November 8, 1996

page 10

Mass, protests send off Stafford

Two Denver Catholics stood outside the doors of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Oct. 24 to protest what they consider abuses of power in the hierarchy.

Gerry Frank and Clare Harris said Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford who became a member of the Roman curia in early November, tried to silence them. With duct tape covering their mouths, Frank and Harris knocked on the doors of the open basilica to protest Stafford's banning of the national group We Are Church from meeting on any church property in the archdiocese.

We Are Church hopes to collect 1 million signers to a petition asking for dialogue on church rules, including the ban on women priests and married priests.

Stafford was the subject of several tributes at a standing room only Mass at the basilica Oct. 27. In his homily, Bishop Joseph Hart of Wyoming called Stafford "a gift from God" to Colorado and Wyoming. He called the archbishop a prayerful person, courageous "even when people didn't want to hear the truth," and a man of "extraordinary patience and uncommon integrity."

Stafford, who has been named president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, said his "heart is full of immense thanks" to all the people of the archdiocese. "Each day in Rome I will face the west and bless you and pray for you and give thanks to God for you," he said.

After the service, Frank, Harris and two other Catholics stood outside the basilica urging people to sign the We Are Church referendum.

Stafford and the other bishops and priests avoided the protesters by recessing out the side door of the cathedral. Frank said he hadn't planned to approach the archbishop.

Virginia Culver