09 March 2015, The Tablet

Cardinal criticises Church’s past ‘severe’ treatment of gay people

A prominent cardinal has spoken of his regret at the Church’s “harsh” treatment of gay people while in the UK for one of the largest gatherings of young Catholics in the country’s history.

Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle, 57, who was the youngest cardinal to be tipped as eligible for the papacy during the conclave in 2013, told more than 8,000 young people at the Flame 2 conference in Wembley Arena on Saturday that God’s mercy was extravagant. He contrasted it with the lack of mercy often shown to migrants and victims of conflict and hunger.

The conference, which is organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed), is held every three years.

In an interview after his keynote address Cardinal Tagle condemned ways of speaking to and about gay and civilly remarried people that “branded” and ostracised them.

“I think even the language has changed already, the harsh words that were used in the past to refer to gays and divorced and separated people, the unwed mothers etc, in the past they were quite severe,” he said.

“Many people who belonged to those groups were branded and that led to their isolation from the wider society. I don’t know whether this is true but I heard that in some circles, Christian circles, the suffering that these people underwent was even considered as a rightful consequence of their mistakes, so [it was] spiritualised in that sense. But we are glad to see and hear shifts in that,” he said.

He told The Telegraph that the Church needed to learn the meaning of mercy “over and over again”. Catholic schools and institutions that enforced harsh rules had wounded people, he said, welcoming lessons from child psychology that would help the Church help them to heal.

The Cardinal was greeted with loud applause when he took to the stage earlier in the day to deliver his speech, which took place between vibrant dance, music and theatre performances.

“Be God's ears and eyes of mercy – visit the sick and prisoners, feed the hungry and thirsty, be good Samaritans. Spread the flame of God's mercy and heal the wounded world,” he told the young people. He asked them to hold up their mobile phones as the arena lights were dimmed, illuminating the arena with the light from the devices’ torches.

Double Grammy-award winning singer Matt Redman, who leads worship at the Evangelical Hillsong Church, led the audience of Catholics in song and afterwards Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided at Adoration. 

Above: Cardinal Tagle at Flame. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

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