The conference room at Gannon University held over 80 people as Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico answered a variety of questions from students on Friday night, Feb. 6, at the 10th annual Student Q&A Dinner with the Bishop of Erie.
The evening began at 5 p.m. as students from the campus ministries of Clarion, Edinboro, Gannon, Mercyhurst, Mercyhurst North East and Penn State Behrend gathered on the campus at Gannon University. After a brief introduction and prayer, the attendants dined on a buffet-style meal and had an informal discussion with Persico about issues facing the Catholic Church.
“The Bishop does this every year, which is nice for the student’s to get to know him in a relaxed atmosphere, as well as the Catholic faith better,” according to Greg Baker director of Campus Ministry at Mercyhurst.
Though the event has been held for over 10 years, the venue has always been different. Last year, the event was held at Penn State Behrend, and two years ago, the dinner was held at Mercyhurst.
Initial questions ranged from Persico’s favorite holiday to his favorite saint. A student from Clarion asked if he had been to Rome and met the pope.
As the evening progressed, the topic of the Church’s stance on abortion arose. When asked about the use of abortion for situations involving rape or incest, Persico said the Catholic Church believes “life is precious regardless of the circumstance. The child is just as much a victim as the woman.”
When asked about measures taken against Church leaders involved in sexual abuse, Persico said the diocese holds “a no tolerance policy when it comes to sexual abuse.”
“We have a good relationship with the DA and if an allegation is brought to my attention, the diocese will do everything in its power to remove the person, not only from the diocese, but also from the ministry,” Persico added.
One question centered on the Church’s views of homosexuality.
“Every person is loved by God,” Persico said. “Our first concern is to the person and helping them develop and mold their faith.”