Homosexual activity posed a much greater health risk, because of AIDS, than smoking, and the Catholic Church would resist the spread of the ``gay agenda'' in schools, the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr George Pell, said yesterday.
    ``We will be doing nothing to encourage the spread of the gay agenda in the Catholic schools and we will be consistently working to oppose it,'' Dr Pell said.
    Responding to the archbishop's comments, the president of the AIDS Council of Victoria, Mr Joseph O'Reilly, responded that unsafe sexual practices were responsible for the transmission of HIV, not someone's sexual orientation.
    Dr Pell made the comments in answer to reporters' questions after he and another priest had refused Communion to more than 20 people in a group of rainbow-sash-wearing gay Catholics and their supporters at St Patrick's Cathedral yesterday. After the service, the protesters hung a wreath on the railings, which they said was in memory of the many young victims of homophobia in church schools. They called for school programs to counter the verbal and physical abuse of gay students.
    A spokesman for the group, Mr Michael Kelly, called on the Catholic Church to take action to ensure that the lives of young gay students were not sacrificed to rejection, ignorance, despair, invisibility and hopelessness.

12:15pm 24/5/99 / The Age


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