(Photo: REUTERS/ Alessandro Bianchi)
A Roman Catholic Church cardinal has criticized the Ugandan anti-gay law that expanded punishment for gay people and threatened life in prison for certain offenders, arguing that gay people "are not criminals."
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, made the comments Tuesday in Bratislava, Slovakia, during a church and human rights conference, according to CatholicHearald.co.uk. He urged the international community, however, to keep sending much needed aid to Uganda, which is now facing cuts and sanctions because of the law.
Uganda's decision to expand the legal punishment for homosexuality has been criticized by some world leaders, though the nation's political and church leaders have insisted that it is their right to manage the country according to their ways.
"This is our country. I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose," Uganda President Yoweri Museveni said after he signed the bill last week.
The Anglican Church of Uganda has backed the bill, even threatening to break from the Church of England over pressure to the resist the new law.
Top Uganda Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali said on Monday that "the issue here is respect for our views on homosexuality, same-sex marriage as a country and church. If they are not willing to listen to us, we shall consider being on our own."
"Homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture, and no one in the leadership of the church can say legitimize same-sex unions or homosexuality," Ntagali continued, as he called on the "governing bodies of the Church of England to not take the path advocated by the West."
Uganda's Catholic Church, which 41.9 percent of the population belong to, has said that it is not supportive of homosexuality, but it refused to comment on the new law.
"The bishops were not in favor of that," John Baptist Kauta, secretary general of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, said about the initial version of the bill which included the death penalty for offenders. "We were for compassion, and we believe [homosexuals] can change."
He clarified, however, that Uganda's bishops are currently in retreat and would not be commenting on the controversial law until March.
"We normally don't want to overreact," Kauta noted.