Vatican synod ends without clear stances on women deacons, LGBT

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A month-long Vatican meeting on the future of the Roman Catholic Church ended on Saturday without clear stands on hot-button issues such as women deacons and welcoming the LGBT community.

The gathering, known as a Synod of Bishops, followed an unprecedented two-year canvassing of rank-and-file Catholics. The 365 synod participants included 300 bishops along with lay men and about 50 women who were mostly lay people.

At the synod, the pope gave women and lay people a vote on Church affairs for the first time. The participants meet for a final session in a year, then the pope will write a document on issues facing the Church.

The body released a final document with 81 paragraphs that each received at least two-thirds approval.

Two referred to the possibility of women being ordained deacons, and those received the most negative votes even though they passed.

One merely noted diverging positions and the other simply called for more study before the next synod session.

Asked at a news conference about the relatively high number of negative votes on women deacons, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, one of the organisers, said he was surprised "that so many people have voted in favour ... that means that the resistance is not so great as people have thought".

The final report did not take a stand on LGBT issues despite discussion beforehand that the synod might call on the Church to be more welcoming to the LGBT community.

One paragraph in the final document said: "In different ways, people who feel marginalized or excluded from the Church because of their marriage status, identity or sexuality, also ask to be heard and accompanied".

It said synod participants felt a "deep sense of love, mercy and compassion" for those who feel hurt or neglected by the Church but did not call for greater inclusion.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to LGBT Catholics, said that the report "greatly disappoints" those who expected something more positive.

In a statement, he said it was "important for the Catholic Church to live up to its best ideals of being an enlarged tent where all are welcome, all are respected, and all are treated equally".

The pope is due to ceremoniously close the gathering with a Mass on Sunday in St. Peter's Basilica.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)