Bishop's message addressed grand jury report in Sunday mass

By Jillian Hartmann
March 07, 2016

[with video]

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - It was not your typical Sunday mass at St. John Gualbert Cathedral in Johnstown Sunday morning.

Bishop Mark Bartchak asked priests and religious leaders in the Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Diocese to share a message to fellow Catholics during Sunday's mass.

The message is in regards to the grand jury report uncovering alleged widespread sex abuse within the diocese.

"A number of people asked, 'Do I want to be part of the church anymore?" Father James Crookston said while reading Bishop Bartchak's message. "Where is God in all of this?"

Bishop Bartchak heard a number of questions asked from victims of abuse, their families and other Catholics responding to the grand jury report. He said this week was filled with darkness of sin.

"We will pass through this darkness," said Crookston.

In his message, Bartchak said a place to begin to move through this difficult time is found in the words of Pope Francis for mercy.

"When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy," said Crookston. "Mercy will always be greater than any sin."

Bartchak also urges support for victims, their families and for each other.

"May we reach out to them and support them so they feel the warmth of our presence," Crookston said.

Bishop Bartchak added a strong message to his fellow Catholics about the alleged abuse itself.

"Please don't think it means to simply forgive and forget," said Crookston. "There's a lot of more hard work to be done and identified in responding to the misery of our diocese at this time."

6 News spoke with a few Catholics in regards of the grand jury report and heard the same answers from all of them: sad, angry, disappointed and shocked.

"It shocked me, it sadden me and sickened me," said one Catholic woman.

Not questioning her Catholic faith, the woman said the Bishop hit all the bases in his message.

"I obviously feel bad for the victims, I feel sad for the church," said the woman. "It's just a sad time in the Catholic church."

In Bishop Bartchak's message, he also said that if children are confused or asking questions on the grand jury's report, for parents to continue to teach them right from wrong. As well as keeping those who are thinking of leaving the Catholic church in your prayers.

Bishop Bartchak said he prays for courage, strength and mercy for everyone at this time.


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