- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

Church panel reaffirms welcome for gays

PORTLAND, Ore. — A top Episcopal panel reiterated the church’s welcome of homosexuals as it began talks on whether the denomination should meet Anglican demands to roll back acceptance of same-sex couples.

The Executive Council, a committee of clergy and lay people, issued the statement Sunday at the end of its three-day meeting in Portland. The council also emphasized that Episcopalians with traditional views of sexuality have a place in the denomination, too.

“We wish to reaffirm to our lesbian and gay members that they remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church,” the council said, then offered “prayerful concern” for those who consider homosexual relationships sinful. “We wish to reaffirm that they, too, remain a welcome and integral part of the Episcopal Church,” the council said.

Vatican, Vietnam discuss diplomatic ties

HANOI — Vatican officials traveled Monday to Vietnam for meetings with government leaders on establishing diplomatic relations.

Tensions have existed between the Vietnamese government and the Roman Catholic Church for decades, because communist authorities closely monitor religious groups and insist on approving most church appointments.

But relations have begun to thaw recently.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung became the highest-level Vietnamese official to meet a pontiff when he visited Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 25 in Rome. Afterward, Vatican officials said there had been “concrete progress” for religious freedom in Vietnam. Vietnamese officials then said they were working on a “road map” toward normalizing relations with the Vatican.

Vietnam has one of the largest Catholic populations in Asia, with 6 million faithful.

Churches council releases yearbook

NEW YORK — The Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and Methodist churches remain the largest three denominations in the country, with the Mormon Church ranking fourth in size, according to the latest edition of the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches.

The 2007 edition of the book, which is published by the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical group based in New York, tallied statistics collected by churches in 2005.

The number of Roman Catholics rose nearly 2 percent since the 2006 yearbook to more than 69 million, while the Southern Baptists reported 16.3 million members.

Boston’s Catholic Appeal surpasses goal

BOSTON — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston raised $13.8 million in its latest annual fund drive, the most since 2002 at the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

Donations to this past year’s appeal rose 15 percent over the previous year — a 57 percent increase over 2002, when income dropped to $8.8 million, archdiocese officials said.

The number of donors has also rebounded. In 2000, when $17.2 million was collected, 90,000 people contributed. That figure dropped to 38,000 in 2002, then rose this past year to 50,000.

“Clearly, if you look over the last four campaigns, there is a strong demonstration of forward movement and a recognition by Catholics of the progress that’s taking place across the archdiocese,” said Damien DeVasto, director of the Catholic Appeal.

The fundraising drive was formerly called the Cardinal’s Appeal, but was renamed after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned in 2002 as archbishop of Boston.

From combined wire and staff reports

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