Priest begs gays not to leave church over bishop's tweet

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2009 file photo, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin speaks to a reporter in Riverside, R.I. Tobin, Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop is facing backlash after tweeting Saturday, June 1, 2019 that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds, File)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A priest is asking parishioners not to leave his church over a tweet by Rhode Island's bishop urging Roman Catholics to not support or attend LGBTQ Pride Month events.

The Rev. Edward L. Pieroni begged gay and lesbian parishioners not to leave the church during Sunday services at St. Raymond's Roman Catholic Church in Providence, The Boston Globe reported.

"A lot of people have hung in there, but it's like, 'One more slap and we are done.' I am here to beg you — and I will get on my hands and knees and beg you — not to leave," Pieroni told the congregation.

Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin sparked a backlash beginning Saturday when he tweeted, "A reminder that Catholics should not support or attend LGBTQ 'Pride Month' events held in June. They promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children."

Rhode Island is one of the most heavily Catholic states.

More than 80,000 had people responded by Monday morning. Some replied to the tweet to support the bishop while others invoked the scandals of sexual abuse of children by clergy members. Actresses Mia Farrow and Patricia Arquette were among those who criticized Tobin.

The LGBTQ group Rhode Island Pride held a rally outside the diocese's headquarters in Providence on Sunday night.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo told reporters in Newport on Monday for an unrelated event that the bishop's comments were "very unfortunate." She said that she stands with the LGBTQ community and that Pride Month events are an expression of equality, love and tolerance. She told WPRO-AM she doesn't think the bishop meant to hurt anyone, but his comments made a lot of people feel unsafe, unwanted and unloved.

Tobin, a conservative bishop, said he didn't mean to offend anyone, but he also defended the tweet. He said in a statement Sunday that it was his obligation to teach the faith "clearly and compassionately, even on very difficult and sensitive issues."

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