Thursday, October 8, 2009

Richmond diocese rejected Pax Christi kickoff event

Diocese of Richmond says “No” to Pax Christi Chapter

By Randy Sly

Catholic Online (

Despite the presence of their former bishop as a keynote speaker, the Diocese of Richmond refused access to a local chapter of Pax Christi.


Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) – The newly-formed Virginia Chapter of a more than 50-year-old Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, was refused access to Holy Family Church in Virginia Beach for their organizational meeting in the Diocese of Richmond as they were not a diocesan organization.

Retired Richmond Bishop Walter Sullivan, a former president of the international movement, was one of the featured speakers. He, along with Marie Dennis, the global-concerns director for Maryknoll, a Catholic religious community of priests, nuns and laypeople, keynoted the event, which was held at Virginia Wesleyan College.

Asked Tuesday by Steven Vegh, a reporter from the Virginian Pilot, why the event was rejected, Vincent Sansone, the diocesan theologian stated that Pax Christi is not a diocesan organization.

Bishop Sullivan and other chapter organizers expressed surprise at the decision of the diocese.

The “Guidelines for Speakers in the Richmond Diocese” state that those “from outside the diocese must be approved through the Office of the Diocesan Theologian. Keep in mind that the approval process must be completed and the proposed speaker must be approved before an invitation is extended to the speaker.”

According to the qualifications instituted shortly after the installation of Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in 2004, speakers must be in good standing in the Church, possess proof that they have taken a course regarding child abuse, provide their curriculum vitae and a letter of confirmation regarding their orthodoxy from a bishop or pastor.

Vegh reported that Sansone would not elaborate many speaker requests he vets annually and declined to take any further questions about the process.

According to Vegh, earlier this year Sansone also rejected the peace organizers' proposal of the Rev. Louis Vitale as a speaker for the chapter launch.

Vitale, a Franciscan priest and Catholic peace activist, has a history of arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience. In 2007 and 2008, he spent several months in prison for his torture-training protest outside an Army base.

Steve Baggarly, a leader at the Norfolk Catholic Worker house and one of the chapter organizers, told the Virginian Pilot that Vitale was refused due to his arrest record. "We see that record as a badge of honor and a sign of Christ, who was arrested and tortured by authorities," he said.

Pax Christi made headlines last year as Pope Benedict named their Co-President, Laurent Monswengo Pasinya, Archbishop of Kinshasa, the 3.6 member archdiocese in Democratic Republic of Congo.

For more than 60 years, Pax Christi (PC) has operated globally on a wide variety of issues in the fields of human rights, human security, disarmament and demilitarization, just world order and religion and violent conflict. The PC Global Peace Network is made up of local groups, national sections, strategic alliances, affiliated and partner organizations.


Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online. He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

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