Activists protest Pope visit


Summary

Homosexuals and pro-choice Catholic women in Brazil are protesting against Pope Benedict's visit, blasting the Vatican for influencing government social policies.

"Catholics have sex for pleasure, use condoms, support sexual diversity and don't condemn women for having abortions. When will the Church hierarchy change?" asks a poster brandished by women's groups outside the main churches of 12 large cities.

Outside the Cathedral Se in the centre of Sao Paulo, the poster caught the attention of passers-by, a few streets from the monastery where the pope has been residing since he arrived Wednesday.

"We want to send a message to the pope on reproductive health and the role of women in the Church," Dulce Xavier of the Catholic Organization for the Right to Choose told news agency AFP.

The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals (ABGLT) published an open letter demanding a "de facto secular state."

"We denounce the public pressure that religious groups, beginning with the Vatican, wield against the passage of laws benefiting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals in the world," said the ABGLT, which groups 200 Brazilian organisations.

Religious convictions "cannot influence government policies, much less be used to discriminate," the letter said.

"Jesus Loves Gays," proclaimed a poster during a protest staged by homosexual groups late Wednesday in the centre of Sao Paulo, not far from the Sao Bento monastery where Benedict is staying.

"Much of the violence of which we are victims is the result of the intolerant discourse of the Catholic Church on homosexuals," ABGLT spokesman Beto de Jesus told AFP. The group is one of the organisers Sao Paulo's annual Gay Pride parade, thought to be the world's largest with about a million people taking part.

"Abortion was legalised in Mexico City, and in Portugal. In various countries of Europe same-sex unions have been legally recognised. The secret agenda of the pope is to prevent this from happening in the rest of Latin America," he said.

"Jesus never condemned homosexuals. Pope, respect Jesus, respect gays," proclaimed the Gay Group of Bahia, in northern Brazil, on its website. They held a protest outside a cathedral in Salvador to coincide with the pope's arrival on Wednesday.

The conservative Pope Benedict condemned abortion in his first speech on Brazilian soil on Wednesday at the start of a five-day visit.

The 80-year-old pontiff had gone on the offensive even before landing, telling the Vatican press corps aboard the papal plane that he backed a threat by Mexican bishops to ex-communicate lawmakers who voted to decriminalise abortion in Mexico City last month, in a key defeat for the Roman Catholic Church.

"It is written in the (canon) law that murdering a child is incompatible with communion, and the bishops have done nothing arbitrary. They have only put the spotlight on what is allowed by Church law," he said.

Mexico City is one of the few places in Latin America where abortion is allowed without restrictions in the first three months of pregnancy.


Homosexuals and pro-choice Catholic women in Brazil are protesting against Pope Benedict's visit, blasting the Vatican for influencing government social policies.

"Catholics have sex for pleasure, use condoms, support sexual diversity and don't condemn women for having abortions. When will the Church hierarchy change?" asks a poster brandished by women's groups outside the main churches of 12 large cities.

Outside the Cathedral Se in the centre of Sao Paulo, the poster caught the attention of passers-by, a few streets from the monastery where the pope has been residing since he arrived Wednesday.

"We want to send a message to the pope on reproductive health and the role of women in the Church," Dulce Xavier of the Catholic Organization for the Right to Choose told news agency AFP.

The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals (ABGLT) published an open letter demanding a "de facto secular state."

"We denounce the public pressure that religious groups, beginning with the Vatican, wield against the passage of laws benefiting gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transsexuals in the world," said the ABGLT, which groups 200 Brazilian organisations.

Religious convictions "cannot influence government policies, much less be used to discriminate," the letter said.

"Jesus Loves Gays," proclaimed a poster during a protest staged by homosexual groups late Wednesday in the centre of Sao Paulo, not far from the Sao Bento monastery where Benedict is staying.

"Much of the violence of which we are victims is the result of the intolerant discourse of the Catholic Church on homosexuals," ABGLT spokesman Beto de Jesus told AFP. The group is one of the organisers Sao Paulo's annual Gay Pride parade, thought to be the world's largest with about a million people taking part.

"Abortion was legalised in Mexico City, and in Portugal. In various countries of Europe same-sex unions have been legally recognised. The secret agenda of the pope is to prevent this from happening in the rest of Latin America," he said.

"Jesus never condemned homosexuals. Pope, respect Jesus, respect gays," proclaimed the Gay Group of Bahia, in northern Brazil, on its website. They held a protest outside a cathedral in Salvador to coincide with the pope's arrival on Wednesday.

The conservative Pope Benedict condemned abortion in his first speech on Brazilian soil on Wednesday at the start of a five-day visit.

The 80-year-old pontiff had gone on the offensive even before landing, telling the Vatican press corps aboard the papal plane that he backed a threat by Mexican bishops to ex-communicate lawmakers who voted to decriminalise abortion in Mexico City last month, in a key defeat for the Roman Catholic Church.

"It is written in the (canon) law that murdering a child is incompatible with communion, and the bishops have done nothing arbitrary. They have only put the spotlight on what is allowed by Church law," he said.

Mexico City is one of the few places in Latin America where abortion is allowed without restrictions in the first three months of pregnancy.