Greg Garrison

Greg Garrison writes for the Birmingham News in Birmingham, Ala.

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Episcopal Bishop on Gay Weddings: Yes, But No

by Greg Garrison 07-26-2012
Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama. Photo from the Episcopal Diocese of Ala.

Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama. Photo from the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Episcopal Bishop Kee Sloan of Alabama voted in favor of his church's new ritual for blessing same-sex unions — but he won't allow priests in his diocese to perform it.

“For the time being, I will not give permission,” Sloan said.

The blessing of same-gender unions is still too divisive an issue for Alabama, he said.

“It’s not good at this time in this place,” Sloan said. “I’m trying to avoid any further division.”

Episcopalians overwhelmingly approved the new rite for same-sex couples July 10 at the denomination's General Convention. Bishops do not have to allow them, however, and about 10 active bishops have said they will not. The denomination has 110 dioceses in all.

Is Alabama Shrine the Next Catholic Pilgrimage Site?

by Greg Garrison 07-18-2012
Alabama Virgin Mary shrine photo courtesy of Caritas of Alabama via RNS.

Alabama Virgin Mary shrine photo courtesy of Caritas of Alabama via RNS.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Could a Virgin Mary statue under a pine tree in the middle of a cow pasture in rural Alabama one day become an officially recognized international pilgrimage site of the Roman Catholic Church?

Yes, it could, said Michael D. Murphy, chairman of the anthropology department and a professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama who has specialized in studying the role of Virgin Mary apparitions in the Catholic Church.

“Without a doubt,” Murphy said. “Some very unusual places have ended up becoming pilgrimage sites.”

Marija Lunetti, the visionary who has been reporting daily visions of the Virgin Mary since she was a teenager in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, had two outdoors apparitions in a field under a pine tree in Shelby County, Ala., during a highly publicized “five days of prayer” July 1-5 at Caritas of Birmingham.

Lunetti was one of six Medjugorje youths who began reporting apparitions of Mary in 1981. She was 16 at the time and known as Marija Pavlovic. Now 47, married with four children and living in Italy, Lunetti continues having daily visions.

She has been visiting Alabama since 1988, when she came to donate a kidney at UAB Hospital for her brother, Andrija Pavlovic. She had apparitions in the hospital and at the home of Caritas of Birmingham founder Terry Colafrancesco.

Medjugorje Visionary: Virgin Mary Has Her Eye on the Economic Crisis

by Greg Garrison 07-04-2012

STERRETT, Ala. —  Marija Lunetti, one of six young peasants who claimed that the Virgin Mary began appearing to them in 1981 in Medjugorje, Yugoslavia, says the mother of Jesus is aware of the economic crisis in Europe.

"She's more preoccupied with spiritual (matters)," Lunetti said. "When there is a spiritual crisis, there is also an economic crisis."

Lunetti spoke briefly in an interview about the economic crisis in Europe and the weather - "Hot like here," she said - before she had her daily apparition on Sunday (July 1) night on her visit to Shelby County, Ala. During the apparitions, she says the Virgin Mary appears to her and prays over the pilgrims, even though they cannot see her vision.

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