Dozens Gather To Pray For Healing In Church

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Dozens of people gathered at a Roman Catholic church Monday evening to pray for healing of the wounds caused by the church's sex abuse scandal.

The hour-long service at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church included hymns and prayers written by victims of abuse and traditional rituals for those wounded by the scandal to reaffirm their faith. Congregants were invited to cleanse themselves in a baptismal pool or to have ministers make the sign of the cross on their eyes and ears, hands and feet.

Laurel Jurecki, a minister at Ascension, said the event was not meant to be a service to identify the accused or their victims, but "to come together and pray for healing."

The Rev. Joe Fortuna described the service as a lament.

"It is a complaint to God," he said, "a way of expressing deeply and strongly held feelings and putting it in God's lap and saying, 'We trust you God.'"

Since April 8, 15 priests in the Cleveland Diocese have been placed on administrative leave with pay while child sex abuse allegations against them are investigated. At least 300 priests nationwide have been removed from their ministries since January.

Fortuna said people who have been abused and people who are angry at the accusers need to pray for healing.

The prayer service was not officially sanctioned by the Cleveland Diocese, but diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said, "The bishop has always supported any of these prayer services related to the victims and the families. It is very much in line with what we've been doing."

Tayek pointed out that Bishop Anthony Pilla washed the feet of an abuse victim during the Holy Week celebrations and later held a special prayer service for the survivors of clergy abuse.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)