Italian Protestant church says I do to gay ‘blessings’

The Waldensian Evangelical Church on Friday became the first Protestant church in Italy to formally offer to "bless" same-sex couples in civil partnerships, a common practice in Protestant churches across Europe.

Italian Protestant church says I do to gay 'blessings'
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

While same-sex couples in the country are not allowed to legally marry in a church, gay and lesbian couples will now be able to mark and celebrate their civil partnerships in a church service – or “blessing” ceremony.

At least one partner must be a member of the Waldensian church however.

Gay blessings have been offered by the church since 2010 on a case-by-case basis, but with this position, the synod formally recognised “the plurality of different models of coexistence and family life in society”.

The move follows Italy's adoption in October 2016 of civil unions for gays and lesbians, which came despite the Catholic Church's opposition.

With that legislation, Italy became the last country in Western Europe to legally recognise same-sex relationships.

Founded in the 12th century, the Waldensian Church preached the Christian Gospel in the countryside and was persecuted by the Catholic Church.

The world's oldest Protestant community founded some 350 years before Luther's reformation, Waldensians were repressed by the civil and religious authorities until the middle of the 19th century when modern-day Italy came into being.

The community now numbers between 25,000 and 40,000 believers, mostly in the north of Italy.

Gay marriage blessings are common in Protestant churches in the north of Europe, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.


Italian hotelier warns guest: ‘We don’t accept gays or animals’

A homosexual couple were forced to cancel their holiday at a Calabrian guesthouse after the owner told them, via Whatsapp, that gays and animals are not allowed.

Italian hotelier warns guest: 'We don’t accept gays or animals'
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Massimo Arcangeli was clarifying details of the couple’s stay with the owner of the family-run guesthouse in Santa Maria, a hamlet near the beach resort of Tropea, via the messaging service when he was told that gays were not accepted.

He posted the discussion on his Facebook page. The owner asked questions about where the couple was from and gave details of the guesthouse adjoining the family villa before thanking Arcangeli for booking to stay, adding that it was the first year they were renting the home to holidaymakers.

But then the owner ended the message with what he described as an “important” notice:

“I’m sorry if I seem like a caveman. We don’t accept gays or animals.”

Arcangeli said: “It immediately made me think of the famous message Nazis would post on their shop windows: ‘No dogs or Jews’. Seventy years have passed since then and this story cannot be ignored.”

The Italian gay rights association, Arcigay, has called for the hotel to be removed from and other hotel reservation sites.

The association’s Naples unit said it was “disgusted” by the hotel owner’s conduct.

“We also look forward to decisive action being taken by the municipality, the Calabria region and authorities responsible for supervising and combating discrimination.”

Italy may have reached a “historic milestone” in granting civil unions in 2016, but the county is a long way from being LGBT-friendly, according to a report published by Rainbow Europe in May.

In the report, Italy scored just 27 percent in its protections for and rights granted to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT), making it one of the worst countries in Western Europe in terms of gay rights.

However, its ranking of 32nd out of 49 countries was an increase of three places from the 2016 ranking, when it scored just 20 percent. 

LGBT people in Italy are also at risk of homophobic violence, the report said, citing a far-right attack on a Rome Gay Centre, and five murders of trans people in Italy in 2016.