Outspoken religious leader dies

ENS reports:

Robert Rae Spears Jr., 89, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester from 1970 to 1984, died March 18.

“Bishop Spears made the diocese a healthy and vibrant place, though somewhat divided because of his determination to stand for justice and on the side of those who need advocacy,” the current Bishop of Rochester, Jack McKelvey, said….


He … participated in a group led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in a non-violent protest for voting rights in Selma, Alabama.

Spears also worked on behalf of the Visitors’ Center at the state prison in Attica, New York, his home town. He was active in the anti-war movement during the Viet Nam war and led a delegation from Rochester to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to stand in solidarity with Jesuit poet and peace activist the Rev. Daniel Berrigan.

Given his passion for issues of human rights and freedoms, the Diocese of Rochester found itself at the forefront of the efforts for the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church….Spears was a strong advocate for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church….Spears’ commitment to ecumenical endeavors produced a covenant between the Rochester Roman Catholic Diocese and the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester in the early 1980s.

Read it all here.

The world also lost lay Catholic movement leader Chiara Lubich recently. She founded Focolare. According to Christianity Today,

At the age of 23, she said she experienced a religious awakening and felt a call to alleviate human suffering.

She went on to found one of Catholicism’s so-called “new lay movements”, centred around the belief that one did not have to become a priest or nun to live a full Christian life.

She won numerous awards, including the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion and the Unesco peace prize.

Lubich, who was influential with, and admired by, several popes, was born in the northern Italian city of Trento in 1920 and founded the movement there in 1943.

She promoted the philosophy that the Church could be built from the grass roots and not just be centred around the hierarchy.

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