A year after the deadliest anti-Semitic violence in American history, the city of Pittsburgh commemorated the occasion with a three-day schedule of activities. There were, first, community service projects throughout the region; second, the city’s largest synagogue held special study sessions for the public; and third, thousands of people crowded into Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall for a public service of remembrance. Rabbi Jonathan Perlman of New Light Congregation, one of three using the Tree of Life Synagogue, drew long applause when he called for federal gun restrictions. The events occurred one year after 11 people were gunned down while worshipping at the Tree of Life Synagogue during normal shabbat services.
Cincinnati and Pasadena
Two well-known Christian schools announced major decisions this week. Cincinnati Christian University, in its 95th year, is closing, having struggled for years with securing enough students and financial support. CCU is loosely affiliated with the North American Christian Convention, a network of independent Christian churches. In California, Fuller Seminary, celebrating its 50th year, reversed an earlier decision to leave Pasadena and move to Pomona. Now, they have recommitted to the Pasadena community and issued an appeal for continued collaboration between the school and the city. Fuller is an evangelical, trans-denominational graduate school of theology.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, now the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for President, was denied communion when, on the campaign trail in Florence, South Carolina, he attended mass at Saint Anthony Catholic Church. Presiding priest Robert E. Morey turned Biden away, saying later, “Any public figure who advocates for abortion places himself or herself outside of Church teaching.” Biden is on record as opposing abortion as an individual but passing legislation to make it universally legal and accessible. It is unclear whether he supports the Hyde Amendment which prevents any federal money to be spent to support any element of the abortion process. The Catholic Church teaches that from the moment of conception the embryo is a person fully deserving of all rights and protections of any other person.
In a dramatic change of policy, the Roman Catholic Synod of Bishops meeting to address the needs of Christian people in the Amazon region of South America voted to recommend to Pope Francis that married men be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the Amazon region. The region is woefully short of ordained clergy and other means to meet this need have not proved successful. The bishops also voted to put the church strongly on the side of protecting the Amazon rainforest and the indigenous people living there. The vote on married priests was 128 to 41. The recommendation did not include allowing single and celebrate priests to marry. Pope Francis did not immediately respond to the marriage recommendation (as he did to others) because a decision on this matter will have ramifications for Catholic pastoral policy elsewhere in the world.
United States Representative from Maryland Elijah Cummings was celebrated in a four-hour funeral service at the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where Cummings had worshiped for more than 40years. Cummings died at the age of 69 after a long struggle with an unnamed illness; his death came as a surprise to many and interrupted the public work of one of the most influential members of Congress. Cummings had been at the center of Congressional investigations of the White House. Former presidents Obama and Clinton spoke at the event as did former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Cummings was the son of sharecroppers, both of whom became Pentecostal preachers. Bishop Walter S. Thomas delivered the eulogy.