Nicholas Coppola, the gay man who was stripped of his involvement with his local Roman Catholic parish, delivered 18,603 signatures with GLAAD to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, requesting to be restored to full engagement with his local parish. The signatures were gathered through the social justice organization, Faithful America in less than one week after launching the campaign.
Coppola recounted his story that led up to this moment. Active in several ministries of St. Anthony's Parish for several years, Coppola had been serving as a religious education instructor, lector, altar server, and visitation minister for homebound members. He was out to his church and supported by both members and clergy. After marrying his husband in October, he was told that the bishop directed his priest to remove him from all involvement with the church.
Since GLAAD first broke the story, less than two weeks ago, Nicholas has received incredible support from people within his parish, his community on Long Island, and from faithful Americans across the country.
"The best part about telling my story is that it has reminded me that I'm not alone," said Coppola, standing outside of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. "I have been given so many words and signs of support and love by my fellow parishioners at St. Anthony's parish. I've been stopped during my routine day by people who are letting me know that they care for me."
Faithful America asked Nicholas if they could launch a petition on his behalf to their membership. Within days, the signatures ballooned to over 18,000. The petition language was short and simple:
"Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish -- and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese."
Coppola expressed his appreciation for the people and organizations that have supported him. "Today, I get to share a sign of that visible support with the Diocese," he stated. "I hope that today, Bishop Murphy and the Diocese of Rockville Centre will understand the depth of support Catholics have for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender friends and family."
Coppola was met at the door of the Diocese office by a security guard who informed him that no one from the Diocesan staff would meet with him or the media. The security guard received the petition and promised to deliver it.
"It was disappointing that Nicholas was not able to speak with anyone from the diocese and share the broad level of support he has," said Ross Murray, GLAAD's Director of News and Faith Initiatives. "However, Nicholas did demonstrate his faithfulness by continuing to engage as deeply as he can with a church that has shunned him so harshly."
"The Roman Catholic Church has been very public in trying to establish a welcoming image. Many of you saw Cardinal Dolan on Easter morning admit that the church has not been good about reaching out to and caring for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their allies," said Coppola. "I want Bishop Murphy and all within the hierarchy to know that there are thousands of us already active in the church and want to stay active, without the fear of punishment for marrying the person they love."
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