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Tuesday, 31 March 2015 05:00

(USCCB News Archives can be accessed at www.usccb.org/news/)
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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father George D. Gallaro, 67, a priest of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Massachusetts, as bishop of the Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi in Palermo, Italy. Father Gallaro currently serves as professor of Canon Law at St. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Seminary in Pittsburgh and as judicial vicar of the Byzantine Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 31, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
George D. Gallaro was born January 16, 1948, in Pozuolo, Sicily. He received a bachelor’s in philosophy from the Seminario Diocesano Noto, Italy, in 1968. He received a certificate in liturgical theology from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Rome, in 1980, a doctorate in Eastern Church Law from the Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome, in 1981, and a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome, in 1994.
He was ordained May 27, 1972, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and incardinated in the Greek-Melkite Eparchy of Newton in September 1987. He served as a parochial vicar and instructor of catechesis in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For the Melkite Eparchy, he served in the marriage tribunal (1982-1986), as a seminary instructor (1982-1991), secretary to Archbishop Joseph Tawil (1983-1990), judicial vicar (1986-1992), chancellor and eparchial consultor (1983-1992). He was a member and collaborator of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1992-1994 and rector of St. Gregory Melkite Seminary in Newton from 1994-1996.
Bishop-elect Gallaro is the author of dozens of articles, dealing largely with issues from the perspective of Eastern Catholics, including ecumenism, marriage and Canon Law. He is a member of the Canon Law Society of America and the Society for the Law of the Eastern Churches. He speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, some Albanian and Portuguese, and a little Arabic.
The Byzantine Eparchy of Piano degli Albanesi has been vacant since the retirement of Bishop Sotír Ferrara in April 2013.

March 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people across the United States will be welcomed into the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter vigil, April 4, including a retired Marine captain who appeared on the cover of National Geographic, a woman from The Gambia now living in the Pacific Northwest and a woman from Pittsburgh whose faith journey has drawn her own mother back to the Church.
According to the 2014 Official Catholic Directory, there were 39,654 catechumens, or those being baptized, confirmed and receiving first Communion, and 66,831 candidates received into full Communion with the Catholic Church in the United States in 2013, the most recent year for which this data is available. Over 50 of the nearly 200 dioceses in the United States reported numbers for 2015 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In the Diocese of Oakland, California, Aaron Tam, a retired Marine sergeant, will receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation and first Communion) at Easter Vigil, after twice having to delay his initiation into the Church due to deployments. Tam, who was seriously injured by a detonation during a tour of duty in Iraq, appeared on the cover of the February 2015 issue of National Geographic, dedicated to soldiers recovering from traumatic brain injuries. He is one of 349 catechumens in the Diocese of Oakland, along with 279 who are being received into full Communion.
Also in California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States, reports 1,828 catechumens being baptized this year.
Among the 665 adults to be baptized by the Archdiocese of Seattle, Amie Bensouda of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Sammamish, Washington, is a native of The Gambia. She was raised Muslim but exposed to the Catholic faith attending a school run by nuns, the only education available to her as a woman.
Among the 196 catechumens and 383 candidates in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a woman named Becky is completing the sacraments of initiation after being baptized Catholic but never receiving a formal religious education. Becky will be confirmed and receive first Communion. Becky was accompanied by her fiancé through her journey, and they will be married in August. After she and her fiancé shared their experience with her mother, Becky made her first confession and her mother made her first confession in 25 years, March 16.
Also in Pennsylvania, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia reports 243 catechumens and 404 candidates for full Communion, the Diocese of Harrisburg reports 100 catechumens, and the Diocese of Allentown reports 96 catechumens and 256 candidates. In Ohio, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati reports 395 catechumens and 470 candidates, the Diocese of Columbus reports 232 catechumens and 300 candidates, and the Diocese of Youngstown reports 103 catechumens and 166 candidates.
The Archdiocese of Washington reports 623 catechumens and 694 candidates. The Archdiocese of Baltimore reports 207 catechumens and 400 candidates. The Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, reports 331 catechumens and 373 candidates. The Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, reports 94 catechumens and 103 candidates.
The Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, reports 600 catechumens and 700 candidates. In Florida, the Diocese of St. Petersburg reports 366 catechumens and 589 candidates, the Diocese of Palm Beach reports 228 catechumens and 493 candidates, and the Diocese of Orlando reports 491 catechumens. The Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, reports 126 catechumens and 257 candidates. The Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, reports 167 catechumens and 325 candidates.
In New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn reports 579 catechumens and 43 candidates, the Diocese of Rochester reports 139 catechumens and 152 candidates, the Diocese of Buffalo reports 86 catechumens and 128 candidates, and the Diocese of Syracuse reports 70 catechumens and 131 candidates. The Diocese of Camden, New Jersey reports 175 catechumens. The Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts reports 21 catechumens and 33 candidates. The Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, reports 85 catechumens and 82 candidates. The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island reports 75 catechumens and 120 candidates.
In Kentucky, the Archdiocese of Louisville reports 225 catechumens and 296 candidates, and the Diocese of Owensboro reports 74 catechumens and 147 candidates. The Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, reports 57 catechumens and 166 candidates. The Diocese of Little Rock reports 226 catechumens and 341 candidates. The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, reports 141 catechumens and 155 candidates.
In Louisiana, the Diocese of Lafayette reports 82 catechumens and 122 candidates, the Diocese of Shreveport reports 45 catechumens and 87 candidates, and the Diocese of Lake Charles reports 64 catechumens and 118 candidates. The Diocese of Biloxi, Mississippi, reports 76 catechumens and 112 candidates. The Diocese of Austin, Texas, reports 317 catechumens and 419 candidates. The Diocese of Salt Lake City reports 257 catechumens and 142 candidates.
In Illinois, Diocese of Joliet reports 114 catechumens and 196 candidates, and the Diocese of Peoria reports 105 catechumens and 232 candidates. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, reports 208 catechumens and 217 candidates. In Michigan, the Diocese of Grand Rapids reports 190 catechumens and 249 candidates, and the Diocese of Marquette reports 34 catechumens and 42 candidates. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee reports 180 catechumens and 245 candidates. The Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, reports nine catechumens and 52 candidates. The Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, reports 18 catechumens and 77 candidates.
The Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, reports 105 catechumens and 250 candidates. The Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri, reports 90 catechumens and 163 candidates. The Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, reports 82 catechumens and 56 candidates.
More information on the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process is available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/who-we-teach/rite-of-christian-initiation-of-adults/index.cfm

March 30, 2015
WASHINGTON — The 2015 annual Catholic Home Missions Appeal will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of April 25-26. This appeal helps to sustain nearly 45 percent of all dioceses and eparchies in rural, struggling areas in the country and in a number of U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
Catholic Home Missions (CHM), Strengthening the Church at Home, helps to support evangelization, catechesis, seminarian education, lay ministry training, Hispanic ministry, and other pastoral programs for dioceses in need. The Appeal is a significant source of support to bolster domestic Catholic pastoral programs. “It can be surprising to hear about the great need of many of our dioceses here in the United States. For those who have never experienced life in a mission diocese it can be hard to imagine not having access to a priest or basic materials to teach the faith,” said Bishop Peter F. Christensen of Boise, Idaho, chairman of the  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions. “This collection supports our neighbors here at home and provides for their spiritual needs.”
Last year, the USCCB Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions approved more than $9 million in grants for 2015. The Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, is one of the 83 dioceses that received a grant. It is using CHM funds to provide basic catechesis materials to Spanish-speaking Catholics, to conduct a ministry program for deaf children and their families, and to support the work of a few priests on four Native American reservations serving over 24,000 people.
In the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, the Catholic population is less than 3 percent, and in rural areas, many priests serve three or four parishes. A grant from Catholic Home Missions funded St. Barnabas School in Birmingham, where the students are primarily African American and Hispanic and many are non-Catholic and from low-income families. The grant supports the school’s mission of providing high-quality education for all of its students, creates community, evangelizes, and helps bridge racial divides.
With a grant from Catholic Home Missions, the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, is training seven seminarians for the priesthood. They will return to the diocese to assist in evangelization efforts and pastoral tasks currently shared by only 36 active and 12 retired priests, across 14 counties, serving nearly 35,000 Catholics.

March 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran bishops visited with young mothers and children who have fled violence in their home countries and are now incarcerated at Dilley Detention Center in Dilley, Texas, on March 27. The faith leaders called upon the federal government to halt the practice of family detentions, citing the harmful effects on mothers, children and the moral character of society.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, Texas, whose archdiocese includes Dilley, was joined by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, and Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas. Bishops Michael Rinehart and H. Julian Gordy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also joined them on the visit. Since last summer, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has detained hundreds of families at detention centers in New Mexico, Texas, and Pennsylvania, under a new family detention policy aimed at families fleeing violence in Central America.
“After this visit, my primary question is: Why? Why do we feel compelled to place in detention such vulnerable individuals –traumatized young mothers with children fleeing persecution in their home countries?” said Archbishop García-Siller following the visit. “A great nation such as ours need not incarcerate the most vulnerable in the name of deterrence. The moral character of a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable in our midst. Our nation’s family detention policy is shameful and I implore our elected officials to end it."
Bishop Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, added: “The detention of families serves no purpose and undermines due process. It especially harms children, who experience emotional and psychological harm from detention. The policy is a stain on the administration’s record on immigration.”
Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas, said humane alternatives to detention exist and should be used for the population.
“The government should consider placing these families in humane alternatives to detention, where they could live in the community and access needed services, including legal representation,” Bishop Tamayo said. “The Church is ready to assist in this effort.”
Information on the USCCB position on family detention can be found at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/position-papers/upload/Family-Detention-Paper_Final_-3-19-15-2.pdf

March 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — By its recent approval of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA), the Council of the District of Columbia ran afoul of federal law and constitutional principles, says a letter sent to Congress by six members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on March 20. The bishops are asking Congress to rescind these two pieces of legislation.
A copy of the letter may be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/ADW-USCCB-letter-DC-bills-3-20-15.pdf
“At issue is whether faith-based organizations should be forced to support activity they deem morally objectionable, such as funding elective abortions through their employee health plans, and whether religiously affiliated schools should be forced to endorse behavior contrary to their faith and moral convictions,” said Hillary Byrnes, USCCB assistant general counsel. “The council’s actions also raise the question whether an employer should be forced to hire an employee who has publicly denounced its mission. Equal protection does not mean compelling individuals or organizations to promote activity contrary to their beliefs.”
Signers of the letter are Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston (chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities), Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska (chair of the Committee on Catholic Education), Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York (chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth), Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco (chair of the Subcommittee on Promotion and Defense of Marriage) and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore (chair of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty).

April 20, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis named Father Mario E. Dorsonville-Rodríguez, 54, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington. Bishop-elect Dorsonville-Rodríguez serves as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities and director of the Spanish Catholic Center of the Archdiocese of Washington.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 20, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Mario Eduardo Dorsonville-Rodríguez was born October 31, 1960 in Bogotá, Colombia, the only child of Leonor Rodríguez Hogar and the late Carlos Dorsonville Zarate. He attended the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1981 and a bachelor’s in sacred theology in 1985. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 23, 1985 in Bogotá. Following ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Bogotá (1986), chaplain of the National University of Colombia, Bogotá (1987), pastor of San Jose de Calasanz Parish, Bogotá (1987-1991), and associate chaplain (1988-1991) and professor of ethics (1990-1991) at the National University of Colombia.
He received a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá in 1991 and a doctorate in ministry from The Catholic University of America in 1995. From 1992-1994, he served as parochial vicar of Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer Parishes in Arlington, Virginia, and as a lecturer at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He served as a professor at the Hispanic Apostolate of Arlington from 1993-1994. He returned to Colombia to serve as chaplain and professor of ethics to the National University of Colombia and professor of pastoral counseling and catechesis at the major seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá from 1995-1996.
He served parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Arlington (1996), Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bethesda, Maryland (1997-2004) and St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Hyattsville, Maryland (2004-2005). He has served as vice president for mission of Catholic Charities of Washington and director of the Spanish Catholic Center since 2005 and as adjunct spiritual director for St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington since 2011.
He has served as a member of the priest council of the Archdiocese of Washington since 2000 and a member of the College of Consultors of the archdiocese since 2011. He was a member of the board of directors for Carroll Publishing Company from 2000-2003. He completed an executive certificate in non-profit management course at Georgetown University in 2009 and served as a mentor for newly ordained priests from 2010-2011.
The Archdiocese of Washington is comprised of 2,104 square miles encompassing the District of Columbia and parts of the state of Maryland and has a total population of 2,867,377 people, of whom 630,823, or 22 percent, are Catholic. The archdiocese currently has two active auxiliary bishops, Bishop Martin D. Holley and Bishop Barry C. Knestout, and one retired auxiliary bishop, Bishop Francisco Gonzáles Valer. S.F., who retired in 2014.

March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — As it makes budget appropriations decisions, Congress should protect funding to housing and agriculture programs that serve poor and vulnerable people, said leaders of national Catholic social service providers, as well as the bishops who chair the U.S. bishops’ committees on domestic and international justice issues, in separate letters, March 19.
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president-elect of Catholic Charities USA, urged greater resources for programs that assist the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and others afford housing.
“As Catholics, we believe that housing is a human right, and that society has a shared obligation to ensure that individuals and families have access to safe and affordable housing,” Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote.
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/housing-homelessness/letters-to-appropriations-subcommittees-from-usccb-ccusa-fy-2016-thud-approps-2015-03-19.cfm
In letters to the leaders of the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, Archbishop Wenski, Sister Markham, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Carolyn Y. Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services, defended funding to programs including international food assistance and nutrition programs to women, infants and children.
“We urge you to protect and fund programs that feed hungry people, help the most vulnerable farmers, strengthen rural communities and promote good stewardship of God’s creation,” they wrote.
The full letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/agriculture-nutrition-rural-issues/letter-to-appropriations-committees-from-usccb-ccusa-crs-fy-2016-agriculture-approps-2015-03-19.cfm

March 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. and Canadian governments must hold mining companies from their countries that operate in Latin America to laws and standards that protect indigenous communities and vulnerable groups, as well as local economies and the environment, said representatives of the bishops of Latin America in a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), March 19. The hearing was held in response to a petition filed by the Consejo Episcopal Latinoamericano (CELAM) and other member institutions of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network, which represents bishops’ conferences, religious men and women and Catholic relief agencies throughout Latin America.
Archbishop Pedro Barreto of Peru and Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Guatemala represented CELAM, along with Father Peter Hughes and Enrique Pinilla of its Department of Justice and Solidarity. Bishop Donald Bolen, who heads the Peace and Justice Commission at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as well as Archbishop Timothy Broglio, archbishop for the Military Services, were present at the hearing to express support.
A petition provided an overview of the issues pertaining to extractives in a number of Latin American countries, outlining calamitous public health and environmental consequences of mining operations by U.S. and Canadian multinationals. The testimony at the hearing focused on six countries, Brazil ,Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico, and focused on key themes including violence and criminalization of human rights defenders and the need for a new model of sustainable development. Written statements of support from CCCB and USCCB were also presented at the hearing. The USCCB, through the work of its Committee on International Justice and Peace, has long been concerned about the implications of extractives and mining operations throughout the world, especially in Latin America.
The U.S. government, joined by Canada, “must do more to support the claims and interests of these affected communities. It must require that U.S. enterprises operating in these regions abide by the same standards of care for human life and ecology as apply to their operations in the United States,” said Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chair of the USCCB International Justice and Peace Committee, in his letter of support.
The full text of Bishop Cantú’s letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/letter-of-solidarity-to-celam-from-bishop-cantu-re-iachr-hearing-on-extractives-2015-03-17.cfm

Others participating in the hearing were Bishop Roque Paloschi of the Amazonian Commission of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference, as well as David Lovatón, Legal Advisor, and Mauricio López , Executive Secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network. (http://redamazonica.org/)

March 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Thomas A. Daly, 54, as bishop of Spokane, Washington, and Conventual Franciscan Father John Stowe, 48, as bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. Bishop Daly has served as auxiliary bishop of San Jose, California, since 2011. Bishop-elect Stowe is vicar provincial of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Mount St. Francis, Indiana, and rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.
The appointments were publicized in Washington, March 12, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Thomas A. Daly was born April 30, 1960, in San Francisco. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco in 1982; a master of divinity from St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, in 1987; and a master of education degree from Boston College in 1996. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1987. After ordination, he served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Loretto Parish, 1987-1992; teacher and campus minister, Marin High School, 1992-2003; part-time chaplain, San Francisco Police Department, 1995-2003; and parochial vicar, St. Cecilia’s Church, 1995-1999.
He became vocations director for the archdiocese in 2002 and president of Marin Catholic High School in 2003, serving in both capacities until Pope Benedict XVI named him auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Jose on March 16, 2011. He was ordained a bishop May 25 of that year. In Spokane, he succeeds Archbishop Blase J. Cupich, who was appointed archbishop of Chicago, September 20, 2014.
The Diocese of Spokane comprises 24,356 square miles in eastern Washington state and has a total population of 830,641 people, of whom 107,983, or 13 percent, are Catholic.
John Stowe was born April 15, 1966, in Amherst, Ohio. He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University in 1990; a master of divinity from Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in 1993 and a licentiate in sacred theology from Jesuit School of Theology in 1995. He made his solemn profession to the Conventual Franciscans, Our Lady of Consolation Province, August 1, 1992, and was ordained September 16, 1995.
Following ordination, he served as associate pastor (1995-1997), administrator (1997-2000) and pastor (2000-2003) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in El Paso, Texas. He served as vicar general (2003-2010) and chancellor (2008-2010) of the Diocese of El Paso, while also serving as administrator of Our Lady of the Valley Parish (2006-2010). He was elected vicar provincial and has served as rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation since 2010. In Lexington, he succeeds Bishop Ronald W. Gainer, who was appointed bishop of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, January 24, 2014.
The Diocese of Lexington comprises 16,423 square miles in eastern Kentucky and has a total population of 1,588,319 people, of whom 41,914, or three percent, are Catholic.

March 10, 2015
WASHINGTON — People of all faiths are called to pray for victims of religious persecution and violence and work to protect the marginalized and persecuted around the world, according to a statement of the Administrative Committee of the U.S. bishops, approved March 10. The bishops said Lent is a time for prayerfully reflecting on suffering.
“Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way,” they said. “With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.”
The Administrative Committee is chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The committee consists of the elected chairs of the 16 standing committees, the elected representatives of 15 geographic regions, the chairman of Catholic Relief Services and the elected officers of USCCB.
Full text of the statement follows:
March 10, 2015
Upon learning of the death of 21 Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIL terrorists, Pope Francis called their murder a “testimony which cries out to be heard.” On behalf of America’s Catholic Bishops, we pause to listen and invite people of all faiths to join us in prayer for those facing the stark reality of religious persecution in the Middle East and elsewhere. The testimony of those 21 brave and courageous martyrs does not stand alone as thousands of families – Christian and other religions – find themselves fleeing from horrific violence.
We urge all people of goodwill to work toward protections of the marginalized and persecuted.  In union with the local Churches and the Holy See, we call upon our nation to: work with the international community to intervene and protect the rights of religious minorities and civilians within the framework of international and humanitarian law; address political and economic exclusion that are exploited by extremists; and increase humanitarian and development assistance.
Lent is a season to meditate upon the Cross and unite ourselves even more closely with Christ’s suffering. Let us use this season to unite with our suffering brothers and sisters and pray for them and with them in a special way. With hope, let us pray for the day when we can all share in the joy and lasting peace of Christ’s resurrection.

March 9, 2015
WASHINGTON — Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2015. The Act would forbid the federal government, and any state receiving federal funds for child welfare services, from taking adverse action against a provider that, for religious or moral reasons, declines to provide a child welfare social service.
“Our first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of children – the most vulnerable members of society,” wrote Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; in letters of support to Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate, who introduced the bill.
Highlighting the inclusivity of the legislation, the chairmen noted, “Rightly, the Inclusion Act protects the religious liberties and moral convictions of all child welfare providers. No providers are excluded by the Act.”
Some religious child welfare providers, including in Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers act on their belief that children deserve to be placed with a married mother and father. The chairmen said, “The Inclusion Act would remedy this unjust discrimination by enabling all providers to serve the needs of parents and children in a manner consistent with the providers’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
Stressing that the Inclusion Act respects the importance of parental choice, the chairmen remarked, “Indeed, women and men who want to place their children for adoption ought to be able to choose from a diversity of adoption agencies, including those that share the parents’ religious beliefs and moral convictions.”
The letters of support are available online at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Rep-Kelly-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf, http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Ltr-to-Sen-Enzi-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf
A backgrounder on the Inclusion Act is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Backgrounder-Inclusion-Act-2015.pdf

March 6, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Syrian refugee crisis ­–now totaling nearly 4 million refugees– has reached a “tipping point,” in which countries in the region are no longer able to handle the flow of refugees across their borders, warned U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) officials who recently traveled to the Middle East.
“Without more international support, we will find Syrians fleeing extremists being turned away and forced back to danger,” said Anastasia Brown, interim executive director for USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS). “The global community, led by Europe and the United States, needs to increase its support in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis.”
A delegation of USCCB officials which visited the region in late 2014, released their report March 6. Entitled “Refuge and Hope in the Time of ISIS: The Urgent need for Protection, Humanitarian Support, and Durable Solutions in Turkey, Bulgaria, and Greece,” the report looks at the plight of Syrians in the three countries, a growing trek for Syrians attempting to reach Europe.
The report highlights the gaps Syrians face as they attempt to find protection, with many traveling through Greece and Bulgaria on their way to Europe. According to the United Nations, many more are taking dangerous sea journeys in boats to reach the continent.
At the same time, countries bordering Syria and Iraq are showing signs of strain and imposing new policies at their borders. In recent months, Jordan has exerted more control over its northern border, denying entry to some refugees from ISIS-controlled areas, while Lebanon has instituted a visa policy for Syrians seeking to enter their country. While Turkey has kept its border open, refugee interviews are being scheduled for 2022.
“It was apparent from our trip that the protection space in the region for Syrians is shrinking,” said Matt Wilch, refugee policy advisor for MRS/USCCB. “People are becoming more desperate and are attempting dangerous journeys to Europe and beyond.”
Of special note is the impact the crisis is having on children, who number as many as 2 million—half the total of Syrian refugees. Among those are unaccompanied children who, according to the delegation, have a special claim on protection.
“The number of unaccompanied children and other vulnerable children from Syria and elsewhere is rising, yet there are few protection mechanisms in place to identify and rescue them from harm,” said Nathalie Lummert, director of Special Programs for MRS/USCCB. “What we are seeing is an exodus of the next generation in Syria, with little hope for their future.”
The delegation also expressed grave concern for the plight of religious minorities, who are targets of extremists in the region. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, along with Yazidis, are at risk of their lives.
 “Without a dramatic response to this unprecedented humanitarian challenge, we will continue to see ongoing suffering and even death in this population, especially among the most vulnerable,” Brown said.
The delegation’s report lists several recommendations to address the crisis, including increased refugee assistance and resettlement. The full report is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Refuge-and-Hope-in-the-Time-of-ISIS.pdf

March 6, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Catholic Relief Services Collection, scheduled to take place March 14-15 in many dioceses across the United States, aids more than 100 million people around the world including those affected by persecution, war and natural disasters, through the six worldwide agencies it supports. The collection’s theme “Help Jesus in Disguise,” provides an opportunity to echo the gospel call to assist and accompany the poor.
“The Catholic Relief Services Collection gives us a Lenten opportunity for global solidarity. We show our love of God and each other through caring for the poor and marginalized. This collection provides much-needed humanitarian aid, supports development projects that improve living conditions, and provides resources for immigrant and immigrant communities and advocacy programs,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “This collection helps to alleviate suffering in incredibly meaningful ways.”
Funds from last year’s collection helped Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provide housing and protection for people whose lives have been disrupted by violence in Gaza, Jerusalem and the Kurdish region of Iraq. CRS has also introduced peacebuilding programs in South Sudan, and continues assisting in rebuilding efforts in communities struck by natural disasters in Haiti and the Philippines. CRS is a leading provider of services and expertise in agriculture, global health and emergency response and recovery.
In addition, USCCB’s Office of International Justice and Peace (IJP) and Catholic Relief Services worked with the Church in the Central African Republic to raise awareness and advocate for those afflicted by violence and conflict. As a result of their intervention, the United States committed $101 million for Africa Union Peacekeepers and $30 million for humanitarian assistance. The number of African Union Peacekeepers was increased from 1,200 to almost 6,000. Through projects like these, IJP and CRS help the Church to stop violence and seek assistance for those in need.
The Catholic Relief Services Collection funds six Catholic agencies: Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the official overseas relief and development agency of the U.S. bishops; USCCB’s Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), which helps resettle refugees in the United States; USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, which provides outreach and pastoral care for ethnic and cultural groups; USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development, which advocates for poor and vulnerable people and works for international justice and peace; Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), which provides legal services for immigrants; and the Holy Father’s Relief Fund, which provides assistance to suffering people around the world.
More information on the Catholic Relief Services Collection and the projects it funds can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-relief-services-collection/

March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Decisions around the 2016 budget resolution should be measured against whether they protect human life and dignity, the poor and vulnerable and the common good, particularly workers and their families, said two U.S. bishops in a letter, February 27, to every member of Congress.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote, “The moral measure of the federal budget is not which party wins or which powerful interests prevail, but rather how those who are jobless, hungry, homeless, or poor are treated. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.”
Archbishop Wenski and Bishop Cantú chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, respectively.
The bishops expressed support for reduction of future unsustainable deficits and their impact on the economy, but said a just framework for a federal budget cannot rely on “disproportionate cuts in essential service to poor persons.” The bishops noted how Budget Control Act caps and sequestration have limited many domestic and international poverty-focused programs and cautioned lawmakers against using the reconciliation process to achieve savings by cutting health care, nutrition and other programs.
“As pastors, we see every day the human consequences of budget choices. Our Catholic community defends the unborn, feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, educates the young, and cares for the sick, both at home and abroad. We help poor families rise above crushing poverty, resettle refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, and reach out to communities devastated by wars, natural disasters and famines. In much of this work, we are partners with government, and our combined resources allow us to reach further and help more,” the bishops wrote.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/letter-to-congress-from-archbishop-wenski-bishop-cantu-on-federal-budget-fy-2016-02-27-2015.cfm

March 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Robert W. McElroy, 61, bishop of the Diocese of San Diego. Bishop McElroy has served as an auxiliary bishop of San Francisco since 2010. He succeeds the late Bishop Cirilo Flores, who died September 6, 2014.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, March 3, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Robert Walter McElroy was born February 5, 1954. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1975, a master’s degree in American history from Stanford University in 1976, and a master of divinity degree from St. Patrick Seminary, Menlo Park, California, in 1979. He was ordained a priest for the San Francisco Archdiocese April 12, 1980, and named a monsignor in 1996.
Following ordination, he was parochial vicar of St. Cecilia Church in San Francisco, 1980-1982; and secretary to Archbishop John R. Quinn, 1982-1985. He studied for a licentiate in sacred theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, California, in 1985; and for a doctorate in sacred theology at the Gregorian University, Rome, 1985-1986. He studied for a doctorate in history at Stanford from 1986-1989.
From 1989-1995, he was parochial vicar at St. Pius Church, and was vicar general for the San Francisco Archdiocese, 1995-1997. From 1997-2010, he was pastor of St. Gregory Parish in San Mateo, California. He was appointed a bishop by Pope Benedict XVI on July 6, 2010, and consecrated on September 7 of that year.
He is author of “The Search for an American Public Theology: The Contribution of John Courtney Murray,” Paulist Press, 1989; and “Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs,” Princeton University Press, 1992. He also has been published in journals and America magazine.
The Diocese of San Diego covers 8,852 square miles in Southern California and has a total population of 3,236,492 people, of whom 998,127, or 31 percent, are Catholic.

February 26, 2015
WASHINGTON —The vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) preserving an open Internet and preventing service providers from discriminating against content makers is a welcome move, crucial for allowing religions, including the Catholic Church, to communicate online, said Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, February 26.
“The Internet is a critical medium for religious speech. Radio, broadcast television and cable television are, in large part, closed to noncommercial religious messages,” said Bishop Wester, who chairs the Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “From the inception of the Internet until the mid-2000s, Internet service providers were not permitted to discriminate or tamper with what was said over those Internet connections. Today, the FCC restores this protection for speakers, protection particularly important to noncommercial religious speakers.”
The USCCB has long supported open Internet, where neither the telephone or cable company providing access can tamper with access by consumers to any legal website or other web content.

February 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the brutal murders of twenty one Coptic Christians at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya, increased support to protect religious minorities and civilians should be combined with adequate humanitarian assistance and other assets, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“Pope Francis and the Holy See have reiterated on a number of occasions that it is ‘licit’ to use force to stop these unjust aggressors and to protect religious minorities and civilians from these horrendous attacks,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a February 23 letter sent to President Obama and the U.S. House and Senate leadership. “They have emphasized that the use of military force must be proportionate and discriminate, and employed within the framework of ‘international and humanitarian law.’”
As Congress considers the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the bishops urged them to review it within the context of humanitarian law. “The United States should only use military force consistent with ‘international and humanitarian law.’ At the same time, we must deploy other assets in the struggle against terrorism.”
Quoting the post-9/11 statement of the U.S. bishops, they reiterated:  “While military action may be necessary, it is by no means sufficient to deal with this terrorist threat.”  The bishops noted:  “Inclusive governance and meaningful participation in political and economic life inoculate populations against the false promises of extremism.”
The letter also addressed the need for humanitarian and resettlement assistance. Bishop Cantú witnessed the situation first hand during a recent solidarity visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq where the terror of the “Islamic State” has forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis –including Christians, Yezidis and Muslims– to flee their homes. “They arrive often with only the clothes on their backs. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working with the local Church to assist the displaced without regard to creed, but the needs are overwhelming. More than one Catholic bishop begged us to urge our government to provide both protection and more humanitarian assistance,” the bishops wrote.
“Our delegation to Iraq also met with some very vulnerable refugees and displaced Syrians and Iraqis who will not be able to return to their homes. Some have health conditions, others have lost a bread winner, and still others are orphaned,” the bishops wrote on the magnitude of the crisis. “The most vulnerable of this population need to have the option of resettlement to a third country. The United States should accept its share of these vulnerable cases.”
The full text of the letter is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/letters-president-obama-congressional-leaders-on-religious-freedom-violations-middle-east-2015-02-23.cfm.

February 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — An interim final rule published by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services risks harmful effects on unaccompanied children resettled by the United States, according to comments filed by Catholic and Evangelical organizations and relief agencies. At issue is whether the rule adequately accounts for the religious and moral concerns of faith-based organizations. Regulations that may force those agencies to restrict their work could create an unmanageable backlog for services. 
“We believe that, through practical discussions, we can find a resolution that allows the government to fulfill its obligation to care for unaccompanied children, while also respecting the religious and moral beliefs of faith-based organization that, to date, have provided such critical care for this vulnerable population,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said in joint comments filed on February 20 along with the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision, Inc., Catholic Relief Services and World Relief.
The organizations stressed their commitment to support and strengthen protections for these minors in ways that respect the organizations’ religious and moral convictions. “In cases where pregnancy occurs, those of us participating in the program are willing to continue to provide health care access, as we have for years, in a manner consistent with our religious beliefs,” the comments noted.
The comments stated that the rule falls short of having adequate protections for those organizations with religious or moral objections to certain requirements under the rule, including providing minors and victims of sexual abuse access to “emergency contraception” and access “to all lawful pregnancy-related medical services,” which the comments indicated “apparently includes abortion.”
The comments also noted that the rule has implications regarding human sexuality and therefore requests that ORR ensure that organizations remain free to act in accord with their religious beliefs and moral convictions in the area of human sexuality when providing care for unaccompanied minors.
The comments responded to an interim final rule that was published in the Federal Register on December 24, 2014.
Currently, six out of nine national refugee resettlement agencies in the United States are faith-based organizations, including the USCCB, which is the largest in terms of persons served, and World Relief, which mobilizes the resources of the evangelical community. Together, these organizations resettle the majority of refugees entering the United States each year.
The full text of the comments is available online:  www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/rulemaking/upload/02-20-15-comments-UM.pdf.

February 22, 2015
WASHINGTON — Congress should reaffirm the principle that government “should not force anyone to stop offering or covering much-needed legitimate health care” because of a conscientious objection to abortion or other procedures, said Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore. In a February 13 letter to the House of Representatives, the bishops, who chair the Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged legislators to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940).
“It is increasingly obvious that Congress needs to act to protect conscientious objection to the taking of innocent human life,” wrote Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori. “Recently California’s Department of Managed Health Care began demanding that all health plans under its jurisdiction include elective abortions, including late-term abortions. This mandate has no exemption for religious or moral objections, and is being enforced against religious universities, schools and even churches. Similar proposals have emerged in Washington and other states.”
The bishops noted that the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (ANDA) section of the bill would give firmer legal basis to the Weldon amendment, part of every Labor/HHS appropriations bill since 2004, which forbids governmental bodies receiving federal funds to discriminate against those who decline to take part in abortion or abortion coverage. They noted that President Obama has expressed support for the Weldon amendment.
In addition, the bishops said that H.R. 940 would incorporate respect for rights of conscience into the Affordable Care Act, allowing those who purchase, provide and sponsor health coverage under the Act to opt out of abortion or other specific items that violate their moral and religious convictions. Finally the bill would recognize a private right of action for victims of discrimination under either provision, so they can go to court to defend their rights.
“We strongly urge you to support and co-sponsor the Health Care Conscience Rights Act,” the bishops concluded.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-Urge-Congress-to-Support-HR-940-Health-Care-Conscience-Rights-Act.pdf

February 12, 2015

WASHINGTON—Congress should urge the government of Israel to halt unnecessary confiscation of Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank, a move that would help address the plight of Christian Palestinians in the Cremisan Valley and “renew hope for a just resolution to the conflict,” said the chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In a February 11 letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, urged the committees to intervene with the Israeli government regarding a plan to reroute the separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley in the West Bank. The plan, he said, ignores the rights and needs of the local community and would have “devastating consequences.”
“The proposed routes of the separation barrier would effectively confiscate the Palestinian agricultural and recreational lands of over 50 Christian families. This threatens the livelihoods of the remaining Christian community of Bethlehem, pressuring even more to leave the Holy Land,” wrote Bishop Cantú, who traveled to the Holy Land in January to meet with community and Church leaders and see the situation first hand.
“The barrier would also negatively impact the work of the Catholic Church in the Valley by separating a Salesian monastery from a nearby convent, isolating both their ministries from critical resources and contacts with the local population. In one case, the proposed route would surround a Salesian school for 450 students on three sides with a militarized barrier,” wrote Bishop Cantú.
Bishop Cantú noted that the Cremisan Valley is a microcosm of the patterns that jeopardize the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and threaten the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated the U.S. bishops’ longstanding support for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/letter-to-congressional-leaders-from-bishop-cantu-on-cremsan-valley-2015-02-11.cfm

February 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, gave strong support for the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015 (H.R. 824, S. 435) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Randy Weber (R-TX) and in the U.S. Senate by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
In letters of support dated February 11 to Representative Weber and Senator Cruz, Archbishop Cordileone noted that agencies within the Executive Branch of the federal government have begun using a rule that, contrary to the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, allows a federal overruling of state marriage law. “By employing a ‘place of celebration’ rule, these agencies have chosen to ignore the law of the state in which people reside in determining whether they are married. The effect, if not the intent, of this choice is to circumvent state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” said Archbishop Cordileone.
The Archbishop further indicated how it is that these federal agencies are acting contrary to Supreme Court precedent. “The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, however, requires the federal government to defer to state marriage law, not disregard it.” He concluded that the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015 is necessary because it “would remedy this problem by requiring the federal government, consistent with Windsor, to defer to the marriage law of the state in which people actually reside when determining whether they are married for purposes of federal law.”
Archbishop Cordileone urged other members of Congress to join in supporting this legislation, saying, “Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined.  Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support.”
The letter of support to Representative Weber is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=168181
The letter of support to Senator Cruz is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=168178

February 11, 2015

WASHINGTON — Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, testified on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, February 11, in opposition to three enforcement-only bills. Collectively, the bills would harm immigrant and refugee children; criminalize undocumented persons and those who provide them with basic needs assistance, including religious and church workers; and permit states and localities to create and enforce their own immigration laws.
In his statement before the subcommittee, Bishop Kicanas said the three bills “would take our nation in the wrong direction,” and fail to fix our nation’s immigration system. Instead, he urged the subcommittee to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented.
“Mr. Chairman, we believe these bills would not fix our immigration system,” Bishop Kicanas said. “Rather, they would make it less just and would undermine our nation’s moral authority, both domestically and globally.”
Bishop Kicanas pointed to the numerous provisions in the three bills which would harm immigrant and refugee children, including repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, affecting 600,000 children, and the repeal of protections for unaccompanied alien children fleeing violence in Central America, subjecting them to return to possible harm without the benefit of an immigration hearing.
“Our country is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable and the removal of protections from children ­–both in the DACA program and those seeking refuge– flies against human decency and violates human dignity. We should not punish these children, who themselves are innocent and are only seeking opportunity and safety.”
Finally, Bishop Kicanas pointed to provisions in the Secure and Fortify Enforcement (SAFE) Act which would criminalize undocumented persons and those who transport them, including religious and lay faith-based workers, to a hospital, soup kitchen, or Mass.
Citing similar provisions in a 2006 bill which sparked protests across the country, Bishop Kicanas asked: “As a nation, do we want to go down this road again?  Do we want to criminalize millions of persons who have built equities in this country, jail them, and separate them from their families?  Instead of fixing a broken system, would we want to jail nuns and other good samaritans who are simply aiding their fellow human beings, consistent with their faith?”
“Mr. Chairman,” Bishop Kicanas concluded, “the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the people of many faith communities, and the majority of Americans were disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform legislation was not passed in the 113th Congress. You once again have the opportunity to fix the broken system in the 114th Congress. We stand ready to work with you toward this goal.”
Bishop Kicanas’ full written statement is available at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/congressional-testimony/upload/Kicanasfinal.pdf

February 10, 2015

WASHINGTON — James L. Rogers has been named executive director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
In this newly created role, Rogers will oversee the USCCB Office of Media Relations and will be responsible for the development and implementation of the USCCB’s external communications messaging, strategy and objectives. He begins his position on February 18.
Rogers has spent 20 years managing communications for organizations with a high profile in Washington, most recently as executive director of public relations at Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. From 2011 to 2014 he was executive director of public relations for Kaiser Permanente where he established a national public relations office in Washington for the $50 billion healthcare system. From 2005 to 2011, he held the positon of secretary for communications with the Jesuit Conference. There he served as senior advisor to the national president and launched a social media program and brand journalism site (Jesuit.org) that won three awards from the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada.
He has also managed media relations at the National Rehabilitation Hospital and led advertising and cause-related marketing at the American Cancer Society. He staged a Great American Smokeout Workout with the White House, wrote Congressional testimony in support of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and planned site visits for the British No. 10 Policy Unit and the German Federal Ministry of Health.
Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, made the appointment.
“James Rogers brings a wealth of professional experience in public relations and communications management to the Conference,” he said. “I am confident that his many gifts, coupled with his devotion to the Church, will be of valuable service to the bishops.”
Rogers earned a bachelor of arts degree from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He is a member of the National Press Club, the Public Relations Society of America and an Arthur W. Page Society Future Leader.
Rogers resides in Purcellville, Virginia with his wife and son. They are parishioners of St. Francis de Sales. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus EDW Council in Arlington, where he also served as division president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

February 6, 2015

WASHINGTON — Two recently enacted laws in the District of Columbia are “unprecedented assaults upon our organizations” and “violate the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association protected by the First Amendment and other federal law,” said representatives of a number of national and local organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in a February 5 letter to Congress.
The letter urged Congress to protect religious freedom and freedom of conscience by disapproving the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 and the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 during the congressional review period for these laws.
The letter was signed by Anthony Picarello, USCCB General Counsel and Associate General Secretary, as well as legal and other representatives for organizations including the Archdiocese of Washington, the Archdiocese for the Military Services, the Catholic University of America, Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Association of Evangelicals, and others.
The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 prevents religious institutions, faith-based employers, and pro-life advocacy organizations in the city from making employment decisions consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions about the sanctity of human life.
For example, the law requires “organizations to hire or retain individuals whose speech or public conduct contradicts the organizations’ missions,” the letter stated. “The law plainly violates the First Amendment, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), and possibly other federal laws and clearly contradicts the Supreme Court’s recent, unanimous ruling in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church and School v. EEOC.”
Another law enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014, requires religiously affiliated educational institutions to endorse, sponsor, and provide school resources to persons or groups that oppose the institutions’ religious teachings regarding human sexuality.
“In doing so, the law violates the First Amendment and RFRA on similar grounds,” the letter stated. “While we will continue to serve the city and the nation, we cannot surrender the constitutional freedoms that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution rightly reserved to all of us.”

February 5, 2015

WASHINGTON — The annual Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will be held in most parishes on Ash Wednesday, February 18. The collection supports pastoral, educational and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which were formerly under Soviet control.
The collection helps to provide a stable future for the Catholic Church in Central and Eastern Europe, a region long suffering spiritual repression and economic hardship. The theme for this year’s collection is “Restore the Church, Build the Future,” and focuses on repairing and building Church structures, strengthening Catholic education and social services, and assisting in the development of Church leadership to ensure a solid future for the Church. In 2014, the collection funded 290 grants totaling $7.85 million   benefiting the Catholic Church in 24 out of 28 countries served.
“Though this Collection has been able to help so many, the future of the Church in Central and Eastern Europe still remains uncertain,” said Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “The Church faces both physical poverty in countries that have still not become self-sustaining following communism and moral poverty due to the growth of secularism.”
“Without the lay faithful and their unwavering commitment to this collection, we would not be able to provide significant grants to greatly support our brothers and sisters across the globe,” Archbishop Cupich said. “By showing our solidarity, each person who gives to the collection truly helps to build the future of the Church.”
One funded project that focuses on caring for every human life is the Aregak Center, located in Gyumri, Armenia. The center offers resources and primary care for children with multiple disabilities. Created jointly by Caritas Armenia and Caritas Vorarlberg (Austria), it is the first center of its kind in the country to offer both primary care and integrative community programs. The Aregak Center serves as a meeting point where people with and without disabilities participate together in a variety of recreational and therapeutic activities. The center also runs the Daycare Center for Children with Multiple Disabilities, where professional staff and volunteers offer therapies and group activities designed to expand and stimulate the capabilities of each child. In these activities, the center works toward changing attitudes toward people with disabilities and breaking down prejudices that have stigmatized and segregated the disabled in Armenian society.
The bishops of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe oversee the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information on the Collection and the projects it funds can be found at  www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/central-and-eastern-europe/

January 28, 2015
WASHINGTON — Jessi Poré has been named director for the Catholic Home Missions and associate director of the Office of National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Poré currently works in the USCCB Department of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), where she is responsible for program management, evaluation, and the training and development of diocesan agency partners associated with their anti-trafficking work.
“Jessi Poré brings over a decade of professional experience in the private and non-profit sectors to this position,” said Mary Mencarini Campbell, executive director of the USCCB Office of National Collections, who until last fall held the position for which Poré has been hired. “She has a valuable combination of leadership, fundraising and relationship building skills to use in service of the national collections and our home missions efforts. Her work in MRS provided her the opportunity to appreciate the challenges of under-resourced and vulnerable communities and the role our Church plays is addressing these challenges. That perspective will benefit our home mission dioceses. We are very pleased to have her in this position.”
As director of the USCCB effort to support the dioceses most in need in the United States, Poré will be responsible for the U.S. bishops’ grant initiative for the home mission dioceses and for its funding source, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. Most dioceses hold the appeal the last Sunday in April.
Poré has worked at the USCCB since 2007. She is bilingual (English and Spanish) and holds a  bachelor of arts degree from George Mason University, a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from Boston College. Poré begins her new role on February 9.
The USCCB Office of National Collections manages eight of the national collections held in Catholic parishes throughout the year. The Catholic Home Missions Appeal received over $9.65 million in donations from U.S. Dioceses in 2013. This year the bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Home Missions approved grants of $9.02 million to 83 dioceses for pastoral programs.
More information on the USCCB’s work in the Catholic Home Missions is available at http://www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/catholic-home-missions-appeal/index.cfm.

January 27, 2015

WASHINGTON — The chairs of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on Pro-life Activities welcomed the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 23 announcement that it would review the drug protocols of lethal injection executions in the state of Oklahoma. The court will consider whether the procedures violate the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
“I welcome the Court’s decision to review this cruel practice,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. “Our nation has witnessed through recent executions, such as occurred in Oklahoma, how the use of the death penalty devalues human life and diminishes respect for human dignity. We bishops continue to say, we cannot teach killing is wrong by killing.”
The Court’s decision to consider the case of Glossip v. Gross, brought by three death row inmates in Oklahoma, comes after several lethal injection executions were botched, including that of Clayton D. Lockett in Oklahoma.
“Society can protect itself in ways other than the use of the death penalty,” Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, Chair of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, said. “We pray that the Court’s review of these protocols will lead to the recognition that institutionalized practices of violence against any person erode reverence for the sanctity of every human life. Capital punishment must end.”
The U.S. bishops have been advocating against the death penalty for over 40 years. In 2005, they initiated the Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and continue to work closely with state Catholic Conferences, the Catholic Mobilizing Network and other groups towards the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.  
The bishops join Pope Francis who in October 2014 called on Christians and all people of good will “to fight…for the abolition of the death penalty…in all its forms,” out of respect for human dignity.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in this matter in April.

January 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — Religious men and women who professed perpetual vows to the nearly 800 communities of religious life in the United States in 2014 are highly educated and more likely than the average Catholic adult to attend Catholic high schools and universities. These were among the findings of the annual survey on new men and women religious conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
About four in 10 (42 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is the same as that for all Catholic adults in the United States. They are more likely than other U.S. Catholics, however, to have attended a Catholic high school (31 percent of responding religious, compared to 22 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (34 percent of responding religious, compared to just 7 percent of U.S. adult Catholics.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations commissioned the survey and released the results before the annual celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life, February 2. The survey also comes amidst the Year of Consecrated Life, which began November 30, 2014. During this year, Catholics are invited to learn more about religious life by participating in three specially designated days. The first, the Day of Open House with Religious is February 8. Resources for the World Day of Consecrated Life, the Year of Consecrated Life and the entire CARA survey can be found at www.usccb.org/consecratedlife.
“Given the fact that 89 percent of those responding to the recent CARA survey of new religious had participated in some form of a ‘Come and See’ experience prior to entering their religious institute, we know it is important for our youth and young adults to have greater exposure and familiarity with the community life of religious,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to visit local religious communities in their own area during the Day of Religious Open Houses, Sunday, February 8.” 
Eighteen percent of responding religious earned a graduate degree before entering their religious institute. Two in three (68 percent) entered their religious institute with at least a bachelor’s degree (61 percent for women and 80 percent for men).
Brother Humbert Kilanowski of the St. Joseph Province of the Dominican friars said he “didn’t consider a priestly or religious vocation as a viable option for my life until I was well into graduate school. But even though I couldn’t have foreseen it, I’m happier as a religious than I could be anywhere else, and I thank God for surprising me with his grace.”
“I graduated from Harvard University where I studied sociology and pursued pre-med requirements,” said Sister Ann Kateri Hamm of the Franciscan Sisters of Renewal. “Although I felt called to religious life from a young age I was hesitant to share openly about it. It was not until I was engaged to be married that I knew for sure that God had made my heart to be totally his — and he gave the grace to finally say yes to my religious vocation.”
Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among those who did report educational debt, however, they averaged one year of delay while they paid down an average of $15,750 in educational debt. Several of the women, but none of the men, reported receiving assistance in paying down their debt.
CARA received a response from 454 of 799 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 57 percent among religious institutes. In all, 75 percent of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) superiors, 49 percent of Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) superiors, 66 percent of Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious (CMSWR) superiors, and 27 percent of superiors of contemplative communities provided contact information for 190 members that professed perpetual vows in religious life in 2014.
Of these 190 identified women and men religious, a total of 77 sisters and nuns and 41 brothers responded to the survey by December 21, 2014. These 41 brothers may include some brothers who intend to pursue studies leading to priestly ordination. This represents a response rate of 62 percent of the 190 potential members of the Profession Class of 2014 that were reported to CARA by major superiors.
Among the major findings:
  • The average age of responding religious of the Profession Class of 2014 is 37. Half of the responding religious are age 34 or younger. The youngest is 24 and the oldest is 64.
  • Two-thirds of responding religious (67 percent) identify as white, more than one in seven (15 percent) identifies as Hispanic, and one in seven (14 percent) identifies as Asian.
  • Most responding religious (76 percent) were born in the United States. Of those born outside the United States, the most common countries of origin are the Philippines and Vietnam.
  • Among those identifying as Hispanic/Latino(a) two-thirds (67 percent) are U.S. born and one-third (33 percent) are foreign born. Those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian are predominantly (94 percent) foreign born. Nearly all identifying as Caucasian/white (95 percent) are U.S. born.
  • On average, the respondents who were born outside the United States were 23 years old when they first came to the United States and lived here for 16 years before perpetual profession.
  • Nearly nine in 10 (86 percent) responding religious have been Catholic since birth. More than eight in 10 (83 percent) come from families in which both parents are Catholic.
  • Among the 14 percent of respondents who became Catholic later in life, the average age at which they converted was 24.
  • Nearly all of the religious of the Profession Class of 2014 (89 percent) participated in some type of vocation program or experience prior to entering their religious institute.
  • Most commonly was a “Come and See” experience (59 percent) or a vocation retreat (50 percent). Men were more likely than women to have participated in a “Come and See” experience (66 percent and 56 percent, respectively) or in a vocation retreat (59 percent for men compared to 45 percent for women). Almost nine in 10 (88 percent) had ministry experience, most commonly as a lector (50 percent) followed by ministry in faith formation (47 percent). Four in 10 served in music ministry and over one-third as extraordinary ministers of Communion or as an altar server. Over one-quarter served in a social service ministry, and one in 10 taught in a Catholic school or served in hospital or prison ministry.
  • Nearly all (91 percent) regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. Seven in 10 participated in Eucharistic Adoration or prayed the rosary before entering. More than six in 10 participated in retreats or spiritual direction before entering. Many were active in parish life before entering their religious institute. Four in 10 (42 percent) participated in youth ministry or youth group. Almost a third participated in Catholic campus ministry or a Newman Center. One in five participated in World Youth Day and/or in a young adult ministry or group.
  • Nearly all responding religious (88 percent) had work experience prior to entering their religious institute. Of those who were employed, a quarter (27 percent) were employed part-time and just over three in five (61 percent) were employed full-time before entering the institute. Women religious are more likely than men to have been employed in health care, while men religious are more likely than women to have been employed in business and education.
  • On average, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.
  • Nearly half say that a parish priest or a religious sister or brother encouraged their vocation (49 and 47 percent). Men were more likely than women to have been encouraged by a parish priest or religious sister or a brother.
  • Over four in 10 report that they were encouraged to consider a vocation by a friend. Women are more likely than men to have been encouraged by a friend (48 percent compared to 37 percent).
  • Respondents are less likely to report that they received encouragement from their family members than from other religious, friends, or a parish priest. One in four (25 percent) report that their mother encouraged them to consider religious life. Just under a quarter received encouragement from other relatives (23 percent) or their father (15 percent).
  • Six in 10 (58 percent) report that they were discouraged from considering a vocation by one or more persons. These respondents are most likely to report that they were discouraged by a family member other than a parent (36 percent) or by friends or classmates (24 percent).
  • On average, these religious report that they knew the members of their religious institute for four years before they entered, but half knew them for two years or less. One in three (36 percent) first became acquainted with their institute through promotional material published by the institute. One in five first learned of their institute through the recommendation of a priest or advisor.

January 23, 2015

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, welcomed passage of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2015” (H.R. 7) by the U.S. House of Representatives. “By passing this legislation, the House has taken a decisive step toward respect for unborn human life, reflecting the will of the American people,” he said.
Co-sponsored by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the pro-life bill passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 242-179 on January 22, the day of the annual March for Life in Washington. The House approved identical legislation a year ago by a closer margin, 227-188.
The bill codifies a permanent, government-wide policy against taxpayer subsidies for abortion and abortion coverage. It also requires health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act to disclose the extent of their coverage for abortion and the amount of any surcharge for that coverage to consumers.
Cardinal O’Malley wrote to Congress last January urging support for the legislation, saying it “will write into permanent law a policy on which there has been strong popular and congressional agreement for over 37 years: The federal government should not use its funding power to support and promote elective abortion, and should not force taxpayers to subsidize this violence. Even public officials who take a ‘pro-choice’ stand, and courts that have insisted on a constitutional ‘right’ to abortion, have agreed that the government has every right (in the Supreme Court’s words) to ‘encourage childbirth over abortion.’”
“H.R. 7 also requires health plans under the Affordable Care Act to provide full disclosure on their abortion coverage to consumers,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “This lets Americans choose health coverage that reflects their values.  Just as most Americans do not want their tax dollars used for abortion, they do not want their own health coverage misused to pay for abortions.  I hope the U.S. Senate will take up this important legislation soon.”

January 23, 2015
WASHINGTON — The feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, February 8, has been designated as the first International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking. Last year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration designated such date as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking. Later that year, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General at the Vatican, that the 2015 event will also be observed internationally. 
St. Josephine Bakhita was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and taken to Italy. Once Josephine demanded her freedom, she entered the religious life with the Canossian sisters and dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.
The day is intended to raise awareness and to encourage reflection on the violence and injustice that affect the numerous victims of trafficking. The observance is being promoted for all dioceses, parishes and church groups.
Pope Francis highlights in Evangelii Gaudium that human trafficking affects everyone. “How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: ‘Where is your brother?’ (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where is the brother and sister whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way. There is greater complicity than we think. The issue involves everyone!” Pope Francis wrote.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled that the focus will now be international. Our brothers and sisters around the world want to prevent human trafficking as much as we do. It’s awe-inspiring to think that Catholics from so many different countries will gather together on the same day to pray for the same cause,” said Ambassador Johnny Young, executive director of USCCB Migration and Refugee Services.
Bishop Martin Holley, auxiliary bishop of Washington, will hold a special Mass on Sunday, February 8 at noon, for the victims and survivors of human trafficking at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Catholics who do not live near Washington are encouraged to host or attend prayer services or awareness-raising events in their own communities and parishes. More information is available here
USCCB’s Anti-Trafficking Program advocates for better protection for victims of human trafficking, provides training and technical assistance to service providers and educates the public on the prevalence of human trafficking. In 2013, USCCB launched the Amistad Movement to empower immigrants and local leaders to prevent human trafficking in their communities.

January 23, 2015

WASHINGTON—Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders of 25 national religious organizations wrote to President Obama today urging “a renewed, determined U.S. effort, in coordination with the Quartet, to work with Israel and the Palestinian Authority to achieve a negotiated two-state peace agreement before it is too late.” The entities comprising the Quartet are the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russia.        
The religious leaders warned that the Gaza war “demonstrated once again that there is no military solution to the conflict” and given developments on the ground, including violent clashes in Jerusalem, “simply urging the parties to return to negotiations is no longer sufficient.”
The signers of the letter represented the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, represented the U.S. bishops.
“We believe the outline for a two-state peace agreement is widely known and would likely be accepted by majorities of Israelis and Palestinians if presented by their leaders as the only viable alternative to more violence and war,” they wrote.  “UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397, the Taba Agreement (2001), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), People’s Voice Initiative (2003), the Geneva Initiative (2003), and the (unofficial) Israeli Peace Initiative (2011), taken together, provide practical and reasonable ideas for resolving all the issues, including borders and security, settlements, refugees, and the future of Jerusalem.”
The leaders urged President Obama “to authorize Secretary of State Kerry, coordinating with the Quartet and drawing on internationally accepted principles and practical ideas from previous official and informal negotiations, to offer a balanced and fair framework to the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority as the basis for negotiating a two-state peace agreement to end the conflict.”
“Active, fair and firm U.S. leadership in such a bold peace initiative will require strong, public support, especially from religious communities,” they wrote. “We pledge to mobilize support from our members in synagogues, churches and mosques across the country, and we would appreciate an early opportunity to meet with Secretary Kerry to discuss specific ways that we as religious leaders can help.”
The full text of the letter and list of signers is available online.

January 21, 2015
Cardinal O’Malley Urges Congress to Support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
WASHINGTON — Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), urged support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act when it comes before the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, H.R. 36, introduced by Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), proposes a ban on abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization.
In a January 20 letter to the House, Cardinal O’Malley wrote that there are many lessons learned from Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s imprisonment in 2013 for murder and other crimes committed while providing abortions. “This tragic circumstance led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures.  All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in Gosnell’s clinic, and in other clinics that abort children after 20 weeks,” Cardinal O’Malley wrote.
“The Supreme Court’s past insistence that unborn children must be ‘viable’ to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable,” Cardinal O’Malley added. Whether “viable” by the Court’s definition or not, he said, eyewitnesses confirmed that “the children were born alive and crying or screaming in pain, until their lives were intentionally and deliberately ended.”
 “These procedures after the middle point of pregnancy also pose serious dangers to women – as evidenced by Dr. Gosnell’s own manslaughter conviction for one woman’s death, and news about the death or serious complications of other women undergoing such procedures,” he said.
“For all these reasons, the proposed ban on abortions at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and as ‘pro-choice,’” Cardinal O’Malley added. “On behalf of our country and the children whose lives are at stake, I urge you to support the common-sense reform offered by H.R. 36 and to oppose all weakening amendments.”
The full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s letter is available here.

January 21, 2015

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, in the case of Holt v. Hobbs, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of a Muslim inmate in an Arkansas state prison who sought to wear a half-inch beard in accordance with his faith.
“The decision in Holt v. Hobbs is a great victory for religious freedom,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, “because it underscores that each and every person enjoys this basic human right.”
“You don’t lose it if you subscribe to a minority faith, or even if you enter prison — in fact, you never lose it,” Archbishop Lori explained.  “That is because, as the Second Vatican Council taught 50 years ago in Dignitatis Humanae, ‘the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person.’”
The Court found that the State of Arkansas could not meet the requirements of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which forbids the imposition of a “substantial burden” on religious exercise, unless the burden is the “least restrictive means” to serve a “compelling government interest.”
This “exceptionally demanding” test is virtually identical to the one established by the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), which is the principal basis for the successful federal civil rights lawsuits challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that employers cover sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortion.
In May 2014, USCCB joined other religious groups in filing an amicus curiae brief at the Supreme Court in support of the position that prevailed in yesterday’s decision.  That brief is available online.

January 21, 2015

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father Daniel E. Garcia, a priest of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, auxiliary bishop of Austin. Father Garcia, 54, is currently the vicar general of the diocese and moderator of the curia.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, January 21, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Daniel Elias Garcia was born in Cameron, Texas, in 1960. He earned an associate of arts degree from the Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas (1982) and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1984) and a master of divinity (1988) from St. Mary’s Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 28, 1988.
Following ordination, his pastoral assignments included parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Sienna Parish (1988-1990), Cristo Rey Church (1990-1991) and St. Louis Parish (1991-1992), all in Austin; parochial vicar of St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Humble, Texas (1992-1995); and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Austin (1995-2014).
His responsibilities for the Diocese of Austin have included master of ceremonies for the bishop, member of the vocation team, vocation director, member of the diocesan liturgical committee, member of the diaconal advisory committee and chair of the pastoral practices committee of the presbyteral council. He served as dean of the Austin North Deanery, a member of the interim presbyteral council and presbyteral council, and a member of the college of consultors.
In 2007, He earned a master’s in liturgical studies from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.
Bishop-elect Garcia has been a member of the priests’ personnel board since 2011. In March 2014, he became vicar general and moderator of the curia.
The Diocese of Austin comprises 21,066 square miles in the state of Texas. It has a total population of 2,974,659 people of which 549,420, or 18 percent, are Catholic. The bishop of Austin since 2010 is Bishop Joe S. Vásquez.

January 16, 2015
WASHINGTON—The U. S. Supreme Court granted a request, January 16, to review the November 2014 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding the constitutionality of marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, responded to the Court’s action saying, “A decision by the Supreme Court on whether a state may define marriage as the union of one man and one woman may be the most significant Court decision since the Court’s tragic 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion a constitutional right.”
Archbishop Cordileone also noted, “It’s hard to imagine how the essential meaning of marriage as between the two sexes, understood in our nation for over two hundred years, and consistent with every society throughout all of human history, could be declared illegal. To those arguing for a constitutional redefinition of marriage, one must ask: when did the Constitution suddenly mandate a novel and unfounded definition of marriage? To ask such a question is not a judgment on anyone. It is a matter of justice and truth. The central issue at stake is: what is marriage? The answer is: a bond which unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children who come from their union. Only a man and a woman can unite their bodies in a way that creates a new human being. Marriage is thus a unique and beautiful reality which a society respects to its benefit or ignores to its peril.”
Archbishop Cordileone added, “Let us pray that the Supreme Court will be guided by right reason and render a true and just decision upholding the constitutionality of states to respect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the coming months.

January 16, 2015

WASHINGTON — Over 10,000 pilgrims, many of them youth from schools around the nation, are expected to gather in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to pray for an end to abortion at the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life, Wednesday, January 21, at 6:30 p.m., the eve of the annual March for Life. The vigil coincides with the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision on January 22, 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide. Since the decision was handed down, an estimated 56 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.
“The 2015 National Prayer Vigil for Life takes place at the heart of the bishops’ 9 Days for Life novena calling for an end to abortion and other offenses against human dignity, as well as healing for our violence-wounded nation,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “It’s held on the eve of the single largest annual civil rights demonstration, the March for Life. Together we stand in solidarity with the unborn and pregnant women alike, working in peace toward the day when all vulnerable lives enjoy the full protection of the law.”
“That is why we march, and that is why we pray,” she added.
Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, will be the principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Mass, concelebrated by fellow cardinals and many of the nation's bishops and priests. Following the Opening Mass, the Vigil will continue in the Crypt Church of the Basilica with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Night Prayer according to the Byzantine Rite, and holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from midnight until 6:00 a.m.
That same evening, The Catholic University of America will host more than 1,000 pilgrims overnight.
On Thursday, January 22, the Basilica will host Morning Prayer at 6:30 a.m. in the Crypt Church and the Closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the USCCB, will be the principal celebrant and homilist.
The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America.

January 16, 2015
WASHINGTON—The annual Collection for the Church in Latin America (CLA) is scheduled for the weekend of January 24-25, in parishes across the country. The collection supports pastoral projects in Latin America and the Caribbean that help Catholics to share their faith.
In 2014, the collection provided over $6.6 million for 440 grants to aid pastoral work in the region. Projects included the formation of lay leaders, seminarians, men and women religious, the development of youth ministry groups and the support of evangelization and catechetical activities. The CLA Collection also provided assistance for Latin American families to attend the upcoming World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
The 2015 Church in Latin America collection campaign continues to call Catholics to share their faith, particularly within their families and in society. “In Latin America, Christian values remain important and many families are wounded by anti-religious hostility from the surrounding environment and by challenging relationships within the family,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. “Yet throughout the hemisphere, the Church continues to point the way to Christ as the source of hope and healing, both within the family and in society, and CLA grants support the Church in these efforts.”
In Brazil, a grant of $30,000 will support the network of Women’s Help Centers (Centro de Apoyo a la Mujer). These centers reach out by phone and online to offer women facing an unexpected pregnancy support and information. To date, the center claims 177,000 lives saved through their outreach. In Cuba, several grants are supporting the ongoing activities of dioceses in the country. “Supporting the Church in Cuba has been a focus of the Subcommittee and we are now glad to see that the Church is recognized as a significant and meaningful player in Cuban society,” said Bishop Elizondo.
In many areas of Latin America, rural communities may become isolated from the life of society and the Church. In Chile, a grant for $25,000 will train 90 young people as missionaries. They will attend workshops and receive training to go out to 30 parishes across seven dioceses to build community and include the rural youth in the life of the Church.
“This collection offers an opportunity for all Catholics in the United States to show solidarity with the Church in Latin America and to share their faith with those who have fewer financial resources,” Bishop Elizondo said. “It’s important that we give pastors, lay ministers and catechists the tools they need so that Catholics in Latin America can face any challenge and deepen their faith.” Since the annual collection is the primary source of funding for CLA grants, parishioners in the U.S. play an important role in the life of the Church in Latin America through their generosity.
The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the Collection for the Church in Latin America as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information on the Collection for the Church in Latin America and the projects it funds can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/latin-america/.

January 16, 2015

WASHINGTON—Communities should strive to live the words of Martin Luther King Jr., to move “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a message for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which falls on January 19.
“Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts.”
The full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s message follows:
As our nation celebrates the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I am reminded of the timeless plea found in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that we move “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”  I am grateful for Dr. King’s words and actions and those of so many who worked for justice and helped to advance our country’s recognition of the dignity and equality of each person.
Continuing tensions and violence in our communities remind us that although significant progress has been made in erasing the stain of racism and the cycle of related violence, we still have much work to do. As we consider the gains of the past and the challenges before us, I urge each of us to pray for healing and peace as we work for ever greater communion. Every human life has profound dignity, rooted in our creation in the image of God. We are one family. Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors. That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts.
Dr. King reminded us of the power of prayer and action. I invite everyone, this day and every day, to implore God to make us his instruments in creating a more just society.

Lord, God of Abraham, God of the Prophets, God of Love, you created us and you call us to live as brothers and sisters Give us the strength daily to be instruments of peace; enable us to see everyone who crosses our path as our brother or sister. Make us sensitive to the plea of [those] who entreat us to turn our weapons of war into implements of peace, our trepidation into confident trust, and our quarreling into forgiveness.

Keep alive within us the flame of hope, so that with patience and perseverance we may opt for dialogue and reconciliation.  In this way may peace triumph at last, and may the words “division”, “hatred” and “war” be banished from the heart of every man and woman.  Lord, defuse the violence of our tongues and our hands. Renew our hearts and minds, so that the word which always brings us together will be “brother”, and our way of life will always be that of. . . Peace. . .!  Amen.

Pope Francis, excerpt from a prayer for peace for the Middle East, June 8, 2014

January 15, 2015
WASHINGTON — The path to peace in the Holy Land requires respect for the human rights and dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians, said bishops from Europe, South Africa and North America, gathered in the Holy Land to pray for peace, January 15. The Co-Ordination of Episcopal Conference in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met every January since 1998 to pray and act in solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land.
“After the failed negotiations and ensuing violence of 2014, we urge public officials to be creative, to take new approaches, to build bridges, not walls,” the bishops wrote in a statement signed by the 16 gathered representatives. “We must humanize the conflict by fostering more interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. Peace will only come when all parties respect the fact that the Holy Land is sacred to three faiths and home to two peoples.”
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the gathering, which toured areas including Gaza and the Cremisan Valley.
“Many tens of thousands of families in Gaza lack adequate shelter.  In the latest freezing weather, at least two infants died of exposure,” the bishops wrote. “The continuing blockade dramatically impedes rebuilding and contributes to desperation that undermines Israelis’ legitimate hope for security. It also creates intolerable levels of unemployment and pushes ordinary people into deeper poverty.”
The bishops cited the Cremisan Valley as a microcosm of the land conflict between Israel and Palestine and noted Pope Francis’ January 12 address to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, in which he expressed “confident hope that negotiations between the two parties will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution which can enable Palestinians and Israelis alike to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognized borders, thus implementing the ‘two state solution’.”
Full text of the statement is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/church-in-the-holy-land-coordination-statement-2015-01-15.cfm

January 14, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Msgr. Joseph G. Hanefeldt, 56, pastor of Christ the King Parish in Omaha, Nebraska, bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska, and accepted the resignation of Bishop William J. Dendinger, 75, from pastoral governance of the diocese.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, January 14, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Joseph G. Hanefeldt was born April 25, 1958, in Creighton, Nebraska. He attended St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, from 1976-1980, and pursued his theological studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1980-1984. He studied sacramental theology at the University of St. Anselm in Rome from 1983-1984. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha on July 14, 1984.
Following ordination, he served as parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in West Point, Nebraska, 1984-1988, and St. Joan of Arc Parish in Omaha, 1988-1992. From 1992-1995, he served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Omaha and as moderator of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. He also served as director of the diocesan Pro-Life Office from 1991-2005. He served as pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Omaha, 1995-2007.
From 2007-2009, he was spiritual director of the Pontifical North American College in Rome. From 2009-2012, he served as director of the spiritual formation program at the Pontifical North American College. In December 2010, Pope Benedict XVI named him a Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor. He has served as pastor of Christ the King Parish in Omaha since 2012.
William J. Dendinger was born in 1939 and ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1965. Pope John Paul II appointed him bishop of Grand Island in 2004.
The Diocese of Grand Island comprises 40,000 square miles in the State of Nebraska and has a total population of 307,587 people, of which 45,744, or 15 percent, are Catholic.

January 13. 2015

WASHINGTON—Congress should avoid measures that jeopardize the prospects of a diplomatic solution over Iran’s nuclear program, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In his January 13 letter, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, reiterated his committee’s support for the United States and its P5 + 1 partners in their ongoing dialogue with Iran.
“Our Committee urges Congress not to take any actions that could undermine the negotiation process or make a responsible multi-party agreement more difficult to achieve,” wrote Bishop Cantú. “Given the long history of acrimonious and tense relations, it is vital to continue to foster an environment in which all parties can build mutual confidence and trust in order to work towards a final accord that enhances genuine peace.”
Bishop Cantú noted Pope Francis’ expression of support for the negotiations the day before, as well as the Vatican’s statement affirmation of diplomacy in the matter from September 2013.
Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/upload/letter-to-congressional-leaders-from-bishop-cantu-on-iran-negotiations-2015-01-13.pdf

January 12, 2015

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Franciscan Father Fernand Cheri III, 62, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Bishop-elect Cheri is a member of the Sacred Heart Province of the Order of Friars Minor and currently serves as director of campus ministry at Quincy University in Illinois.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, January 12, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Fernand Cheri III was born January 28, 1952, in New Orleans. He studied at Notre Dame University, New Orleans, where he received a master’s of divinity in 1978, and at the Institute for Black Catholic Ministry at Xavier University, New Orleans. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans on May 20, 1978.
As a priest of the archdiocese, he served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes, New Orleans, and St. Joseph the Worker, Marrero, Louisiana, 1978-1984; pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, 1984-1985; pastor of St. Francis de Sales, New Orleans, 1985-1990; and administrator of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, New Orleans, 1990-1991.
In 1992, he entered the novitiate for the Order of Friars Minor, Sacred Heart Province, and made solemn profession in 1994. As a Franciscan, his assignments have included chaplain of Hales Franciscan High School, Chicago, 1994-1996; and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville, Tennessee, 1996-2002. He was a member of the provincial council for the Franciscan Province of the Sacred Heart from 1999-2002.
From 2002-2007, he was assigned to St. Benedict the Black Friary in East St. Louis, Illinois, and taught high school in East St. Louis. He pursued continuing education from 2007-2008, and served as director of the Office of Friar Life in East St. Louis from 2008-2009, and as associate director of campus ministry at Xavier University, New Orleans, 2010-2011. Since 2011, he has served as director of campus ministry at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois, and as vicar of the Holy Cross Friary.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans comprises 4,208 square miles in the state of Louisiana and has a total population of 1,252,044 people, of which 500,818, or 40 percent, are Catholic. Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond has headed the archdiocese since 2009. Its other auxiliary, Bishop Dominic Carmon, SVD, retired in 2006.

January 6, 2015

WASHINGTON — A period of prayer, penance, and pilgrimage, January 17-25, 2015,  will mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion throughout pregnancy. The “9 Days for Life” novena encourages nationwide solidarity in prayer for daily intentions, including for couples experiencing infertility, those mourning the loss of a child through abortion, children in need of adoptive homes, and for an end to abortion and use of the death penalty. Resources for the novena are available in numerous ways, including an app.
The initiative is part of the 2014-15 Respect Life Program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) with the theme “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation,” which is adapted from the words of Pope Francis’ 2013 Day for Life greeting. In addition to the prayer intentions, each day of the program raises awareness on issues such as domestic violence, post-abortion healing, pornography addiction, and end-of-life matters.
“Pope Francis reminds us constantly of the loving concern Christians have for all people at any stage of life who’ve been cast aside or forgotten by society,” said Cardinal Seán O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “The 9 Days for Life novena offers a chance to join in prayer and solidarity with the unborn, victims of violence, those suffering from addiction, and those whose hearts ache to be part of a family.”
There are four ways to participate in the program for both English and Spanish speakers: subscriptions to daily content through email or text messages; the “9Days for Life” app; and downloadable print materials. Content will also be shared via a Facebook event (accessible from www.facebook.com/peopleoflife) and other social media with the hashtags #9daysforlife and #9díasporlavida.
Catholics are also encouraged to participate in local events such as Masses, blessings for pro-life pilgrims, or a parish holy hour for reparation and healing for all affected by abortion.
More information is available at www.9daysforlife.com and www.usccb.org/respectlife.
Bilingual resources for diocesan and parish leaders, including a guide for youth ministry (including ideas appropriate for other age groups), logos, ads for web and print, a flyer, additional prayer resources, and a social media kit are found at www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/9-days-for-life-resources-for-leaders.cfm.

January 5, 2015

WASHINGTON—National Catholic Schools Week 2015 will be observed in dioceses around the country January 25–31. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focuses on the important academic, faith-building and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.

“Catholic schools are a vital aspect of the Church’s mission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and so an important aspect of our own teaching mission,” said Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Education. “Pope Francis has reminded us that the New Evangelization is not precisely about what we do and what programs we adopt; rather, it is about what God is doing, the graces we are being blessed with, and the Spirit that is always being poured-out over our ministry.”

About 2.1 million students are currently educated in nearly 6,600 Catholic schools in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities around the country. Students receive an education that prepares them for the challenges of higher education and a competitive work environment. An estimated 99 percent of students graduate from high school and 85 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college.

Archbishop Lucas also stressed the importance of reaching out to underserved populations.

“In these days of economic turmoil for so many families, a good education remains the single best way out of poverty for young people,” Archbishop Lucas said. “At the same time, we cannot forget, through the education and faith formation of children and youth, our Catholic schools are part of a solution to support families and to build productive lives for future generations.”

As part of this year’s activities, a live discussion on January 15 will address the importance of Catholic schools in the context of the New Evangelization, and will be available to diocesan and ministry groups through MyUSCCB. More information and registration instructions can be found at https://usccb.force.com/MN4__PublicEventRegistration?id=a11C0000006C7yzIAC. Social media messages with the hashtag #CSW15 are also encouraged during that week.

The observance of Catholic Schools Week began in 1974. Schools and parishes around the country will hold activities such as Masses, open houses, and pot luck gatherings to celebrate the communities they represent. Last year’s activities included nearly a thousand students who joined bishops, parents and teachers from Arizona dioceses in a rally at the state Capitol in Phoenix. Pastors from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, rang their church bells to mark National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools. And in Idaho, students from a school in Lewiston participated in a living rosary to pray for the nation.


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