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CATHOLIC CHURCH Diocese of Erie to join services



Published: Sun, August 11, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Youngstown and Pittsburgh dioceses are not participating in the prayer services for abusers and their victims.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

One of the three Catholic dioceses serving the Mahoning and Shenango valleys will take part in services this week stemming from the sexual abuse scandal involving priests.

The Diocese of Erie will join other dioceses in the United States on Wednesday and Thursday to pray, fast and do penance for the sexual abuse of minors by priests. Prayers will also be said for victims of sexual abuse.

The Erie Diocese includes Mercer County.

The Youngstown Diocese, which covers six counties in Ohio, and the Pittsburgh Diocese, which includes Lawrence County, are not taking part.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a plan at a June meeting in Dallas to either defrock abusive priests or remove them from ministry.

The bishops also decided on the services as a way to atone for their failures to prevent priests from sexually abusing minors, according to the Erie Diocese.

Nancy Yuhasz, chancellor for the Youngstown diocese, said the services were a suggestion.

The Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh diocese, said the services were optional.

Across the nation

The national effort is "A Holy Hour for Healing: For a Holier Episcopate, A Holier Priesthood, A Holier Church," according to the Erie diocese, which will have three regional holy hours at 4:15 p.m. and Masses at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Holy hours, said the bishop, are an invitation for Catholics to recognize that they all are brothers and sisters who are responsible for one another.

The presiding leaders are Bishop Donald W. Trautman and retired Bishop Michael J. Murphy, at St. Peter Cathedral, Erie, Pa.; Monsignor Robert Smith, vicar general and vicar for the diocese's northern vicariate, at St. Joseph Church, Sharon, Pa.; and Monsignor Charles Kaza, vicar for the diocese's eastern vicariate, and pastor of St. Tobias Church, Brockway, Pa., at St. Tobias.

Bishop Trautman also asked parishes to include "A Litany of Healing" in the Masses for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Thursday. Copies of the litany were sent to each parish.

"The bishops felt that we needed to make a public statement that we recognize the spiritual dimension that, indeed, there is need for penance and repentance," the bishop said in a statement.

Making reparations

Catholics have traditionally made reparation when evil things have happened by praying for those who have sinned and their victims, the bishop explained.

"We want to strengthen the church, ask for forgiveness and pray for those innocent people who have been hurt," he added.

According to the Erie diocese, the bishops at the Dallas meeting made clear the mid-August prayers were not a one-time event. And, according to the diocese, the prayers are not an adequate response by themselves for the victims' pain or for the loss of trust caused by a number of bishops who returned abusive priests to ministry who abused again.

Both Yuhasz and Father Lengwin said no services were scheduled in their dioceses, and none were planned.

Yuhasz said there might be prayers in some churches Thursday during the assumption rites.

The Youngstown diocese has announced it has had 17 cases of sexual abuse. The Erie and Pittsburgh dioceses have not announced their numbers. All three have removed priests but not announced their names or information about the abuse cases.

wilkinson@vindy.com




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