The third LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pilgrimage to Rome ended yesterday, Sunday, 10 March 2019. On Ash Wednesday, the 16 pilgrims, including parents and family members, alongside LGBT_ Catholics with Pilgrimage Chaplain, Fr David Stewart SJ, attended the morning General Audience with Pope Francis in St Peter's Square. At the end of the Audience the group was invited to meet Pope Francis.
The Pilgrimage Leader, Martin Pendergast, a member of the LGBT+ Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, introduced the group to the Holy Father, explaining that they formed part of the LGBT+ pastoral ministry outreach of Westminster Diocese. Each pilgrim received a gift of a rosary from Pope Francis who shook hands with the group's members.
Later, on Ash Wednesday afternoon, the group was able to take part in Pope Francis' Mass and Imposition of Ashes in the Church of Santa Sabina. In the evening they was warmly welcomed at an Ecumenical Liturgy of the Word & Blessing of Ashes with English-speaking Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists, in the Church of St Ignatius.
The programme included a conversation with Rome-based journalists, Christopher Lamb (The Tablet) and Robert Mickens (La Croix International) giving their perspectives on Pope Francis' Church reform strategy, not least following the recent Vatican Sexual Abuse Summit. They were also addressed by the American moral theologian, Professor James Keenan SJ, on the Pope's response to the 2014/2015 Synods on Marriage & Family. He focused on Pope Francis' key-principles of 'accompaniment' and 'moral discernment' as vital considerations in addressing LGBT concerns.
The group celebrated Mass in the room where St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, died; and also in the Titular Church of Cardinal Vincent Nichols - The Most Holy Redeemer & St. Alphonsus. Cardinal Nichols' Pilgrimage
Morning Prayer, remembering victims of homophobia and transphobia was said in the St.Bartholomew-on-the-Tiber Church, which commemorates martyrs of our own times and is run by the San Egidio Community.
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