of a common faith and prayer. This is the thing that touched me the most. I´m a young pilgrim from mainland China, but I had the great chance to spend time with brothers and sisters from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.
  • The third and last one was how Inspirational it was for me was to meet so much people expressing their love for God, their devotion for the Virgin Mary and respect for the Pope. In China, we Catholics, are a minority compared to the other Christian churches or religious practices, and so I often hear criticism and negative voices about us. The fraternity in Krakow fueled my beliefs for my personal mission, with so many lovely, young people united and on the same path.

I also participated in a LGBT friendly Café, organized by Wiara I Tecza, with Michael Brinkschroeder and Anna Kuliberda from Germany. There we shared the experiences of our LGBT Catholic local communities which was followed by a panel discussion. Even with so many people visiting Krakow we only had 20 assistants, many of them bravely carrying their WYD backpacks. This is a reminder of how much work we still have to do for Visibility and Inclusion of LGBTI people in the Church. I had a Gay Catholic friend from Hong Kong in the WYD that couldn’t join us because he was afraid of the exposure. Anyway, having had such a amazing opportunity to participate makes me feel really grateful.

For further information of the Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church, read Marcin Dzierżanowski´s Article. For An alternative perspective about the experience of the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven activities, read Michael Brinkschroeder´s Article.

Chinese gay Catholic community logoChina Catholic Rainbow Community (CCRC) in an inter-regional mutual aid organization for Chinese Roman Catholic LGBT people. They provide counseling and spiritual companionship for LGBT Catholic believers.

 

 

13892294_281394845572815_2392434603705795154_nChina Rainbow Witness Fellowship (CRWF) is a LGBT Christian fellowship grounded in love and faith. The fellowship was established in 2009 in Beijing, with further groups established in Shangai and Hangzhou.

 

GNRC WYD Special – Part II : LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven in Krakow

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M BrinkschoroederBy Michael BrinkschroederGerman theologist, activist of German Catholic LGBTQ group Homosexuelle und Kirche (Homosexuallity and Church), GNRC Steering Committe Co-chair and member of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups.

 

During the World Youth Day, the Polish group “Wiara i Tęcza” (Faith & Rainbow) has organized an “LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven” in Krakow. The meeting point was located in the lovely cultural centre “Ogniwo” in the Jewish quarter. The LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven, co-organised by the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, was not included in the official program of the World Youth Day although Wiara i Tęcza made several attempts in this direction. However, the interest of national and international media was very high and brought a lot of attention to the issue. The police was guarding the entrance, because there were serious threats before the event, but fortunately nothing happened.

The program contained documentary films from Brendan Fay (Dignity, New York) about John McNeill and Mychal Judge, lectures from Jim Mulcahy (USA/Ukraine) about spirituality and relationship and from Michael Brinkschroeder (Germany) about “Queer Reading of the Bible”. A creative workshop lead by Marcela Kościańczuk (Poland) on “God’s Mercy” built the bridge to the theme of the World Youth Day and the Holy Year.

WYD 2

During the Pilgrim´s Haven meeting we enjoyed the presence and expositions from Michael Brinkschroeder (Germany), Marcela Kościańczuk (Poland), Marcela Kościańczuk (Germany) and Eros Shaw (China).

A workshop on “Queer Catholic Activism” started with input from Anna Kuliberda from a German Catholic Youth Federation who started a blog with few other LGBT Catholic youths and earned a lot of attention when they distributed stickers during a pilgrimage of their diocese. Eros from China presented his work as a gay Catholic missionary in Beijing and Shanghai where he started LGBT Catholic groups. Recently, he has collected stories of Chinese LGBT Catholics (in China and surrounding countries) and is going to publish them in a book. Michael Brinkschroeder presented the initiative for a monthly Queer Catholic Service in Munich.

The following discussion in small groups brought some interesting results about the spiritual needs of LGBT Catholics: Most important was the access to role-models and the encouragement to come out of the shadow. Some were asking that priests should not hide themselves behind an official doctrine, but tell their own, personal opinion about LGBT issues. But on the other hand it was asked, if the spirituality should come from the church or from us? One response to this question was, that we should understand spirituality which awakens and nurtures activism as a Catholic form of spirituality.

Altogether, the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven with all its opportunities to talk and learn from each other was a huge success and definitively a good and much needed example for such a nurturing Catholic LGBT spirituality.

For further information of the Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church, read Marcin Dzierżanowski´s Article. Read also about the experience of a young pilgrim in the WYD in Eros Shaw´s Chronicle.

HuK_smallSince its foundation in 1977, the Eucumenical Working Group Homosexuelle und Kirche (Homosexuals and Church) has been working for full participation of LGBTQ in social and church life. As a community of witnesses of the liberating biblical message, it campaigns for the abolition of prejudices and discrimination against LGBTQ in churches, for the full professional equality with cisidentic heterosexual men and women, against discrimination against HIV-positive people and AIDS patients, for spaces for LGBTQ spirituality, and for the recognition of Christians in the LGBTQ community.

logo-efThe European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is an ecumenical umbrella organisation of 46 member groups. It was initiated in 1982 by the French Catholic priest Emile Letertre. The Forum started only with gay Christian groups. Since the end of the 1990s, lesbian women become very active in the Forum and the name was changed to “lesbian and gay Christian groups”. Now the European Forum recognizes bisexual and transgender Christians in its name, as well.

GNRC WYD Special – Part I : Better Climate around LGBT in the Polish Church

wyd-logo-2016-krakowWithout any spectacular breakthrough, the World Youth Day still brought a tangible climate change over the presence of LGBTI in the Polish Church

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By Marcin Dzierżanowski – Polish journalist, activist of Polish Christian LGBTQ Group Wiara i Tęcza (Faith and Rainbow).

 

“Pope Francis preaches the Gospel, and the Gospel is for everyone. The World Youth Day is an open formula, homosexuals are also invited to take part”, stated Fr Piotr Studnicki, the spokesperson for Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, several days before the Pope’s arrival to Poland. Cardinal Dziwisz, long-time closest associate of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican and Metropolitan of Krakow after the Pope’s death, holds a special place in Poland. It is thanks to his efforts Krakow became the host city for the World Youth Day 2016.

It is little wonder therefore that the words of Cardinal Dziwisz’s spokesperson spread like a wildfire through the whole media world of Poland. In Poland, the statement that would have not caused so much stir in Western Europe or the US, came as a bombshell. Until now, the Polish hierarchs have not spoken of LGBT in a positive way or have acknowledged the presence of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders among the faithful children of the Church. Quite the contrary, the last several years have seen a series of exceptionally unfavourable declarations of the Church’s representatives regarding LGBT, in most cases framed in the context of fighting the so-called ‘gender ideology.’ . Unfriendly atmosphere in the Church is amplified by the unhealthy political climate. In terms of legal status of LGBT, Poland seems to be stuck right in the middle between East and West of Europe. While LGBT organisations have been operating freely, there is still no legal recognition of same-sex unions. Situation is aggravated by late last year’s assumption of power by the right wing resorting to national-Catholic rhetoric.

Against such background, any form of inviting or welcoming homosexuals at the World Youth Day by the Polish Church seems to be a glimmer of hope. Undoubtedly, this results from the work of the Wiara i Tęcza (Faith and Rainbow) Group of Polish LGBTQ Christians that has been actively advocating for the improvement of the situation of LGBT in the Church in Poland since the announcement of the Family Synod by Pope Francis. One of the aspects of that activity was gathering responses of some 130 Catholic LGBT from all over Poland regarding their situation in the Church. A summary of these responses was delivered to the representatives of the Polish Episcopate. Members of Faith and Rainbow have also met several bishops, including the aforementioned Cardinal Dziwisz and his two auxiliary bishops. One of those hierarchs was Bishop Damian Muskus, the general coordinator of the preparations for the World Youth Day in Krakow.

That meeting had to do in particular with the preparations for the major youth event. At the initiative of Faith and Rainbow together with the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, an LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven opened during the WYD. Over several days in one of Krakow’s cafes, volunteers hosted an informational and pastoral point where homosexual, bisexual and transgender pilgrims could pray together, watch the broadcasts of the central celebrations with the Pope and share their life experiences. The programme included meetings with priests and psychologists, workshops, discussions, movie screenings and worship, both Catholic and ecumenical. Special guests of Haven were pastor Jim Mulcahy, Eastern Europe coordinator for the U.S.-based Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, Brendon Fay, human rights activist and filmmaker from New York and dr Michael Brinkschröder, catholic theologist and sociologist from Munich, activist of the “European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups”.

“World Youth Days gather people every couple of years in one of the world’s major cities. Until now, the only WYD where a safe space initiative for LGBT pilgrims was organised was Cologne 2005. We thought it would be a good idea to do something similar in Poland”, explains Misha Cherniak, one of the project’s coordinators. “Bp Damian Muskus was informed of our plans and noted them in a friendly manner. Yet, as he advised us, there was no chance of including our project into the official WYD programme”.

“Over the six days of the Haven’s operation, we have had between 50 and 60 visitors”, says Artur Barbara Kapturkiewicz, one of the co-founders of Faith and Rainbow who was also actively involved in the Haven project. “We were very happy to see so many quite young pilgrims. For many of them this was the first occasion to share their problems of reconciling their faith and being an LGBT person. Besides Poles, we have welcomed pilgrims from Germany, England, Russia, China and Canada. Our visitors were particularly interested in the lecture on the non-discriminating reading of the Scripture or the workshop on Divine Mercy. We also celebrated the Eucharist together”, says Artur Kapturkiewicz. “We have enjoyed the pastoral care of friendly Roman Catholic priests and ministers of other Christian denominations”, he adds.

Unfortunately, the expectations of some in the LGBT community that the Pope would apologise for the sins against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders never materialised. Even though he spoke extensively of excluded and marginalised persons, he failed to mention LGBT explicitly. Yet, in his last homily speaking of Zacchaeus he noted three barriers that a believer has to overcome on the way to Christ. These words are remarkably relevant for LGBT.

The first of these obstacles is smallness of stature. The Pope said that sometimes “we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy”. The second obstacle is shame. Zacchaeus “knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughingstock to all.  Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful”. The third and the final obstacle that the Pope listed was the resistance of the people around Christ. “It was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him: How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner!”, said the Pope.

For the Faith and Rainbow Group of Polish LGBT Christians, the experience of the World Youth Day and the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven open during the WYD was in fact an act of surmounting that third barrier. Judging by the high interest that the pilgrims and the media took in the project and by the generally positive tone of most of ecclesial commentators, Faith and Rainbow overcame this challenge quite successfully.

For further information of the LGBT Pilgrim’s Haven activities, read Michael Brinkschroeder´s Article. Read also about the experience of a young pilgrim in the WYD in Eros Shaw´s Chronicle.

WiT_smallWiara i Tecza (Faith and Rainbow) is a group of Polish LGBTQ Christians, their families and friends. Changing awareness inside church, WiT works for increasing tolerance—and thereafter acceptance—in the entire society, as well as for supporting kindness among people. Most of the members are of Roman Catholic denomination, but WiT welcomes Christians of any denomination—in ecumenical spirit. WiT also invites people, who are in search of their faith, who are agnostic or atheists, for community and dialogue.