Rome's gays toast the departure of an unloved pope

Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:43am EST
 
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By Robin Pomeroy

ROME (Reuters) - Across the road from the Colosseum, the ancient Roman stadium consecrated as a holy Christian site, clients at a busy bar are raising a glass to the pope: toasting the departure of the worst Church leader they can imagine.

For drinkers in Rome's best known gay bar, Benedict's abdication is a blessing.

"He was less human than the last one," said Flavia Servadei, co-owner of "Coming Out" a small bar in Via San Giovanni in Laterano which has been so successful since it opened in 2001 that the road has been renamed "Gay Street".

In warm Roman summers, the bar attracts scores of men and women, spilling onto the pedestrianised street. On the chilly February day when Benedict announced his abdication, drinkers huddled inside to absorb the news, unprecedented in the past 700 years.

"This was the most reactionary pope ever, who made homophobia one of his battle cries," Franco Grillini, founder of Italy's biggest gay advocacy group Arcigay, said in a telephone interview. "So his resignation was good news."

Italian gays and lesbians resent the influence that the Catholic Church, from its headquarters in a walled city state on the other side of Rome, continues to have on politics, despite dwindling congregations and a largely secular society.

"COWARDICE"

While Britain, France and several U.S. states have allowed or are considering allowing gay marriage, in Italy attempts to create some limited form of civil partnership for same-sex couples have failed.   Continued...

 
A bartender looks on in the "Coming Out" bar, Rome's best known gay bar, next to the Colosseum in downtown Rome February 18, 2013. Picture taken February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi