The Catholic Church will stop gay-friendly Masses in the central London church that has held them for the past six years, London's archbishop said on Wednesday.
The 18th-century church in
Soho, the heart of London's gay scene, has been hosting the
twice-monthly Masses with the support of the local Church hierarchy, but
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said in a statement that gay Catholics
should attend Mass in their local parishes rather going to separate
Mass is always to retain its essential character as the highest prayer
of the whole Church," Nichols said, stressing there would still be
pastoral care to help gay Catholics "take a full part in the life of the
The Vatican teaches that gay sex is sinful but homosexuals deserve respect.
The decision on the "Soho Masses" came after sharp criticism of same-sex marriage by Pope Benedict and bishops in Britain and France, where the governments plan to legalise gay nuptials.
has spoken out in recent weeks against same-sex marriage but Church
officials and a spokesman for the Soho gay congregation said the
decision to stop the Soho Masses was not explicitly linked to that
"We don't see any direct cause and effect," said Joe Stanley, chairman of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council.
approved gay-friendly Masses were launched in early 2007 while the
Vatican's top doctrinal official was Cardinal William Levada, the former
archbishop of San Francisco, a city with a large gay community and
several gay-friendly churches.
reaffirmed his support for them last February.
Since then, Levada was
replaced by Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, who German Catholic media have
said wanted to clarify the apparent contradiction between them and
Church teaching on homosexuality.
Our Lady of the Assumption church will now become a parish for
disaffected Anglicans who became Catholics in protest against moves in
their churches towards allowing female and gay bishops.
Catholics in Britain have long complained to the Vatican about the Soho
Masses, saying they flouted Church teaching on homosexuality, and small
groups sometimes protested outside the church during the services.
The archbishop's office declined to comment on his statement or any discussions with the Vatican.