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Waterloo Catholic institution to raise Pride flag in a historic first

St. Jerome's University will be marking the beginning of Pride Month by raising the rainbow flag, something the WCDSB continues to struggle with
File photo from The Canadian Press

In a historic first, St. Jerome's University will be raising the rainbow flag to mark the start of Pride Month. 

The Roman Catholic university was founded in 1865 and federated with the University of Waterloo. It is home to around 360 students living in residence, and co-registers around 800 students in the UW Faculty of Arts.

In a statement released Thursday, Interim President Dr. Scott Kline said he the decision not to fly the Pride flag was sending the wrong message; that SJU did not welcome the LGBTQ community. According to Kline, it was never their intention, and that they would make amends by raising the flag.

"For us, the flag represents our commitment to our students and to all members of the SJU community. The time was right to provide a symbolic reminder that ‘all are welcome in this place'," Kline said in the release.

His words reference the "All Are Welcome" hymn written in 1989 by Marty Haugen, and widely sung at SJU ceremonies. 

The university's announcement follows a week of controversy for another local Catholic institution. 

The Waterloo District Catholic School Board will be marking Pride Month, but without the iconic rainbow flag. In its place, is a board-approved flag featuring Jesus and a group of people drawn in a pencil sketch-style, along with a bible quote.

LGBTQ members and allies were swift in their criticism of the approved flag, many saying it misses the point and sends the opposite message. Things weren't made any better when a school trustee made comments about the Pride flag in relation to the deadly sin of pride in the Catholic faith. 

St. Jerome's will be raising the Pride flag this Monday. Kline will be accompanied by the SJU Students’ Union President, members from the Academic Staff Association, and staff members. 

They say it will be a small gathering and in compliance with physical distancing requirements.

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