On August 3rd, 2023, during the World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, a significant event took place that underscored the existing challenges and signaled progress in the journey towards the inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics in the church. A special Mass was organized by many members of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) and a local Portuguese LGBTQ Catholic group, and aimed to offer an inclusive worship space for all, aligning with Pope Francis’s message that the church should be a home for everyone.

The Mass, unfortunately, met with opposition. A group of ultra-traditionalist Catholics disrupted the service with loud prayers and chants. The protesters, motivated by a deep-seated and misguided ideology, targeted this inclusive event under the false belief that Jesuit Fr. James Martin, a prominent LGBTQ Catholic advocate, would be present.

However, their disruption was met with steadfast resolve. The police, who had been alerted of a potential disturbance, escorted the protesters out of the church, allowing the Mass to continue. This incident highlights the ongoing obstacles that LGBTQ Catholics face in practicing their faith freely. Yet, it also serves as a testament to the resilience of our community and the unyielding commitment to promote inclusion and love within the Catholic Church.

Fr. James Alison, one of the concelebrants of the Mass and a noted British theologian, emphasized his compassion for the protesters, citing the influence of detrimental ideologies that sow hatred and discord. Instead of responding with animosity, he expressed his sorrow for the protesters, who, in his view, seemed trapped in a “weird, alienated world.”

This incident occurred on the same day as Pope Francis emphasized, in three speeches, that everyone has a place in the Catholic Church. This affirmation from the Holy Father signals a clear alignment with the aims of the GNRC and our commitment to creating a welcoming space for LGBTQ Catholics.

While the Catholic Church has a complex history with LGBTQ issues, Pope Francis has made strides toward greater inclusion. He has continually affirmed the inherent worth and dignity of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, while also advocating for their inclusion in the church.

As we move forward, the GNRC remains committed to fostering understanding, acceptance, and love within the Catholic community. We are heartened by Pope Francis’s messages of inclusion, and we continue to strive to make these words a reality for LGBTQ Catholics worldwide. Our resolve is only strengthened by such adversity, and we look forward to continuing our mission to ensure that the Church truly is a home for everyone.

The incident in Lisbon is a clear reminder of the work that lies ahead. We are called to shine a light on exclusion, foster dialogue, and affirm that all are indeed welcome in the house of God. As Pope Francis himself reflected, “They are daughters of God!” – a statement that serves as a beacon of hope and love for all LGBTQ Catholics.