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  Coleman to Talk It over with Lay Group

By Kathleen Durand kdurand@heraldnews.com
Herald News [Fall River MA]
February 4, 2004

FALL RIVER -- Bishop George W. Coleman has invited five members of Voice of the Faithful in the Fall River Diocese to meet with him Thursday afternoon.

Members of the Roman Catholic lay group have been asking Coleman to meet with them for months.

Voice of the Faithfulís chapter in the Fall River Diocese sent an open letter to the bishop back in October, asking him for a meeting and asking him to respond to its letter on or before Nov. 15. But there was no response from Coleman until now.

"Itís been a long time coming, but itís very welcome," said Marie Collamore, diocesan director of Voice of the Faithful. She said Coleman sent letters to five Voice of the Faithful members who have written to him, inviting them to meet him in his office.

The five are Carol Markey of Mattapoisett, Bill OíBrien of Mashpee, Chris Boyd of Centerville, Gerry Hart of Falmouth and George Lee of Somerset. Lee is in Florida and will not be attending, Collamore said.

She said the letters were very welcoming and gracious.

"I feel so optimistic. I didnít know which way to hope," Collamore said.

However, she said, "Itís a visit. Itís nothing we can count on. But we want a dialogue. We all love the church."

Collamore said the bishop apologized in his letters for taking a long time to answer the letters the five Voice of the Faithful members sent to him.

She said she expects the members who meet with the bishop and some of his staff to give him more information about who Voice of the Faithful members are and what their goals are and to ask him to allow the Voice of the Faithful to hold meetings in diocesan churches and post notices in parish bulletins.

"We are not dissidents. We are devoted Catholics," she said. "Many of us are faithful attendees at Mass and many of us were educated in Catholic schools and colleges."

Last May, when he was bishop-elect, Coleman sent a letter out to pastors asking them not to allow the Voice of the Faithful to meet on parish property and not to allow the group to post meeting announcements or other news in parish bulletins. He said in the letter he would take time to study the implications of the Voice of the Faithful.

The group has been asking ever since for an opportunity to meet with Coleman, who was ordained as bishop in July, to discuss the ban and to have an open dialogue.

The Voice of the Faithful started in Boston in 2002 in response to the widespread scandal of sexual abuse by priests. It spread to the Fall River Diocese soon after and it now has a few hundred members here. Members have been meeting at the Friends Meeting House in Mattapoisett.

The stated goals of the Voice of the Faithful are to support the victims of clergy sexual abuse, to support priests of integrity and to shape structural change in the church.

Although Coleman will meet with people he selected and not with a delegation sent by the Voice of the Faithful, Collamore said, "We are hopeful and confident that at the end of this meeting we will be well on our way toward seeing an end to the ban and a continuation of the healing process."

Collamore said many Voice of the Faithful chapters in the Boston Archdiocese meet on parish property.

Boston Archbishop Sean P. OíMalley, former bishop of Fall River, is much more friendly to the Voice of the Faithful than his predecessor, Cardinal Bernard Law, she said. She said there are only a handful of dioceses in the country that do not allow the Voice of the Faithful to meet in church buildings.

Coleman and John Kearns, spokesman for the Fall River Diocese, were not available for comment Tuesday.

Kathleen Durand may be reached at kdurand@heraldnews.com.

 
 

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