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FIRST ROMAN CATHOLIC MASS FOR GAYS AND LESBIANS IN ROCHESTER NY

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Source: The Associated Press, 1997-MAR-3

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The 400,000-member Rochester Roman Catholic Diocese held its first-ever Mass for gays and lesbians, under police protection with protesters chanting prayers outside the cathedral. Bishop Matthew H Clark became one of a handful of US bishops who have held a mass for homosexuals. He said: I have never felt more intense about climbing into this pulpit...It is not out of fear... This is absolutely right to do."

During his sermon, he talked about Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son who left his family, was a failure in the world and was welcomed home enthusiastically by his father. Supported by other priests and deacons, he said: "We celebrate the reconciliation of Christ. May He take away all that divides us."

At the end of the Mass, he received a standing ovation; he gave each of over 1000 attendees a hug as they left. Afterwards, Bishop Clark faced reporters, photographers and about 75 protesters. Ida Dentino of Holley NY said that they were "here to defend the teachings of the church. You accept the person, but we can't accept the lifestyle. We don't hate these people. We're praying for him [Bishop Clark]. We know he is being blinded," Many who attended the Mass described the experience as "overwhelming." Vern Myers, a gay man from Irondequoit NY, said he was just trying to raise his two children as good Catholics. He said:"My daughter doesn't say much. My son, he doesn't understand why so many people have so much hatred."

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