- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

ROME The Catholic Church yesterday began a fierce attack against global gay-pride celebrations in Rome, ordering a bishop not to attend a homosexual forum on religion and condemning what a senior theologian dubbed "gay ideology."

French Bishop Jacques Gaillot said Pope John Paul II had ordered him to drop plans to address the meeting, scheduled for today at a Rome hotel as part of a series of July 1-9 homosexual-pride events.

"Gaillot is very angry but will respect what the pope said," said Deborah Oakley-Melvin, a spokeswoman for World Gay Pride 2000.

Bishop Gaillot said at a press conference the Church "must be where it is needed; homosexuals have suffered countless discriminations."

"If the Church does not free people from oppression, what good is it for?" he asked.

Bishop Gaillot, a longtime church maverick, was removed from his diocese in the northern French town of Evreux five years ago for his unorthodox involvement in social and immigrant cases, but he has kept his functions as bishop, albeit without a diocese.

The papal ban was the latest move by the Vatican in its campaign to scuttle the weeklong homosexual-pride festival which coincides with the Vatican's Jubilee 2000 celebration the first of its kind in the Italian capital.

In clear opposition to the Vatican's anti-homosexual stand for the last five months, Bishop Gaillot said, "The Jubilee is the right place for dialogue and not for division."

"I obey the pope because I'm a man of the Church, but I regret [its position] because the Jubilee was a good opportunity."

He said the Church "has always had difficulties coming to terms with people's sexuality because it sees sex as a hidden and mysterious part of us."

Bishop Gaillot added that the Roman Catholic Church should "repent as far as homosexuality is concerned" because "men died because they were homosexual, not the least during Nazi deportation."

"We must ask for forgiveness," he said.

The Vatican should tell people, "We didn't expect you, but you are here and we will meet you as we are meeting the pilgrims" attending the yearlong Jubilee 2000 celebrations, added the bishop.

Pope John Paul II yesterday welcomed motorbikers, Polish pilgrims and athletes to Rome in his traditional Sunday prayer but did not mention the homosexual-pride event, for which organizers expect more than 200,000 people to converge on the city.

Vatican theologian Georges Cottier, a close aide to the pope, meanwhile reaffirmed the Catholic Church's condemnation of homosexuality in an interview with the daily newspaper Avvenire.

He said it was the Church's duty to reject homosexual acts without offending the individual.

"This event is not helpful in understanding the existing problems and the human tragedies," Mr. Cottier said, adding the difficulties arising from World Pride 2000 in Rome were due to a "gay ideology" which consisted in "a string of demands, some of which are justified, others not."

He said individuals deserve respect and recognition, but condemned legal unions similar to marriage.

Marco De Ponte, Amnesty Italia deputy chief, said homosexuals still faced punishment in Austria and Romania which continue to have anti-gay laws.

"Thousands of lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transexuals are killed, raped, attacked, sentenced to death, tortured, deprived of their freedom and forced to undergo medical treatment to straighten their sexuality" throughout the world, Mr. De Ponte said.

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