Gays Seek Meeting With Pope by Malcolm Thornberry 365Gay.com European Bureau Chief Posted: August 16, 2005 9:00 pm ET (Cologne, German) German LGBT rights groups have asked for a meeting with Pope Benedict when he travels to Cologne this week for Catholic World Youth Day. The groups say they want to open a dialogue with the pontiff, who is German by birth. Benedict will arrive in Cologne on Thursday to join more than 400 000 young Catholics from 197 countries who are taking part in World Youth Day. "Our goal is to ensure that people whose sexual orientation has been given by God are morally supported by the Catholic church", the groups said in a statement on Tuesday. The organizations include Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association, the Cologne Lesbian and Gay Day, the International Lesbian and Gay Association, the European forum of Lesbian and Gay Christian Groups and the Ecumenical Homosexual and Church Working Group. The general secretary for World Youth Day, Heiner Koch, also called for the church to improve its relationship with gays and lesbians. "We need dialogue," Koch said in interview with the Cologne daily Express on Tuesday. "I wish for a relaxation in the relationship," he said. The Vatican has not commented on the request for a meeting. Since his election to the papacy in April, Benedict has reaffirmed the Church's anti-gay stand. In June, he issued a stinging condemnation of gay and lesbian families. (story) Repeatedly driving home his point that marriage can only be a union between man and woman, the Pope called same-sex unions "pseudo-matrimony". Before becoming Pope, Benedict had long history of attacking same-sex unions. As Cardinal Ratzinger he was the Vatican's most outspoken opponent of gay marriage. Ratzinger was the author of the a 2003 Vatican directive to priests around the world calling for a proactive stand to stop governments from legalizing same-sex marriage and for a repeal of those those already on the books that give rights, including adoption, to gay couples. (story) The 12 page document called on Catholic bishops and lawmakers to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions. He opposes contraception and the use of condoms to combat HIV/AIDS, advocates a diminished role for women in the Church and has called for mandatory celibacy for priests. In 1999 he ordered two Americans, Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent, to end their associated with New Ways Ministry which provides educational programs for gay and lesbian Catholics nationwide.