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Pastor Says Catholic Church Will Adapt to Casino

By Eileen Buckley

Niagara Falls, NY – When a temporary casino opens at the Niagara Falls Convention Center, it will be located next to the oldest Catholic Church in the Falls. It is an unlikely combination since the leader of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo discourages casino gambling.

Father Michael Burzynski, pastor of St. Mary of the Cataract on 4th Street, says he hopes the casino will be "for the good of Niagara Falls." The priest never said he supports casino gambling. But as community supporter, Burzynski attended the recent casino compact signing between the Seneca Nation of Indians and Governor Pataki.

Burzynski says Niagara Falls needs economic help and believes the casino could be part of future development. Father Burzynski says things are "slowly" improving in a city that has been on the decline for years.

"Our church has been here for 155 years and we've adapted to everything from hydro electric plants to railroads to an increase in tourism," Burzynski said. "So we will adapt to this situation."

In a recent article in the "Western New York Catholic" newspaper, Bishop Henry Mansell discouraged support of area casinos as a "quick fix" or "magic bullet" to lift the local economy. Mansell said religious leaders in other parts of the country that have casinos described to him how gambling has corroded the "moral fiber of society." The Bishop also refers to casino gambling as a "cancer."

Father Burzynski agrees that gambling could create social problems, but says he's ready to accept his new, temporary, 4th Street neighbor.

"Gambling is like anything else -- it can be a problem. But if taken in moderation, it isn't necessarily wrong," Burzynski said. "So I'm just hoping it is going to be for the best for Niagara Falls."

St. Mary of the Cataract is a historic church that opened in 1847. According to the parish, it attracts thousands of tourists each year -- something gambling supporters hope will happen when the Falls casino opens its doors.