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Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik reveals getting hate mail for allowing Catholics to eat meat on St. Patrick's Day

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 12:21 p.m.
John C. Schisler | Tribune-Review
Bishop David Zubik of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh. (Trib photo)
Bishop David A. Zubik speaks to journalists during a breakfast Friday, May 19, 2017, to make the church's World Communications Day.

Pittsburgh David A. Zubik gets hate mail.

And that might surprise you. But it doesn't surprise him.

The letters cross way over the line of respect, he said. Like in March, when he decided to allow Catholics to eat meat on St. Patrick's Day , a Friday during Lent.

“You can't believe the hate mail I got over that. ‘You're sending us to hell. Who do you think you are to be able to tell us we can eat meat.' I mean, it's over something as simple as that and it draws out hatred, real hatred,” Zubik said Friday. “There's an intolerance that is ugly all across the board, politically, ecclesiastically, and that's why I say the first thing we've got to be able to do is know what it means to listen.”

Bishop Edward C. Malesic of the Catholic Diocese of Greensburg granted the same dispensation for St. Patrick's Day, but a spokesperson contacted Friday could not comment on any feedback.

Listening, Zubik said, means taking things into the heart.

Zubik has been outspoken about his concerns over the fear, hatred and anger in the world and the need to listen. In January, amidst protests over President Trump's initial travel ban, Zubik said there is too much fear and that the first victim of fear is rational thought and the second victim is rational policy.

He echoed those concerns Friday during a breakfast with journalists to mark the church's World Communications Day. Zubik hoped Trump would listen as the president visits Israel and meets with Pope Francis during his travel abroad.

“I would love to be a fly on the wall when that meeting takes place,” Zubik said of the Trump and Pope Francis' planned chat. “You can pretty much expect what one person is going to say and maybe be fearful about what the other one is going to say.

“It will be a meeting of the minds, but I hope not only a meeting of the minds but a meeting of the hearts.”

Malesic said he hoped the pair would “talk about what is important to the people they lead.”

Zubik said he expects the pope to talk to Trump about immigrants, refugees, the poor and the persecuted.

“It's important that you take a look at the little people, and you know that's where the pope's going to be coming from,” Zubik said.

The pope won't be shy to speak his mind with Trump or anyone, Zubik said. He was in Rome for meetings with the pope shortly before the pontiff left for a trip to Egypt. The pope's staff was “freaking out” about security for the trip, Zubik said.

“He didn't care about that,” Zubik said of Pope Francis. “What he cares about is doing exactly what he did, and he went out and he spoke about, ‘Hey, folks, you've got to come together to have peace; you gotta stop persecuting each other.' ”

Zubik hopes Trump's visit to Israel changes his heart. Zubik has been to Israel four times and each has had a profound impact on him. He said it is impossible as a follower of Jesus or a member of the Jewish community to not be moved when there.

“My hope is that if he hasn't been there before, or now that it's his first time there as president, that it's going to have an effect on his heart as well,” Zubik said.

Malesic agreed.

“When I visited the Holy Land in 2012, it was a life-changing experience that deepened my faith and understanding of the Gospel message. I hope that President Trump will, likewise, experience a deepening of his own faith and understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at aaupperlee@tribweb.com, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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