During the World Meeting of Families, the Catholic conference before Pope Francis visits Philadelphia in September, dozens of panels and workshops will address a range of religious issues facing Catholic families, including one about gay issues: "Always Consider the Person: Homosexuality and the Family."
Meanwhile, a national coalition of gay and lesbian groups called Equally Blessed is planning its own program off-site, away from the Convention Center, about gender-identity issues. In the spring, the coalition had arranged to host a workshop and hospitality center for traveling Catholics at the church of St. John the Evangelist, two blocks from the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Last week, St. John's officials suddenly canceled.
"The pastor called our office and said he received a phone call from an official at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who said the archbishop had seen the brochure about the gender-identity workshop," said Francis DeBernardo, director of New Ways Ministry, a member of the coalition. "The pastor told us the archbishop wanted the program canceled."
The pastor of St. John the Evangelist, John Daya, could not be reached for comment.
Equally Blessed secured another location for its programs, the Arch Street United Methodist Church across the street from the Convention Center.
"St. John's told us they had a motto that 'all are welcome,' and I sincerely believe they wanted to welcome us," said DeBernardo. "It's sad there was so much pressure put on them to not have the program."
While Pope Francis has made gestures toward the gay community, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput has firmly stood behind the Vatican's official position of not condoning same-sex relationships.
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