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Homophobia outcry ‘Death to gays’ bishop escapes church rebuke

Bishop Huonder had to apologise to his flock for his comments

(Keystone)

The Swiss Bishops’ Conference has spoken for the first time since the controversy triggered by the Bishop of Chur, who quoted a Bible verse calling for homosexuals to be put to death.

“The church is open to everyone equally and must find the appropriate way of expressing this,” the conference said on Thursday.

“The church unconditionally accepts all people, regardless of their sexual orientation,” it added, describing the situation with the Bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder, as “difficult”.

On August 2, during a 50-minute address on marriage at a forum in Germany, Huonder quoted two verses from the book of Leviticus, including Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”  

In response to applause, he continued: “Both of these passages alone suffice to clarify unambiguously the church’s position on homosexuality”.

This triggered a public outcry and a criminal complaint from a private individual in St Gallen and Pink Cross, the umbrella association for Swiss gay groups, which accused 73-year-old Huonder of “inciting people to crime or violence”.

Under pressure, Huonder gave an interview to Swiss newspaper Blick on August 13 in which he apologised if he had hurt anyone but stood by his literal reading of the Bible.

He wouldn’t comment on the ongoing legal process but said he felt “misunderstood”. 

In addition, he wrote a letter to the 800 staff in the bishopric of Chur in which he apologised to “homosexually minded people”. He assured them that the church didn’t want to ostracise anyone.

Hatred and exclusion

On Thursday Pink Cross director Bastian Baumann said the organisation had taken note of the conference’s comments.

“It is important that the church has now finally publicly acknowledged its acceptance of everyone, in all their diversity,” he told swissinfo.ch.

“At the same time I would like to see from the church a clear statement against hatred and exclusion. After friendly words I expect friendly action.”

Regarding the criminal complaint against Huonder, Baumann said he had not heard from the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.

swissinfo.ch with agencies


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