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Catholic Deacon, Bi Daughter to Promote Inclusion at Church Event

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"I hope and pray that the World Meeting of Families will be open to truly learning about and embracing all families," says Deacon Ray Dever.

A Catholic deacon and his bisexual daughter will witness for LGBTQ inclusion in the church at the Vatican-sponsored World Meeting of Families, opening Tuesday in Dublin.

Deacon Ray Dever of Tampa, Fla., and his 25-year-old bi daughter, Emily Dever, plan to be "a visible presence" at the church event, according to a press release from New Ways Ministry, which advocates for LGBTQ equality in Catholicism.

"I hope and pray that the World Meeting of Families will be open to truly learning about and embracing all families, including families whose members include LGBTQ individuals," Deacon Dever said in the press release. "Our Lord didn't spend his time on earth only ministering to families who match a preconceived ideal pattern. By ministering emphatically to everyone, he taught the value and dignity of every person, created in the image and likeness of God. All faithful families deserve respect and a seat at the table if the church is going to be credible about its professed commitment to the importance of the family in the church and in society today."

Dever also has a transgender daughter, and he has written about his support and acceptance of her on the New Ways blog and in other publications.

The Vatican has sent "mixed signals" about whether LGBTQ people and their families will be welcome at the event, according to New Ways. The meeting is held every three years and "brings together families from across the world to celebrate, pray and reflect upon the central importance of marriage and the family as the cornerstone of our lives, of society and of the Church," its official website states. It will run through August 26.

We Are Church Ireland, which advocates for LGBTQ and women's equality in the church, was denied exhibition space at the event, with organizers saying it didn't meet the criteria for exhibitors. The group considered protesting Pope Francis's visit to the meeting later in the week but decided against it, Irish newspaper The Journal reports. "It was a sort of dilemma for us, but we said we'd accept the visit," We Are Church Ireland spokesman Brendan Butler told the paper.

Rev. James Martin, an LGBTQ-supportive American priest, will be among the speakers at the event, and his presence has raised the ire of some conservatives. Rory O'Hanlon of the far-right Catholic group Tradition, Family, Property called on organizers to cancel Martin's appearance, but they refused to do so, reports Irish broadcaster RTE. Conservatives also objected to the appearance of Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell, a supporter of marriage equality, which Ireland enacted by popular vote in 2015.

But Mary McAleese, the former president of Ireland, recently told RTE the event has "always been essentially a right-wing rally ... and it was designed for that purpose, to rally people to get them motivated to fight against the tide of same-sex marriage, rights for gays, abortion rights, contraceptive rights." McAleese, a strong LGBTQ rights supporter, was banned from speaking at the Vatican earlier this year.

She also said it was ironic that the event would welcome Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., and former bishop of Pittsburgh, who has been criticized for how he handled allegations of sexual abuse by clergy members during his time in Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania grand jury last week issued a report citing accusations of the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 minors by 300 clergy members over several decades. The report contends Wuerl helped cover up the abuse. Wuerl has now said he will not attend the Dublin event, the Irish Times reports.

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