Archive of August 18, 2009

Mass at National Shrine to honor Servant of God and heroic Navy chaplain

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - Servant of God Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a U.S. Navy chaplain whose heroic ministry to U.S. Marines in Vietnam won him the nickname “the Grunt Padre” and a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor, will be remembered with a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the evening of September 3.

The organization, which is dedicated to supporting Catholics in the U.S. armed forces, told CNA that Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services will celebrate the Mass in the Crypt Church of the Shrine at 7:00 p.m. Veterans who served with the chaplain and members of the Capodanno family are also among the confirmed attendees.

Fr. Capodanno was born on Staten Island in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. In 1957 he was ordained a Catholic priest by Cardinal Francis Spellman, then vicar of the U.S. Military Ordinariate.

He entered the Maryknoll religious order and served as a missionary in Taiwan and Hong Kong from 1958 to 1965. Having successfully petitioned his Maryknoll superiors to release him to serve as a U.S. Navy chaplain, he arrived in Vietnam during Holy Week of 1966.

Holding the rank of Lieutenant, Fr. Capodanno participated in seven combat operations. He became known for putting the well-being of Marines above his personal safety, moving among those wounded and dying on the battlefield in order to provide medical aid, comfort, and Last Rites.

During Operation Swift on September 4, 1967 Fr. Capodanno was injured by an exploding mortar round which caused multiple injuries on his arms and legs and severed part of his right hand.

The chaplain’s Medal of Honor citation says that despite his injuries he “steadfastly refused all medical aid.” The priest directed Marines to help the wounded and continued to move about the battlefield, encouraging Marines with his words and example.

“Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman,” the citation continues. “At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire.”

According to’s account, the priest died while using his body to shield a wounded corpsman from enemy fire.

Memorials to Fr. Capodanno quickly sprang up after his death. His name has been given to Staten Island’s main thoroughfare, many chapels, sons of Marines, Knights of Columbus Councils and Assemblies, and an order of the Purple Heart chapter.

In addition to the Medal of Honor, the priest was awarded three Purple Hearts. His name is also on Panel 25, line 95 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Fr. Capodanno was declared a Servant of God in 2006, marking his first step toward canonization.

The official website for Fr. Capodanno’s beatification cause is at

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Sri Lankan Catholics flock to Marian shrine after decades of civil war

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - On the Feast of the Assumption, hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan Catholics were able to finally make the pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, following the end of the country’s 30-year civil war. They were told to put away hatred and division in order to build peace.

Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Ranjith welcomed a crowd of 500,000 pilgrims to the shrine, where they took part in a Festive Eucharistic Celebration, after having endured the long trek through the battle-scarred countryside. The huge throng of pilgrims stood in stark contrast to the trickle of faithful who arrived between 1999 and 2008, when government forces battled with the Tamil Tiger rebels for control of the northern part of Sri Lanka.

“Divisions, hatred and suspicion among us must be over now,” the archbishop said, according to the Archdiocese of Colombo. “Divisions among us have caused the blood to flow in North as well as in the South. Never take up arms again and fight against your brother or sister. Thoughts of hatred must be cleansed from your hearts now and allow the Lord to fill your hearts with peace and forgiveness. May the peace that you share today in the Holy Eucharist flow into your families, work places, parishes and into your villages.”

“It is a blessed moment and day, that we come to Madhu Shrine, after the 30 years long war is over, which destroyed the lives of the people and the country,” Archbishop Ranjith continued. “It is in this environment all people belonging to different nationalities have gathered here today. From the days we remember, we came to Madhu Shrine without being conscious of our nationality, language or religion,” he said, citing the 400 year-old tradition of visiting the church.

He also remarked upon the presence of many Buddhist monks and other religious dignitaries.

Noting that the pilgrims’ tents are only a temporary place to stay, he said they are a reminder that our own life is temporary. He compared the divisions between nationalities, religions and languages to a kind of “imprisonment” in one’s tent.

“This war began not due to a clash between the Sinhalese and Tamil communities, but mainly because we separated ourselves from one another and imprisoned ourselves in our own limited kingdoms,” he said.

The desire for division and power was an indication of the limits of the human being, he added, saying that the conflict indicated that there had been “no place” for righteousness and justice in the lives of Sri Lankans.

“A period of loss of humanity was created in Sri Lanka. Religion became a tool of selfishness. During the past decade, it might be correct to say that religion has become an external affair and a political tool for selfish motives. We cannot expect righteousness and justice from this kind of society.”

Archbishop Ranjith lamented an increase in “indiscipline and loss of moral values,” saying this makes peace and justice more difficult to attain.

He also noted that those in the refugee camps were not able to attend the celebration. He appealed to authorities to expedite their resettlement.

“Now it is time to put justice into practice, first in your life and then in the country,” the archbishop exhorted. “From today onwards, spread the message of peace and solidarity. Spread thoughts of unity and strengthen the ways of unity. Stop talking of divisions and spreading hatred. As Sri Lankans, we must dedicate ourselves sincerely to develop our country.”

Archbishop Ranjith presided at the Eucharistic Celebration with Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis and Bishop Thomas Sauvdranayagam of Jaffna.

Bishop Sauvdranayagam preached in Tamil that Catholics are happy to see the Madhu Shrine premises—a location that saw a shootout between Tamil Tiger rebels and the government—are once again a “religious zone.”

The premises have been “rescued from the clutches of war,” he said, also expressing hope for the return of refugees.

The Church of Our Lady of Madhu is centuries old and has traditionally housed a revered 400-year-old statue of Mary. The church, a key place of worship for Catholics in the country, had been under rebel Tamil Tiger control between 1999 and April 2008.

The statue of Mary returned to the Shrine in November 2008, before which it had been removed for its safety.

The Archdiocese of Colombo has also reported that a miraculous spring has been discovered near Madhu Shrine.

“Once again Our Lady of Madhu has come to the help of the pilgrims, reaching her after a lapse of time to pray at Her feet. Thousands of pilgrims have already come to Madhu to pray,” the archdiocese said on its website.

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British Catholic paper criticized for saying U.S. bishops must back Obama on health care

London, England, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - A Catholic newspaper in Britain has drawn harsh criticism for claiming that the U.S. bishops’ concerns about abortion coverage in proposed health care reforms are allowing a “specifically Catholic issue” to obstruct the legislation.

In an August 15 editorial, The Tablet said it was “unfortunate” that the U.S. bishops have concentrated on a “specifically Catholic issue” by working to exclude abortion from state funded-health care. Rather, The Tablet advised, they should concentrate on “the more general principle of the common good.”

The newspaper claimed in its editorial headlined, 'U.S. bishops must back obama,' that few other proposals are more clearly examples of the “preferential option for the poor,” claiming that nearly 50 million Americans do not have health coverage.

“The Church’s teaching is clear: health care is a basic right, derived from the right to life itself. Of course abortion is important, but the Catholic bishops have not put anything like equal stress on these other social justice dimensions of the health-care debate,” the Tablet argued.

The newspaper also claimed that “opponents of change” are “largely funded by the operators of the health insurance industry.”

In The Tablet editors' view, the support of the U.S. bishops for proposed health care reforms in their current form would introduce “reason and truth” into the debate. The editorial also complained that in 1948 the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Barnard Griffin only worked to secure Catholic exemptions in the establishment of Britain’s National Health Service.

Damien Thompson, editor of  the Catholic Herald, was strongly critical of the editorial on his blog for the English paper The Telegraph. He claimed The Tablet had a “teenage crush” on President Barack Obama that was no longer “just embarrassing” but instead “downright offensive.”

He attacked The Tablet’s claim that abortion is a “specifically Catholic issue” as “the sort of misrepresentation of the Church’s position that I might expect from a teenage student union activist, not a venerable Catholic magazine.”

The claim suggested to Thompson that its author was ignorant of the Catholic Magisterium and actually believed that the rights of the unborn should be subordinate to the common good, rather than an “indispensible component.”

Thompson charged that under The Tablet’s new editor the newspaper routinely displays “a degree of theological illiteracy and ignorance of basic Catholic teaching” that would have been unthinkable under its previous editor.

William F. Murphy, Bishop of Rockville Centre, New York, has written to the U.S. Congress on behalf of all the U.S. bishops, saying that “Genuine health care reform that protects the life and dignity of all is a moral imperative and a vital national obligation.”

However, he condemned as “morally wrong” any reform plans that compel Catholics or others to pay for the destruction of human life.

The U.S. Bishops' Pro-life Committee chairman, Cardinal Justin Rigali, has also voiced concerns about the place of abortion in proposed health care legislation.

Tom Grenchik, director of the U.S. bishops’ Pro-Life Secretariat, has said that mandated abortion health care coverage and funding is “a line we can never cross.” He has also warned that some U.S. leaders are threatening health care reform by forcing Americans to accept such mandates in proposed reform bills.

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Vatican daily praises triumph of Jamaican in 100 meter dash

Rome, Italy, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano praised Jamaican runner Ussain Bolt for his win this past Sunday in the 100 meter. The outstanding performance earned him a gold medal and created a new world record, breaking the one he had previously set.
In an article entitled, “Like a Lightning Bolt in Berlin,” the Vatican paper noted that it only took Bolt  “41 steps to reach 100 meters in 9.58 seconds,” thus breaking his former world record of 9.69.
The article pointed out that true to his name, the Jamaican runner was like a “lighting bolt able to break down the wall of 9.60 seconds, which few believed possible.  But this young Jamaican—who was a star of the Beijing Olympic Games—soon said he would not be content with this.  His objective now is to run it in 9.50 seconds.”

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Lawyers launch effort to overturn legalization of abortion in Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - The College of Catholic Lawyers of Mexico has filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against Mexico for legalizing abortion up to the twelfth week in Mexico City. 
In their complaint the College blames the Mexico City Legislature, Government Chief Marcelo Ebrard and the Supreme Court for the decision to make the procedure legal.
The group of Catholic lawyers argues that passage of the measure legalizing abortion, which occurred on April 24, 2007, violates Article 1 of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.
They also argue that the legalization of abortion in Mexico City “violates the human rights of the unborn and disassociates from them the term death, which seems to erase their status as human beings and does not recognize that their lives are being ended.”

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Protecting environment must involve morals, Archbishop Chaput insists

Allenspark, Colo., Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) -

Aiming to promote a better understanding of the Church's teaching on the environment, the Catholic apostolate Creatio is hosting an international conference in Allenspark, Colo. The discussions began on Monday afternoon with a keynote speech by Archbishop Charles Chaput, who urged the participants to work towards a solution that ensures the protection of creation but also does not treat man as just another part of nature.

The two-day conference is the first of its kind and brings together experts in the fields of outdoor recreation, philosophy and several disciplines under the umbrella of environmental studies. International conference participants hail from Italy, Peru and Spain.

Archbishop Chaput began his opening remarks by highlighting the fact that Benedict XVI is developing "the most detailed corpus of official Catholic thought on the environment in Church history." This body of teaching will be further enhanced this coming January when the Pope delivers his World Day of Peace message on cultivating peace by protecting creation, Chaput said.

"But a Catholic concern for the environment is not at all new," he noted, citing the ancient Christian belief that man's sin wounded creation and that he, along with creation, was redeemed by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

"Human reverence for God’s creation is a natural consequence of Christ’s call to all human beings to be reconciled with God and with their fellow human beings," he explained, pointing to St. Francis of Assisi as one obvious example.

"St. Francis, as I’m sure you know, is seen by some as 'the first environmentalist’," said Chaput explaining that the saint addresses two ideas that have given rise to "some of today’s bitter debates about the environment." These arguments find their root "in the philosophical tension between those who believe that human beings are separate from and opposed to nature, and those who say that humans are merely 'nature' and nothing more."

Those who advocate for the position that man is separate from the rest of nature operate with the unconscious belief that "civilization is a 'cocoon' aimed at shielding humans from nature: We build cities, comfortable homes, cars, airplanes, computers and machines of all sorts to 'protect' us from nature, to defeat or conquer nature," Chaput summarized.

While this world view correctly understands that "nature, including human nature, is somehow inadequate and needs to be fixed," it fails when it tries to fix man and creation with technology, he cautioned.

On the other side of the debate, he explained, are those who see human beings as "simply another part of nature. We’re not finally unique in our dignity. In fact, we’re no more and sometimes even less important than other parts of nature."

Moreover, Chaput noted, "this view argues that we humans have no right to use more than our fair share of nature’s resources. Nor do we have any right or entitlement to rule nature."

"Ironically, this latter approach – which comes from a uniquely human thirst for justice -- is self-defeating. If we’re just another piece of the 'nature puzzle,' why should we be held more accountable than polar bears or whales or coyotes for what happens to the environment? And why should we care about creation at all, beyond our immediate, individual self-interest?" he asked.

The Christian perspective on creation recognizes that "we have a responsibility toward the created world because we have a higher dignity given to us by the Creator Himself. Human beings bear the unique mark of being created in the image and likeness of God, and we are God’s cooperators in preserving his creation," the archbishop told the assembled experts.

As many around the world ponder how to respond to the need to protect creation and mankind, Archbishop Chaput urged the conference participants to engage in a dialogue that includes faith and reason.

"The suspicion of religious believers toward science in centuries past is well documented and unfortunate. It often had sad and damaging results. But what’s admitted less often is the disdain science can sometimes show toward religious faith. Science needs to regain a respect for the moral and religious dimension of the environmental debate."

Noting that many in the scientific community seem to be afraid of anything that is associated with "morals," Chaput pointed out that morals are not necessarily the same as religious beliefs.

A "moral duty," he explained, "is a different, universally shared thing. The word 'moral' comes from the Latin word mores, meaning common habits, customs or ways of doing things. It relates to principles of right and wrong behavior which are inherent in humans. These principles have been "imposed" by human nature and reality, not by religion. Morality is the wisdom of a society discovered through trial and error.

"Human beings have a natural sense, reinforced by experience, that things like murder, cruelty, theft, adultery, lying, greed, pride and exploiting the weak are wrong. Faith and reason can walk that common moral ground of the human conscience and, if we’re serious about protecting the environment, they must walk that common ground." he stated.

To illustrate his point, Archbishop Chaput related the story of what researchers found downstream of the University of Colorado in Boulder.

"When scientists at the University of Colorado studied the trout in Boulder Creek downstream from that city’s sewer plant a few years ago, they found that, out of 123 fish, 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 were a very strange mutation with male and female features," he recalled.

Researchers were able to trace the cause back to "antibiotics, caffeine and especially the hormones from birth control pills can seriously contaminate a region’s drinking water," the prelate said, citing several local newspaper articles. One report quoted a biologist as saying that "the water effluent he found in Boulder Creek has unintended contraceptive effects in human beings."

The scientists expected to hear an uproar from environmentalists when their findings became public but instead they heard silence. "Nobody is to blame for this, and I don’t have a solution," one well-known environmental activist said.

In contrast, Archbishop Chaput lodged his disagreement with activists, insisting with the conference attendees, we "should have a solution. A moral solution."

Any solution, he insisted, should take the form of "a response flowing from a respectful encounter of faith and reason; a response that will help us, collectively, to make the behavioral changes necessary to protect this beautiful world we share, ensuring not only its God-intended harmony, but our own well-being."

To read more about Creatio, please visit:



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Cardinal Urosa questions new education law that removes religion classes

Caracas, Venezuela, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jose Urosa Savino, expressed regret yesterday over the passage of a new law on education by the National Assembly that “expels” God from the classroom. More than anything else, he said, the children of Venezuela “need to study religion” at school.
In an interview with Globovision, the cardinal said he was disappointed the National Assembly did not postpone voting on the bill so that teachers and school administrators could read the measure and participate in the debate.
“It is very important that laws unite and not divide us, that they be an expression of the consensus of the nation.  In this case it will instead be a controversial law.  It has now been approved and promulgated and we hope there will be a positive attitude at all levels of society and that solutions be found, so that there are no confrontations over this law and no excessive problems are created,” he said.
The Venezuelan cardinal went on to express his rejection of the bill, which removes religion from the classroom.

“This is not about taking out Urosa’s God from the classroom,” he said.  “It’s about removing religion as a subject, something that children need to learn. Just as they need physical education, sports and art, they also need, more than anything else, to study religion.  This was provided for in the former law and it is provided for in the constitution,” he pointed out. 

“It is a true shame and at the same time from a legal point of view it is totally questionable,” Urosa added. He said the Church’s schools would continue to fulfill their commitment to provide religious instruction to all the children of Venezuela.

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Catholic convert and political commentator Robert Novak passes away

Washington D.C., Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - The death of Robert Novak has led many to remember the career of the expert political journalist. Some noted his conversion to Catholicism later in life, with one former colleague calling it his “most important” change of heart.

Novak died of a malignant tumor at his Washington, D.C. home on Tuesday.

One half of the Evans-Novak “Inside Report,” begun in 1963 with journalist Rowland Evans, Novak was known for his ability to explain the feuds and factions of American politics with the help of his many inside sources. For a long time he was co-host of the CNN debate show “Crossfire.”

Though a political conservative, he opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Later in 2003, he became the object of controversy for exposing the identity of a CIA agent married to retired diplomat John C. Wilson, who investigated and questioned the factual basis for the justifications of the war.

Tim Carney, a former employee of Novak, described the journalist’s late-life conversion to Catholicism as “his most important change of heart.”

“Brought up a secular Jew, and having lived seven decades as an agnostic, Novak entered the church in his 60s,” Carney wrote at “When I went to work for him, I was considering entering the Catholic Church as well. Novak pointed me to the priests who helped answer my remaining questions and cement my faith.”

He reported that Novak told aspiring journalists to pick a different field if they aimed to change the world.

“But, by simply aiming to inform and to do his job as well he could, Novak changed the lives of his readers and those of us blessed to work with him.”

Announcing his cancer diagnosis in his final column for the Chicago Sun-Times on September 7, 2008, he said his health problems first became manifest after he hit a pedestrian with his car. Tests later showed he had lost his left-side vision.

A biopsy revealed a major tumor, leading his oncologist to estimate that he had six months to a year to live.

“Being read your death sentence is like being a character in one of the old Bette Davis movies,” Novak said. “I believe I was able to withstand this shock because of my Catholic faith, to which I converted in 1998.”

Novak went into greater detail about his faith in his 2007 book “The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington.”

Novak attended Christian services sporadically until the mid-1960s, but then stopped going to religious services for nearly 30 years.

In the early 1980s, a friend gave Novak Catholic literature after he came close to dying from spinal meningitis. Ten years later, his non-Catholic wife Geraldine persuaded him to join her at Mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Washington D.C.

The celebrant, Fr. Peter Vaghi, was a former Republican lawyer and adviser to Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). He was also a former source for the Evans and Novak column.

Novak then started to go to Mass regularly and decided to convert a few years later. According to Novak, the turning point came when he visited Syracuse University in New York to lecture. Before he spoke he was seated at a dinner table near a young woman who wore a cross necklace. Novak asked her if she was Catholic, and she asked him the same.

Novak said that he had been going to Mass each Sunday for the last four years, but had not converted.

“Mr. Novak, life is short, but eternity is forever,” the woman responded, thus moving the journalist to begin studying for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the rite by which people learn the Catholic faith. He was baptized at St. Patrick’s in 1998. His wife was also baptized a Catholic.

Novak later recounted his conversion in an interview with a skeptical New York Times interviewer. He said he told her he believed the Holy Spirit was behind coincidences such as his former source becoming a priest.

"I consider this the only one true faith, so I believe the Holy Spirit led me to it," Novak said.

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Cardinal Terrazas slams Bolivian politicians for 'stepping on others'

La Paz, Bolivia, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - During Mass this week, Cardinal Julio Terrazas of Santa Cruz, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia, warned those in government against abusing their power and said leaders should foster “freedom and peace” amidst the crisis the nation is experiencing.
During his homily at a Mass in Cochabamba, the cardinal said Bolivians need humility to accept one another and the capacity to form a nation with real integration. 

“We do not agree with people who step on others from their thrones.  We must say with Mary that the mighty will be cast down from their thrones, because God’s throne has done great things in simplicity and in humbly accepting others,” the cardinal said.
Cardinal Terrazas urged Bolivians to “reach out to the afflicted, to those caught up in their errors, vices and drugs and offer them a life centered solely on freedom and peace.  We must feel that we are capable of forming a nation that fills us with pride,” he said.

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Catechism is tool for informing Christian hope, says Argentinean archbishop

La Plata, Argentina, Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata in Argentina called on the faithful this week not to be content with the teachings they receive in the Sunday homily but to look to the Catechism as well for their formation in the faith and to discover the reasons for their Christian hope.
“The Apostle St. Peter, in his First Letter, told the Christians of that time that they must be prepared to give a reason for their hope, for the hope who is Christ, his teaching and his redemption. The exhortation is also valid for us. We must be prepared to give a reason for the Truth. This reason implies knowledge,” the archbishop said during his weekly radio program “Keys to a Better World.”
The archbishop said Sunday homilies, when they are adequately prepared by the priest, convey to the faithful the fundamental contents of Christianity.  Nevertheless, even in the best of cases, “there is still something that must be completed later and in a personal way by each Christian.” 

“We cannot be content simply with what we receive in the Sunday homily,” he said.
In this sense, he pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “a splendid instrument for our instruction in the truths of the faith,” since in this document “we find a synthesis of what the Church transmits in the name of Christ.”  It not only educates us in the sacraments, prayer, the liturgy and the commandments but also “in particular issues of utmost relevance for today,” he added.
Archbishop Aguer said the Catechism should be present in every home, “together with the Sacred Scriptures,” as a help in dealing with the day-to-day issues of one’s life, in responding to doubts posed by our children and friends, or when we have a doubt concerning some objection we have heard.”
“When we say that each Christian should be a disciple and missionary of Jesus Christ, we are charged in some way with this responsibility.  We are the bearers of this truth that we need to put [it] at the disposal and consideration of all those who come into contact with us,” the archbishop said.

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U.S. Lutheran convention establishes low threshold for homosexuality vote

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug 18, 2009 (CNA) - The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is considering a proposal that would allow members in homosexual relationships to serve as clergy. It has denied a motion to require a higher proportion of votes for the proposal to pass.

On Monday delegates gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center rejected a proposal to require approval from a two-thirds supermajority instead of a simple majority when the measure comes to a final vote, expected on Friday.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson cautioned earlier in the day that the outcome of the majority versus supermajority vote shouldn't be seen as strongly indicating how the debate will be decided.

Supporters of the high threshold for passage said it was necessary to signal wide support for a major change in the church’s approach to homosexuality. About 43 percent of the 1,045 voting delegates supported the higher standard, the Associated Press says.

Other topics of consideration include a broader statement on sexuality, a 34-page document that reportedly would establish a theological framework for differing views of homosexuality. Critics say it would liberalize the ELCA. The vote on that document is scheduled for Wednesday.

The ELCA claims about 4.7 million members and 10,000 congregations in the United States.

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