Ecumenical line-up for papal prayer service in NYC announced

On April 18, Pope Benedict XVI will lead an ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Church in Manhattan with some 250 national and regional Protestant and Orthodox leaders.

Today, the U.S. Bishops Conference identified the 10 national and 5 New York-based ecumenical leaders who will greet the pope at the end of the ceremony.

The 15 leaders (with descriptions provided by the USCCB) are:

Archbishop Demetrios of America, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In June 2003, the Archbishop led the delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Vatican for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. He serves as Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America. Archbishop Barsamian is a member of the international dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and is Chairman of the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in the United States.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington and ecumenical officer. He became President of the National Council of Churches USA January 1, 2008.

Rev. Dr. Donald McCoid, representing Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is Director of the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

tjndc5-5bwqjs6v9gke8whsk07_layout.jpgBishop Jeremiah J. Park (that’s him), Bishop of the New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Rev. Dr. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America since 1994, and one of the five Presidents of Christian Churches Together in the USA, representing the historic Protestant family.

Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) since 1996.

Rev. Dr. William J. Shaw, President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., since 1999. Dr. Shaw serves as one of the five Presidents of Christian Churches Together in the USA, representing the Racial/Ethnic family of churches.

Bishop James Leggett, General Superintendent of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, a position he had held since 1997. Bishop Leggett is the Evangelical/Pentecostal President of Christian Churches Together in the USA.

Dr. Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and senior pastor of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota since 1977.

Leaders from the New York area who will personally greet the pope include

tjndc5-5b4dn9wibkh19ismnb6_layout.jpgBishop David H. Benke, president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Rev. Benke was elected president of the Atlantic District in 1991, and has been re-elected five times, most recently in 2006. He is also the primary ecumenical leader for the Nehemiah Project which provides housing for the poor in New York City.

Rev. Dr. A. R. Bernard Sr., President of the Council of Churches of the City of New York and founder and Senior Pastor of The Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York. He is also host of two weekly television programs, Faith in Practice with A. R. Bernard and The A. R. Bernard Show.

Elder Bernice A. King, the second daughter and youngest child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. With her brother Martin Luther King III, she has been active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference once led by their father. She is currently an elder at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia.

Rev. Jimmy Seong G. Lim, Executive Director of the Council of Churches of the City of New York. Rev. Lim has served the Council of Churches of the City of New York since 1999. Rev. Lim is an ordained minister in The Reformed Church in America.

tjndc5-5b5gdshjkhjkhqb5ezi_layout.jpgThe Right Rev. Mark S. Sisk, the 15th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Bishop Sisk was consecrated Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New York in 1998. Prior to his election as coadjutor, Bishop Sisk served as President and Dean of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.

‘Israel at 60’ in Hartsdale

Polls show that American Jewish support for Israel is weakening somewhat, but nothing brings New York Jews together like Israel.

tjndc5-5b226th6fwz1bum16k3i_layout.jpgThe Westchester Jewish Conference, the UJA Federation of NY and others are sponsoring an “Israel at 60” celebration on Sunday (April 6) at the Solomon Schechter School in Hartsdale.

The picture is of a similar event a few years back.

On Sunday, Israeli Consul General Asaf Shariv will be there, as will officials from the AJC, AIPAC and other groups.

It will be all-Israel, all-day.

Muslims pass Catholics in numbers

There are now more Muslims in the world than Roman Catholics, the Vatican’s newspaper has announced.

But there are still more Christians overall…

Here’s the AP summary:

Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

“For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican’s yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

“It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer,” the monsignor said.

Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims were put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.

Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.

White Plains church faces gambling scandal

A lot of readers are commenting about our coverage over the weekend of the gambling scandal at Our Lady of Sorrows R.C. Church in White Plains.

tjndc5-5jdimmov8qpb2esyx3_layout.jpgIf you haven’t seen it, the church’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Patrick Dunne, apparently stole a lot of parish money to pay for gambling debts.

The chancellor of the Archdiocese of NY, Monsignor William Belford (that’s him), spoke about the situation at all Masses at the church this past weekend — after the archdiocese was contacted Friday by the Journal News/LoHud.

Having read most of the comments on LoHud, as well as emails to me and today’s follow-up article, is seems that a lot of parishioners are urging forgiveness for Father Dunne.

One parishioner wrote:

Although parishioners were told that Father Dunne would not be coming back, I would be happy to see him back here after treatment, only without check-writing power. Aside from this flaw, he was a good priest and did good work. Many of his sermons were about forgiveness and compassion and he deserves the same given back to him.

A very Christian response, no doubt.

Others were concerned about a lack of oversight. Through the years, many Catholics have mentioned their concerns to me about money management in their parishes (not about misdeeds, but the potential for problems). I’m sure a lot of people will be watching to see what the Westchester DA’s office, which is investigating Father Dunne, will find.

Catholic Church increasingly Latino (as we know)

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has a nice analysis of the “state of the Catholic Church” in the U.S. as the papal visit nears, drawn from its recent study of religion in America and other sources.

Here are a few nuggets about the immigration influence:

The vast majority (82%) of Catholic immigrants to the U.S. were born in Latin America, and most Catholic immigrants from Latin America (52% of all Catholic immigrants to the U.S.) come from just one country — Mexico. Catholics are also well represented among immigrants coming to the U.S. from Western Europe, Eastern Europe and East Asia; more than one-in-four of all immigrants from these regions are Catholic.

Recent demographic analyses conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center indicate that the Latino share of the U.S. population will grow significantly in the coming decades. Indeed, there are likely to be nearly 130 million Latinos in the U.S. by the year 2050 — more than three times the size of the Latino population in 2005 (42 million). These estimates project that Latinos will account for 29% of the U.S. population by 2050, up from 14% in 2005.

As the Latino share of the U.S. population grows, the proportion of American Catholics who are Latino is likely to grow as well. The Landscape Survey finds that Latinos now account for nearly a third (29%) of all Catholic adults in the U.S. Perhaps more significantly, Latinos account for nearly half of Catholics under age 40. In contrast, older Catholics are predominantly white. For example, only 12% of Catholics age 70 and older are Hispanic.


Graphic source: Pew Forum

An ecumenical veteran leaving the NCC

The Rev. Eileen Lindner, a leading voice for ecumenism with the National Council of Churches, will leave the NCC on May 15.

Lindner, a Presbyterian minister, has been with the NCC for three decades. She served as Deputy General Secretary for Research and Planning until this year, when she became Director of Organizational Development after a NCC reorganization.

In a statement, she said that the position likely requires a full-time fund-raiser. And that’s not her.

ewl3.jpgShe is well known for overseeing the NCC’s respected Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, which is probably the most credible source of denominational facts and figures.

The NCC is, of course, based at the Interchurch Center at 475 Riverside Drive in NYC, the capital of organizational mainline Protestantism.

The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, wrote in a statement to staff:

I am sure you join me in celebrating Eileen’s commitment and ministry in her time with the Council, especially her leadership with the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, the development of the policy statement on human genetics, and her concerns for children and health care to list only a few. I am deeply appreciative of Eileen’s abiding commitment to the Council and its future and trust that her ministry will continue to serve Christ’s church.

I remember a great quote that Lindner gave me way back in 1998 when I wrote a lengthy feature on the growing divide over homosexuality:

While churches have their policies on abortion, it is ultimately a private decision. On homosexuality, there is no privacy, no such middle ground. So each denomination, whatever they decide, risks the clerical equivalence of civil disobedience. The result is the most schismatic issue since slavery and rubble as far as the eye can see.

Rubble as far as the eye can see.

Greenburgh energy conservation coordinator will try interfaith approach

New York Interfaith Power & Light, a group that advocates a faith-based approach to saving energy, has appointed Nicola Coddington of Irvington as executive director.

tjndc5-5dukwojx8hz19qxsqg2l_layout.jpgCoddington has been energy conservation coordinator for the Town of Greeburgh.

NYIPL says it aims to “promote stewardship of the earth by faith communities through energy conservation and efficiency and through the use of renewable energy.” It is a chapter of the Interfaith Power & Light campaign, which has chapters in 26 states and D.C.

Religious congregations across New York state contribute to the group.

Dr. Janet Allen, NYIPL vice president, said she looks forward to “Nikki solidifying and strengthening the New York State interfaith community’s response to global warming.”

McCain’s minister: ‘I’m not anti-Catholic’

From Barack Obama’s pastor back to John McCain’s minister/endorser…

John Hagee is the San Antonio megachurch pastor who endorsed McCain and has since enduring a media firestorm for being anti-Catholic.

He has released a short sermon defending himself, which is on YouTube and was sent out today as a video press release.

Hagee states: “I am not now, nor have I ever been, anti-Catholic.” He explains that he supported a convent for retired nuns for 10 years and runs a soup kitchen that serves food primarily to Catholics.

He said that it is true that, as a strong supporter of Judaism and Israel, he has talked about the “past anti-Semitism” of both the Catholic Church and Protestant churches.

He put it like this:

Calling Christians to account for their past anti-Semitism does not make me anti-Catholic and it does not make me anti-Protestant.

Here’s the video:

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QB gunslinger, also Catholic

tjndc5-5j16avw3z9wkbdewo5g_layout1.jpgIn the sports world, much has been made of the recent retirement of Packers QB Brett Favre.

As a big football fan, I’ve always admired Favre’s aggressive play and off-the-field modesty (although I could do without seeing his Wrangler jeans commercial for the billionth time).

Through his long career, I don’t think I ever heard a word about Favre’s Catholic faith. I guess his wife wrote a bit about it in her recent book about surviving cancer.

But I came across an unusual column by Joseph Kip Kosek, an assistant prof of American Studies at George Washington University. He writes that Favre is: “a peculiar Christian athlete whose career defies familiar evangelical optimism in favor of a darker, distinctly Catholic vision.”

In other words, Favre is no Kurt Warner. (If you don’t follow football and you don’t know who Warner is, forget the whole thing…)

A ‘model theologian’ prepares to step aside

Cardinal Avery Dulles has this to say about being made a cardinal in St. Peter’s Square in 2001:

I enjoyed it, but that’s not really what counts. I prefer to spend my time reading, thinking, writing, teaching. I’m not particularly made for ceremonies.

tjndc5-5b5eubsc5×1qd2q5ezi_layout.jpgDulles is profiled in the current issue of the Fordham alumni magazine. Dulles, who will turn 90 in August, is retiring at the end of the academic year as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham.

He will deliver his 39th and final McGinley lecture at Fordham’s Bronx campus on Tuesday. It is billed as his farewell address.

His story is legendary among people who follow these things. The son of John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under Eisenhower and a prominent Presbyterian, Avery Dulles made quite a splash when he converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest in 1956.

Dulles has written 25 books and published hundreds of articles. He is considered one of Catholicism’s keenest American minds. He is often described as having taken the usual journey from moderation to conservativism, but it’s more complicated than that, of course.

He has said that it is the theologian’s job to “show why the church is teaching what she is.”

I’ve had the opportunity to interview Dulles twice. He was gracious, humble and chose his words carefully. I don’t think he’s too smitten with the secular media.

I asked him in 2001, weeks before he was made a cardinal, why theology should matter to Catholics in the pews. He answered:

When one believes, you should want to know more about what and why. What are the implications of belief? If you understand marriage as a sacrament, for instance, like the marriage between Christ and the church, you may have a better marriage than those who do not. Theology has real relevance.

He told me in 2005 that he had no plans to write a memoir. That’s too bad.