Friday, December 23, 2005

New Papal Nuncio causes issues with U.S. gay community

(from a gay community website....so be warned....)

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed a veteran Vatican diplomat to be the ambassador, or nuncio, to the United States, stirring some disappointment in the U.S. LGBT community.
The Vatican announced the new assignment for Archbishop Pietro Sambi last week. Sambi, a 67-year-old Italian, had been the Vatican's representative in Israel and Palestine, where he helped organize the Holy Land visit by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
As nuncio, Sambi will represent the Vatican and the church hierarchy to the U.S. government. He will also participate in the appointment of bishops, archbishops and cardinals in the United States.
Sambi replaces Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, who served as the U.S. nuncio since 1998.
Bishop William S. Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the pope has "honored the (U.S.) church" with the appointment.
But the choice is causing concern for some gay Catholics and non-Catholics alike. As nuncio in Israel, Sambi was involved in talks on a "variety of controversial issues" between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to the Catholic News Service. In March, he participated in a coordinated effort by Jewish, Christian and Muslim clerics in Jerusalem to oppose an international Gay Pride event, WorldPride, scheduled to take place in the city in summer 2005. It was later postponed to 2006.
On Tuesday, a senior rabbi at New York's oldest synagogue for LGBT Jews voiced dismay at Sambi's appointment.
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, who is the North American co-chairwoman for WorldPride, said it "affirms the church hierarchy's willingness to target our community for persecution and derision within the Catholic Church and align itself with other anti-gay religious extremists."
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which serves LGBT Catholics, called the WorldPride incident a "disappointing" feature in Sambi's background. However, he said he hoped Sambi would represent the pope in a more pastoral role, despite the pontiff's reputation for orthodoxy.
"It would be great if Sambi would act as a true servant, listening to the turmoil that exists in the U.S. church on many issues -- gay and lesbian rights in particular," he told the PlanetOut Network. "The Catholic Church here in the United States needs a papal nuncio who is a listener, healer, reconciler."
Many gay Catholics were troubled and hurt by a Vatican document released last month that directs seminaries to exclude gay candidates for the priesthood unless they have "overcome" their homosexuality. The instruction was widely criticized by gay rights groups and gay clergy, with some priests resigning in protest.
Sambi's role will also be political, as DeBernardo noted.
"I hope that Sambi will delve into the Catholic Church's rich tradition of social justice teaching to challenge the Bush administration's policies of conducting an unjust and illegitimate war in Iraq, and the policies of disregarding human and civil rights here and abroad," he said.

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