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CNN Today

World Pride Collides With Jubilee

Aired June 30, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A huge gay pride festival begins in Rome tomorrow, much to the displeasure of the Vatican. World Pride 2000 is expected to attract as many as 300,000 gay men and lesbians, but Catholic Church officials say the festival is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

CNN's Rome bureau chief Gayle Young with that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GAYLE YOUNG, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): They're gay, they're proud, and they're planning to demonstrate both attributes this July during a week-long world gay pride festival in Rome. It's right when hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims are pouring into the city for summer celebrations marking the 2000th jubilee year of Christ's birth. The Vatican is appalled by the timing. The Catholic Church is an outspoken opponent of gay sex, and church officials say a gay festival will undermine the holy nature of the jubilee.

When organizers announced three years ago that Rome would be the venue of the year 2000 event, city officials sent a warm letter of welcome and anticipated revenue from the thousands of expected participants. Since then, under pressure from the Vatican and public opinion, they've backtracked and are now denying funding and permits for some of the planned events.

(on camera): The highlight of the week-long festival is to be a massive gay pride march. Organizers wanted to take it by the famed Coliseum, which is also a sanctified church. City officials say no, they will have to march outside of the historic city center.

MAYOR FRANCESCO RUTELLI, ROME: If they want to have a special gay pride show in front of a church, it's a little bit different from having it in a very free way, in a square or in a park. The second is OK, the first, no.

YOUNG (voice-over): Rome, however, is filled with churches. It will be difficult for the gays to avoid rubbing up against Catholicism in this most Catholic of cities. Organizers say not only will they go ahead with the festival, but they are welcoming the free publicity over their struggle for permits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that it will be a bigger and better event because of this, and it will be political and call attention to human rights issues in a way that maybe it couldn't have if all of this attention hadn't come to us.

YOUNG: City officials say they won't cancel the event, but they hope it doesn't become a messy showdown between the conservative Catholic Church that opposes gay lifestyles, and gay activists who believe they're lifestyle is something to show off.

Gayle Young, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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