Archive of November 3, 2009

Pro-life congress to attract more than 1,000 from around the world

Zaragoza, Spain, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - The fourth International Pro-life Congress will take place from November 6-8 in Zaragoza, Spain featuring speakers from 14 different countries including the U.S., Canada, Uganda, Cuba and France.  Organizers expect 1,000 participants to attend from Spain and around the world.

According to organizers, the Congress aims at both raising social awareness in support of women with unexpected pregnancies and defending the life of the unborn.  Speakers hail from various countries including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Uganda, Chile, Cuba, Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Sweden, Italy, France and Spain.

The opening address will be delivered by Professor Jutta Burggraf from the University of Navarre, and  closing remarks will be given by John Smeaton, director of the U.K.-based, pro-life Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.

The Congress will also feature a presentation by Martin Ssempa, an active promoter of abstinence in the fight against AIDs. 

Scheduled events

On the evening of November 7, Dr. Juan Luis Alcazar Zambrano from the University Clinic of Navarre will give a presentation titled, “Life in Real Time,” which will focus on the three-dimensional ultrasound technology and will allow attendees to get a glimpse of life in the womb.

A forum will also be held featuring an address by psychiatrist Dr. Jose Maria Semelas on post-abortion stress syndrome.  Following Dr. Semelas, presentations will be given on new pro-life books and audiovisual materials. Special guests will also share their testimonies of coping with the pain of abortion.

Later that night, one million candles will be lit along a two and a half mile stretch of downtown Zaragoza to represent the 1.5 million babies who have died in Spain because of abortion.  The first candle will be lit by one of the organizers of Madrid's October 17 March for Life.

More information on the Congress can be found at:

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Report details harassment and 'anti-religious bigotry' after Prop. 8 passage

Sacramento, Calif., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - A think tank has compiled and analyzed reports of the harassment, intimidation, and “gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry” shown in reaction to the successful passage of Proposition 8. If partisans of marriage redefinition continue to increase in power, the analysis warns, those who seek the preservation of marriage as a union of man and wife may risk paying a price legally, socially and economically.

The Heritage Foundation’s Oct. 22 report “The Price of Prop 8,” authored by researcher Thomas M. Messner, said that many individuals and institutions who defend the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman have paid a “heavy price.”

Militant opponents of Prop. 8 targeted supporters with a range of hostility, including “harassment, intimidation, vandalism, racial scapegoating, blacklisting, loss of employment, economic hardships, angry protests, violence, at least one death threat, and gross expressions of anti-religious bigotry,” the report stated.

Vandalism included a brick thrown through the window of an elderly couple who put a “Yes on 8” sign in their lawn. Another senior citizen with a pro-Prop. 8 bumper sticker had her car’s rear window smashed.

A statue of the Virgin Mary outside one church was vandalized with orange paint. Swastikas and other graffiti were scrawled on the walls of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. At Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Riverside, signs were twisted into the shape of a swastika.

A heavy object wrapped with a “Yes on 8” sign was used to smash the window of a pastor’s office at Messiah Lutheran Church in Downey.

Sign theft targeting Prop. 8 supporters was significant, with one source estimating about one-third of the 25,000 signs distributed were stolen or vandalized before the end of the campaign.

Phone calls, e-mails and mailings also targeted supporters of Prop. 8. The messages made accusation of bigotry and used vulgar language. One e-mail threatened to contact the parents of students at a school where a particular Prop. 8 supporter worked.

One individual supporter was the subject of a flier distributed in his town. The flier included his photo and name and the amount of his donation to the pro-Prop. 8 campaign. It labeled him as a “bigot” and reported his association with a particular Catholic church.

Increased support for Prop. 8 among African Americans and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as Mormons, also resulted in their communities being targeted.

Racial epithets were used at anti-Prop. 8 protests, while Joe Solmonese, head of the Human Rights Campaign, targeted the Mormons.

On the Dr. Phil show, responding to a Mormon questioner, he replied: “We are going to go after your church every day for the next two years unless and until Prop 8 is overturned.”

An anti-Prop. 8 advertisement depicted two Mormon missionaries invading the home of a lesbian couple, ransacking their belongings and tearing up their marriage license.

“Anti-Mormon malice reached a new level when someone mailed packages containing suspicious white powder to Mormon temples in California and Utah,” Messner said.

Jose Nunez, a new U.S. citizen, was waiting to distribute signs outside his Catholic church when a man grabbed several signs and fled. He pursued the thief, who reportedly yelled “What do you have against gays?” and punched him in the face.

Nunez suffered a bloody eye and wounds to his face and required 16 stitches under his eye.

Employees of businesses were targeted by some protesters. Some employees resigned, while others took leaves of absence. Some business owners lost business because they had donated to support Prop. 8.

While deeming boycotts a “time-honored form of activism,” the Heritage Foundation’s report commented: “No individual should be compelled to choose between making a living and participating in democratic processes affecting fundamental matters of public concern, such as marriage.”

California law requiring the disclosure of personal information of individuals who donate $100 or more to a ballot measure campaign have made such displays of hostility easier, the report said. Several websites were designed to use the information to identify and target Prop. 8 supporters.

While acknowledging that many Prop. 8 opponents have rejected such abuses, Messner argues that the ideology underlying the outrage is a cause of hostility.

“Arguments for same-sex marriage, although often couched in terms of tolerance and inclusion, are based fundamentally on the idea that limiting marriage to the union of husband and wife is a form of bigotry, irrational prejudice, and even hatred against homosexual persons who want the state to license their relationships. As this ideology seeps into the culture, belief in marriage as the union of husband and wife will likely come to be viewed as an unacceptable form of discrimination that should be purged from society through legal, cultural, and economic pressure.”

“Individuals or institutions that publicly defend marriage as the union of husband and wife risk harassment, reprisal, and intimidation—at least some of it targeted and coordinated,” Messner continued.

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Vietnamese bishop condemns government take over of monastery

Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - A Vietnamese bishop has strongly condemned the initiation of a “sorrowful” project to convert a monastery in the Diocese of Vinh Long into a public square.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of Vinh Long, in an Oct. 28 letter to the priests, religious and laity of his diocese, said that the local government had aggressively started the project despite the ongoing protest of the diocese and the Congregation of St. Paul of Chartres, the monastery’s former occupants.

The bishop said that local authorities had not informed him of the decision, which he learned from reading the newspaper, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

The action is “so embittering” for Catholics, the bishop continued.

“It’s so sorrowful to see a place for worshiping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertainment.”

He added that he also felt disgust at seeing the Catholic cemetery of the diocese illegally seized and demolished for a public park.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen said the incident is part of the ongoing injustice his diocese has suffered since the “disastrous day” of Sept. 7, 1977. On that date the local authorities used the armed forces to blockade and raid the cathedral, the major seminary and the Holy Cross College of Vinh Long. Authorities arrested all the leaders of the institutions, including Bishop Nguyen Van Tan himself.

The bishop reported that all leading clergy had to leave the institutions.

“Few were imprisoned. Others were transferred to other places,” he said, charging that local authorities had falsely denounced them of “training youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country.”

The Vietnamese government reportedly told religious leaders that it would grant land-use rights if they asked, but the bishop thought this was impossible as long as the government considered the religious to be criminals.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen asked the faithful to pray more intensely for holy souls and for the end of the injustices that the diocese has suffered.

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School counselor targeted for supporting Maine’s pro-marriage Question 1

Portland, Maine, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) -  
A high school counselor is the subject of an ethics complaint to the Maine licensing board because of his appearance in a TV ad in favor of Maine’s Question 1, which would secure the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. His defenders say the complaint is an attempt to silence supporters of marriage.

Donald Mendell, a licensed counselor at Nokomis Regional High School, is the subject of a complaint accusing him of violating the state’s code of ethics for social workers because of his expressed position on marriage.

Mendell appeared in a “Vote Yes on 1” ad that would repeal a recent law that recognized same-sex “marriages.” The vote on Question 1 will take place on November 3.

According to a press release from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which is representing Mendell, the ad he participated in was a response to a “Vote No on One” ad that featured a Nokomis teacher encouraging a “no” vote from a classroom at the high school itself.

The complaint claimed that Mendell made public comments that “can endanger or promote discrimination.” It also noted that Mendell’s description of a fellow teacher as a “gay activist” violated the ethical code’s provision against “unwarranted negative criticism” of colleagues in communications.

The complaint also charged that Mendell has a “long history of being unsupportive of GLBTQ issues” and was “very vocal” in opposition to a homosexual student group. It cited a student who thought Mendell’s participation in the ad showed him to be “racist against gays,” and claimed another student thought the counselor’s actions would make students who believe they are homosexual feel Mendell is less accepting of them.

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks criticized the complaint, saying:

“No one should have their livelihood placed in jeopardy because they believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman. This threat to Don, his family, and his career makes clear that those in favor of redefining marriage also want to penalize and silence those who don’t agree with them. So, the definition of marriage is not the only thing at issue here. Free speech, freedom of conscience, and religious liberty are also in danger.”

Mendell has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

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Vatican says visitation of women religious will issue public report

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - Cardinal Franc Rode issued a statement on Tuesday in response to questions about the motivation for the ongoing apostolic visitation of the women's religious communities in the United States. He said that his dicastery had been considering a visitation for years and that a report on the objective findings will be made public.

As prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life—which is heading up the visitation—Cardinal Rode said that he hopes it will “encourage vocations and assure a better future for women religious.”

The prefect also shared information about the decision-making process that led to the launch of the visitation. “For many years this dicastery had been listening to concerns expressed by American Catholics – religious, laity, clergy and hierarchy – about the welfare of religious women and consecrated life in general, and had been considering an Apostolic Visitation as a means to assess and constructively address these concerns,” Cardinal Rode said.

He also mentioned the September 2008 Symposium on Religious Life which was held on the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston at Stonehill College. The gathering, he said, made the “multitude and complexity of these issues” clear and helped him understand that “such an evaluation of the challenges facing individual religious and their congregations could benefit the Church at-large as well as the sisters and institutes involved.”

“My hope,” Cardinal Rode added, “is that the Apostolic Visitation will not only provide the Holy See with a thorough analysis of the condition of religious life in the United States, but also be a realistic and graced opportunity for personal and community introspection, as major superiors and sisters cooperate with this study.”

Cardinal Rode also responded to criticism about the visitations findings being kept private by revealing that the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University is “cooperating in the collection of information and will prepare a composite analytical report of the standard, objective data contained in Part A of the questionnaire. This report will be made public and should provide important information regarding likely future trends of religious life in the United States.”

“It is the practice of the Holy See that an Apostolic Visitation be conducted ad inquirendum et referendum (i.e., studied and referred). Therefore, this dicastery will formulate no conclusions or plan of action, if any, until the final report of the Visitator has been evaluated,” he added.

Commenting on the progress of the visitation thus far, he said that he is “pleased with the voluntary response” that Apostolic Visitator Mother Mary Clare Millea has received from “more than three-fourths of the superiors general.”

The four-stage visitation is now in its second phase, during which the major superiors will respond to a questionnaire presenting a comprehensive profile of each institute’s present reality and future outlook.

Cardinal Rode concluded his statement by stating that he is “encouraged by the efforts to identify the signs of hope, as well as concerns, within religious congregations in the United States, which are also likely to have implications elsewhere in the world. I ask all people of good will to unite in prayer for the fruitful outcome of this effort to promote the Catholic identity and vibrancy of life of women religious.”

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Homosexual 'marriage' should not be approved, say Argentinean evangelicals

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches from Argentina (CAECA) issued a statement last weekend arguing that “homosexual marriage,” which could be legalized by the Argentinean Congress, should not be approved because it would signify another step towards the destruction of true marriage and the family.

The alliance said its statement was a reaffirmation of “its institutional position, based on the Bible, the Word of God,” in response to the debate on a homosexual “marriage” law.

“Marriage is universally recognized as the union between a man and woman.  The Latin American culture and American laws are based on a clear and firm appreciation for the family.  The Declaration of Human Rights, Art 16.3; the Civil and Political Rights Pact, Art 23; and the American Convention on Human Rights, Art 17; recognize the right to marriage constituted by one man and one woman and to the formation of a family,” the statement indicated.

“We believe this issue is socially relevant as the survival of society itself is in question,”  CAECA said. Marriage is “essentially heterosexual” and therefore to “make homosexual unions equivalent to marriage would be to distort and ignore the real meaning the word itself encompasses.”

The alliance stressed that the state has a “particular interest in providing protection and benefits to heterosexual couples, since they continue the cycle of life and constitute the basis for the formation and perpetuation of new generations.”

“To grant the same benefits to homosexual couples would mean to make them equivalent to heterosexual couples in various aspects, when they are intrinsically different, and thus grave signs of discrimination would be incurred,” the alliance warned.

The statement then underscored that Argentinean law does not discriminate against homosexuals since the prohibition against marriage between two people of the same sex also applies to any two persons who do not meet marriage requirements established by law.  “Thus neither can two friends, two brothers or two neighbors of the same sex enjoy such legal benefits.  It is not a question of ‘homophobia,’ just as it is not a question of ‘fraternal-phobia’ either.”

The organization concluded its statement by calling on officials to resist pressure to open the door to “new kinds of families,” and urged that efforts be made to help the traditional family.

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Pope says Christianity is central to Bulgarian, EU identity

Vatican City, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - In a meeting last Saturday with the new ambassador of Bulgaria, Nikola Ivanov Kaludov, Pope Benedict XVI spoke on the importance of Christianity in the development of Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007.

Stating the necessity of Bulgaria keeping its cultural identity, the Holy Father said that “countries must not sacrifice their own cultural identity in the process of constructing Europe. Quite the opposite, they must find the means to produce good fruits that enrich the entire community.”

“Bulgaria,” he commented, “undoubtedly plays an important role in creating serene relations among neighbor States, and in the defense and promotion of human rights.”

In the case of Bulgaria, the Holy Father stated that Christianity is central to its identity and that the development of the country must have a “spiritual dimension.” Referencing his recent encyclical “Caritas in Vertitate” the Holy Father said that “it is vital for development not to be limited exclusively to economic domination, but that it take account of the integrity of the human person.”

The Pope warned Bulgarians to not view Christianity as merely “a treasure of the past to be conserved” but instead to recognize its “truly promising future which protects human beings from the temptations that always threaten to make them forget their own greatness.”

Pope Benedict finished his address by stating the importance of “mutual understanding and respect” between the many religious communities in Bulgaria and that “the Catholic community wishes to open generously to everyone and to work with everyone.”

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Church in Italy to issue clarification on cremation

Rome, Italy, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Italian Bishops' Conference is preparing to publish updated norms on funeral rites including cremation and the burial of ashes.

The manual, which will be reviewed and approved by the bishops' conference in Assisi on November 9,  will explain that Catholic doctrine does not oppose cremation but rejects the practice of storing ashes of loved ones at home.  The document will stress that this is a violation of the work of mercy that obliges Catholics to provide a holy burial to the dead.

Cremation was approved by Paul VI in 1963 as a practice that does not contradict the Church’s teaching on the resurrection, since it does not affect the soul “nor prevents the omnipotence of God from rebuilding the body.”

However, the document will note, a norm approved by the Italian government in 2001 runs contrary to Catholic teaching, as it allows the ashes of the dead to be kept in an urn at home or to be scattered in the wind, land or sea. 

Keeping the ashes of the dead at home does away with the important rite of accompanying the deceased to the cemetery, “which unites the community of believers.”  Burying the ashes at a cemetery, the “place of the dead,” is what makes most sense, the bishops will add.

Scattering the ashes, according to the Italian bishops, is based on a pagan ritual that supposedly symbolized the union of the deceased with “the great soul of mother earth,” and is contrary to the Christian obligation, established by the Lord Jesus himself, to bury the dead.

According to official statistics, currently 10 percent of those who die in Italy are cremated.

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Honduran Congress prohibits morning-after pill

Tegucigalpa, Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - A new law has taken effect in Honduras prohibiting the consumption and marketing of the morning-after pill in the Central American country.

The law was passed by the Honduran Congress at the beginning of the year with backing from the Medical College of Honduras, which pointed out that the pill has an abortifacient effect making it unconstitutional.

The Honduran Congress argued that the drug would “gravely endanger the health of the Honduran population, especially women who are able to get pregnant.”

Lawmakers pointed to a 2008 report by the Medical College of Honduras that warned of the drug’s anti-implantation effect, making it an abortifacient.  The new law prohibits “the promotion, consumption, sale and purchasing of the emergency contraceptive pill, as well as its distribution, whether for sale or free-of-charge.”

Commenting on the historic decision, which is similar to measures taken by other countries in the region, Carlos Polo, Latin American director of the Population Research Institute, told CNA that this decision is “a milestone for another Latin American country” saying that Honduras has freed itself from the pressures of  pharmaceutical companies and feminist organizations.

“In Latin America, where abortion is illegal, the only option left for the promoters of this pill was to misinform the people by denying the so-called ‘third effect.’  Now we see that pressure and misinformation can last a while but in the end, deceit fails on its own. We will certainly see the morning-after pill eradicated from Latin America, thus freeing ourselves from an inoperative and costly method that has grave adverse effects for women,” Polo said.

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FBI investigating death of sister in New Mexico convent

Gallup, N.M., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - Sister Marguerite Bartz, 64, was found dead on Sunday, Nov. 1 in St. Berard's Convent in Navajo, New Mexico by a colleague after she failed to show up for Mass that morning. Her death is being investigated as a murder by the FBI.

FBI officials believe that sometime between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, Sister Bartz was murdered.

Sister Bartz's beige colored Honda CR-V was reported missing but has since been found. Authorities have asked for any information relating to the investigation and have also stated that the subject(s) involved should be considered armed and dangerous.

The Diocese of Gallup, where the religious sister served, is not offering comment at this time as circumstances surrounding Sister Marguerite's death are still under investigation by the FBI.

Born in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1945, Sister Marguerite entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1966 and professed her final vows in 1974. In addition to completing a bachelor of arts degree from Xavier University in New Orleans, Sr. Bartz also held a master's degree in Religious Education from Loyola University. Sister Marguerite served in numerous locations throughout her 40 plus years in the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

According to the Diocese of Gallup, Sister Marguerite was “known to be a woman always passionate for justice and peace – and the life she lived would tell us that she would respond to this incident with a spirit of forgiveness towards whoever is responsible for these acts.”

Funeral plans are still being determined and  have not yet been announced.

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Dominican congregation says sister violated vows by volunteering as abortion clinic escort

Chicago, Ill., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - Responding to the charges that one of its sisters was volunteering as an escort at a Chicago-area abortion clinic, the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation says it has informed Sister Donna Quinn, OP, that her actions are in violation of her vows. The congregation also expressed regret for the controversy and public scandal her efforts have caused.

The Nov. 2 statement says that the congregation’s leadership was informed of Sr. Quinn’s actions several months ago.

“We as Sinsinawa Dominican women are called to proclaim the Gospel through the ministry of preaching and teaching to participate in the building of a holy and just society,” the statement continued. “As Dominican religious, we fully support the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity and value of every human life from conception to natural death. We believe that abortion is an act of violence that destroys the life of the unborn. We do not engage in activity that witnesses to support of abortion.” reported that pro-life advocates at the ACU Health Center in Hinsdale, Illinois recognized Sr. Quinn as a clinic escort after seeing her picture in a Chicago Tribune article.

She is presently a coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns, which dissents from Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception, the male priesthood and homosexuality.

She has reportedly called gender discrimination “the root cause of evil in the Church, and thus in the world.” Sr. Quinn has commented that she remains in the Dominican community only for “the sisterhood.”

The Vatican has organized an apostolic visitation in order to “comprehensively assess and encourage the growth” of women religious institutes in the United States.

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U.S. Anglican-Catholic meeting discusses immigration and new provision

Washington D.C., Nov 3, 2009 (CNA) - The Vatican’s recent provision for Anglicans who want to become Catholic, immigration issues and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor were the topics at a joint Anglican-Catholic theological meeting last week in Washington, D.C.

The Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the United States (ARC-USA) held its meeting at the Washington Retreat House on Oct. 26 and 27.

Episcopal Bishop of Southern Ohio Thomas Breidenthal and Catholic Bishop of Alexandria, Louisiana Ronald P. Herzog co-chaired the meeting.

The meeting, the sixty-sixth of the consultation, marked the third round of dialogue on the theme“Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Common Ground and Divergences.”

Responding to the Vatican’s October 20 announcement of personal ordinariates for former Anglicans who wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, members of the consultation welcomed the Church’s acknowledgment of a “substantial overlap” in the faith and the legitimacy of many Anglican traditions. According to an ARC-USA press release, members thought this acknowledgment was the fruit of over 40 years of official dialogue.

Because of the lack of published details on the new ordinariates, members thought it was premature to comment in detail but anticipated receiving the document for their next meeting.

Members of the consultation were encouraged by Anglican and Catholic leaders’ “firm statements” that official dialogue between the two churches will continue.

On immigration reform Fr. Thomas Rausch, S.J., of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles presented the Catholic viewpoint. He focused on the 2003 document by the U. S. and Mexican Bishops’ Conferences, “Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope.”

Bishop Breidenthal presented his paper, “Immigration Reform: An Anglican Approach.”

Consultation members saw substantial convergence in the discussion.

Pope John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor, which outlined fundamental elements of Catholic moral teaching, was summarized by Fr. Charles Caccavale of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, New York. He emphasized that it presents the moral life as deeply connected to the life of faith and to eternal life, ARC-USA reports.

Prof. Timothy Sedgwick of Virginia Theological Seminary discussed the document from an Anglican perspective, noting one area requiring further exploration is the encyclical's understanding of “intrinsically evil acts.”

During the meeting members prayed the Catholic and Anglican Liturgy of the Hours together and celebrated the Eucharist in both traditions, with members participating to the extent allowed by their respective churches. They toured the John Paul II Cultural Center and held a dinner in honor of the Episcopal Church's ecumenical officer Bishop Christopher Epting, who will be retiring in December after nine years of service.

The next meeting is scheduled for March, 2010 in Delray Beach, Florida.

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