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US nun apologises to gays on behalf of Church

Sr Jeannine Gramick, who was ordered in 1999 to end her 22-year ministry to homosexuals but defied the Vatican's attempts to silence her apologised on behalf of the Church on Sunday while receiving an award at her country's largest symposium on gays and lesbians.

"As a Roman Catholic sister, I want to ask pardon of the lesbian and gay community for my part in any oppression and the part of my church," said Sister Jeannine Gramick.

Gramick no longer leads spiritual retreats for gays, but she has refused to obey the Church's instruction to stop talking about homosexuality. For the past year, she has travelled the country to lecture about civil rights for homosexuals and about the Vatican's efforts to stop her.

Gramick, 58, a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, vowed on Sunday to "continue to speak for justice and reconciliation for lesbian and gay people."

"I think institutional leaders really would like to make an apology," she said after the ceremony. "But I think they may be reserved about it because they don't want to offend the people who are prejudiced."

After an 11-year investigation, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ruled in 1999 that Gramick and Fr Robert Nugent "caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the church" because they did not condemn homosexuality.