The Catholic Church in Nigeria has been at the forefront in fighting discrimination towards persons with same-sex attraction, says Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, who adds that media coverage of the Church has been imbalanced.

In one of the strongest statements made about homosexuality during the first week of the Synod on the Family, the Nigerian prelate told the press on Oct. 8 that "the Catholic Church respects all human beings, and we believe we are all created in the image and likeness of God."

Archbishop Kaigama said that the people of Africa believe marriage is only between a man and a woman, based on culture, biology, and religious belief. However, he stressed that this does not translate into support for the "the criminalizing of people with different sexual orientations."

"The Catholic Church is in the forefront of defending them," he said, "and we would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who has been harassed, who has been imprisoned, who has been punished."

The archbishop criticized the media for focusing on the Church's defense of marriage between a man and a woman, while ignoring the Church's advocacy against discrimination towards persons with same-sex attraction.

"They forgot that we are serious defenders of human rights. We have our justice and peace department, we go to prisons, we see people who are unjustly imprisoned, or denied their rights."

The media should have a balanced approach, he said, "in the sense that we respect human beings."

Even though homosexual activity "is not in conformity with our culture and religion," the archbishop continued, "we do not just throw away the persons. We embrace them in love. We try to share our point of view. We don't punish them."

The pastoral care of persons with same-sex attraction has received relatively little attention thus far, although it is on the agenda for the Synod on the Family. At the opening session of the Synod on Oct. 6, Cardinal Peter Erdo noted "a broad consensus that people with a homosexual orientation should not be discriminated against."

In an Oct. 10 briefing, Holy See Press Office director Fr. Federico Lombardi told the press that participants had noted the need for further discussion on issue of same-sex marriage.

The difficult and controversial questions "will come," Archbishop Kaigama told the press. "By the grace of God, we're going to deal with them the best way possible for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls."