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Rainbow flag decorated altar fuels controversy

Event marked International Day Against Homophobia

The rainbow flag altar during a prayer vigil organised by Drachma at the university chapel.

The rainbow flag altar during a prayer vigil organised by Drachma at the university chapel.

The altar decorated with a rainbow flag at a prayer vigil at the University of Malta chapel has stirred up a hornet’s nest, but the Catholic LGBT group of behind it is insisting that their only intention was to convey a message against discrimination.

Organised by Drachma on May 17, the religious event was meant to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

However, eyebrows were raised when organiser Chris Vella upload a photo of the university chapel altar wrapped in a rainbow flag on his Facebook account amid criticism that this went too far. The issue was flagged by conservative Canadian portal LifeSiteNews, which branded the act “sacrilegious”.

Contacted by the Times of Malta, a Curia spokesman yesterday pointed out that an altar should be arranged according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002).

It states that “out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered, there should be, on an altar where this is celebrated, at least one cloth, white in colour, whose shape, size and decoration are in keeping with the altar’s structure”.

Furthermore, it states that “moderation should be observed in the decoration of the altar”. These rules also make it clear only Mass-related items should be placed on the altar, apart from a “discreetly” arranged mechanism to amplify the priest’s voice.

Asked whether the Church condoned the use of the rainbow flag or any other symbol, the spokesman invited the faithful to be aware of and adhere to the liturgical instructions.

When this was pointed out to the organiser, Mr Vella said that he was not aware of such regulations. However, he said he had no qualms about refraining from using the rainbow flag in future if ordered to do so by the ecclesiastical authorities. Nonetheless, he refuted criticism of the use of the flag, insisting that no Mass had been celebrated.

“We had no intention to convey a political statement. Our only intention was to put our prayers to God for all those suffering. Drachma was never about defying the Church or offending people… We did not want to fuel confrontation but to hold dialogue,” Mr Vella insisted.

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