Bishop William Murphy called on Long Island's Catholics to bring their faith into home and civic life in his Christmas Day message.
At a morning Mass attended by hundreds who packed St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre Wednesday, Murphy's homily spanned moral philosophy and education policy, asking the faithful to press state leaders to pass a tax credit bill to ease the financial burden on New Yorkers who send their children to religious schools.
The head of the Diocese of Rockville Centre also spoke more generally about the need to protect freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world, touching on Second Circuit court cases in the United States in which he said government regulations were colliding with church teachings and persecution of people of faith across the globe.
Religious faith can and must play a part in everyday life, he said, reflecting on the meaning of scripture describing Jesus as at once of the world and divine.
"Love can go berserk if it is not tempered by truth," Murphy said. "Truth can become oppression if it has no love."
American Christians bear a special obligation to support Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith, Murphy said, alluding to a bombing in Baghdad Wednesday that he said killed at least 24 as they were leaving Mass.
Armed conflict and violence is part of life in much of the world, he said, but nowhere is it as brutal as Africa and the Middle East.
"We need leaders who are peacemakers, who act to contain and reduce conflict and not fuel it by selling arms or encouraging groups who seek change through violence," he said.
The homily struck a chord with parishioners. After Mass, John Giouvalakis, a pharmacist from Island Park, said he hoped it would force those who heard it to reckon with violence against Christians in Syria and elsewhere. "Everyone should be concerned and it's on no one's radar," he said.
Some parents mulled implications of an education tax credit bill. Ted and Kathy Rzonca, he a lawyer and she a physical therapist from Rockville Centre who are expecting their second child, said they hoped it would allow more families like theirs to send their children to Catholic school.
"We want a strong Catholic background along with a strong educational background," Kathy Rzonca said.
Kerri Kaufmann, a mother of two from Rockville Centre, said she wanted to know more about the measure's effect on public education before she would support it. "There are so many public schools that need funding," she said. "Would it deprive those schools?"