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 says.
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
"The 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 Church."
The Vatican teaches that gay sex is sinful but homosexuals
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
Nichols 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 debate.
"We don't see any direct cause and effect," said Joe Stanley,
chairman of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council.
London's 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
Nichols 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
The 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.
Conservative 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.