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Monday, 22 September 2014 13:33

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U.S. BISHOPS AFFIRM POWER OF PRAYER FOR ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE FOLLOWING PILGRIMAGE TO HOLY LAND
 
JERUSALEM — U .S. bishops affirmed that prayer is powerful, peace is possible and that support for a two-state solution is an essential dimension of pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace in a September 22 communique, following a Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land. Eighteen U.S. bishops made the September 11-18 journey to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
 
“There is no military solution to the conflict, but tragically violence on both sides undermines the trust needed to achieve peace. Violence always sows seeds of further violence and fear,” the bishops wrote in their communiqué.
 
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, led the delegation.
 
The bishops celebrated Mass at Holy Sites and with Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem and local Christian communities in Jiffna, Nablus and Gaza. They met with religious and government leaders. Religious leaders included representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Armenian, and Protestant leaders. Government leaders included former President Shimon Peres of Israel, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of Palestine, and Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian National Council.
 
The bishops expressed concerns about the rights of religious minorities, especially the dwindling Christian population of the region, as well as the challenges to the peace process posed by factors like the barrier wall, expanding settlements and other legal and socioeconomic restrictions.
 
Full text of the communiqué follows:
 Bishops’ Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace in the Holy Land
 
We went to the Holy Land as men of faith on a Prayer Pilgrimage for Peace.  Motivated by the love of Christ and deep concern for both Israelis and Palestinians, we went to pray for peace, and to work for a two-state solution and an open and shared Jerusalem.  Arriving in the wake of the recent Gaza war, though, we encountered pain, intransigence and cynicism.  Even the young people are discouraged. But we also saw signs of inspiration and hope.
 
Prayer was the central element of our pilgrimage. Through daily liturgies at holy sites and local parishes, we experienced our communion in Christ with local Christian communities. We are grateful to those at home who supported our pilgrimage with prayers and interest. We also prayed alongside Jews, Muslims and other Christians. Prayer is powerful. We know peace is possible because God is our hope.
 
We met with people of goodwill, Palestinian and Israeli alike, who yearn for peace. We were inspired by the commitment of the staff and partners of Catholic Relief Services, The Pontifical Mission, and the local Christian community, who are providing relief to the people of Gaza; by the efforts of Christians, Muslims, and Jews who are building bridges of understanding; and by the mission of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. We were moved profoundly by our visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, and were encouraged by Bethlehem University, a Catholic institution that is building bridges between Christians and Muslims as they study together to create the future of Palestine, and by the Church’s schools that are open to all.
 
We are compelled by the Gospel of Peace to share the fruits of our prayers and encounters with Israelis and Palestinians. Two peoples and three faiths have ancient ties to this Land. Sadly, Jerusalem, the City of Peace, is a sign of contradiction. We were told more than once that the city could erupt in violence as it has on far too many occasions.
 
The towering wall that divides Israelis and Palestinians is another sign of contradiction. For Israelis, it is a sign of security; for Palestinians, a sign of occupation and exclusion. The contrast between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is also a sign of contradiction. In crossing the border one moves from freedom and prosperity to the intimidation of military checkpoints, humiliation, and deeper poverty.
 
The situation of Christian Palestinians is an added sign of contradiction.  The Christian community is emigrating at alarming rates.  As we learned from Patriarch Fouad Twal, the unresolved conflict and occupation undermine human dignity and the ability of Christians to raise their families. Israeli policies in East Jerusalem prohibit Christians who marry someone from outside the City to remain there with their spouse, and security policies restrict movement and confiscate lands, undermining the ability of many Christian families to survive economically. The harsh realities of occupation force them to leave. Muslims also suffer similarly, but have fewer opportunities to emigrate.
 
As U.S. bishops, we humbly acknowledge that we do not understand all the complexities of the situation, but in faith we do understand some things clearly. We reaffirm the longstanding position of the U.S. bishops and the Holy See and support a two-state solution: a secure and recognized Israel living in peace with a viable and independent Palestinian state. The broad outlines of this solution are well known; but there has not been, nor does there appear to be, the determined political will to achieve it.
 
There is no military solution to the conflict, but tragically violence on both sides undermines the trust needed to achieve peace. Violence always sows seeds of further violence and fear.  We witnessed the horrific devastation of whole neighborhoods in Gaza and heard about tragic deaths on both sides, especially a disproportionate number of Palestinian noncombatants, women, and children. The local Christian community in Gaza described the nightly terror they suffered during the war. Israelis in Sderot and elsewhere described their dread of Hamas rocket fire.
 
The route of the barrier wall, the confiscation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank, especially now in the Bethlehem area and the Cremisan Valley, and any expansion of settlements threaten to undermine the two-state solution. Many reported that the window of opportunity for peace was narrowing dangerously. If it closes, the futures of both Palestinians and Israelis will be harmed.
 
Many persons with whom we met joined us in commending the recent initiative of Secretary of State John Kerry, but said renewed U.S. leadership is required for peace. For the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians, the United States must mobilize the international community to support both parties by adopting parameters for a lasting solution, including borders, an open and shared Jerusalem, and a timeline.
 
Pope Francis, in word and gesture, inspired hope on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. After another Gaza war, hope is now in short supply. One person on our journey told us that the Holy Land is the land of miracles. The miracle we need is the transformation of human hearts so each side is less deaf to the concerns of the other.  In solidarity with our brother bishops and all people in the region, we urge alternatives to the cycle of hatred and violence. Peace is possible.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chair-Elect, Committee on International Justice and Peace
Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo, Board of Catholic Relief Services
Bishop John O. Barres, Diocese of Allentown
Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran, Archdiocese of Oklahoma City
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Diocese of Stockton

Bishop J. Kevin Boland, Diocese of Savannah
Bishop Paul J. Bradley, Diocese of Kalamazoo
Bishop Tod D. Brown, Diocese of Orange
Bishop Robert J. Coyle, Archdiocese for the Military Services
Bishop Bernard J. Harrington, Diocese of Winona
Bishop Richard Higgins, Archdiocese for the Military Services
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Diocese of Albany
Bishop William F. Medley, Diocese of Owensboro
Bishop Dale J. Melczek, Diocese of Gary
Bishop William F. Murphy, Diocese of Rockville Centre
Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, Diocese of San Angelo
Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, Diocese of Salina

September 20, 2014
POPE NAMES BISHOP BLASE CUPICH AS ARCHBISHOP OF CHICAGO

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Blase Joseph Cupich of the Spokane Diocese as archbishop of Chicago, succeeding Cardinal Francis Eugene George, OMI.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, September 20, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Archbishop-designate Cupich, who has been bishop of Spokane, Washington, since 2010, was born March 19, 1949 in Omaha. He is the grandson of Croatian immigrants and one of nine children. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota and did further studies at the Gregorian University in Rome. He holds a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Omaha in 1975 and ordained as a bishop in 1998, appointed then to the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota.
 
As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he chairs the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe and is a former chair of the Committee on Protection of Children and Young People.
 
Cardinal George is the first native Chicagoan to serve the Archbishop of Chicago. Born in 1937, he attended Catholic schools in Illinois before entering the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate on August 14, 1957. He served as bishop of Yakima from 1990 to 1996; and as archbishop of Portland in Oregon for less than a year before being named by Pope John Paul II as archbishop of Chicago in 1997. He was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals on Jan. 18, 1998. He served as president of the USCCB from 2007 to 2010.
 
There are an estimated 2.3 million Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Chicago, which comprises the two counties of Cook and Lake in Illinois.

September 19, 2014
USCCB PRESIDENT ENCOURAGES DAY OF PRAYER FOR SYNOD
 
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has joined Pope Francis and the office for the Synod of Bishops in encouraging a universal Day of Prayer on September 28, for the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops addressing The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization (October 5-19).
 
“The Extraordinary Synod on the Family is an important moment for the Church and for families,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “I welcome whole-heartedly this day of prayer for the Synod fathers and for all who will participate. As the Church turns with special attention to the family, may God’s plan for marriage and the family be a source of hope and healing for all.”
 
For the universal Day of Prayer on Sunday, September 28, dioceses, parishes, religious communities, families and all the Catholic faithful are invited to pray for the Synod. Suggested prayers include a prayer to the Holy Family composed by Pope Francis and intercessory prayers which may be used during the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass, other liturgical settings, and in family or personal prayer, available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/upload/September-28-2014-Day-of-Prayer-for-Synod.pdf . In addition, families and all Catholics are being encouraged to pray the Rosary during each day of the Synod. 
 
Archbishop Kurtz is attending the Extraordinary Synod as part of a U.S. delegation of bishops including Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, and Archbishop William C. Skurla, Byzantine Metropolitan of Pittsburgh. More information about the Synod is available at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/2014-2015-synods-of-bishops-on-the-family.cfm.

September 18, 2014
NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK, NOVEMBER 2-8, CALLS CATHOLICS
TO GREATER PRAYER, AWARNESS IN HOW THEY SUPPORT VOCATIONS
 
WASHINGTON—The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 2-8. This observance, sponsored by the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.
 
Pope Francis, in his November 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, underlined the continued need to build a culture of vocations.  “The fraternal life and fervor of the community can awaken in the young a desire to consecrate themselves completely to God and to preaching of the Gospel. This is particularly true if such a living community prays insistently for vocations and courageously proposes to its young people the path of special consecration,” Pope Francis wrote.
 
“A culture of vocations is one that provides the necessary support for others to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “With God’s grace, we help build that culture through fervent prayer, the witness of our lives and the encouragement we extend to those discerning a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life.”
 
A 2012 study, “Consideration of Priesthood and Religious Life Among Never-Married U.S. Catholics,” conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), highlighted the role community encouragement plays in the discernment process. (Full study: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/survey-of-youth-and-young-adults-on-vocations.cfm)
 
“The number three seems to be critical in making a difference in the life of someone contemplating a vocation,” said Father Shawn McKnight, USCCB’s executive director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “When three or more people encourage someone to consider a religious vocation, he or she is far more likely to take serious steps toward answering that call.”
 
Father John Guthrie, associate director of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, adds that National Vocation Awareness Week should also focus on communities that are underrepresented among religious vocations today, especially Hispanics.
 
“While numbers of U.S. Hispanics pursuing religious vocations are picking up, they still lag behind the overall demographic trends,” said Father Guthrie. “Fifty-four percent of U.S. Catholics under the age of 25 are Hispanic, yet only 15 percent of students in major seminaries are Hispanic, and many of these were born in other countries. To reach this untapped potential, the Church must do far more to engage and support young people in these communities.”
 
Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration.  It was later moved to Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January.  Last year, after extensive consultation, the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.  This will be the first year it will be held in November.

September17, 2014
CARDINAL O'MALLEY LAUNCHES 2014-2015 PROGRAM WITH RESPECT LIFE MONTH STATEMENT

WASHINGTON — In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2014, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap., of Boston called for “community and solidarity” as an antidote to threats against life. Cardinal O’Malley chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
The Cardinal’s statement launches this year’s Respect Life Program, with the theme, “Each of Us is a Masterpiece of God’s Creation.” This year’s theme echoes Pope Francis’ message during his 2013 Day for Life greeting. “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect,” Pope Francis said.
 
“We want to be part of a society that makes affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his statement. “Yet to women faced with an unexpected pregnancy, abortion is often presented as their only ‘choice.’ A large percentage of children pre-diagnosed as having Down syndrome are never given the chance to live outside their mothers’ wombs. Elderly members of our families fear they will become burdensome and seek physician-assisted suicide. We see these and many more of our brothers and sisters pushed to the periphery.”
 
Cardinal O’Malley called for “community and solidarity” as an antidote to the individualism behind these and other such threats. “We must ask the Lord for the grace to see ourselves and others as he sees us—as masterpieces of his creation,” he said.
 
Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program stresses the value and dignity of human life. It is observed in Catholic dioceses throughout the United States. In addition to new prayers and other resources, the 2014-15 Respect Life Program features six articles highlighting the respect due to each person as a “masterpiece of God’s creation.” A variety of topics is treated: adoption, miscarriage, healing within marriage after an abortion, advance medical directives, the treatment of children as commodities, and the connection between poverty and abortion.

September 16, 2014
CARDINAL O'MALLEY: GOVERNMENT REPORT CONFIRMS
BISHOPS' CONCERN ON ABORTION COVERAGE

WASHINGTON—A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) “confirms the U.S. bishops’ longstanding concern about abortion coverage” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), said Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The report, “Health Insurance Exchanges: Coverage of Non-excepted Abortion Services by Qualified Health Plans,” was issued by the GAO, an independent reviewing agency of the U.S. government, on September 15. 

Despite repeated claims by President Obama and other supporters that the ACA would not promote abortion, the report identified over a thousand health plans eligible for federal premium subsidies that cover elective abortions. On five state exchanges, every plan covers such abortions in 2014; in another three large states, 95 to 98 percent of the plans do so. The Act’s alleged requirements regulating abortion coverage do not exist or are widely ignored. Many health plans do not inform enrollees about their inclusion of abortion coverage; they do not tell them how much they are being charged for such coverage; and they do not charge a “separate payment” for abortions that is distinct from the premium payment eligible for federal tax subsidies. While state insurance departments are supposedly tasked by the federal government with ensuring that these health plans maintain segregated accounts for abortion funds to keep them separate from federal funds, the report indicates that this is not taking place.

“This report confirms the U.S. bishops’ longstanding concern about abortion coverage that we raised both before and after enactment of the Affordable Care Act by Congress,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “Surveys have shown that most Americans do not want elective abortion in their health coverage, and do not want their tax dollars to fund abortions.  Their wishes are not being followed, and it can be difficult or impossible for them to find out whether those wishes are respected even in their own health plan.”

Cardinal O’Malley added: “The only adequate solution to this problem is the one the Catholic bishops advocated from the beginning of the health care reform debate in Congress: Bring the Affordable Care Act into compliance with the Hyde amendment and every other federal law on abortion funding, by excluding elective abortions from health plans subsidized with federal funds. At a minimum, Congress should not delay in enacting a law to require full disclosure of abortion coverage and abortion premiums to Americans purchasing health plans.”

Past USCCB materials on this issue, including Cardinal O’Malley’s letters to Congress endorsing the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” (H.R. 7) and the “Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act” (H.R. 3279), are at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/index.cfm.  For an analysis of how the Affordable Care Act treats abortion coverage see www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Backgrounder-The-New-Federal-Regulation-on-Coerced-Abortion-Payments.pdf.

September 15, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMEN AND NCEA PRESIDENT WELCOME BIPARTISAN,
BICAMERAL AGREEMENT REACHED TO REFORM CHILD
CARE AND DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM
 
WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Catholic Education, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska; the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami; and the President of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), Brother Robert Bimonte, welcome the legislative agreement reached by a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders on Friday to improve and reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.  
 
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) provides funds to states to assist low-income income families or those receiving assistance, in obtaining child care while parents work or participate in educational job training. A vast majority of recipients who receive CCDBG support do so through certificates which allow parents to choose the child care provider and program of their choice. The program has not been reauthorized since 1996.
 
“This is wonderful news and a testament to what can be achieved when we put the needs of parents and children first,” Archbishop Lucas said. “This legislative agreement also appropriately reaffirms the importance and pre-eminence of the child care certificates as the bedrock parental choice component of the program and acknowledges the critical role that Catholic and other faith-based providers play in this program.”
 
“The members of Congress, in this agreement, strengthen a program that has worked well over the last two decades and continues to provide low-income working families with the child care assistance they need, from the provider they choose. Child care is increasingly important for family stability, as well as finding and keeping decent work,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
 
“The success of the CCDBG program and the flexibility it provides to low-income families to choose the child-care program which best fits their needs is a reminder that empowering parents not only supports them in their role as primary educators of their children but also provides them with the assistance necessary to find employment and support their families,” said Brother Robert Bimonte, President of the National Catholic Education Association.
 
The U.S. Congress is expected to consider the measure in the coming days. According to the joint press release by Representatives John Kline (R-MN), George Miller (D-CA), Todd Rokita (R-IN) and David Loebsack (D-IA) and Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Burr (R-NC), the bill enhances parental choice in child care options, strengthens health and safety standards and improves the quality of care in child care programs.

September 9, 2014
USCCB PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS ACHIEVEMENTS
OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT; CALLS FOR UNITY
AND RESPECT OF HUMAN DIGNITY
 
WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act has called for unity and perseverance to continue the vital work begun in the Act for the respect for human dignity. The statement was issued September 9, the first day of the bishops’ September 9-10 Administrative Committee meeting at the USCCB headquarters in Washington, and the memorial of St. Peter Claver.
 
“Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act offered an olive branch of hope for equal treatment and opportunities for education, employment, and fuller participation in society,” Archbishop Kurtz said in his statement. “The Civil Rights Act was a monumental step forward and since then, we have made even more progress in this vital work of transforming hearts and minds, but there is still much work to do. The Act itself did not eradicate the legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and injustice.” 
 
Archbishop Kurtz highlighted the work of the Catholic Church, including bishops, in the quest for integration and justice. “Propelled by their values and beliefs, members of different faiths and denominations, including Catholics, insisted that racial justice in the United States was an imperative, no longer to be ignored,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
 
The full statement follows:
 
Statement on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Issued on September 9, 2014
Memorial of St. Peter Claver
 
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  This is the commandment we have from him:  whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:20-21).
 
As America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 this year, I join together with my brother bishops in recalling the heroic history of that achievement.  We honor the many civic, business, and religious leaders, students, laborers, educators and all others of good will who courageously stood up for racial justice against bigotry, violence, ignorance, and fear. We remember with deep gratitude the countless personal sacrifices they made, sacrifices that all too often included hardship, violence, and even death. We honor the victory they won after such a long and sustained civil and legislative struggle.
 
We are especially grateful for the vital contributions of the faith community during this period.  Propelled by their values and beliefs, members of different faiths and denominations, including Catholics, insisted that racial justice in the United States was an imperative, no longer to be ignored.  Inspired by Holy Scripture, fortified by prayer and spiritual music, and sustained by a love for Christ, a number of Christians worked with and for the poor and marginalized, notably in the segregated South. 
 
We also join our voice to those Catholic bishops who repeatedly spoke against racism as evidenced by statements from the USCCB’s predecessor organization in 1943, 1958 and again in 1963. In the 1963 statement On Racial Harmony, the bishops condemned the injustices of segregation saying that it “implies that people of one race are not fit to associate with another…We cannot reconcile such a judgment with the Christian view of man’s nature and rights.”  They further insisted that “discrimination based on the accidental fact of race or color…cannot be reconciled with the truth that God has created all men with equal rights and equal dignity.”  A number of bishops—including Archbishop Ritter (St. Louis, 1946), Archbishop O’Boyle (Washington, D.C., 1940s and 50s), Archbishop Rummel (New Orleans, 1950s and 60s), and Cardinal Sheehan (Baltimore, 1963)—worked to desegregate Catholic schools, hospitals, and other institutions, clearly signaling by their words and actions that racial discrimination has no place in the Church or in society.
 
In a later pastoral statement, the bishops even more directly named racism for what it is: “Racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” (Brothers and Sisters to Us: U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Racism, 1979) The Church remains a prophetic voice and must continue to insist on the dignity of all persons and the very real opportunity available to each of us, to have a personal encounter with Christ and to be instruments of His healing, love, and truth.  As my brother bishop, Bishop Joseph Perry has said, “The Church remains the principal source of healing and hope for people... We continue to need from the Church prophets and agents of reconciliation, individuals and groups, laity and clergy who make it their responsibility to bring people together despite stubborn differences and the conflicts that would guarantee walls of separation in our society.” (1998) 
 
Fifty years ago, the Civil Rights Act offered an olive branch of hope for equal treatment and opportunities for education, employment, and fuller participation in society.  The legislation promised a better quality of life for millions of Americans who had been excluded from the privileges of citizenship based on race, color, national origin, and other grounds.  It championed human dignity and provided legal protections that began to transform communities around the country.
 
The Civil Rights Act was a monumental step forward and since then, we have made even more progress in this vital work of transforming hearts and minds, but there is still much work to do. The Act itself did not eradicate the legacy of slavery, racial discrimination and injustice.  In fact, there are reminders across our nation today that the embers of racial discrimination still smolder.  This evil infects institutions, laws, and systems, and it harms our brothers and sisters.  We must therefore continue to work against the destructive influence of racism on families, religious and civil communities, employment, the prison system, housing, hunger, educational achievement, and mental health.
 
While reflecting on the work that has been accomplished and that which remains to be done, I wish to mention the special and untiring contributions of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Last Spring, I had the privilege to join a delegation of Christian leaders at an ecumenical symposium in Alabama where we reflected on Dr. King’s renowned Letter from Birmingham Jail in the presence of his daughter, the Rev. Bernice King.  In his letter, Dr. King advocated for strong, timely action to lift us “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”  I hope we will all continue to strive for that “solid rock of human dignity” today and to honor with gratitude the sacrificial labors of Dr. King’s writings and actions.
 
In conclusion, the Gospel requires ongoing personal and social transformation. Respecting the dignity of each person is paramount as we seek to spread the beauty of God’s truth throughout our world.  We cannot give in to discouragement. As Pope Francis reminds us, “Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers of selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world.”
 
As we commemorate the notable achievements that resulted in the Civil Rights Act and other significant movements toward justice for all God’s children, let us continue to take up the banner and press forward to love one another as our Lord loved us (Jn 13:34).  And, as we do so, we recall the words of Dr. King written from his jail cell, “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”

September 5, 2014
MARY MENCARINI CAMPBELL NAMED EXECUTIVE
DIRECTOR OF USCCB NATIONAL COLLECTIONS
 
WASHINGTON — Mary Mencarini Campbell has been named executive director of the Office of National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). She has served as interim director of that office since November 2013 and as director of Catholic Home Missions since 2011. She succeeds Patrick Markey, who stepped down in 2013. The USCCB Office of National Collections manages special collections held in U.S. parishes throughout the year.
 
“Mary Mencarini Campbell has served the bishops with extraordinary dedication for almost a quarter century in various responsibilities. The energy she continues to bring to the essential work of the National Collections, her love of the Church’s mission, and her commitment to the countless people served by those collections, are a true gift that demonstrate her generous service to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of USCCB, who made the appointment.
 
Mencarini Campbell has worked at the USCCB since April 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. She is a lifelong parishioner of the Archdiocese of Washington and has served as a parish catechist and as a member of the alumnae board at Elizabeth Seton High School. She is a contributing author to “Living Justice, Proclaiming Peace,” published by the National Federation of Catholic Youth Ministry, and speaks and presents on topics related to Church fundraising, the home missions, domestic poverty and Catholic social teaching.
 
U.S. dioceses participate in 14 national collections approved by the USCCB for specific needs of the Church. These collections are taken up in parishes often as an additional collection after the Sunday offertory. Eight of the collections are the responsibility of the Office of National Collections: the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the Catholic Home Missions Appeal, the Church in Central and Eastern Europe, the Catholic Communication Campaign, the Church in Latin America, Peter’s Pence, the Catholic Relief Services Collection, and the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa.

September 5, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMAN APPLAUDS FEDERAL COURT DECISION UPHOLDING MARRIAGE
WASHINGTON – The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, applauded the decision on September 3, by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana upholding Louisiana’s marriage amendment.
 
“The federal court rightly declared that Louisiana’s marriage laws ‘serve a central state interest  of linking children to an intact family formed by their biological parents,’” Archbishop Cordileone said.  He continued, “The federal court affirmed that the voters of Louisiana who overwhelmingly chose to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman in their state constitution made a rational decision by embracing the definition of marriage ‘that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today.’”
 
Archbishop Cordileone added, “Those who are arguing to redefine marriage based upon the desires and interests of adults were presented by this court with obvious questions raised by the logical consequences of their arguments to which they were unable to give an answer, including: ‘Must marriage be limited to only two people?’ Indeed, all who work to promote and defend marriage should be encouraged by this federal court decision.”
 
Yesterday’s ruling upholding Louisiana’s marriage amendment comes after numerous federal court decisions striking down state marriage laws. Those challenging the Louisiana marriage amendment are expected to appeal yesterday’s decision.

August 26, 2014
POPE NAMES PHILADELPHIA AUXILIARY BISHOP DANIEL THOMAS AS BISHOP OF TOLEDO, OHIO

WASHINGTON ­­— Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia, 55, as Bishop of Toledo, Ohio.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, August 26 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Bishop Thomas was born June 11, 1959 in Manayunk, Pennsylvania. He holds a bachelor of arts degree and a master of arts degree from Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, and a licentiate of sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1985 and appointed auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 2006.
 
Bishop Thomas’ assignments after ordination included 1985-1987, parochial vicar, St. Joseph’s Parish, Aston, Pennsylvania; 1990-2005, official of the Congregation for Bishops at the Holy See and adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College Seminary, Rome, Italy; 2005-2006, pastor, Our Lady of the Assumption parish, Strafford, Pennsylvania.
 
The Diocese of Toledo has been a vacant see since October 2013, when then-Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named Archbishop of Hartford, Connecticut.
 
The Diocese of Toledo includes a total of 1,465,561 people of whom 319,907, or 22 percent, are Catholic.

August 25, 2014
CELEBRATING THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: THEN AND NOW

WASHINGTON — To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on African American Affairs will release a series of resources to highlight the achievements of the Civil Rights era and its connections to the Catholic Church.
Over the next 12 months, resources will highlight the Mississippi Freedom Summer (June to August 1964); the Civil Rights Act (July 1964); the March from Selma to Montgomery (March 1965); and the 50 anniversary of the Voting Rights Act in August 2015.
 
“The Civil Rights era was an important time in the history of our country. In constructive ways, many priests, religious sisters, religious brothers and lay Catholic faithful were involved in the struggle for Civil Rights,” said Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the Subcommittee. “Recalling the Catholic Church’s past participation in these important historic moments serves to challenge the faithful to work constructively today to enhance the common good for people of all races and ethnicities.”
 
The resources will help promote dialogue among parishes, schools, Catholic groups and others by examining how these events helped pave the way to the current multicultural relations. The project also aims to promote dialogue among generations on the meaning of the historic legacy with a look towards the future and to highlight the participation of the Catholic Church and Catholic leaders during such historic and challenging times. 
 
The commemoration will also provide an opportunity to discuss the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
 
“Reflecting upon the Church’s social teachings from the perspective of the history of Civil Rights is an opportunity to become more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ as we strive to live these social teachings today and share them with others,” Bishop Fabre said.
 
Resources will include a series of blog posts; historical references of the Civil Rights Movement; suggestions about activities that parishes, schools and ministry groups can organize to mark the anniversaries; a calendar of diocesan events, prayer and catechetical resources; video clips; and practical ideas for engaging the Catholic community this year and next.
 
 
The blogs can be accessed at: http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/

August 22, 2014
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ PROVIDES INITIAL RESPONSE TO REVISED HHS MANDATE REGULATIONS
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it is issuing an additional set of interim final rules to implement its requirement that health plans, including employer-sponsored plans, provide for sterilization, contraception, and drugs that can cause an abortion. In response, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), provided the following statement:
 
“The Administration is once again revising its regulations on the HHS mandate. We will study the regulations carefully and will provide more detailed comments at a later date. In keeping with our practice, we will evaluate the regulations according to the principles set forth in ‘United for Religious Freedom,’ a March 2012 statement of the USCCB Administrative Committee that was later affirmed unanimously by the body of bishops at the General Assembly of June 2012.
 
“On initial review of the government’s summary of the regulations, we note with disappointment that the regulations would not broaden the “religious employer” exemption to encompass all employers with sincerely held religious objections to the mandate.  Instead, the regulations would only modify the “accommodation,” under which the mandate still applies and still requires provision of the objectionable coverage.  Also, by proposing to extend the “accommodation” to the closely held for-profit employers that were wholly exempted by the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hobby Lobby, the proposed regulations would effectively reduce, rather than expand, the scope of religious freedom.”

August 19, 2014
USCCB COMMITTEE ON ECUMENICAL AND INTERRELIGIOUS
AFFAIRS REASSERTS COMMITMENT TO DIALOGUE WITH MUSLIMS
 
WASHINGTON — The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reasserted their commitment to dialogue with other religions and Muslims in particular in a statement developed between October 2013 and its release August 19. The committee, which is chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore, listed tensions between Christians in Muslims in different parts of the world as a primary reason for reaffirming the need for dialogue.
 
“We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad,” the bishops wrote. “Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment—acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten to disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship.”
 
The bishops expressed sadness over “deliberate rejection” of the call to engage in dialogue with Muslims by some Christians, Catholic and not. They noted that the call to respect and dialogue comes from the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate) and has been reaffirmed by subsequent popes. They also noted that, for nearly 20 years, their committee has dialogued with several national Muslim organizations, producing documents on education, marriage and revelation.
 
“Perhaps most importantly, our work together has forged true bonds of friendship that are supported by mutual esteem and ever-growing trust that enables us to speak candidly with one another in an atmosphere of respect,” the bishops wrote. “Through dialogue we have been able to work through and overcome much of our mutual ignorance, habitual distrust, and debilitating fear.”
 
The bishops affirmed Pope Francis’ words of November 28, 2013, to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, that “dialogue does not mean renouncing one’s identity” nor accepting compromises on faith and morals. They wrote, “Like the pope, we are convinced that the encounter and dialogue with persons different than ourselves offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.”
 
 
 
Information on Catholic-Muslim dialogues in the United States is available at: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/interreligious/islam/index.cfm

August 19, 2014
USCCB PRESIDENT, ARCHBISHOP KURTZ CALLS FOR SPECIAL
COLLECTION FOR VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
 
WASHINGTON ­­— Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called on the bishops to consider taking up a special collection “to provide humanitarian relief and pastoral support for our affected brothers and sisters in the Middle East.” In an August 19 letter, he requested that the collection be held during the weekend of September 6-7 or September 13-14.
 
The impetus for the special appeal is a “great concern for the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity,” Archbishop Kurtz explained in the letter. “Our Church mourns the terrible suffering of Christians and other innocent victims of violence in Iraq, Syria and Gaza who are struggling to survive, protect their children and live with dignity in dire conditions.”
 
Money given to the collection will be disbursed for humanitarian needs by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and other Catholic agencies working in partnership with the local Church.
 
These organizations, Archbishop Kurtz explained, have well-established partnerships with the Catholic Church in the region that allow them to respond quickly and efficiently to victims in some of the hardest-to-reach areas. Collection funds will also support Church programs to aid persecuted Christians and for rebuilding needs of Catholic dioceses in the impacted areas.
 
“Our Christian brothers and sisters and other innocent victims of the violence in the Middle East urgently need the assistance of the Catholic community of the United States,” Archbishop Kurtz wrote. “Thank you for your support of this special collection and for your continued prayers for the victims of this crisis.”
 
More information can be found at: www.usccb.org/about/national-collections/index.cfm

August 14, 2014
JEWISH, CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM RELIGIOUS LEADERS
WELCOME CEASEFIRE, CALL URGENTLY FOR RENEWED
NEGOTIATIONS FOR A TWO-STATE PEACE AGREEMENT
 
WASHINGTON — Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations in the United States welcomed the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas in a statement, August 14. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and coordinator of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), were the Catholic signers.
 
Full text of the statement follows:
 
As leaders of American Jewish, Christian, and Muslim national religious organizations, united in the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI), we welcome the ceasefire agreement of Israel and Hamas, and the negotiations to make it permanent. We were appalled by the kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. We believe the loss of even one human life is a tragedy that grieves God. In the recent weeks of war between Hamas and Israel, we mourn the innocent civilians killed. We offer our prayers as well for the wounded and for the families of all the victims of violence. 
 
This tragic escalation of violence demonstrates once again that there is no such thing as a stable status-quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ideas being promoted in some circles for returning to the previous status quo or managing the conflict are dangerous. Acknowledging the recent failed negotiations, we call on Israeli and Palestinian political leaders to renew negotiations to achieve a two-state peace agreement, the only realistic resolution of the conflict in which both people can live in peace, security, and mutual recognition. The crucial choice leaders on both sides face now is between negotiating a two-state peace agreement with a new sense of urgency or condemning Palestinian and Israeli children and youth to continued conflict -- more violence, more suffering, and more deaths.
 
We strongly supported Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to achieve a negotiated peace agreement, and urge the United States to renew efforts to reach a two-state agreement as soon as possible. Recalling President Obama’s words in Jerusalem, “Peace is necessary...peace is also just…and peace is possible,” we believe the outline of a possible two-state agreement is widely known, including ideas drawn from previous official and informal negotiations for fair, realistic compromises. While none of the previous plans present a complete outline, the Taba Agreement (2000), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), People’s Voice Initiative (2003), Geneva Accord (2003), and the (unofficial) Israeli Peace Initiative (2011) are sources for principled and practical ideas to help resolve all the issues, including borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem.
 
It is more urgent than ever that the United States and the international community press for a two-state peace agreement. While appreciating that maintaining a sustainable ceasefire is now the priority, we would welcome an early opportunity to meet with Secretary of State Kerry to discuss how we can assist with renewed U.S. efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state peace agreement. We pledge to mobilize active public support from members of synagogues, churches and mosques across the country for active, fair and determined U.S. leadership for peace.
 
NILI Statement Welcoming the Ceasefire In Israel and Gaza - August 2014
List of Endorsers
 
Christian Leaders:
Bishop Richard E. Pates, Chairman, USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace
Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington
Archbishop Vicken Aykasian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenian Orthodox Church in America
Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, Ecumenical Officer, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
Jim Winkler, President/General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ USA
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., President, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church
Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church
Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Reverend Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ
Reverend Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)
Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US
David Neff, former Editorial Vice-President, Christianity Today
John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher, Christian Century
 
Jewish Leaders:
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Rick Block, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Steven A. Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
Rabbi Burt Visotzky, Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Jason Klein, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central Conference of American Rabbis
Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, Rabbi Emeritus, The Temple, Atlanta Georgia
 
Muslim Leaders:
Imam Mohammed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder of the ASMA Society and Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA
Imam Yahya Hendi, Founder and President, Clergy Beyond Borders
Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America
Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance
 
*Organizations for Identification Only

August 14, 2014
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: PLIGHT OF
RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN IRAQ REQUIRES INCREASED SUPPORT
 
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged President Obama to answer the call of Pope Francis for the international community “to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities” in Iraq. Archbishop Kurtz made the appeal in an August 13 letter, in which he assured President Obama of the prayers and support of the U.S. bishops in these efforts.
 
“We know too well that attacks on religious and ethnic minorities are attacks on the health of an entire society,” Archbishop Kurtz wrote. “Violence may begin against minorities, but it does not end there. The rights of all Iraqis are at risk from the current situation.”
 
Archbishop Kurtz thanked President Obama for the humanitarian assistance and protection the United States has provided to Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution. He noted that more must be done, that the U.S. bishops have set aside Sunday, August 17, for prayer for peace in the Middle East and Iraq, and that the bishops have urged U.S. Catholics to appeal to their elected representatives on behalf of persecuted minorities in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
 
Full text of the letter follows:
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
May God bless you in these challenging times!
 
I write with a heavy heart regarding a matter of utmost urgency: the desperate plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.  Pope Francis recently wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.  In his letter the Holy Father decried how “Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony.”  Pope Francis placed before the Secretary General “the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq.”  The Catholic bishops and people of the United States share these tears, sufferings and heartfelt cries.
 
We are grateful for the humanitarian assistance and protection that our nation has provided to those fleeing, often with only the clothes on their backs, and for the way the United States has worked with Iraqi officials to encourage the formation of an inclusive government in Iraq that respects human rights and religious freedom for all. 
 
More must be done.  Pope Francis called upon “the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”  I urge the United States to answer this call in concert with the international community.
 
We know too well that attacks on religious and ethnic minorities are attacks on the health of an entire society.  Violence may begin against minorities, but it does not end there.  The rights of all Iraqis are at risk from the current situation. 
 
Please be assured of our support and prayers. Our Conference of Bishops has set aside Sunday, August 17, for the intentions for peace in the Middle East and Iraq.  We are urging our people to let their elected representatives know of their concern for Christians and other religious minorities who suffer untold persecution in Iraq, Syria, and other countries.  May God grant our nation and the international community the wisdom and courage needed to help restore peace and bind up the wounds in Iraq.
 
Sincerely yours,
 
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


August 14, 2014
JEWISH-CATHOLIC DIALOGUE PLEDGES TO BUILD PEACE,
UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN WORLD'S FAITH COMMUNITIES
 
WASHINGTON — Violent acts against Christians and Christian sites across the world are a mounting concern to leaders of Catholic and Jewish communities in the United States, according to a joint statement issued August 14 by the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue sponsored by the National Council of Synagogues and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
“We deplore all acts of religious persecution no matter their target,” the joint statement said. “Church communities have been subject to persecution, attack, expulsion and even murder. As a result, these same communities have often seen their numbers decrease, especially as their populations are dislocated from centuries old homes.”
 
The statement was first developed at a June 25 meeting of the dialogue, which is co-chaired by Rabbi David Straus, chairman of the National Council of Synagogues, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York.
 
The statement called for effective measures against such violence. Members of the dialogue pledged to promote better understanding and respect among the world’s faith communities, a foundation for world peace rooted in the command to “love our neighbor as ourselves, as found in Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred texts.” They also urged political and religious leaders to condemn “acts of aggression, intolerance and violence” against religious communities and their sacred sites.
 

August 13, 2014
2014 LABOR DAY STATEMENT FOCUSES ON UNEMPLOYMENT AMONG YOUNG PEOPLE
 
WASHINGTON — The high unemployment rate of young adults, both in the United States and around the world, is the focus of the 2014 Labor Day Statement from the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami. The statement, dated September 1, draws on Pope Francis’ teaching against an “economy of exclusion” and applies it to the millions of unemployed young adults in the United States.
 
“For those fortunate enough to have jobs, many pay poorly. Greater numbers of debt-strapped college graduates move back in with their parents, while high school graduates and others may have less debt but very few decent job opportunities,” wrote Archbishop Wenski. “Pope Francis has reserved some of his strongest language for speaking about young adult unemployment, calling it ‘evil,’ an ‘atrocity,’ and emblematic of the ‘throwaway culture.’”
 
Archbishop Wenski added, “Meaningful and decent work is vital if young adults hope to form healthy and stable families.” He noted that in other countries unemployment among young adults reaches as high as three to four times the national average.
 
Archbishop Wenski said policies and institutions “that create decent jobs, pay just wages, and support family formation and stability” help honor the dignity of workers. “Raising the minimum wage, more and better workforce training programs, and smarter regulations that minimize negative unintended consequences would be good places to start.”
 
Archbishop Wenski noted that Pope Francis has called young people a source of hope for humanity. “We need to do more to nurture this hopefulness and provide our young adults with skills, support, and opportunities to flourish,” Archbishop Wenski wrote.
 
He also called for greater solidarity: “Since each of us is made in the image of God and bound by His love, possessing a profound human dignity, we have an obligation to love and honor that dignity in one another, and especially in our work.”
 
The full text of the 2014 Labor Day Statement is available online in English: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/labor-day-statement-2014.cfm
Spanish: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/declaracion-del-dia-del-trabajo-2014.cfm  

July 7, 2014
POPE NAMES CONNECTICUT SEMINARY RECTOR
TO HEAD UKRAINIAN EPARCHY OF ST. JOSAPHAT

 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father Bohdan J. Danylo, 43, rector of St. Basil Seminary, in Stamford, Connecticut, as bishop the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio.  
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, August 7, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop-elect Danylo succeeds Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of Philadelphia Ukrainian, who has been serving as apostolic administrator of the Parma diocese since 2009 upon the retirement of Bishop Robert M. Moskal.
 
Bohdan J. Danylo was born in Gizycko, Poland, on May 22, 1971 and came to the United States in 1992. He was ordained a priest in 1996 and made an archpriest in 2007.
 
Bishop-elect Danylo holds a bachelor of philosophy degree from Katolicki Uniwersytet, Lubelski, Lublin, Poland and a bachelor of sacred theology degree from The Catholic University of America. After ordination he pursued graduate studies at St. Vladimir’s Theological Academy, in Crestwood, New York and a licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas, Rome.
 
Assignments after ordination included associate pastor, St. Michael’s Parish, Hartford, Connecticut, 1996-1997; dean of men, St. Basil College Seminary, 1997-2001; vice rector, St. Basil College Seminary, 2001-2004; and rector/president of St. Basil College Seminary, 2005 to the present.
 
There are an estimated 8,378 Catholics in the Ukrainian Eparchy of St. Josaphat. The jurisdiction extends territorially through Ohio, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Western Pennsylvania.

July 31, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMEN STRTONGLY ENDORSE THE INCLUSION ACT
 
WASHINGTON – Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) gave their strong support for the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act of 2014, which was introduced on July 30 by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in the U.S. Senate.
 
In separate letters of support, July 31, to Rep. Kelly and Sen. Enzi, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development said, “[O]ur first and most cherished freedom, religious liberty, is to be enjoyed by all Americans, including child welfare providers who serve the needs of our most vulnerable – children.”
 
Commenting on the protections in the Inclusion Act, the chairmen noted that “the Act would prohibit federal and state officials in the administration of federally funded child welfare services from excluding child welfare providers simply because of the providers’ religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
 
The chairmen stated that in some places, including Massachusetts, Illinois, California, and the District of Columbia, some religious child welfare providers have been excluded from carrying out adoption and foster care services because the providers believe 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.”
 
Indicating 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 chairmen encouraged the colleagues of Rep. Kelly and Sen. Enzi to join as cosponsors of the Inclusion Act, saying, “The freedom to serve in accord with one’s religious beliefs and moral convictions is foundational to religious liberty in our nation.”
 
The letters of support are available online: www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/upload/Ltr-to-Kelly-re-CWPIA.pdf, www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/upload/Ltr-to-Enzi-re-CWPIA.pdf
 
A backgrounder on the Inclusion Act is available at: www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/upload/Backgrounder-Child-Welfare-Provider-Inclusion-Act.pdf

July 30, 2014
CARDINAL O'MALLEY PRESENTS 2014 PEOPLE OF LIFE
AWARDS TO EXEMPLARY PRO-LIFE LEADERS

 
WASHINGTON — An order of sisters, a former state Catholic Conference leader and an archdiocesan social justice director received the 2014 People of Life Award for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement during a July 28 ceremony at the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference held this year in Charleston, South Carolina. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), presented the awards to the Little Sisters of the Poor, Sheila Hopkins and George Wesolek (awarded posthumously). Over 150 diocesan, state and national Catholic pro-life leaders and guests from across the country attended the private awards dinner sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.
 
The People of Life Award recognizes Catholics who have answered the call outlined by Pope John Paul II in The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae, 1995), dedicating themselves to pro-life activities and promoting respect for the dignity of the human person. It is bestowed in honor of their significant contributions to the culture of life.
 
The Little Sisters of the Poor were recognized for their dedication in serving the elderly poor and for doing so with integrity in the face of pressure to compromise their Catholic principles. The Little Sisters are an international congregation of women religious founded 175 years ago who serve 13,000 elderly poor in 31 countries, with 30 nursing homes/assisted living facilities in the United States. The HHS mandate would make the Little Sisters facilitate access to abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives in their employee health plan or face punitive fines. Because they serve and hire persons who are not Catholic, the Little Sisters are not considered a “religious employer.” In September 2013, they filed a class-action lawsuit, Little Sisters of the Poor vs. Sebelius, to persist in their ministry without having to violate their beliefs.
 
Sheila Snow Hopkins was honored especially for her 11 years as director for social concerns and respect life at the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (2002-13), where she represented the bishops of Florida on issues of human life, dignity and social justice before the legislative and executive branches of government as well as public and private sector organizations. Married 44 years, Hopkins and her husband, Maury, have three children and three grandchildren. Hopkins has served as an advisor to the USCCB’s Committee on Marriage and Family Life (2003-05), on the boards of the Florida Pregnancy Care Network and of the Florida Community Loan Fund, and on Florida’s Commission on Marriage and Family Support Initiatives and the Child Abuse Prevention and Permanency Council. Over 38 years, Hopkins held many positions with the National Council of Catholic Women and its diocesan and state affiliates in Florida. She will soon be installed as the national Council’s president-elect.
 
George Wesolek was honored posthumously for his decades spent advocating for the unborn and other vulnerable populations. From 1985 until his death at age 70 in April, he served as the director of public policy and social concerns in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. His leadership addressed a spectrum of social issues, including: protection of the unborn, Catholic principles of marriage, refuge for undocumented immigrants, affordable housing, health care access, healing from violence in the streets and alleviation of poverty. He played a key role in building the West Coast Walk for Life into a major pro-life event. In 2012, he spoke in defense of religious liberty at the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally in San Francisco. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said “the passing of George Wesolek marks the end of a great deal of history in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, not just in terms of length of time but also impact on the mission of the Church.” His wife, Geri Wesolek, and one of their four daughters received the award on his behalf.
 
The Little Sisters, Hopkins and Wesolek join 22 other People of Life recipients since the Pro-Life Secretariat inaugurated the award in 2007. More information on the bishops’ People of Life Award, previous recipients, and the People of Life campaign is available online: www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/people-of-life.

July 29, 2014
USCCB COMMUNICATIONS SENDS OVER 1,200 DONATED
BIBLES TO UNACCOMPANIED MINORS DETAINED IN ARIZONA

 
WASHINGTON — Over 1,200 Spanish Bibles donated by the American Bible Society and the publishing house Verbo Divino have gone to unaccompanied minors from Central America. Requested by Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona, the Bibles were requested by the Department of Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to the approximately 1,000 young people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador detained by U.S. Border Patrol near Nogales, Arizona.
 
The American Bible Society donated some 1,000 Bibles and approximately 600 copies of “La Llave,” an edition specifically for young people. Verbo Divino donated 200 copies of their Catholic Family Bible.
 
Bishops Kicanas issued the call for bible donations to serve the spiritual needs of these children as they await an uncertain future. “Currently about 1,000 unaccompanied minors who have entered into the United States are being detained in a Border Patrol facility in Nogales, Arizona. They are all from Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador ­­– their physical needs are being attended to but the authorities wonder if Spanish [language] bibles could be given to the children while in the holding center to comfort them,” Bishop Kicanas said.  “Many have been through some troubling and traumatic situations.”
 
Several dioceses and Catholic Charities offices also have responded to the unaccompanied children crisis offering humanitarian aid. And recently, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, also issued a similar call to volunteers for donations of Spanish language bibles and new testaments to be shared with unaccompanied children and women at entry points along the southern border.

July 25, 2014
BISHOP PATES URGES NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR RICE TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN
ASSISTANCE, WORK WITH OTHER GOVERNMENTS TO STOP VIOLENCE IN IRAQ

 
WASHINGTON — The United States should help Christian communities and other Iraqis plagued by violence through humanitarian assistance and international collaboration, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a July 25 letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, had written to Rice on June 19 about the escalating violence in Iraq and wrote that the situation had only deteriorated.
 
“The Islamic State has taken control of large swaths of territory in northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction, burning and looting ancient churches and mosques, homes and businesses,” Bishop Pates wrote. “Thousands have fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, often being robbed of their few personal possessions as they ran.”
 
Bishop Pates sent Rice a translation of a July 22 appeal by the bishops of the Chaldean Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic and Armenian Churchs of Iraq calling for protection of the rights of Christians and other minorities who have been displaced and remain targets of violence by extremists.
 
“I ask the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide this critical assistance to those in desperate straits and to work with other governments in an effort to stop the violence,” wrote Bishop Pates, who reiterated the words of Pope Francis that “violence is defeated with peace.” Bishop Pates asked that the aid be given through “trusted NGOs” with a proven track record of actually helping those most in need.
 
Full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iraq/upload/letter-to-nsc-advisor-rice-from-bishop-pates-re-iraqi-christians-2014-07-25.pdf

July 24, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMAN RESPONDS TO RECENT FEDERAL COURT DECISIONS ON MARRIAGE

WASHINGTON – Yesterday’s order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado enjoining the state from enforcing its laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman follows recent decisions on marriage by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver. The U.S. District Court temporarily stayed its order. The U.S. Bishops’ Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, said, “Recent court decisions on marriage in no way deter our efforts to promote the truth about marriage – a truth that no court decision can ever undo.”
 
On Friday, July 18, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in a split decision (2-1) ruled that the portion of Oklahoma’s marriage amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional. The same three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals ruled (2-1) in late June that Utah’s marriage amendment is unconstitutional. To date, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is the highest court in the country to rule on a state’s definition of marriage.
 
“As the dissenting judge stated in the Utah marriage amendment case, judges should ‘resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing’ their ‘views under the guise of constitutional interpretation,’” said Archbishop Cordileone. “Furthermore, as the same judge stated in his dissent in the Oklahoma marriage amendment case, the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman ‘is derived from the fundamental elements of marriage,’ which has never been ‘defined as only an emotional union among willing adults.’”
 
Archbishop Cordileone also noted, “Indeed, marriage is the one institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers and thereby unites the present generation with past generations.” He also cited Pope Francis, who recently said, “We must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother.” Archbishop Cordileone added, “Every child has a father and a mother. No law can change that. Well-ordered societies organize themselves around this natural truth for their own well-being and flourishing; when the institutions of a society turn away from this truth, disorder enters in with consequential serious social costs—already evident in our own society, marked as it is by the devastating effects of family fragmentation.”
 
Archbishop Cordileone concluded by saying, “I encourage all who are working to promote and defend authentic marriage to continue their efforts, knowing that ultimately the truth shall prevail.”
 
Utah has indicated that it will request the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the state’s marriage amendment. Oklahoma is expected to do the same.

July 24, 2014
USCCB COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA, CENTRAL
AMERICAN PRESIDENTS TO PROTECT CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

 
WASHINGTON—Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, today called upon President Obama and the Central American presidents to protect and care for children and families fleeing violence in the region. On July 25, Presidents Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras are slated to meet with President Obama at the White House to discuss the current humanitarian challenge.
 
“The leaders should focus upon the protection of these children and families, as they are charged with as the heads of their nations,” said Bishop Elizondo. “Instead of cooperating on intercepting them and sending them back to dangerous situations, they should work together to protect them from those dangers, including providing them asylum in neighboring countries and in the United States.”
 
“Over the long-term,” Bishop Elizondo said, “a strategy must be devised to address the violence and lack of opportunity in the countries of Central America.  Specific attention should be paid to helping at-risk youth remain safe and access opportunity at home,” he said.
 
Bishop Elizondo also reaffirmed USCCB opposition to proposals to amend current law to speed the deportations of the children without giving them the benefit of an immigration hearing.  Congress is scheduled to consider supplemental appropriations legislation next week to fund the care of children and families arriving at the border.
 
“We oppose linking changes to the law – changes which could send children back to harm –to the funding bill, which is needed to humanely respond to this situation,” Bishop Elizondo said.  “Families, as well, should receive a fair hearing of their asylum claims.”
 
More information on the USCCB position is available at: www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/unaccompanied-migrant-children-resource-kit.cfm

July 24, 2014
BISHOP PATES TO SECRETARY KERRY: UNITED STATES
MUST CHANGE TRADE AND ECONOMIC POLICIES, STOP
DRUGS AND ARMS FLOW TO END BORDER CRISIS


WASHINGTON — The United States cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of many thousands of unaccompanied minors journeying to the U.S. border from root causes in Latin America, many generated by U.S. policies, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a July 24 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, followed the bishops’ June 24-July 2 travels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
 
“The crisis on our borders will not be minimally resolved until drugs and arms flows, harmful trade provisions, and other critical economic policies that contribute to violence are addressed and rectified,” Bishop Pates wrote. He noted that Church leaders and U.S. diplomats in each country agreed that long term resolutions would only come from investment in education and jobs.
 
“We frequently heard during our visit, from Church leaders as well as representatives of civil society, that the implementation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and similar trade policies, had devastated small agricultural producers and businesses in the region, while depressing labor conditions and wages,” Bishop Pates wrote.
 
Addressing drugs and violence, which often push people to migrate, Bishop Pates wrote, “The United States must recognize our own complicity in this crisis, and support more effective programs that reduce drug usage here at home. Similarly, the regulation of gun exports, coupled with criminal justice reforms that foster rehabilitation rather than retribution, need to be implemented by our states and our federal government.”
 
Bishop Pates also noted the destructive environmental impact and public health consequences of U.S. and Canadian mining companies in Latin America. He said the U.S. government, working with the Canadians, must hold companies operating in these regions to the same standards of care for human life and the environment as their operations in the United States.
 
The full text of Bishop Pates’ letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/upload/letter-to-secretary-kerry-from-bishop-pates-on-central-america-2014-07-24.pdf
 
The letter is also available in Spanish: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/upload/letter-to-secretary-kerry-from-bishop-pates-on-central-america-spanish-translation-2014-07-24.pdf

July 24, 2014
AUXILIARY BISHOP OF ST THOMAS SYRO-MALABAR CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF CHICAGO NAMED
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Father Joy Alappat, 58, vicar of Mar Thoma Sleeha Cathedral of the St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Diocese of Chicago, as auxiliary bishop of that diocese.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, July 24 by Msgr. Angelo Accattino, Chargé d’Affaires at the apostolic nunciature to the United States.
 
Father Joy Alappat was born in Parappukara, India, in the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda (Kerala) on September 27, 1956. He attended St. Thomas Apostolic Seminary in Vadavathoor and was ordained a priest December 31, 1981. After ordination he continued his master’s level studies at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Institute, Aluva, and Adheva University, Wattair.
 
Bishop-elect Alappat served in pastoral assignments in Chalakudy, Mala, and at the Eparchial Cathedral. He also served as chaplain of the Syro-Malabar community in Chennai before being transferred to the United States in 1993.
 
From 1999-2002, while chaplain at Georgetown University Medical Center, he completed the Clinical Pastoral Education Program. He also has held pastoral assignments in New Milford, Connecticut; and Newark and Garfield, New Jersey.
 
He has been rector of the Eparchial Cathedral in Bellwood, Illinois, since 2011.

July 22, 2014
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ JOINS POPE FRANCIS IN CALLING FOR PRAYERS, ACTION
FOR PEACE IN MIDDLE EAST, UKRAINE, AFRICA, CENTRAL AMERICA


WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has asked the U.S. bishops to join with him  in prayer and action for peace in world trouble spots, including the Middle East, Ukraine, Africa and Central America.
 
He also urged the bishops to express solidarity with Pope Francis in a July 22 letter, which follows.
 
Dear Brother Bishops,
 
May God bless you!
 
On Sunday, July 20, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, prayed for peace in all situations of tension and conflict in the world.  He mentioned in particular the Middle East and Ukraine, singling out the terrible crisis of Christians in Iraq with these words:  “Today our brothers are persecuted.  They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!”
 
Our own Conference of Bishops has called attention to numerous situations of violence that cry out for peace. There is the terrible conflict between Israel and Hamas that terrorizes Israeli civilians and has cost the lives of more than 500 Gazans, most of whom are civilians. There are the alarming conflicts in Syria and Iraq that have caused millions to flee their homes and tens of thousands to lose their lives. We are mindful of the violent conflict in Ukraine, of the thousands who are displaced, and the hundreds of innocent civilians whose lives were cut short when a passenger jet was shot down.  In Africa there are the often forgotten clashes in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have displaced millions. Closer to home, there is the violence in Central America that is driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in our country.
 
All of these tragic situations, and sadly many more, demand our prayer and action for peace.  On Sunday, Pope Francis pleaded:  “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation.  Violence cannot be overcome with violence.  Violence is overcome with peace!”  Let us join our prayers and calls to action with his.
 
In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation.  As Jesus admonishes us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9).  This can be done in personal prayers and in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass.
 
We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us.  My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
Fraternally yours in our Lord,
 
+Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


July 21, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMEN RESPOND TO 'UNPRECEDENTED AND EXTREME' EXECUTIVE ORDER
 
WASHINGTON – The bishop-Chairmen of two USCCB Committees responded with great concern to President Obama’s July 21 executive order to prohibit federal government contractors from what the Administration deems “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination and to forbid “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees.  The problems the bishops identify in the order relate both to the flaws in its core prohibitions, and to its lack of religious freedom protection.
 
Two USCCB Chairmen – Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth – together issued the following statement.
 
           Today’s executive order is unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.  
 
           In the name of forbidding discrimination, this order implements discrimination.  With the stroke of a pen, it lends the economic power of the federal government to a deeply

           flawed understanding of human sexuality, to which faithful Catholics and many other people of faith will not assent.  As a result, the order will exclude federal contractors precisely
           on the basis of their religious beliefs.
 
           More specifically, the Church strongly opposes both unjust discrimination against those who experience a homosexual inclination and sexual conduct outside of marriage, which is
           the union of one man and one woman.  But the executive order, as it regards federal government contractors, ignores the inclination/conduct distinction in the undefined term
           “sexual orientation.”  As a result, even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment
           policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.
 
           The executive order prohibits “gender identity” discrimination, a prohibition that is previously unknown at the federal level, and that is predicated on the false idea that “gender”
           is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.  This is a problem not only of principle but of practice, as
           it will jeopardize the privacy and associational rights of both federal contractor employees and federal employees.  For example, a biological male employee may be allowed to use
           the women’s restroom or locker room provided by the employer because the male employee identifies as a female.
 
           In an attempt to avoid these needless conflicts, states that have passed “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” prohibitions have overwhelmingly included protections for
           religious employers.  When the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the President’s own party, passed the similar Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last year, it included
           religious liberty protections as well.  Indeed, all prior versions of ENDA had at least some religious liberty protections.  But the executive order is an anomaly in this regard,   
           containing no religious liberty protections.  In this way, the order, which is fundamentally flawed in itself, also needlessly prefers conflict and exclusion over coexistence and 
           cooperation.


Regarding federal contractors, the Executive Order will take effect after rules to be promulgated by the Department of Labor implementing the Executive Order become final.  Regarding federal employment, the Executive Order is effective immediately.

July 21, 2014
BISHOP PATES URGES SECRETARY KERRY TO PURSUE AN ISRAEL-HAMAS
CEASEFIRE, REITERATES CALL TO WORK FOR LASTING PEACE

 
WASHINGTON — The United States should seek an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, provide humanitarian relief to the vulnerable people of Gaza, and return to the challenge of pursuing a just and lasting peace, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. The July 21 letter addressed Hamas’ rocket attacks and the Israeli response.
 
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, reiterated Pope Francis’ call for a ceasefire and peace. “Israelis should not have to live in fear of Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian areas,” he wrote. “At the same time, Palestinians should not have to live in fear for their lives from air and ground attacks or to suffer the humiliations of occupation.”
 
Bishop Pates noted that the kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian youth, and the arrests of hundreds of Palestinians helped precipitate current cycle of violence. They are grim reminders “that the status quo is unsustainable. It is a recipe for recurring violence.”
 
Beyond an immediate ceasefire, he said, “Only the emergence of a viable and independent Palestinian state living alongside a recognized and secure Israel will bring the peace for which majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians yearn.”
 
He concluded, “It is my hope and prayer that one day we might look back and find that this latest cycle of violence was the last—a cycle broken by a just and lasting peace agreement. May we be one with Pope Francis and the world community ‘not to spare prayer or any effort to end every hostility and seek the desired peace for the good of all.’”
 
The full text of Bishop Pates’ letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/upload/2014-07-LETTER-TO-KERRY-ON-ISRAEL-GAZA.pdf
 
More information on the U.S. bishops’ advocacy on Israeli-Palestinian peace is available here: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/index.cfm

July 16, 2014
'MORE RESPECT FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM' NEEDED
AFTER FAILED SENATE VOTE TO CURTAIL IT


WASHINGTON — Today the U.S. Senate voted against considering S. 2578, a bill empowering the federal government to override the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal conscience laws when it mandates including any “item or service” in health plans.
 
Writing “in strong opposition” to the bill earlier this week were Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairs respectively of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. They wrote that S. 2578 “does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether.”   
 
A motion to take up this legislation was supported by 56 Senators but failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to proceed. Commenting on the vote, USCCB Director of Government Relations Jayd Henricks said: “While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans. We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less.”
 
Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori’s July 14 letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/07-14-14-S-2578-Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-to-Senate.pdf. More information on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and conscience rights is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/S-2578-Backgrounder.pdf and by following #HandsOffRFRA.

July 14, 2014
CARDINAL O'MALLEY, ARCHBISHOP LORI TO SENATE:
OPPOSE BILL THAT ATTACKS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

 
WASHINGTON — In a letter sent July 14 to all U.S. Senators, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore stated their “strong opposition to the misnamed ‘Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014’ (S. 2578).”  Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori chair the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively.
 
“Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision, potentially attacking all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom regarding health coverage mandates,” they wrote.
 
The two bishops identified several areas of concern with the bill, including its unprecedented curtailment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; its potential for overriding other federal conscience protections, including the Hyde-Weldon amendment on abortion; its application to coverage mandates beyond the HHS contraceptive mandate; its application to employers beyond for-profit businesses; and its denial of religious freedom for employees and their minor dependents, not just employers.
 
“In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty.  Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether. We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it,” they wrote.
 
Full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/07-14-14-S-2578-Cardinal-O-Malley-Archbishop-Lori-to-Senate.pdf

July 14, 2014
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CHURCH IN CENTRAL AND
EASTERN EUROPE AWARDS $5 MILION IN GRANTS


WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved 211 grants for a total of $4,998,428 in aid to finance pastoral, educational, and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The subcommittee evaluated and approved grant proposals for 2014 during the bishops’ annual spring General Assembly on June 10, in New Orleans.
 
The projects focus on rebuilding Catholic schools and orphanages, the formation of seminarians, and the preservation of Catholic education and intellectual life in 20 countries, covering a geographical area that extends into Central Asia. These grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.

“As recent events in the Ukraine have clearly demonstrated, our brothers and sisters in Central and Eastern Europe stand in utmost need of our help,” said Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Washington, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “The Church in these countries is doing so much good, despite recovering from the harm done in the past and facing the challenges of today’s secular culture. Through our funded projects, Catholics in the United States are sending a clear message that, in the words of Pope Francis, we want to accompany them in this new phase of their journey as disciples of Christ.”
 
Among the grants allocated at this meeting, the subcommittee focused their attention on the Ukraine. They approved 80 grants for pastoral work and reconstruction in that country, totaling $1,305,532. Projects that were approved include: the construction of a shelter for the homeless, operating costs for several orphanages run by the Sisters of St. Joseph, program costs for youth retreats, and Catholic television programming. Several projects will support the religious who work in the Ukraine. These grants include: the construction costs for a seminary, formation and training programs for religious sisters, and windows for monastic cells in the Holy Intercession Studite Monastery, as well as support for several seminaries and programs for priests.

“I thank each of you who have contributed to make these grants possible,” said Bishop Cupich. “And I ask for your continued prayers and financial support. Together, we can strengthen the Church in these countries by funding projects which give our Catholic sisters and brothers the resources to proclaim the faith anew in an age marked by secularism and a new atheism. We can be proud that we are helping them build on their rich heritage for future generations.”

The national date for the collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is on Ash Wednesday. However, some dioceses take up the collection at other times during the year.

More information on the work of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe is available online at: www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/central-and-eastern-europe/index.cfm

July 8, 2014
ARCHBISHOP WENSKI, CATHOLIC CHARITIES'
FATHER SNYDER URGE U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION
TO FIX BROKEN FEDERAL DRUG SENTENCING GUIDELINES


WASHINGTON—The Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA, urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to retroactively fix flawed federal sentencing guidelines for federal non-violent drug offences.
“The United States imprisons more people per capita than any other nation in the world at a cost of approximately $80 billion annually,” Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Committee chair, and Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA’s president, wrote in a July 7 letter. “Rigid sentences for non-violent offenses are not only costly and ineffective, but can be detrimental to the good of persons, families, and communities. Prolonged incarceration often contributes to family instability and poverty and can contribute to recidivism.”
They urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply the corrections retroactively to “help address broken sentencing guidelines that have resulted in excessive sentences for 51,000 federal drug offenders sentenced since 1987.”
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder added that the justice system should promote healing and restoration. “Our Catholic tradition supports the community's right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice and restoration, not vengeance. Contrition, restitution and rehabilitation can better serve the cause of justice than simply punishment for the sake of punishment,” they wrote.
They also echoed the words of Pope Francis who has said, “God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else ­­­­­­– God is in this person’s life.”

The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/upload/letter-to-us-sentencing-comm-drug-sentences-2014-07-14.pdf

July 8, 2014
SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CHURCH IN AFRICA AWARDS NEARLY $1.3 MILLION

WASHINGTON — The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Africa approved 46 grants totaling $1,260,571 to assist the pastoral work of the Church in Africa. The subcommittee approved the grants during their June 10 meeting in New Orleans.
 
“The needs of the Church in Africa now vary, depending on the area,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The Church in Africa is growing rapidly but also facing serious challenges as it responds to the needs of its members and the surrounding society. As a result, we see more requests for training programs and the development of management and leadership skills. In many areas, the Church in Africa is working to become self-sustaining. The relationships we are developing are essential in understanding how we can be of assistance. The support and collaboration the Church in the United States is offering is an important part of this process.”
 
The main funded areas continued to be pastoral training, leadership formation, operational costs, and justice and peace initiatives. A grant for $30,000 to the Southern African Bishops’ Conference will fund pastoral care and legal aid for women in South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland who have suffered domestic violence and other forms of abuse. Training workshops will equip lay ministers to provide spiritual counseling. The program also intends to develop liaisons with Catholic lawyers in order to improve the quality of advice offered to women seeking legal assistance.    
 
The subcommittee also approved a $25,000 grant to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ethiopia. The grant will help implement the dissemination of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. Ethiopia has a Catholic population of less than one percent and many people still wait to hear the gospel message. Since the major language in Ethiopia is Amharic, the national language, the project will work on translating the document into Amharic. Workshop leaders will be trained at the national level and will then work in their parishes and communities to spread the Pope’s message.  
 
“The support of Catholics in the U.S. for the Church in Africa has a huge impact,” said Cardinal McCarrick. “This collection is an opportunity for us to join in mission to those on the outskirts, following the call of Pope Francis. We receive many expressions of gratitude from the people these programs serve.”
 
The grants are funded by the annual collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. To date, 75 percent of U.S. dioceses and eparchies have voluntarily participated in this collection. The USCCB's Subcommittee on the Church in Africa administers the collection and allocates the revenue received as pastoral grants to African episcopal conferences and their regional associations in Africa.
 
More information on the work of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa can be found online at: www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/solidarity-fund-for-africa/index.cfm.

July 3, 2014
POPE NAMES BISHOP EDGAR DA CUNHA, S.D.V., AUXILIARY BISHOP
OF NEWARK, AS BISHOP OF FALL RIVER, MASSACHUSETTS

 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Edgar da Cunha, S.D.V., of Newark, 60, as Bishop of Fall River, Massachusetts, and accepted the resignation of Bishop George Coleman, 75, from pastoral governance of that diocese.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, July 3 by Msgr. Angelo Accattino, Chargé d’Affaires at the apostolic nunciature to the United States.
 
Edgar da Cunha was born August 21, 1953 in Riachão de Jacuípe, Bahia, Brazil. He holds a bachelor of arts degree from the Universidade Catolica do Salvador in Bahia, Brazil, and a master of divinity degree from Immaculate Conception Seminary, in Mahwah, New Jersey. He was ordained for the Society of Divine Vocations in 1982 in Newark and appointed auxiliary bishop of Newark in 2003. He speaks English, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.
 
Bishop da Cunha’s assignments after ordination included 1982-1987, Vocation Director for the Society of Divine Vocations; 1983-1986, parochial vicar, St. Nicholas, Palisades Park, New Jersey; 1986-1987, administrator, St. Nicholas, Palisades Park; 1987-1994, pastor, St. Nicholas, Palisades Park; 1994-2000, Master of Novices and Director of the House of Formation SDV, Florham Park, New Jersey; 1998-2000, Secretary of the Council of the Delegation of the Society of Divine Vocations; 2000, pastor, St. Michael’s Church, Newark, superior of the religious community and delegate for the United States of the Superior General of the Society of Divine Vocations.
 
The Society of Divine Vocations was founded in Italy in 1920 to foster vocations and work with the poor.

July 2, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMAN URGES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO
RECONSIDER PROPOSED POLICY TO RETURN UNACCOMPANIED
CHILDREN TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES WITHOUT PROPER DUE PROCESS

 
WASHINGTON — Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon the Obama Administration,  July 2, to reconsider their proposed request to Congress for “fast track” authority to expedite the removal of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America. Current law permits children from non-contiguous countries to remain in the country until their request for asylum or immigration relief is considered by an immigration judge.
 
“This is a very vulnerable population which has been targeted by organized crime networks in Central America,” said Bishop Elizondo. “To return them to these criminal elements without a proper adjudication of their cases is unconscionable.”
 
Under the policy of “expedited” removal, an individual is questioned by an immigration enforcement official without formal legal training in an effort to ascertain their fear of return. If the individual cannot adequately articulate a “credible” fear, they are immediately returned to their home countries.  Children who are traumatized, without legal assistance and reluctant to speak to enforcement personnel rarely meet this standard.
 
“As a nation which has traditionally offered safe haven to those who are persecuted, this proposed policy undercuts our values as a nation,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The prospect of the United States sending vulnerable children back into the hands of violent criminals in their countries raises troubling questions about our moral character.”
 
“What we need is bipartisan cooperation to ensure that these children are protected,” said Bishop Elizondo.  “This is an occasion in which we must rise above partisan politics and stand by our principles, namely compassion, justice, and adherence to our international obligations,” he said.
 
USCCB testimony on unaccompanied children can be found at www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/BSeitzfinaltest.pdf
 

July 1, 2014
USCCB PRESIDENT, DIVERSE RELIGIOUS LEADERS
COME TOGETHER TO URGE CONGRESS TO PROTECT
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT


WASHINGTON — A coalition of leaders of diverse U.S. religious denominations and faiths, including Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has announced that they “are united in [their] staunch support” for protecting the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support in 1993. The coalition sent a letter to Congressional leadership June 30 asking that they “not amend or repeal RFRA, one of our nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of every person of every faith.”
 
“RFRA is a highly flexible legal standard that protects the rights and liberties of individuals of
all religious faiths, including the most vulnerable,” said the letter.  “In the United States, freedom of religion has always included – and should always include – the right to live out one’s religion and act according to one’s conscience outside the walls of one’s house of worship.”
 
They added: “For over two decades, RFRA has protected Americans of all faiths from government coercion. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others all benefit when powerful government officials know that, as President Bill Clinton stated when he signed RFRA, government must meet ‘a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.’”
 
Signers of the letter included leaders of the Assemblies of God (USA), the Church of God in Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Wesleyan Church.
 
Full text of the letter follows:
 
RE: Protecting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993
 
Dear Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, and Minority Leader McConnell:
 
We are leaders of diverse faith communities representing over 100 million Americans.  Our faith communities worship in many different ways, and we have different views on many things.  But in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores), we are united in our staunch support for maintaining all of the existing provisions and protections of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).  RFRA is a highly flexible legal standard that protects the rights and liberties of individuals of all religious faiths, including the most vulnerable.
 
The Supreme Court affirmed that all Americans – including family business owners – should be free to live and work according to their faith and receive the protections afforded by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  When President Clinton signed RFRA into law over twenty years ago, he finalized the work of overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the United States House and Senate.  Only three Members of Congress voted against RFRA.  Not one of Congress’s 535 Members suggested that this landmark new law would not protect a person’s free exercise of religion if she chose to provide for herself, her family, and her employees by starting a business.
 
In the United States, freedom of religion has always included – and should always include – the right to live out one’s religion and act according to one’s conscience outside the walls of one’s house of worship.  Every single day, millions of Americans are motivated by their faith to go and serve the neediest among us.  The good works of these individuals of faith can be seen in soup kitchens, hospitals, schools, hospices – and, yes, family-owned businesses. 
 
For over two decades, RFRA has protected Americans of all faiths from government coercion.  Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, and others all benefit when powerful government officials know that, as President Bill Clinton stated when he signed RFRA, government must meet “a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion.”
 
We have come together to write this letter with one specific plea: Do not amend or repeal RFRA, one of our nation’s most vital legal protections for the religious freedom and rights of conscience of every person of every faith.  
 
Changing RFRA because some disagree with one particular application of the law would set a dark precedent by undermining the fundamental principle of religious freedom for all, even for those whose religious beliefs may be unpopular at the moment.  Congress has never passed legislation with the specific purpose of reducing Americans’ religious freedom.  It should not consider doing so now.
 
Freedom of religion, like freedom of speech, must stand for all Americans, for all time.



June 30, 2014
SUPREME COURT DECISION ON HOBBY LOBBY: A GREAT
DAY FOR THE RELIGIOUS FREEDOM OF FAMILY BUSINESSES

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties means “justice has prevailed,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. The Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to these employers to the extent that it would have forced them to provide insurance coverage for drugs and devices that violate their religious convictions on respect for human life.  The statement follows:
 
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to recognize that Americans can continue to follow their faith when they run a family business.  In this case, justice has prevailed, with the Court respecting the rights of the Green and Hahn families to continue to abide by their faith in how they seek their livelihood, without facing devastating fines.  Now is the time to redouble our efforts to build a culture that fully respects religious freedom.
 
“The Court clearly did not decide whether the so-called ‘accommodation’ violates RFRA when applied to our charities, hospitals and schools, so many of which have challenged it as a burden on their religious exercise.  We continue to hope that these great ministries of service, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and so many others, will prevail in their cases as well.”


June 27, 2014
POPE NAMES LANSING, MICHIGAN CHANNCELOR AS BISHOP OF GAYLORD

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Msgr. Steven J. Raica, 61, chancellor of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan, as bishop of Gaylord, Michigan.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, June 27, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
He succeeds Archbishop Bernard Hebda, who was named Coadjutor Archbishop of Newark, last September.
 
Steven Raica was born in Munising, Michigan, November 8, 1952. He was ordained a priest for the Landing Diocese in 1978, and named a Prelate of Honor to his Holiness, with the title “Monsignor,” in 1998.
 
Bishop-elect Raica holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Michigan State University in East Lansing, a master of divinity from St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan and a master of arts degree in religious studies from the University of Detroit. After ordination to the priesthood he earned a licentiate and doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University, Rome.
 
Assignments after ordination included parochial vicar in two parishes, Holy Redeemer in Burton, Michigan, and St. Pius X in Flint, Michigan, 1978-1984; pastor of Holy Family Parish in Ovid, Michigan, 1984-85; co-rector of St. Mary Cathedral, 1985-1988. He also served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Charlotte, Michigan, 1991-1993; and St. Ann Parish Bellevue, Michigan, 1995-1997. He served as chancellor of the diocese 1997-1999, and 2005 to the present. From 1999-2005 he was superior of Casa Santa Maria, the graduate studies house of North American College, Rome.
 
Bishop-elect Raica has served on the Lansing diocesan tribunal as a pro-synodal judge, the promoter of justice and a tribunal judge. He also has worked in deaf ministry and has conversational ability in English, Italian, Polish and Sign Language.
 
There are an estimated 508,658 people in the Gaylord diocese with 60,471, or 12 percent, of them Catholic. The diocese includes the 21 most Northern counties in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, which are mostly rural in nature.

June 24, 2014
BISHOP IN HOUSE COMMITTEE TESTIMONY: NATION 'MUST NOT TURN
OUR BACK' ON UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN CROSSING BORDER

 
WASHINGTON — Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, stated in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, June 25, that the rise of the number of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border represents a “test of our moral character” of the nation. “We must not fail this test,” he added. “We must not turn our back on them.”
 
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied children, the large majority from the countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, have crossed into the United States.  Many are fleeing violence from organized criminal networks in their communities.
 
In his testimony, Bishop Seitz provided several recommendations for the immediate care of the children and long-term solutions to the issue.
 
“Over the long-term, there must be a concerted effort to address the root causes of this exodus, specifically the rampant violence in the region,” Bishop Seitz said. “As part of this effort, humane reintegration practices and prevention programs investing in youth should complement anti-violence efforts.”
 
Bishop Seitz urged Congress to cooperate on the issue, not to politicize it. “This issue should not be viewed as an occasion for political posturing, but as an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation,” he said.
 
A complete copy of his testimony can be found online: www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/BSeitzfinaltest.pdf

June 20, 2014
USCCB CHAIRMEN CONCERNED ABOUT REPORTED EXECUTIVE ORDER
 
WASHINGTON — The Chairman for the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, the Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development Archbishop Thomas Wenski, of Miami, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, and the, Chairman of the Committee on Doctrine, Archbishop John Nienstedt, of Minneapolis issued the following statement:
 
“The enduring commitment of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to uphold the dignity of each and every human person impels us to oppose unjust discrimination, to proclaim the truth about marriage, and to protect religious freedom.  Therefore, we view with great concern the reported intention of the President of the United States to issue an executive order forbidding what the Administration considers “discrimination” based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”  Because we do not know how the executive order will define these critically important terms, or if it will provide sufficient (or any) religious freedom protection, we cannot provide substantive comment on the order.  On the other hand, when the U.S. Senate recently passed legislation on the same topic, we raised detailed objections to that legislation, and we would refer interested parties to those resources to identify the applicable principles.  We say again now, as we said in connection with the Senate bill and have said many times before, that we oppose any unjust discrimination against any person on any grounds.  We intend to review the details of the executive order carefully once it is available, in order to assess whether it serves the dignity of the human person and the common good.”
 
For previous statements and background on ENDA, visit:
 
ENDA letter (July 9, 2013): http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/joint-letter-on-enda-senate-help-2013-07-09.pdf
 
ENDA letter (Oct 31, 2013): http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/joint-letter-senate-enda-2013-10-31.pdf
 

ENDA backgrounder (Oct 2013): http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/upload/enda-backgrounder-2013.pdf

June 20, 2014
ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY, USCCB CHAIRMAN CALLS ON THE UNITED
STATES TO HELP "ALLEVIATE THE SUFFERING OF REFUGEES"

 
WASHINGTON – On World Refugee Day, celebrated June 20, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon the U.S. government to do more to assist vulnerable Syrian refugees in the Middle East and to protect the rights of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
 
“The Syrian refugee crisis in the Middle East has reached a point of humanitarian disaster,” said Bishop Elizondo.   “Although the United States has provided overseas support to these refugees, other forms of relief, including possible resettlement of the most vulnerable, should be seriously considered.”  The United States has resettled a total of 42 refugees this year, compared to a Syrian refugee population of over two million persons.
 
Bishop Elizondo also talked about the current migration of children from Central American as a refugee situation.  As many as 47,000 unaccompanied children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since the beginning of the year in order to escape violence in their home countries.
 
“These children are indeed fleeing for their lives and must be looked at through a protection lens, not through an enforcement lens,” said Bishop Elizondo.  “We must not send them back if they have valid protection claims.  It would be akin to sending them back into a burning house.”
 
In making his comments, Bishop Elizondo referred to the World Refugee Day message of Pope Francis, released June 18.   In the statement, the Holy Father said that “Jesus was a refugee” and called upon Catholics and others to “alleviate their suffering in a concrete way.”
 
“As the world’s most powerful nation, the United States has a responsibility to help ‘alleviate the suffering’ of the world’s refugees, including vulnerable children, consistent with the Holy Father’s message,” Bishop Elizondo concluded.  “The world looks to the United States as a leader in international refugee protection.  We must not shirk this responsibility.”
 
For more information, visit: http://www.usccb.org/about/resettlement-services/world-refugee-day.cfm

June 19, 2014
BISHOP PATES URGES OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO PROMOTE INCLUSIVE
GOVERNMENT AND PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE TO IRAQ


WASHINGTON — The current conflict in Iraq demands humanitarian assistance from the United States in addition to diplomatic measures, said the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace in a June 19 letter to Ambassador Susan E. Rice, National Security Advisor.  The letter was delivered just before President Obama held a press conference on Iraq.
 
“Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq. The U.S.-led invasion and occupation unleashed both sectarian conflicts and extremism in Iraq, two tragic unintended consequences that have profound and continuing repercussions for the people of Iraq,” said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa.
 
“It is appropriate that the Administration is urging political leaders in Iraq to form an inclusive government. For too long, large elements of Iraqi society have felt disenfranchised. It is critical that all ethnic and religious groups are represented at the table of governance so that the common good of all is served,” Bishop Pates said. “Extremists have been exploiting the divisions born of exclusion and the weakening of the rule of law.”
 
Bishop Pates echoed the words of Pope Francis in his recent request for prayers “for the dear Iraqi nation, especially for the victims and for those who most suffer the consequences of the growing violence, in particular the many persons, among whom are so many Christians, who have had to leave their homes.”
 
He also noted the efforts for peace and prayers from Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, who has called for a day of “fasting and prayer for the restoration of security and stability in Iraq” on June 18. The Patriarch has said that “the best solution to all these problems is the creation of a government of national unity” to strengthen “the rule of law.”
 
Bishop Pates also called for continued efforts to seek political solution in neighboring Syria for the protection of Christians and other minorities. “The United States should work with the international community, including Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and all responsible parties in Syria. It is critical to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria,” he wrote.
 
The full text of the letter is available online at  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iraq/upload/letter-nsa-rice-iraq-2014-06-19.pdf

June 19, 2014
 BISHOPS' SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE CATHOLIC CAMPAIGN FOR
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT APPROVES OVER $14 MILLION IN
GRANTS TO COMBAT POVERTY, INJUSTICE


WASHINGTON — The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has approved grants totaling over $14 million to empower poor and low-income communities to overcome poverty and injustice. The bishops of the CCHD subcommittee approved the grants during their meeting in New Orleans on June 10.
 
"The groups receiving funding from CCHD are like the mustard seed in the Gospel parable. With our support, they are growing communities where families can flourish," said Bishop Jaime Soto of the Diocese of Sacramento, chairman of the Subcommittee on CCHD. "Groups supported by CCHD understand that our partnership with them is an expression of our Catholic faith and of our desire to serve the poor as the followers of Jesus.”
 
This year's grant allocations include nearly $10 million in regular annual CCHD grants. These grants will support community-based organizations addressing the structural causes of poverty, such as unjust immigration and criminal justice policies, as well as organizations promoting economic development, through initiatives such as cooperatives and community lending institutions.  
 
Over $4 million has been allocated through CCHD's Strategic National Grant Program, which focuses on issues that require an intensive community response, especially from the Catholic community. New strategic grants include support for the launching of a Catholic institute dedicated to addressing systemic economic and social problems along the Mexico-U.S. border; the promotion of community land trusts on nationwide scale to promote affordable homeownership; a statewide organizing effort to promote quality public education for poor and low-income communities in Pennsylvania; and support for a major initiative of the Washington State Catholic Conference to both get African American and farmworker communities engaged in the public square and to create support networks for expecting families. The bishops also voted to provide support to four targeted dioceses across the country to increase enrollment in Catholic schools of Latino and Hispanic children, who often lack the means to attend.
 
"Pope Francis has repeatedly made the point that this economy is excluding too many people, and is pushing the young and elderly off the margins. This is destroying our communities and wrecking families,” said Ralph McCloud, director of CCHD. “In a situation like this, the only solution is solidarity. The bishops of the United States stand together with everyone pushed to the edges of our communities, and CCHD is a powerful symbol of the efforts of the Catholic Church to build real and lasting solidarity.”
 
More information on CCHD is available online: www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development

June 19, 2014
POPE NAMES BALTIMORE AUXILIARY BIHSOP MITCHEL ROZANSKI
AS BISHOP OF SPRINGFIELD IN MASSACHUSETS

 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Baltimore, 55,  as bishop of Springfield in Massachusetts and accepted the resignation of Bishop  Timothy McDonnell from pastoral governance of the diocese.
 
The announcements of the appointment and resignation were made June 19 in Washington by Archbishop Carlo Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Bishop Rozanski was born in Baltimore August 6, 1958. He attended Theological College at The Catholic University of America and was ordained a priest for the Baltimore Archdiocese in 1984.
 
In 2004 he was named auxiliary bishop of Baltimore.
 
The Springfield diocese includes 823,662 people of whom 229,584, or 28 percent, are Catholic.

June 18, 2014
U.S. BISHOPS, IRAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS JOINTLY DECLARE
OPPOSITIONS TO VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN LIFE AND DIGNITY,
INCLUDING WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION

iWASHINGTON — Catholics and Shia Muslims oppose actions that endanger the life, health, dignity and welfare of others, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, according to a joint declaration signed by U.S. bishops and Iranian religious leaders. The June 14 declaration resulted from a dialogue between a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom, the preeminent center of religious scholarship in Iran, during a March 11-17 trip to Iran.
 
The dialogue sought to promote greater understanding and peace between Americans and Iranians. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Justice and Peace committee, led the U.S. delegation.
 
“As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others,” said the joint declaration. “Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family.”
 
They added: “Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.”
 
Signers of the declaration were Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars and president of Al-Mustafa International University; Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the international affairs office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; and Bishop Pates.
 
Full text of the join declaration follows:
 
Joint Declaration
 
June 14, 2014 —16 Sha‘bān 1435 AH
 
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL
 
The belief in One God unites Jews, Christians and Muslims, and calls us to work for the common good of the whole human family. It is our conviction that human societies need moral guidance and that it is incumbent on us as religious leaders to share the ethical teachings that flow from our respective traditions.
 
Christianity and Islam cherish a common heritage that emphasizes, above all, love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community. We found this in our recent dialogue between Catholicism and Shia Islam. Both of our traditions reject as reprehensible all forms of transgression and injustice. We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity, or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
 
These foundational moral values unite us in raising fundamental moral questions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.
 
We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square. As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family. It is our mutual intention to engage in a sustained dialogue based on our shared values.

June 16, 2014
MARK ROHLENA NAMED U.S. BISHOPS' DIRECTOR OF DOMESTIC SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
 
WASHINGTON — Mark Rohlena, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, has been named director of the Office of Domestic Social Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
As head of the Colorado Springs agency, Rohlena has overseen the organization’s annual budget of $3 million and 50 employees, who serve in 10 counties of Colorado with the help of over 1,600 volunteers per month. Services include poverty reduction programs, parish social ministry, family immigration services, adoption services and disaster relief work. The organization played an important leadership role in assisting those affected by the recent fires in Colorado.   
 
As CEO of the Catholic Charities agency, Rohlena also initiated programs for young adults to address the challenge of homelessness and served on the boards of the Catholic Housing Corporation and Partners in Housing of Colorado Springs. He was a founding board member of the Lighthouse Women’s Care Center in Denver.
 
Before his work as president of Central Colorado Catholic Charities, Rohlena was the Senior Ethics and Conflicts Attorney for Holland and Hart, LLP of Denver. His work at the firm included legal ethics, employee benefits law, labor and employment law, and state and local tax law.
 
Rohlena holds a law degree from the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and an undergraduate degree in history and political science from Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia
.
"Mark Rohlena has a proven track record as a leader and manager in putting the Church’s social teaching into action,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB General Secretary. “Mark has a heart for the poor and vulnerable and a critical understanding of the way public policy impacts the Church’s ground-level, charitable work. He is well-formed in the faith, and especially Catholic Social Teaching, which has inspired his strong commitment to service, leaving a successful career at a large law firm to advocate for those most in need.”
 
Rohlena stressed the opportunities to serve the poor in his new position.
 
“The Church has been and must continue to be among the strongest voices in the public square on behalf of the poor, the sick, the weak and the suffering,” Rohlena said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to be part of that legacy, to join the work of urging federal policymakers to recognize that each and every one of our neighbors is filled with dignity – worthy to be encountered, loved and cared-for. It is a unique way to witness to the love of Christ, which, as Pope Francis reminds us, lies at the heart of our charitable work.”
 
Rohlena will oversee USCCB efforts in the area of domestic social development, with a special emphasis on poverty. He will assume his position at the bishops' conference in August. He succeeds Kathy Saile, who left the USCCB in December to become Associate Director for Government Affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

June 16, 2014
USCCB SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES OVER $4.6
MILLION IN GRANTS TO CHURCH IN LATIN AMERICA

 
WASHINGTON — At their meeting on June 9, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America approved funding for 112 projects, totaling over $1.7 million. The funds will be disbursed as grants to aid the pastoral work of the Church in the Caribbean and Latin America.
 
“Through the generosity of Catholics around the country, we were able to continue our mission of supporting the Church in Latin America by approving grant applications during our June meeting,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the subcommittee. “It’s a beautiful thing, to witness the sharing of resources in the United States with more isolated and financially challenged dioceses in Latin America. We see that these grants are building capacity and, most importantly, these grants fund projects that strengthen and encourage people, allowing them to grow in their faith and share it with others.”
 
The top funded countries for this grant cycle are Colombia, Haiti, Peru, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Nicaragua. In Colombia, youth organizations will receive funding for workshops to help them grow in their faith and work to build peace in the face of local violence caused by guerillas. One grant will support seminarians in Peru that come from very poor families in two of the country’s indigenous ethnic groups. In Brazil, missionaries will receive training and support for their work with the indigenous communities of the Amazon.  
 
Other projects funded at this meeting will focus on the formation of lay catechists and the pastoral care needs created by migration. A few other projects are for education and training for religious communities of sisters and pastoral ministry to families.
 
In addition to the projects funded by the Collection for the Church in Latin America, the subcommittee also approved 6 projects for the reconstruction of the Church in Haiti, totaling $2,933,659. Funding for these projects comes from the special collection for the Church in Haiti taken in 2010.
 
“The Church in Haiti is experiencing a period of rebuilding and renewal after the 2010 earthquake,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the subcommittee’s Haiti Advisory Group. “We need to remain committed to walking with our brothers and sisters in faith, and seeing them through these building projects until they once again have places to worship.”
 
All USCCB aid for reconstruction work in Haiti goes through the Partnership for Reconstruction of the Church in Haiti (PROCHE), an entity of the Haitian Bishops’ Conference.
 
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 online: www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/latin-america/index.cfm.

June 14, 2014
POPE NAMES THREE AUXILIARY BISHOPS FOR NEW YORK ARCHDIOCESE
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named three priests of the Archdiocese of New York as auxiliary bishops of the archdiocese. They include Msgr. John Jenik, 70, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge Parish in the Bronx and vicar for Northwest Bronx; Father John O’Hara, 68, archdiocesan vicar for planning; and Father Peter Byrne, 62, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in New York City.
 
The appointments were publicized in Washington, June 14, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
John Jenik was born in Manhattan, March 7, 1944. In 1962, he entered Cathedral College and in 1964, St. Joseph’s Seminary, in Yonkers, New York, where he earned a bachelor of arts degree. He later attended the University of Ponce, in Puerto Rico, and earned a master’s degree in education from Fordham University.
 
Bishop-elect Jenik was ordained a priest for the New York archdiocese in 1970. In 1974, he was appointed parochial vicar at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in the Bronx and began a near 40-year effort to provide housing for the poor and to fight crime, corruption, drugs and prostitution. In 2006, he was named vicar for the Northwest Bronx.
 
 He was named a monsignor in 1995.
 
 John O’Hara was born February 7, 1946, in Jersey City, New Jersey.  He earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. From 1967-1980, he worked in journalism and broadcasting.
 
Bishop-elect O’Hara attended St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers in 1980, and was ordained a priest for the New York archdiocese in 1984. His first assignment after ordination was as parochial vicar, St. Augustine Parish, New York City. In 1988, he was named parochial vicar of St. Charles Parish, Staten Island, New York. In 1992, he was named parochial vicar of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus Parish, Staten Island. He later was named administrator and then pastor of the parish. In 2013, he was named archdiocesan vicar for planning.
 
Peter Byrne was born in Manhattan, New York, on July 24, 1951. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in history/social studies from Fordham University.
 
Bishop-elect Byrne attended St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers and was ordained a priest for the New York archdiocese in 1984. His first assignment after ordination was as parochial vicar for Holy Family Parish in the Bronx. In 1992, he was named administrator of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, in the Bronx. In 1994, he was named administrator of Immaculate Conception and St. John the Baptist Parishes on Staten Island and became pastor in 1995. In 2013, he was named pastor of the Church of St. Elizabeth, in New York City.

June 11, 2014
BISHOPS APPROVE RENEWAL OF DIRECTORY FOR PERMANENT
DEACONS, RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AD HOC COMMITTEE AND PLAN
FOR FAITHFUL CITIZENSHIP DOCUMENT AT SPRING GENERAL ASSEMBLY


NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), meeting for their June 11-13 Spring General Assembly, approved action items relating to the permanent diaconate, the bishops’ religious liberty efforts and their quadrennial statement on Catholic political responsibility.
 
The bishops voted to permit the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations to seek a renewed recognitio, or approval, from the Vatican for the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. Vatican approval to the text would be for another five-year term.
 
The bishops also approved a second three-year term for the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty and the proposal of a working group for the limited revision of their 2007 document Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship with a new introductory note.
 
All three action items passed in unanimous voice votes. More information on the bishops’ General Assembly is available online: www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/index.cfm

June 6, 2014
ORTHODOX-CATHOLIC THEOLOGICAL CONSULTATION
URGES CHURCH TO LIFT BAN ON ORDINATION OF MARRIED
PRIESTS IN EASTERN CATHOLIC CHURCHES IN NORTH AMERICA

 
WASHINGTON — The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation voted in early June to encourage the “lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.”
 
“This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned,” the consultation said in a statement released June 6.
 
“We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians,” the statement said.
 
The Theological Consultation agreed to the statement at its 86th meeting, June 2-4, at the Saint Methodios Faith and Heritage Center in Contoocook, New Hampshire. The meeting was hosted by the Orthodox co-chair, Metropolitan Methodios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston; the Catholic co-chair is Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis.
 
The Theological Consultation issued the statement on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of the promulgation of the 1929 decree Cum data fuerit from the Vatican Oriental Congregation, which oversees the Eastern Catholic churches.
 
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Eastern Catholic immigrants to North America from Eastern Europe and the Middle East brought with them the tradition of a married priesthood. This Oriental Congregation decree effectively limited future ordinations to celibates, and resulted in divisions in Eastern Catholic communities and even families over this issue.
 
The agreed statement cites two documents of the Second Vatican Council which call for Eastern Catholics to return to their authentic ancestral traditions, and exhorts those men who have received both the sacraments of priestly ordination and marriage “to persevere in their holy vocation.”  Consequently, the Consultation “encourages the lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.
 
At this meeting the Consultation also continued its study of the relationship between the clergy and laity in the two Churches. The members also examined the December 2013 statement by the Patriarchate of Moscow on primacy in the Church and the response by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Consultation also reviewed the recent meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem.
 
The North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation was founded in 1965 and is sponsored by the Committee for Ecumenical Relations of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, the USCCB Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its agreed statements are available on at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/dialogue-with-others/ecumenical/orthodox/orthodox-dialogue-documents.cfm and http://assemblyofbishops.org/about/scobaresources/orthodox-catholic/
 
The full statement follows.
 
Statement of the North American Orthodox/Catholic Theological Consultation
On the Occasion of the Eighty-fifth Anniversary of the Promulgation of the decree Cum data fuerit
 
The year 2014 marks the eighty-fifth anniversary of the promulgation of the decree Cum data fuerit. In 1929, the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental [Eastern Catholic] Churches issued this document, which stated that “priests of the Greek-Ruthenian Rite who wish to go to the United States of North America [sic] and stay there must be celibates” (Article 12).  This statement led to a general prohibition of the ordination of married Eastern Catholics to the priesthood in North America. This resulted in divisions in Eastern Catholic communities and even in families.
 
The Second Vatican Council spoke of the importance of preserving the legitimate traditions of the Eastern Churches. In the decree, Orientalium ecclesiarum, the Council emphasized the need to preserve the “legitimate liturgical rite and … established way of life” of Eastern Catholics. The Council continued, stating that Eastern Catholics “should attain to an even greater knowledge and a more exact use of [this rite and way of life] and if in their regard they have fallen short owing to contingencies of times and persons, they should take steps to return to their ancestral traditions” (par. 6).  Furthermore, the decree Presbyterorum ordinis states, “This holy synod, while it commends ecclesiastical celibacy, in no way intends to alter that different discipline which legitimately flourishes in the Eastern Churches.  It permanently exhorts all those who have received the priesthood and marriage to persevere in their holy vocation” (sec. 16). Nevertheless, until recently, very few married Eastern Catholic men have been allowed to be ordained to the priesthood in North America.
 
With these things in mind, the North American Orthodox/Catholic Theological Consultation encourages the lifting of the restrictions regarding the ordination of married men to the priesthood in the Eastern Catholic Churches of North America.  This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned. We are convinced that this action would enhance the spiritual lives of Eastern Catholics and would encourage the restoration of unity between Catholic and Orthodox Christians.


June 4, 2014
REACTING TO SURGE IN UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN CROSSING
BORDER, USCCB CHAIR CALLS ON ADMINISTRATION, CONGRESS
TO OFFER PROTECTION, ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES

 
WASHINGTON — Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, called upon the Administration and Congress to protect unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America crossing the border and to respond to the root causes of poverty and increasing violence as a long-term solution to the issue.
 
“This is a very complicated problem, but its roots must be addressed, both by our government and governments in the region,” said Bishop Elizondo in June 4 remarks. He added that the recent announcement by the Administration of an inter-agency task force headed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was a “good first step.”
 
“These children are extremely vulnerable to human traffickers and unscrupulous smugglers and must be protected. Over the long term, the increasing violence from gangs and organized crime in their home countries must be addressed and controlled so they can be secure in their homes.”
 
In November, a delegation from the USCCB Committee on Migration, led by Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso, Texas, visited Mexico and Central America to examine the push factors driving child migration to the United States. Their report and policy recommendations can be found at:
www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/upload/Mission-To-Central-America-FINAL-2.pdf
 
“This is an issue which should not become politicized or give cause for negative rhetoric,” said Bishop Elizondo. “It is truly a humanitarian crisis which requires a comprehensive response and cooperation between the branches of the U.S. government. Young lives are at stake.”

June 3, 2014
2014 PETER'S PENCE COLLECTION: BE A WITNESS TO CHARITY
 
WASHINGTON — The Peter’s Pence Collection will be taken up in most U.S. dioceses on the weekend of June 28-29. This collection offers Catholics the opportunity to reach out to the poor and suffering by joining Pope Francis in his charitable works throughout the world.
 
The collection’s 2014 theme is “Be a Witness of Charity” and focuses on the need to show Christ’s love to others. This worldwide collection supports needs of the Church and humanitarian activities by caring for victims of war, oppression, religious persecution and natural disasters. Donations to the collection will also assist seminaries and institutes of Christian formation in developing countries.
 
“The Peter’s Pence Collection is a way for individual Catholics to help Pope Francis as he reaches out to our suffering brothers and sisters around the world,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “The collection offers us a unique way to witness our faith, by joining our charity with the person who is the visible representative of Christ in the world.”
 
Pope Francis has urged people to go out and encounter others. “The Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love,” he said during his Urbi et Orbi message on Easter. “[I]t is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”
 

 
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