Last month Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark welcomed a pilgrimage of self-identified LGBT pilgrims, with an archdiocesan spokesman saying it should be seen in the context of welcoming everyone, not as archdiocese sponsorship of the event.
“I think that the central point that is missing from the majority of the media coverage and blog postings about this pilgrimage is that the cardinal was asked whether he might welcome a group of pilgrims who identify as LGBT. He said yes, we welcome all in the name of Christ," James Goodness, communications director for the Archdiocese of Newark, told CNA.
“This was not an event sponsored by the archdiocese, and we did not promote or advertise it," Goodness said. “It was a purely private event."
Some news coverage of the pilgrimage depicted it as a shift within the Church.
Cardinal Tobin did not concelebrate Mass or preach at the pilgrimage, which Goodness described as a private event.
“He simply offered a word of welcome as he would do for other groups of pilgrims," the spokesman said. “It is important to note that the cardinal feels very strongly that welcoming people is a first step in any relationship, and that, as Pope Francis says, we have to meet people and minister to them where they are."
The group included self-identified LGBT Catholics from around New York and New Jersey. The May 21 visit included a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart and a tour of the cathedral.
The cardinal greeted the group at the Newark cathedral. “I am Joseph, your brother," he said. “I am your brother, as a disciple of Jesus. I am your brother, as a sinner who finds mercy with the Lord."
“The word I use is ‘welcome’," Cardinal Tobin said in an interview before the Mass, the New York Times reports. “These are people that have not felt welcome in other places. My prayer for them is that they do. Today in the Catholic Church, we read a passage that says you have to be able to give a reason for your hope. And I’m praying that this pilgrimage for them, and really for the whole Church, is a reason for hope."
The cardinal said it was appropriate “to welcome people to come and pray and call them who they were. And later on, we can talk."
Goodness told CNA there is a chapter of Courage in the Newark archdiocese, which has been active “for many years."
Courage ministers to Catholics with same-sex attraction and their friends and family who want to live according to Catholic teaching.