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LISBON, Portugal (ChurchMilitant.com) - Twelve traditional Catholics could face up to a year in prison for protesting an LGBT Mass during World Youth Day in Portugal.
Last Thursday at 3 p.m., Fr. José Manuel Valente da Silva Nunes, ex-prior of the Dominicans in Portugal, called police to evict traditionalists from the Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation in Ameixoeira, a district of Lisbon, as a Mass for "sexual minorities" was in progress.
Carrying crucifixes and rosaries, the traditionalist group led by Rafael da Silva chanted a "prayer of reparation" for the "mortal sins" that result from "an LGBT ideology in the Catholic Church."
"We're accused of invading a worship service and can face up to one year in jail," da Silva told Church Militant.
"The cops identified every person that was there and now we are being investigated by the government's 'secret service' as well as the Public Ministry, funded by taxpayers," he added.
"The protestors began praying the Rosary in Latin before the Mass could begin," Fr. Nunes told Portuguese media.
Wearing a rainbow-colored stole, Nunes presided at the Eucharistic concelebration along with dissident pro-LGBT priest Fr. James Alison and another priest.
Portugal's Public Ministry said on Tuesday that it had directed the Polícia de Segurança Pública (Public Security Police) to begin an investigation into the "activists" who "invaded" the church in Ameixoeira and to send a statement to the public prosecutor's office.
Father James Alison, a homosexualist ex-Dominican who concelebrated at the LGBT Mass, said that the protestors increasingly raised their voices trying to drown out the priests and congregants during the celebration.
Alison, a dissident priest who maintains that he has not been laicized even though his "current canonical status is anomalous," explained that the protestors had disrupted the service because they were expecting homosexualist Jesuit Fr. James Martin to be present.
"I was terribly sorry to see these people who have been led to this terrible ideology of hatred," he said. "They live in a weird, alienated world and did not look happy. We were principally sad for them."
Alison claims Pope Francis unofficially restored him to priestly ministry in 2017: "He called me by phone to affirm me in my priesthood, nullifying an attempt that had been made to remove my clerical status because I'm an openly gay man."
According to Alison, Francis said, "I want you to walk with deep interior freedom, following the spirit of Jesus. And I give you the power of the keys. Do you understand? I give you the power of the keys."
The traditionalists are being charged with the crime of impeding, disturbing or outraging an act of worship, which is punishable by up to one year in prison.
Protest organizer Rafael da Silva, who's grandmother has also been charged for participating in the picket, said that the prayers of reparation were "a peaceful initiative" and "not against the gay community."
"Individually, we have nothing against these people. The enemy is this ideology and some priests who defend it against what the Catholic Church should be and against what is the will of God," he emphasized.
A day after the protest, Isabel Almeida Rodrigues, Portugal's secretary of state for equality and migration, condemned the protest and called for the respect of the human rights of LGBT people, noting that such principles are enshrined in the Portuguese Constitution.
Rodrigues noted that "this was not a unique episode during this World Youth Day — which summons all people to a common goal in the fight against hate speech and violence against all people."
"It is important to remember that LGBTI+ people are among the most stigmatized groups of people and the target of episodes of violence, based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sexual characteristics," Rodrigues stressed in a press statement.
"It is important that everyone, independent of their sexuality, can have their faith and enjoy their relationship with God," remarked Victoria, a gender-dysphoric participant at the LGBT Mass, noting that despite such incidents, she has felt very accepted at World Youth Day.
On Friday, the Spanish branch of the Christian Life Community, an international association of lay Christians who have adopted an Ignatian model of spiritual life, condemned the protest by traditionalist Catholics in an open letter.
"We have strongly resonated with the demand of Pope Francis that all people without exception fit in the Church," the CLC statement stressed, noting that the Synod on Synodality "with the image of widening the tent" welcomed all people "without exclusions."
"However, LGTBIQ+ youth present at the conference and close to our community, believers willing to follow Jesus, have sent us their experience of rejection and violence," the CLC statement lamented.
"This is why CLC in Spain condemns any attack on LGBTIQ+ people and asks the Church in Spain to open up to the reception of all people baptized on an equal footing, without distinction of identity or sexual orientation," it concluded.
Meanwhile, in a separate incident, a group of five LGBT pilgrims complained that they were insulted, shoved and stoned by conservative Catholics on Saturday night at a World Youth Day vigil.
The group told the Arco-Íris Center, a pro-LGBT activist organization responsible for organizing the LGBT Mass, that the pilgrims who challenged them even stole their LGBT flags before they were escorted "to a safer area even within the premises of the vigil."
The victims were not hurt, but "the moral damage is considerable," a statement from the Arco-Íris Center said. "The desperation of being attacked and insulted without other pilgrims supporting them left deep marks and fears of what might happen in the future."
"These events have taught us that there is still a long way to go, because we thought, wrongly, that the papal vigil was a safe space, where everyone, everyone, everyone had a place," the statement added.
"Personally, I don't think they will send us to prison, but since they are investigating us, they can easily track our ideas and way of life and persecute us!" da Silva assured Church Militant.
"It's a small price to pay for loving and following Our Lord Jesus Christ! Every single one of the 12 people who were there are calm, we know we did what's right," he said.