Catholics to celebrate their queer saints

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The Feast of All Saints will be marked in an unusual way by London’s LGBT Catholics next month.

At a Mass to celebrate the feast day, organised by Soho Masses Pastoral Council, prayers will be said to mark “those Saints in the Catholic Church calendar who have a special place in LGBT history.”

They will also remember the ‘unknown saints’ who have died of AIDS and whose names are recorded in the Catholic AIDS Memorial Book.

Masses are regularly held at a Soho Catholic church, specifically to welcome LGBT people.

Among the “Queer Saints” that will be remembered at the Mass are:

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Roman soldiers who enjoyed a close relationship, and Saints Felicity and Perpetua – two closely united women saints – all from the early days of the Church.

According to the website of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch in Richmond, Virginia:

“Recent attention to early Greek manuscripts has revealed that Sergius and Bacchus were openly gay men and that they were erastai, or lovers.

“After their arrest, the two saints were paraded through city streets in women’s clothing, treatment that was meant to humiliate them as officers in the Roman army. They were then separated and each was tortured.

“Bacchus died first and appeared that night to Sergius, who was beginning to lose heart. According to the early manuscripts, Bacchus told Sergius to persevere, that the delights of heaven were greater than any suffering, and that part of their reward would be to be re-united in heaven as lovers.”

John Henry Newman, the 19th century Cardinal buried with his close friend, Father Ambrose St. John, and the medieval Yorkshire monk, St. Aelred of Rievaulx, who wrote profoundly about friendship and relationships, will also be remembered.

The Mass will take place at 17.00 in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St. Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho, W1B 5NB.

The Soho Masses Schola will sing the Missa O quam gloriosum by the Spanish renaissance composer, Luis de Victoria.

All are welcome to attend the Mass for LGBT Catholics, parents, families and friends.

The Soho Masses Pastoral Council is an elected group of Catholics responsible for organising masses in the Soho area.

In February 2007 it gained permission from Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, to hold Masses and give pastoral care to LGBT Catholics.

The diocese of Westminster pointed out in a statement that the decision did not contradict Church teaching which argues that homosexual practice is a sin.

“This full and active participation takes place within the context of the wider Church and specifically within existing parish structures and pastoral services, always of course in accordance with the Church’s teaching and liturgical norms.

“In seeking to meet these pastoral needs there would be no attempt to create separate congregations and exclusive services out of step with the Church’s teaching.”