Church Is Not Homophobic, Affirms Prelate

Expresses Support for Pope Amid Ongoing Slander

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Accusations that the Church is homophobic are "simply ideological and false," says Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco.



Archbishop Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference, made this statement Monday during the inauguration of the 57th Assembly of Italian bishops in Rome, being held in the Vatican through Friday. The archbishop has recently received threats for upholding the definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

Archbishop Bagnasco said: "It is certainly unpleasant that accusations of homophobia are sometimes hurled at the Church and its members.

"We calmly say that this criticism is simply ideological and false, and contrary to the spirit and practice of total acceptance of all people."

Archbishop Bagnasco, responding to criticism directed at Benedict XVI, said: "I would like to express to the Pope the heartfelt closeness of the Italian bishops' conference for the superficial slanders made against him."

Serving joy

Archbishop Bagnasco, serving as chairman of the bishops' meeting for the first time, explained the mission of the conference: "It is Christ and his Gospel that urges us on, nothing else.

"We proclaim him as the measure of our humanity, not to reveal weaknesses or underline defeats, but to show obedience. That is essential, first and foremost, for us as bishops and promoters of true freedom for all."

"When we appeal to consciences," continued Archbishop Bagnasco, "it is not in order to be intrusive, but to call people back to those things without which each person would lose their bearings, especially for those less fortunate."

"Our words contain no hidden meanings," underlined the archbishop. "With the utmost transparency we are at the service of joy."

"We do not see a sad people, hollowed out by nihilism and tempted by decadence. We see a people who are alive, capable of renewing themselves through their own resources and discipline, able to lead their young people, able to speak credibly in an international assembly."