For the first time, the Vatican has welcomed a prominent American Catholic group with VIP treatment to an audience with Pope Francis.
New Ways Ministry ministers to gay Catholics and promotes gay rights in the Church. Before, it had made pilgrimages to the Vatican before but were ignored under previous popes. This visit, however, saw a change, however small.
“This is a sign of movement that’s due to the Francis effect,” said Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry.
Gramick and executive director Francis DeBernardo led a pilgrimage of 50 gay Catholics to the audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday.
They told Reuters that, previously, they had been ignored when Popes Benedict and John Paul were in power.
This time, however, they were invited to sit in a front VIP section with dignitaries and special Catholic groups for Pope Francis’ general audience.
A list of participants released by the Vatican referred to New Ways Ministry as “a group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loretto”.
When a Vatican monsignor read out the list of the different groups of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, he skipped over the group completely.
“We didn’t get the shout-out, but we were very, very close,” DeBernardo said.
“Pope Francis gives me hope,” Gramick told The Associated Press. “To me, this is an example of the kind of willingness he has to welcome those on the fringes of the church back to the center of the church.”
© 2015 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.