Gay catholics: Opportunity in pope's resignation

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The nation's largest LGBT Catholic group on Feb. 11 encouraged cardinals who will elect the next pope to select someone who will be a shepherd to "all of God's people." The request followed news that Pope Benedict XVI is retiring this month due to health concerns.

DignityUSA, in a statement, said, "Like all Catholics, we appreciate that Pope Benedict put the needs of the Church first in determining he is no longer able to meet the demands of his position. We wish him a peaceful retirement."

Vatican officials have said the conclave of cardinals that will elect the next pope likely will meet in mid-March and should name a successor to Benedict before Easter.

DignityUSA said, "At this time of significant transition, we hope that the cardinals who will elect the new pope take time to listen to the people of the church, and that they hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling for a pope who will be a shepherd to all of God’s people. We hope for a leader who will work to heal the divisions of recent decades, and who values dialogue above conformity."

Benedict, whose election in 2005 was opposed by liberal Catholics, has been an anti-gay leader who has said that the marriages of same-sex couples threaten world peace and humanity.

Dignity stated, "As members of the church who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, as well as family members and allies, we call on the cardinals and the new pope to enter into a true dialogue with our community. We call for an end to statements that inflict harm on already marginalized people, depict us as less than fully human, and lend credence to those seeking to justify discrimination. We call on our church not only to embrace but to champion the dignity and equality of all humans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"We call on all members and friends of DignityUSA to enter into a period of prayer and reflection as we prepare for the conclave."

Another LGBT Catholic group, Equally Blessed, said, "We join with Catholics around the world who are grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.

"With the pope’s impending resignation, the church has an opportunity to turn away from his oppressive policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, and their families and friends, and develop a new understanding of the ways in which God is at work in the lives of faithful and loving people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."