Ireland’s gay leader Leo Varadkar will raise LGBT rights with Pope Francis

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he will raise LGBT+ rights with Pope Francis on his upcoming visit to the country.

The Pope is set to visit Ireland from August 25-26 to attend the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic event that has attracted controversy in the country due to its alleged exclusion of the LGBT community.

Several Catholic LGBT groups have come forward to allege that they are being deliberately blocked from participating in the event, while materials referring to same-sex couples were removed from a pamphlet ahead of the conference.

Pope Francis (TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty)

But Leo Varadkar, one of the few openly gay world leaders, has said that he will not pass up the opportunity to raise LGBT+ rights with the Pope.

He told the media: “I’m really glad the Pope is visiting Ireland, the visit is very welcome… you can see the huge interest from the general public.

“I’m not sure exactly what the detail of my interaction with him is going to be.

“[Our meeting at] Dublin Castle may be very short but, first of all, I will want to welcome him to Ireland and, if the opportunity arises, I will certainly want to express to him the real concerns Irish people have.”

In addition to sexual abuse scandals, Varadkar said he would “[share] our views in society and the government’s view that families come in all sorts of different forms and that includes families led by same-sex parents, and one-parent families as well.”

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty)

Pro-LGBT Catholic group We Are Church Ireland and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics both alleged this month that their applications for an exhibit booth at the World Meeting of Families were blocked, illustrating the Church’s apparent desire to exclude LGBT Catholics from the “families” conference.

Ruby Almeida, Co Chair of GNRC, said: “Attempts to get a response about our exhibit booth from World Meeting of Families officials have been very frustrating.

“We feel completely ignored. It was our hope that we could provide support to our fellow Catholics who have LGBTI family members.

“Many families have questions about how to best support gay and transgender family members, what the Church really teaches about us, and how and why we choose to remain Catholics.

“Our hope was to provide a place where these families can have honest conversations with people who have dealt with the same questions, to provide them resources, and to help them connect with people in their own countries who might be able to provide ongoing support. We have much to offer to them, as well as to Church leaders responsible for ministering to all kinds of families.”

Pope Francis (ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty)

Almeida continued: “Due to the delay and the repeated refusal of those in charge to give us an approval, it is no longer practical for us to do this outreach.

“People needed to schedule time off from work and to arrange travel. The foot-dragging means that we will not be able to provide support to our fellow Catholics through an outreach booth at World Meeting of Families.”

Christopher Vella, Co-Chair of GNRC, added: “The reality is that LGBTI people and families are part of the Church.

“There are millions of Catholics who are LGBTI, and hundreds of millions who have LGBTI family members.

“They deserve effective ministry and pastoral care, just like everyone else in our Church. Church officials don’t have all the answers—many have questions themselves. We are willing to be a resource for these families and for Church leaders. It is tragic that our assistance and expertise are not welcomed with enthusiasm.”

Vella added: “This seems to follow a historical pattern of editing-out LGBTI voices and Catholic LGBTI stories, the faith-filled voices of our loving Catholic families and affirming church communities.

“We believe that officials at the World Meeting of Families did not want to deal with further controversy related to the inclusion of Catholic LGBTI realities.

“Rather than face the fallout from a decision, they stalled and ignored our request. This lack of consideration for the needs of potential attendees has inconvenienced and frustrated us. We expect better of our Church.”

The group has written to Rev. Tim Bartlett, the head of the World Meeting of Families 2018 planning team, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, and Cardinal Kevin Farrell, President of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

We Are Church Ireland also went public to allege that the group is “being refused an exhibition stand” at the event “because WAC Ireland stands for the full equality of Women and LGBTQI people.”

We Are Church Ireland said: “Almost fortnightly, we have rung the WMoF inquiring about the status of our application. The constant reply has been: ‘Yes, we received your application but it is on hold’.

“Upon inquiring as to when a decision on our application would be made we were told that it was up to those at the executive level to inform us.

“The lack of the most basic courtesy in dealing with our application, made in good faith, shows a serious lack of respect to WAC Ireland and is a total contradiction to the advertised ‘all are welcome’ inclusivity of the WMoF, which continues with its stealth tactics used already against gay people by erasing pictures of LGBTQI couples from its official brochure earlier this year.”

Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he leaves St. Peter’s Square at the the end of Palm Sunday Mass on. (Franco Origlia/Getty)The group spokesperson Brendan Butler added: “This refusal by the WMoF to engage with We Are Church Ireland and in effect to reject our application shows a closed and exclusive mentality which contradicts Pope Francis’s constant calls for dialogue in the Catholic Church.”

Organisers have not responded to any of the the allegations.

Earlier this year Varadkar expressed a “hope” that LGBT families would also be celebrated at the event.

He said: “The Government is very much of the view that there are many different types of families and that all types should be celebrated, including the traditional nuclear family with the man married to the woman with children, but also one-parent families, families led by grandparents, and families led by same-sex couples.

“We will make it known in our meetings with the organisers that in line with our commitment to personal liberty and equality before the law, the Government’s view is that families in all their forms should be celebrated.”

His comments were supported by Ireland’s former President Mary McAleese, a devout Catholic and a strong advocate for LGBT rights.