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Will Youth Synod Message's to LGBTQ Catholics Be One of Inclusion?

The Pope

There have been mixed signals coming out of the bishops' meeting, which has entered its final week.

The Roman Catholic Church's Bishops' Synod on Youth has started its final week, with young activists hoping the result will be a more welcoming attitude toward LGBTQ people.

The synod made history by, for the first time, using the term "LGBT" in its preparatory document, raising optimism among some attendees. To mark the end of the month-long Vatican City synod Saturday (Sunday in the Western Hemisphere), the 260-plus cardinals, priests, and bishops at the meeting will adopt a final document, then approve a shorter one to release to the world, the Associated Press reports.

The synod, the third under Pope Francis, is titled "Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment" and counts among its attendees 36 young auditors -- participants without voting rights -- and they are the ones pushing for specific mention of LGBTQ people.

Though there has been some pushback surrounding the idea of directly addressing the LGBTQ community -- including Philidelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput's infamous statement that "there is no such thing as an 'LGBTQ Catholic'" -- some clergy members have been willing to approve an inclusive message.

"The youth are talking about it freely and in the language they use, and they are encouraging us 'Call us, address us [as] this because this is who we are,'" Cardinal John Ribat of Papua New Guinea told a press conference over the weekend, the AP reports.

The church's official stance is that LGBTQ people should be loved and respected, but "homosexual acts" are "intrinsically disordered," the news service notes. The church also opposes gender transition.

Pope Francis has softened the church's rhetoric on LGBTQ issues and even met with gay and transgender people, but the dogma has not changed. Some individual congregations have also been particularly welcoming to LGBTQ people, although they have seen pushback.

Aaron Bianco, a pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, a welcoming parish in San Diego, submitted his resignation Friday after enduring vandalism, physical violence, and even death threats because he is gay. The harassment had gone on for the entire time he'd been at the church -- nearly two years -- and culminated last week when he found "no fags" spray-painted on a wall inside the church and then right-wing Catholic websites published photos of his husband and the location of their home. (Pastoral associates, unlike priests, can be male or female, married or single.) He resigned "out of fear for my family and myself," Bianco told the National Catholic Reporter.

Another major topic of the synod is addressing the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the church for the past few years, an issue made even more pressing by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing the abuse of over 1,000 children and teens by Catholic clergy there. Some conservative Catholics have responded to the crisis with homophobia, blaming a "gay subculture" in the priesthood, even though studies have shown that gay people are no more likely to commit these crimes than heterosexuals.

Young Catholics are pressing for the church to recognize and apologize for sexual abuse, and several clergy members say they understand the importance of this.

"Laypeople want us to succeed. People want us to get this right," Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich told the AP. "Yes, there's a lot of anger out there. But beneath that anger there's a sadness. There's a sadness that the church is better than this, and that we should get this right."

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