Gay couples must be made welcome at World Meeting of Families, insists bishop
Gay couples must be made welcome at next year's World Meeting of Families in Ireland, the Catholic Bishop of Limerick has said.
Bishop Brendan Leahy is the first Catholic bishop to publicly reach out to families of all hues, including those of same-sex couples.
The Catholic Church condemns homosexual acts as gravely immoral, but it also says LGBT people must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity and that any discrimination must be condemned.
However, it teaches marriage can only be between a man and a woman and believes same-sex unions are an unfavourable environment for the bringing-up of children.
The Church argues the legalisation of such unions is harmful to society. In 2015, the Irish hierarchy opposed the referendum on the legalisation same-sex marriage.
However, speaking after his diocese launched its preparation programme for WMF2018, an international event which promotes traditional Catholic teaching on marriage, Dr Leahy said the event in August 2018 in Dublin would be a missed opportunity if the Church did not embrace family in all its variety.
"We are living in changing times and family too is changing," he said.
"We've had the referendum in favour of same-sex marriage and a lot of people voted in that referendum and all are equally welcome to join in this celebration of family.
"Everyone must be made feel welcome next year. We all want to build a good family network of support in Ireland at all levels."
Describing the World Meeting of Families as the most important gathering in Ireland for decades, he said: "It's an international event but it will have special meaning for us as Irish people because family means so much here."
Stating that the family is at Irish people's very core, he added: "It anchors us in life, defines us. It's comfort when we are in difficulty and the first place to go to celebrate.
"The World Meeting of Family is a major celebration of this."
Bishop Leahy said he was delighted by "the coming together of the full diversity of family".
"My hope for next year's event is that it will be for all families; for the traditional family, single parents, people in second relationships, people divorced and remarried, people of great faith and no faith, people of other faiths, people who agree with the Church and those who disagree."
The World Meeting of Families is held every three years by the Catholic Church at different international locations and Dublin was specifically chosen by Pope Francis for the event from August 21-26 2018.
Thousands of families from all over the world are expected to descend on Ireland for the gathering, which has been themed 'The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World' and will focus on the Pope's document on family and marriage, 'Amoris Laetitia'.
WMF2018 will incorporate a three-day congress of keynote speakers and workshops on the challenges and contribution of families.
It will culminate in a Festival of Families on Saturday, August 25.