Quest Chair Meets Close Papal Advisor, Cardinal Gracias!

Last year, the chair of Quest, Ruby Almeida, had constructive meetings with Cardinal (then Archbishop) Vincent Nichols of Westminster, and separately, with Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel & Brighton. This year, she went one step further, one rung higher in the ladder of the Catholic hierarchy. During a personal visit to India, she was able to secure a meeting with  Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, who is President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Secretary General of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

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Ruby Almeida with Cardinal Oswald Gracias

In her chair’s report to the latest Quest committee meeting, Ruby had this to say about this notable meeting:

Even more importantly, Cardinal Garcias is one of the group of eight cardinals chosen by Pope Francis soon after his election last year, to act as a body of close advisors – in effect, a kind of papal cabinet. It is the deliberations of this group, meeting regularly with Pope Francis, that has been the driving force behind so many of the notable reform initiatives coming out of the Vatican over the last year (most notably, the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family that will take place in Rome later this year. For more information on how Quest and that Synod – watch this space). If she continues her trajectory up the ranks of Catholic hierarchy, Ruby’s next meeting will have to be with – Pope Francis himself!

On a recent trip to India, I took  some of our new Quest leaflets when I met with a group of local lgbts. We had an in depth discussion about the reality of their lives under a colonial law that does not recognise their rights as Indian citizens. A few individuals were keen to try and set up something similar to Quest, to act as contact point for social and pastoral support for lgbts. Whilst there I was also able to organise a meeting with Cardinal Oswald Gracias who is one of the Group of Eight Cardinals to help reform the Church. I took along a young gay man who is actively involved in lgbt issues there and is also an organiser for Pride in Mumbai. ! ! The Cardinal was very welcoming and interested in the problems that Catholic lgbts face in India. He was honest enough to say that he was not aware of the difficulties and pain that they suffered as he isolated from grass roots issues and only aware of what he is informed of by his advisers. I suggested to him that if he could appoint a priest as a point of contact for the gay community, so that their needs could be addressed and a level of support could be made available. The possibility of a Mass under the banner of ‘all are welcome’ was also something in which Cardinal Gracias showed an interest, and the hope is that this could be the start of something positive for the Catholic gay community there.

What excites me about this meeting, is simply that it took place, and that we’ve had an attentive hearing from a man so close to the pope, and who will surely be influential in the synod on marriage and family.

What disappoints me (but doesn’t surprise me) is that he confessed to knowing so little about the real hardships faced by ordinary gay and lesbian people, as he is “removed from grassroots issues”. That is precisely the problem with the Catholic cardinals and bishops as a group  they are necessarily far removed from real life issues at the coal face, especially those concerning sex, marriage and family – and yet they continue to pontificate to the rest of us on issues of which they are largely ignorant.

That is why we must continue to speak up about these issues ourselves, and seek to present them directly to the bishops and other Church leaders wherever and whenever we can.

This meeting of Ruby with a man so close to Pope Francis is of immense importance for the global LGBT Catholic community, as shown by the response from the USA by Frank DeBenardo, director of New Ways Ministry, and Sr Jeannine Gramick, who together with Fr Robert Nugent founded New Ways nearly forty years ago.

After I published a version of this report last night at Queering the Church, I wrote to Frank to tell him the good news, including a link to my post, and a question:

I think this is huge – to meet, and find a sympathetic hearing, with a man just one rung beneath Pope Francis himself.
What do you think?
His response was unambiguous. His first response came almost immediately

Yes! This is amazing! I will post about it on Monday (I have the second part of a series scheduled for tomorrow) and give you full credit for this wonderful news!

Thanks so much, Terry

Frank

Followed a few minutes later, with this:

On second thought, this news is too good to hold onto. I’m going to post about it right now. You can’t believe how happy and excited your news has made me!

Then, true to his word –

British Catholic Lesbian Leader Meets with Close Papal Advisor

This morning, I saw a facebook by Sr Jeannine, in which she describes this as nothing less than “the best news she has seen in a LONG time”!

We can be truly proud of Ruby, and deeply grateful for her initiative.

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