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Gay Catholics get Vatican welcome, but no papal shout-out

Published:Thursday | February 19, 2015 | 2:00 AM

VATICAN CITY (AP):

The Vatican did something it has never done before by giving a group of US gay and lesbian Catholics VIP seats at Pope Francis' weekly general

audience yesterday.

But in a sign that the welcome

wasn't all it could have been, the New Ways Ministry pilgrims were only identified on the Vatican's list of attendees as a "group of laypeople accompanied by a Sister of Loreto."

And not even that got announced: When a Vatican monsignor read out the list of the different groups of pilgrims in attendance in St Peter's Square, he skipped over the group altogether. Francis didn't mention them, either.

Officials pleased

Even without a papal shout-out, New Ways Ministry officials were nevertheless pleased that they had been invited to sit up front by Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, the prefect of the papal household who dispenses the coveted reserved tickets for Francis' audiences.

Gaenswein, for years, has also been the top aide to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI. When Benedict headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he permanently prohibited the New Ways Ministry co-founders, Sister Jeannine Gramick, and the Rev Robert Nugent, from ministering to gays after determining in 1999 that they didn't sufficiently adhere to church teaching on the "intrinsic evil" of homosexual acts.