Short report on the WYD project of Wiara i Tęcza, Krakow

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Short report on the WYD project of Wiara i Tęcza, Krakow

Poslaťod h111 » 24 Sep 2016, 13:08

On 26–31 July 2016, the Roman Catholic Church organised its event known as the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. Thanks to the change of tone of the Church's voice when speaking about LGBT people that has become tangible during the pontificate of Pope Francis, Faith and Rainbow, Polish Group of LGBT Christians, with the support of the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups, decided to organise a safe space during the international youth celebration. We understood that by mere statistics among the millions of participants of the event, there would be at least several thousand identifying themselves as LGBT or at least having questions regarding their sexuality. We felt called to provide these pilgrims with a place where they could be themselves and share their joys or troubles. An attempt was made to include the point in the official programme of the World Youth Day, but the Church officials declined. However, several meetings with those bishops (including Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz) happened in a friendly atmosphere, and in later press comments their representative confirmed the fact of the meetings and said that the World Youth Day formula is open to everybody, and ‘homosexuals are welcome at the event.’
The LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven was hosted by Ogniwo Social Café in Kazimierz, Krakow’s historically Jewish district. For six days volunteers from Faith and Rainbow, along with guests and friends from the US, Ukraine, and Germany, lay and ordained, welcomed pilgrims, engaged them in conversations, and supported them with psychological assistance and pastoral care. Our aim was to provide a safe space for everyone involved. In this, we were also strongly supported by the local police who kept the watch by our point to prevent any possible provocations or attacks.
The point’s programme offered workshops and lectures. Topics included the Divine Mercy, knowing oneself, talking to adversaries, Queer Catholic activism, Queer reading of the Bible, relations of LGBT people, etc. On Thursday, a Catholic mass was celebrated by a supportive Jesuit priest from France, on Friday the point welcomed an Ecumenical Eucharist celebrated by ministers of several churches. Three movies were screened during the week about various role models for LGBT Christians (Sr. Jeannine Grammick, Fr Mychal Judge and John McNeil). Central events of the World Youth Day were broadcasted to the point, allowing pilgrims who wished to avoid crowds and heat to still participate in the programme. According to our estimates, total of some 60 pilgrims passed through the Haven over these six days, which is a relatively high number, if one remembers that the information about the point was not made available to the pilgrims. Visitors of the Haven stressed how important for them was the fact that they can be welcomed as the are in the broader context of the Church. The Haven also attracted more than 40 media outlet representatives – both local and international, mostly very friendly, which allowed us to ride that wave and communicate our message quite widely.
There were certain expectations that Pope Francis would somehow comment on several open letters sent to him before the WYD regarding the homophobia and xenophobia of Polish society and Church or would take the opportunity to put his words about apologising to homosexuals into practice. Those expectations failed. However, his message of not being afraid of ‘others’ did contribute to the general opening of the Church. Especially, the words of his last sermon on Sunday 31 July became an encouragement for LGBT Christians. Basing on the example of Zacchaeus, the Pope invited the young people to follow Jesus despite their complexes and not feeling worthy, possible shame and, most importantly, the resistance of people around Christ. Our project, the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven, went precisely along these lines. It was a collective endeavour to help young LGBT Christians in following Jesus and experiencing God’s love just as they are, without shame or guilt, and despite the opposition of other believers. We praise God for being so obviously present and caring for us at the Haven. And we thank everyone who contribute to the work of the Haven. The next World Youth Day will happen in 2019 in Panama, and we would be happy to share our experience, along with that of the previous similar projects, to the team, probably an international one, that would undertake to host such point in three years in Latin America.
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