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June 26, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of Outreach 2020, a conference on pastoral ministry with LGBTQ Catholics that had been scheduled for this month at Fordham University. But it didn’t stop prominent Catholic leaders from voicing their support for the community in a video released June 18.

Speakers on the video include Fr. James Martin, SJ, an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ Catholics, and Fr. John Cecero, SJ, the provincial superior of the USA Northeast Province of the Jesuits. “I want to encourage you above all to share in the reconciling mission of Jesus — Jesus who extended his love not to one group over another, but to all,” Fr. Cecero said. “I would encourage you to face the kind of hatred that exists in all forms of homophobia in our church and in our country so that you can be beacons of light and hope. And show people that our way as Christians is to be respectful and listen to one another. And not standing apart from each other to judge that which we don’t understand.”

Other faith leaders delivering messages of encouragement on the video include Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky; theologian Fr. Bryan Massingale; and Dominican Sr. Luisa Derouen, who has ministered to the transgender community since 1999.

Fr. Martin said via email that a Jesuit friend wrote to tell him one young man was in tears when he saw the video message. “I think that for LGBT Catholics to hear from church leaders directly is a source of great comfort and hope,” Fr. Martin said.

One of the goals of the Pride Month video, according to Fr. Martin, was to help LGBTQ Catholics and their families and friends hear a message of welcome. “And the message that I hope that all Jesuits and our colleagues can communicate is something that the late Howard Gray once said to an LGBT student: ‘God loves you and your church is learning to love you,’” Fr. Martin said.

Outreach 2020 organizers plan to hold the rescheduled conference in June 2021.