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Church gesture towards gays prompts protest

Conservative Roman Catholics have begun a protest action against the bishop of the southern Dutch city of Den Bosch.

They are accusing him of letting down a principled village priest who refused the Holy Sacrament to a homosexual church member. A petition supporting the priest has been put online which has so far been signed by scores of people.

In an effort to mend ties with the gay Roman Catholic community following the village priest's refusal, the Bishop of Den Bosch allowed homosexuals to decide for themselves whether they were entitled to receive Holy Communion. It is this decision which has raised the anger of the conservative protesters.

The episcopal declaration is flawed, according to theologian Father Mennen, who says priests are obliged to refuse giving the sacrament to what he calls "public sinners".

The case is complicated because the gay man who was refused the sacrament in the village of Reusel was a respected community member, who was attending church in his capacity of chairman of the local carnival society or carnival prince. Carnival, being the starting point of Lent, is an important part of the calendar in many Roman Catholic communities in the Netherlands.

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