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Progressives push reform with discussions, Ramerman liturgy

As 250,000 young people took part in the official World Youth Day, a much smaller group of progressives staged a parallel event at an Anglican parish a few blocks away.

The program, sponsored by a group called “Challenge the Church,” included sessions on democracy and dissent, sexuality and the church, reproductive rights and global justice.

One highlight was a July 23 liturgy celebrated by Mary Ramerman, recently declared a priest by the breakaway community of Corpus Christi in Rochester, N.Y. Organizers said a crowd of more than 400 took part.

The reformers are also distributing free condoms to World Youth Day delegates, in part to highlight differences with church teaching on birth control. They expect to hand out 10,000 by week’s end.

The idea is to push the case for church reform.

“The demand for reforms since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) cannot be stopped despite all at-tempts of the Roman curia and conservative groups within the church,” said Tobias Raschke, a spokesperson for the youth branch of the European “We Are Church” movement.

Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, chief organizer for World Youth Day, said church officials “are very much aware” of the parallel activities.

“They are entitled to have their event, this is a society that is very tolerant,” Rosica said. But he rejected charges that World Youth Day is closed to dialogue, or insufficiently attentive to social justice.

“Some of the vision these folks have is not well-informed,” he said.

Rosica argued that the difference between the official event and its parallel counterpart is “joy.”

“There is a lot of joy in this World Youth Day,” he said.

-- John L. Allen Jr.

National Catholic Reporter, August 2, 2002