The ‘Soho Mass’ for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Roman Catholics has taken place for the last six years at Our Lady of the Assumption Church on Warwick Street in Soho. But on February 17, the congregation met for the last time after Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols ruled that ‘same-sex activity’ was not consistent with church teaching.
‘I have been very tearful,’ said Renate Rothwell of Soho Masses Pastoral Council (SMPC) a group who help promote inclusive worship. The Diocese of Westminster has said the community can attend services and receive pastoral care at the Jesuit Farm Street Church in Mayfair, but there will be no special LBGT mass. ‘Now we can’t choose sympathetic priests, or pray for those who died from Aids. It’s taking away our identity,’ says Rothwell . ‘We felt comfortable in Soho,’ says Joe Stanley, chairman of SMPC. ‘Transexual worshippers could change into dresses, if they wished, in local cafés. We could relax in the pubs afterwards. People may feel alien in posh Mayfair.’
In 1897, Farm Street church turned away Oscar Wilde when he sought a retreat there after his imprisonment on indecency charges. That it’s now opening its doors to a new community of gay Catholic exiles would surely have made that arch-ironist smile. Rebecca Taylor
For info, see sohomasses.com