Condoms4Life and the World Youth Day 4 All Coalition

By Neubauer, Emily; O'Gorman, Molly | Conscience, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Condoms4Life and the World Youth Day 4 All Coalition


Neubauer, Emily, O'Gorman, Molly, Conscience


CATHOLIC WORLD YOUTH Day is a jamboree that takes place every three years or so, attracting hundreds of thousands of young Catholics to its host city. August 16-21, 2005, the 20th Catholic World Youth Day was held in Cologne, Germany, where Pope Benedict XVI made his first major public appearance.

The World Youth Day 4 All Coalition (WYD4All), a group comprised of 45 young people from 16 countries, came together to support and promote an agenda of church reform, sexual and reproductive health and rights and youth activism. Member organizations included Catholics for a Free Choice, We Are Church-Youth, KLuST (Cologne Lesbian and Gay Pride) and YouAct (European Youth Network on Sexual and Reproductive Rights).

The WYD4All coalition campaigned for reform on the issue of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS. As a result of our efforts, for several days the focus of the media coverage was on the issues we promoted, not those the hierarchy wanted to push. Several bishops, Vatican Radio and Matthias Kopp, the official spokesperson for the hierarchy during the event, were all forced to respond to our arguments and acknowledge the importance of this issue.

WYD4All made a huge impact on the whole event. Using postcards and stickers, the team promoted the Condoms4Life campaign at subway stations where the Condoms4Life ads were displayed and throughout the city. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, from pilgrims and residents alike. By mid-week, television crews were following the group around, along with radio and print reporters, recording our every move. People took postcards and put WYD4All stickers on their bags and T-shirts. We saw our stickers everywhere--even on the TV news.

We also got a lot of support from the citizens of Cologne, a city. with a strong GLBTQ presence. Residents were thrilled to see us raising important issues during this potentially conservative Catholic event. Every day, people thanked us for being there, including one man who worked at a local health clinic. He saw our shirts and said, "Yes! I am using condoms all the time! I know that good Catholics use condoms, you don't have to tell me!" He took a stack of postcards and stickers for his clients.

The team joined the Gay Pride section during the papal parade, one of Benedict's first official appearances. In our red T-shirts we were the focus of attention and within 20 minutes everybody in the vicinity had put on at least one sticker. There were many rounds of "Wir sind alle homosexual" (We are all homosexual) sung to the tune of "Yellow Submarine" by the Beatles. As he passed, Benedict xvi waving like the Queen, smiled and recognizing what the fuss was about, looked away, clearly embarrassed. Another hit for the WYD4All team!

Members of the WYD4All Coalition also attended the International Youth Hearing to challenge the Catholic hierarchy on the use of condoms. …

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