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Displaced Christian Conference Finds Site

January 24, 2006|K. Connie Kang | Times Staff Writer

A Christian conference that was disinvited from the Roman Catholic cathedral in Los Angeles because it was to feature a self-proclaimed mystic will be held Saturday at the Alex Theater in Glendale, organizers said.

Two weeks ago, Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, withdrew the invitation to hold the event at the cathedral.

In a letter, he said that what had been portrayed as a Christian unity conference had turned out to be largely a venue for Vassula Ryden, a Greek Orthodox laywoman who has attracted worldwide attention with her reports of conversations with God, Jesus and Mary.

In his letter, Kostelnik said that 1995 and 1996 Vatican statements cautioning Catholics against following Ryden because of her doctrinal errors remained in "full force" and his decision to rescind the invitation was "final and not subject to change."

But, sponsors of the event countered that Pope Benedict XVI, while a cardinal and a top Vatican doctrinal official, had said in 2004 that it was up to diocesan bishops to decide whether to permit participation in the ecumenical prayer groups organized by Ryden.

The conference, called "Key to Christian Unity," is scheduled to be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the theater at 216 N. Brand Blvd. Admission is free.

"When the door was closed on us, we didn't know where to go," said Claire Mansour, a conference organizer. But the new venue was found on short notice.

Mansour and her husband, Dr. Antoine Mansour, a general surgeon of Beverly Hills, lead the New Jerusalem Foundation, a group that supports Ryden"s "True Life in God" organization. They invited Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, Kostelnik and other Catholic leaders to attend the conference.

Spokesman Tod Tamberg said that the Los Angeles Archdiocese stands by Kostelnik's letter but declined to comment further.

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