Irish leader Leo Varadkar has said that same-sex couples shouldn’t be excluded – ahead of a visit to Ireland by the Pope.
Pope Francis is expected to visit Ireland in August to attend the World Meeting of Families event, a meeting of Catholic activists and preachers that is a keystone in the Church’s global agenda.
The summit has been marred by disputes over LGBT rights, with anti-LGBT Catholic lobbyists forcing organisers to remove all references to homosexuality from booklets produced ahead of the event.
The dispute has become politically charged in Ireland, which takes a progressive stance on LGBT issues that is at odds with the Church’s official stances on gay families.
Speaking in the Irish Parliament this week the country’s Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar, who is one of the few openly gay world leaders, expressed a hope that LGBT families would also be celebrated at the event.
He said: “The Government is very much of the view that there are many different types of families and that all types should be celebrated, including the traditional nuclear family with the man married to the woman with children, but also one-parent families, families led by grandparents, and families led by same-sex couples.
“We will make it known in our meetings with the organisers that in line with our commitment to personal liberty and equality before the law, the Government’s view is that families in all their forms should be celebrated.”
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He added: “We are also committed to freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. While we will express our view, therefore, we will not try to impose it on a religious body.”
Mr Varadkar clarified that “while this is not a formal state visit it will be a major event for Ireland, with a high degree of public participation and a high international profile, and I look forward to welcoming Pope Francis in August”.
Robert Troy TD of Fianna Fáil urged Mr Varadkar to raise the issues with the Church.
He said: “Acknowledging the separation of powers between church and state and what the Taoiseach said about the facilitation of the visit in terms of protocol, security and the funding that will be made available, I believe we have a role to play.
“I ask that the Taoiseach’s office, in consultation and negotiation with the Vatican, outline some of the points [raised].
“Originally, the Catholic Church produced pamphlets and booklets demonstrating the traditional Irish family and moved away from welcoming the non-traditional Irish family.
“Given that this country was one of the first to have a referendum to establish marriage equality for the gay community, I believe that move is regrettable.
“I ask that the Taoiseach use his offices, through the embassy, to make that point known. It is only right and proper that members of all families, not just traditional families, be welcome to participate in the World Meeting of Families.”