Scheduled gay pride event worries officials in Rome

Vatican calls festival affront to pilgrims

June 04, 2000|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

ROME - Nearly halfway into the Roman Catholic Church's millennial Holy Year, the nightmares of its organizers - unwieldy crowds, gridlock, terrorism, the sudden collapse of an overworked pope - have yet to come true.

But when a group of prelates sat down in the Vatican last month to watch a three-hour video, they perceived a terrible new menace to the yearlong event: an international gay pride festival scheduled to be held here July 1-9.

The film, sent by Monsignor William Levada, archbishop of San Francisco, contains news and documentary footage of a 1998 gay parade in his city. Some irreverent homosexual activists are shown dressed as priests and nuns; others are dressed in nothing at all.

Now, turning what it calls blasphemy into propaganda, the Vatican has made the video available to Italian politicians trying to block the gay gathering here. On Thursday, Catholic political activists sought to outrage rush-hour pedestrians by showing parts of it on a big screen set up on a corner of the heavily traveled Via del Corso.

Opposition by the Vatican to the planned World Pride festival, which it calls an unholy affront to Holy Year pilgrims, has created some of the highest tension between the Holy See and City Hall in years, challenged Rome's image as a tolerant world capital and unwittingly energized Italy's gay community.

About 200,000 gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals from all continents are expected here for panel discussions, sports events, fashion shows, a parade with floats and a pop concert.

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