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The BBC's Matt Cole
"Organisers expect 300,000 gay people"
 real 28k

The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Hotel keepers in Rome are rejoicing"
 real 28k

Saturday, 1 July, 2000, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Gay revellers arrive in divided Rome
Gay pride marchers
The gay pride festival has incurred the Pope's displeasure
Tens of thousands of gay people have been gathering in Rome for a week of gay pride celebrations which have sparked controversy even before starting.

World Pride Week, which officially kicks off on Saturday night, has been criticised by the Vatican and has been banned from staging a march through the historic centre of Rome.

Organisers say they are still determined to go ahead with the parade along their chosen route past the Colosseum.

Pope John Paul II: No blessing for homosexuality

They predict that up to 300,000 people will descend on Rome for the week's festivities, the largest event of its kind Rome has seen.

They will mingle with tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims from Poland who are also due in Rome this weekend for a celebration of their religious heritage.

The gay festival organisers insist that their parade will go ahead as planned on 8 July.

"We will get to the Colosseum happily and peacefully," said one of the festival organisers, Massimo Quinzi.


Permission for the parade was withdrawn by the Rome city authorities after the Vatican made clear its opposition to the march.

The event has incurred the Vatican's displeasure partly because it co-incides with the Roman Catholic Church's own Jubilee 2000 celebrations.

The event was described as inopportune and even a provocation by Vatican officials.

People are more than happy to take our money, but in terms of giving us respect for our lives, I think that's a little problematic and I think that that's sad really

Gay organiser Gilbert Baker

Jesuit magazine Civilta Cattolica added: "Homosexuals can hold their demonstration, but this right is limited, as is the case in every democracy, by the rights of others."

Gay activists say any ill-feeling stems from the Vatican, which has declared homosexuality to be intrinsically evil.

The BBC's Rome correspondent David Willey says the city authorities are caught in the middle of the dispute, and their decision to withdraw facilities and funding demonstrates the power still exercised by the Catholic Church in Italy.

The gay revellers also face opposition from right-wingers, who have organised a rally to protest against "a culture which is not that of the Italian people".


Aside from the political row, the event has brought a boost for the city's tourist industry.

Many hoteliers have welcomed the influx of bookings, during an otherwise disappointing year.

But organisers say the event should be seen as a human rights protest, not a commercial opportunity.

"People are more than happy to take our money, but in terms of giving us respect for our lives, I think that's a little problematic and I think that that's sad really," said Gilbert Baker, another of the organisers.

Mardi Gras

"People relate to you through a material, money way and not as human beings, with their human rights."

World Pride Week is being marked around the world in a series of marches and events.

In London, thousands of people joined a gay Mardi Gras festival and march on Saturday. Organisers estimated that 100,000 people would attend.

Last weekend big crowds turned out in Berlin, New York, Paris and Zurich for similar events.

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See also:

01 Jul 00 | Entertainment
London comes out for Mardi Gras
26 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Kylie to lead gay festival
30 May 00 | Europe
Rome divided over gay festival
26 Jun 00 | World
In pictures: Gay parades
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