The Pope refused to attend a Catholic International Women’s Day event and the Vatican refused to host it – because one of the speakers is a lesbian.
The annual Voices of Faith conference, which features Catholic women from across the world, is traditionally held at the Vatican on International Women’s Day.
However, this year’s event was spurned by Catholic officials, who took exception to the list of speakers – which included Ugandan lesbian Catholic Ssenfuka Joanita Warry, as well as academic Tina Beattie, who has challenged the Church’s anti-LGBT rhetoric.
According to the BBC, this year’s meeting is instead taking place today in the headquarters of the Jesuit religious order, across the road from Vatican City.
Pope Francis declined to attend the meeting, and refused to hold a Mass for those attending.
Mary McAleese, the former President of Ireland, hit out at homophobia and misogyny within the Church.
She said: “A Church that is homophobic and anti-abortion is not the church of the future.”
“The Catholic Church is one of the last great bastions of misogyny. It’s an empire of misogyny.”
“Our voices stir the winds of change, so we must speak out. We don’t want to be what the Pope describes as ‘the strawberry on the cake.’”
McAleese has been a prominent and outspoken supporter of LGBT equality. Her son Justin McAleese is gay.
A release for the event had said: “Warry understands the tragedy that can happen when the Church excludes persecuted groups rather than joining them in seeking protection, dignity and justice.
“As a lesbian Catholic woman she leads the fight for LGBT rights in Uganda, a country where same-sex relations are punishable by life in prison.”
It added: “We live in times marked by change, but there are places where gender equality is being systematically overlooked. The Catholic Church is one of them.
“The crises we must confront in our world today demand leaders, women and men, who are prepared to think the unthinkable and who will risk upsetting powerful vested interests and take bold steps forward for the greater good.
“The event brings Catholic women from across the globe to share their experiences and create dialogue with leaders at the headquarters of the Catholic Church on gender equality, inclusion and leadership.”
McAleese added: “God gave us two wings so that humanity could soar to great heights and feel the power and see the beauty of his creation in all its wonder.
“Yet our Church insists on flying on one wing, overlooking and wasting the talents and insights of so many wonderful, faithful, Godly women. Why? Can this tragic dysfunction really be what God wants? I think not. Let us now begin to imagine a completely different future.”