Britain's largest lesbian and gay Christian organisation has urged critics of the Pope to disagree with respect during his upcoming visit.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) has issued a statement clarifying its position in advance of the pontiff's highly publicised four-day tour in September 2010.
"LGCM is an ecumenical organisation and consequently has a large number of members who are Catholic and whose beliefs and traditions we honour and respect," says the statement.
It continues: "Although we appreciate that many people, both Catholic and Protestant, have issues regarding the forthcoming visit by the Pope, we also recognise that many LGBT Catholics are loyal to the Pope as their leader and having him in the UK is an occasion for celebration.
"The Pope holds a unique position in being both the head of the Catholic Church and also a head of State.
"In the past few years there have been a number of communications from the Pope and the Vatican that LGCM has felt the need to challenge. We make no secret of the fact that we do not agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexual orientation and consequently LGCM has spoken out regarding these issues. The Vatican has also been vociferous in its opposition to LGBT rights and equality legislation in the UK, all of which is particularly offensive to LGCM including our Catholic members.
"Cardinal Newman, whose beatification by the Pope should be the highlight of the visit, offered to drink a toast to the Pope – but to conscience first, and the Pope second. We agree completely. Therefore whilst we wish for the Pope to recognise the effect of his statements on the lives of real people and will continue to challenge anything that is in opposition to our Statement of Conviction, we hope and pray that our members will be blessed by his visit," the statement concluded.
The Protest the Pope coalition of secularist groups has opposed the trip and promised noisy protests, but many progressive Christians believe that this is unhelpful and counter-productive.
More about LGCM: www.lgcm.org.uk/