Pope's visit must not exclude gay Catholics, says McAleese
Former President Mary McAleese said she was concerned the Pope's visit would see the LGBT community marginalised after images of same-sex couples were removed from a booklet sent to parishes.
The Pope is expected to visit Ireland during the World Meeting of Families (WMF) event in Dublin in August.
But it has emerged that the WMF office in Dublin removed an image of a same-sex couple from a booklet on the family - the new edition of 'Amoris: Let's talk Family! Let's be Family!'
Originally, the pamphlet, which was issued by Catholic publisher Veritas, contained a photo of a same-sex couple on page 24 and a paragraph reminding readers that "other unions exist which provide mutual support to the couple".
However, the new edition no longer contains the image.
In all, six images which could be interpreted as a gay couple have been replaced in the new edition of the booklet by images of families involving a father, mother and children.
It is believed the changes were made in response to lobbying by readers of the conservative Catholic website LifeSiteNews, which accused the original booklet of an "explicit promotion of homosexual relationships as a form of family".
The Irish Independent contacted publishers Veritas.
Spokesman Aidan Chester said the Amoris programme was produced by the organising committee of the World Meeting of Families and that queries relating to its content should be directed to that office.
A spokesperson for the WMF office did not explain to the Irish Independent why the images had been changed but said the event "has always been understood as a meeting open to all. This remains the position of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin."
However, Ms McAleese said the move was disappointing.
She said Ireland had a unique opportunity as host of the World Meeting of Families 2018 to make it a fully inclusive and welcoming event "for all God's children" and in particular those whom the Church has in the past contributed to marginalising and excluding.
"How can LGBT families feel welcome when the very images of their existence are expunged from the literature as if they somehow contaminate it? If you cannot be visible, can you be counted?" Catholic theologian Angela Hanley challenged.
She said restoring the original photographs in the booklet would be the only action that would have any meaning.
Ms McAleese told the Irish Independent that "the history of the event" shows that it doesn't bode well in terms of being a "meeting open to all".
"For example, LGBTI Catholics and their families who in good faith attended the 2015 meeting held in Philadelphia have reported that they experienced traumatising hostility.
"Ireland can and hopefully will do better than that," she said.
Nuala Ward, a former board member of the Amach! LGBT group in Galway, said she was "once again shocked and disheartened with the Catholic Church in Ireland".
"Shocked at the absence of awareness of the far-reaching negative impact the actions of the Catholic Church have on their followers. Disheartened that this dwindling element continue to condemn its followers to maintain a 'head in the sand' position which denies the reality of family life."
She called for "a meaningful and overdue conversation" by the Church.