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Remarks made at demonstration at the United Nations during Pope Benedict XVI’s Pastoral Visit to the United States

By Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director, DignityUSA

As Catholics, we believe that all people throughout the world are beloved daughters and sons of one loving God. All of us are sisters and brothers. And we share an even deeper bond with members of the Catholic Church, as we are joined by a common Baptism, and through our sharing of the Eucharist. It is in this spirit that we come today, to call on Pope Benedict XVI to honor his responsibility to the people of his flock, and to the people of the world.

All across this planet, there are people who can be legally imprisoned or even executed just because they are gay, lesbian or transgender. In Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, countries continue to identify us as criminals. The Catholic Church recognizes sexual orientation as a deeply seated component of an individual’s identity. Surely, this kind of law violates the Church’s call for an end to “unjust discrimination” against us. Therefore, we ask the Pope to use his influence in the U.N. to encourage the world’s nations to abolish these horrific laws.

Even in places where laws are less oppressive, millions of gay people live in fear of violence. Many perpetrators of anti-gay attacks use the language of faith to justify their actions. Such attacks must end. We call on the Pope to immediately call for an end to all violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Further, he must end his own use of demeaning and dehumanizing language about us.

As a people who have known the ravages of HIV/AIDS, we further call on the Pope to reverse his stance on the use of condoms as a way to prevent or slow the transmission of this virus. We who have lost so many of our own brothers and sisters stand in solidarity with the millions of people, most in developing countries, whose lives have been devastated by this disease. We know that in many cultures, HIV is transmitted to women, who often have limited or no ability to refuse the sexual demands made upon them, and whose illness and death forces their children into lives of desolation and poverty. We ache with those unable to access or afford life-saving or life-extending treatment, those whose lives bear witness to the sin of placing dogma ahead of human compassion.

As the most recognized religious leader on earth, the Pope is a source of moral guidance to billions of people. Pope Benedict is only the third Pope to address the General Assembly of the United Nations. His words will be heard by people across the globe.

Pope Benedict, we who gather here call on you to lead the way to justice and equality for people too long oppressed. You have a unique opportunity to put a stop to hatred, injustice, and violence towards lesbian, gay and transgender people. You are probably the individual who can do more on earth than any other to slow the spread of HIV.  As Catholics, we know that our faith compels us to work for these goals, and we, in turn, call out on the strength of our common faith, for you to lead the way. Yes, such a change would be a truly radical transformation, but we are an Easter people, whose faith is centered in life’s triumph over death. In this season of Easter, we call on you to be open to our witness, and to lead the world towards this new life.