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Monday, 24 August 2015 14:35

(USCCB News Archives can be accessed at www.usccb.org/news/)
(For interesting commentary on Catholic issues go to http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/)


WASHINGTON — Families, parishes, schools and other Catholic groups can participate in National Bible Week, November 15-21, with resources provided in English and Spanish and available on the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The theme of the observance is “The Bible: A Book for the Family/ La Biblia: Un Libro para la Familia.”
The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum will celebrate its 50th anniversary on November 18, 2015. National Bible Week logos and a variety of resources that highlight the Bible in Catholic life are available online: www.usccb.org/bible/national-bible-week/index.cfm
Resources for families include “Enthroning the Bible in the Family” (Cómo entronizar la Biblia en la familia), “Making the Word of God a Part of Your Home” (Cómo hacer que la Palabra de Dios sea parte fundamental del hogar), “Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Art and Practice of Lectio Divina” (Siempre Antigua, Siempre Nueva: El Arte y la Práctica de Lectio Divina) and “Sharing the Word of God at Home” (Compartiendo la Palabra de Dios en el Hogar).
Resources for parishes include a faith formation session on reading and understanding the Bible, a guide for starting and maintaining a parish Bible study, a family retreat, tips for using the Bible in catechesis and prayer, and a Scripture vigil on the themes of Catholic Social Teaching.
The Confraternity of Christian Doctrine will act as a clearinghouse for activities undertaken by dioceses and other groups, including the Association of Catholic Publishers, the American Bible Society and the Catholic Biblical Federation.

August 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — Creating sufficient, decent work that honors the dignity of families is a necessary component of the challenge facing all Catholics, and it is the Catholic way, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami cited the importance of work in supporting families in the 2015 Labor Day statement, which drew on Pope Francis’ June encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’.
“We must not resign ourselves to a ‘new normal’ with an economy that does not provide stable work at a living wage for too many men and women,” Archbishop Wenski said. “We are in need of a profound conversion of heart at all levels of our lives.” Archbishop Wenski challenged Catholics to “recommit ourselves to our brothers and sisters around the world in the human family, and build systems and structures that nurture family formation and stability in our own homes and neighborhoods.”
Archbishop Wenski noted that even though work is meant for the sake of family, “Wage stagnation has increased pressures on families, as the costs of food, housing, transportation, and education continue to pile up.” He added that “the violation of human dignity is evident in exploited workers, trafficked women and children, and a broken immigration system that fails people and families desperate for decent work and a better life.”
Archbishop Wenski said that, in Laudato Si’, Pope Francis challenges people to see the connections between human labor, care for creation, and honoring the dignity of the “universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.”
The full text of the 2015 Labor Day statement is available online:
English: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/labor-day-statement-2015.cfm
Spanish: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/declaracion-del-dia-del-trabajo-2015.cfm

August 3, 2015
WASHINGTON — “A new national standard to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants is an important step forward to protect the health of all people, especially children, the elderly, and poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution and the impacts of climate change,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of a new final rule limiting carbon pollution, August 3.
Recently finalized carbon pollution standards will reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. Archbishop Wenski is chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“The bishops welcome this important move by the administration to adopt long-awaited standards to mitigate climate change and safeguard public health, which are significant ways to live out our responsibility to care for God’s creation,” Archbishop Wenski said.
In a letter urging Congress not to block the new standards, June 24, Archbishop Wenski emphasized the significance of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, in which the pope “called on all people to care for God’s creation and our common home for the well-being of current and future generations.” The letter is available online.
Archbishop Wenski also expressed support for a national carbon standard in a July 30, 2014, letter.

August 3, 2015

WASHINGTON — Federal funds should be reallocated so women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, said in an August 3 letter to the U.S. Senate. Cardinal O’Malley, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged support for S. 1881, which would withhold federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates.
The full text of his letter follows and is available online.
Dear Senator:
I am writing to ask your support for S. 1881, to withhold federal funds from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates.
It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half a billion taxpayer dollars a year.  This concern has rightly grown in recent years.
The most recent revelations about Planned Parenthood’s willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more “intact” organs, is the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.
The Catholic Church comes to this issue from a perspective rooted in experience.  Catholic charitable agencies and pregnancy help centers have helped countless pregnant women find life-affirming alternatives to abortion.  Our hospitals and other health facilities are second to none in providing quality health care for women.
We support the legislative proposal to reallocate federal funding, so that women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion. It is my sincere hope that you will be able to help advance this goal by supporting S. 1881.

July 29, 2015

WASHINGTON — Congress can promote the common good and contribute to a more just society by ensuring the federal minimum wage promotes family formation and stability, said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Dominican Sister Donna Markham, Ph.D., in a letter to Congress, July 27.

Echoing Pope Francis’ repeated calls for an economy of inclusion, Archbishop Wenski, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Sister Markham, President of Catholic Charities USA, said that “[a]n economy thrives only when it is centered on the dignity and well-being of the workers and families in it. As pastors and service providers, we see every day the consequences when society fails to honor this priority.”

They noted that the federal minimum wage does not support family formation and stability among low-wage workers, which increases demand for social services and reliance on the social safety net to make ends meet. They concluded by affirming that “[p]rotecting low-wage workers and promoting their ability to form and nurture families are shared responsibilities and critical to building a more equitable society.”

The text of the letter can be found online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/labor-employment/usccb-ccusa-letter-to-congress-on-wages-2015-07-27.cfm

July 29, 2015

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Seán O’Malley, OFM Cap., archbishop of Boston and chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB),  responded, July 29, to recent videos showing leaders from Planned Parenthood discussing the provision of fetal organs, tissues, and body parts from their abortion clinics.
Full text of Cardinal O’Malley’s statement follows:
Pope Francis has called abortion the product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the throwaway culture, which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.” The recent news stories concerning Planned Parenthood direct our attention to two larger issues involving many institutions in our society. The first is abortion itself: a direct attack on human life in its most vulnerable condition. The second is the now standard practice of obtaining fetal organs and tissues though abortion. Both actions fail to respect the humanity and dignity of human life. This fact should be the center of attention in the present public controversy.
If the Planned Parenthood news coverage has caused anyone to experience revived trauma from their own involvement in abortion, be assured that any and all persons will be welcomed with compassion and assistance though the Church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.  If you or someone you know would like confidential, nonjudgmental help, please visit www.projectrachel.com.

July 28, 2015
WASHINGTON — A nurse, a chastity educator, and the retired director of the bishops’ national grassroots organization received the 2015 People of Life Award for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement, July 27, during the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. 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 Nancy Valko, Molly Kelly, and Michael Taylor. Over 120 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.
Nancy Valko was recognized for her professional and volunteer advocacy, especially on disability and end-of-life issues. A registered nurse since 1969, she worked for 45 years in critical care, oncology, hospice, home health and other specialties. Valko formerly served as president of Missouri Nurses for Life, board member of the Saint Louis Down Syndrome Association, and co-chair of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Respect Life Committee. She is currently a spokesperson for the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses and serves as a legal nurse consultant with the Valko Group. Having cared for family members as well as patients with chronic conditions, disabilities and terminal illness, her compassionate insight informs her many presentations, media appearances, and articles on medical ethics in Catholic publications and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Valko has become a significant voice in the fight against assisted suicide.
Molly Kelly was honored for her decades as a pro-life speaker and chastity educator. Widowed as the mother of eight children, Molly began speaking in local schools on prenatal development and life affirming options for pregnant girls. While raising her family, she opened their home to five unwed mothers in need of support. Called to address the issue of chastity at first locally, and then in every state as well as Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, she engaged over 50,000 high school youth each year with the message of “saved sex.” Rather than moralizing or teaching merely abstinence, she proposed the beauty of self-control with frankness and affectionate humor. Her popular videos, including “Face-to-Face with Teens: Molly Kelly,” “Teens and Chastity” and “Abortion,” expanded her outreach to countless other youth in public and private schools, equipping them with the tools to make wise, healthy decisions in their relationships.
Michael Taylor was honored for 46 years of pro-life leadership, including 26 at the bishops’ pro-life grassroots mobilization organization, the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment (NCHLA). He holds a doctorate of sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. After Roe v. Wade in 1973, he helped to form NCHLA and to shape the bishops' Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities, which guides Catholic efforts in pro-life education, pastoral care, prayer, and public policy. From 1975-79, he served as associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, where he helped design the annual Respect Life Program still used in dioceses across the country. Taylor established and served as the first executive director of the National Right to Life Committee. He was also appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Family for five years. As director of NCHLA, he oversaw several massive postcard campaigns, in which over 138 million Catholics called upon Congress to enact the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, oppose the “Freedom of Choice Act,” support conscience rights and maintain pro-life measures already in law. Today NCHLA’s online action center is the hub of Catholic grassroots email activity on federal laws and policies, and their website, www.EndRoe.org, is a comprehensive resource for students studying abortion law in the United States.
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.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, and a long-time member of the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, offered his congratulations as well.
Valko, Kelly, and Taylor join 25 other People of Life Award recipients since the Pro-Life Secretariat inaugurated it in 2007. More information on previous recipients and on the People of Life campaign is available at: www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/people-of-life/people-of-life-award.cfm

July 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — The July 24 ruling by Judge Dolly Gee of the Federal District Court of California ordering the Obama administration to release from detention families fleeing violence in Central America was applauded today by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.  The administration has pursued a detention policy for these families –young mothers with children– as a means to deter other families from migrating to the United States.

“I welcome the ruling of the court and urge the administration to comply with it expeditiously,” Bishop Elizondo said July 27. “Appealing the decision would only prolong a flawed and unjust policy of treating this vulnerable population as criminals.”

The judge ruled that the detention of families violated the Flores v. Reno settlement, which concluded that children should be released from detention, or, in some cases, held in the least restrictive settings. She concluded that, consistent with the Flores settlement, the administration should as a first priority release children with their parents, denying the option that children be released and their parents be kept detained.

In April, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio; Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo, Texas; and Bishop Elizondo visited families at the detention center in Karnes City, Texas, calling for an end to the detention of families and the use of alternative forms of detention.

“There are humane alternatives to detention which would ensure that families avail themselves of the court process but also are able to access legal and social service assistance,” Bishop Elizondo said. “I encourage the administration to make use of these programs.”

Community-based alternatives to detention provide case management to released families, enabling them to live in the community but also comply with the legal process. Bishop Elizondo added that families should receive legal orientation presentations before they are released, so they are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

“Hopefully, the court’s decision will end the suffering and further traumatization of these families,” Bishop Elizondo concluded. “The detention of families is unnecessary, inhumane, and unworthy of our nation.”

July 21, 2015
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed three auxiliary bishops to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and accepted the resignation of Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson, 75, another Los Angeles auxiliary. The bishops-elect are Msgr. Joseph V. Brennan, 61, a priest of Los Angeles and until now vicar general and moderator of the curia, Father Robert Barron, 55, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and until now rector of Mundelein Seminary, and Msgr. David G. O’Connell, 61, a priest of Los Angeles and until now pastor of St. Michael Parish in Los Angeles.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, July 21, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Msgr. Joseph V. Brennan has served as vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles since 2013. He was born March 20, 1954, in Van Nuys, California. He completed philosophical and theological studies at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, and was ordained a priest of the archdiocese on June 21, 1980.
Assignments following ordination included parochial vicar of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Los Angeles (1980-1983), St. Linus Parish in Norwalk (1983-1987), and St. Vibiana Cathedral, Los Angeles (1987-1991); as well as pastor of St. Linus in Norwalk (1992-2004) and Holy Trinity Catholic Church, San Pedro (2004-2012). He began service as chaplain to the Southern California Knights of Columbus in 1995, served on the presbyteral council, 2003-2008, and resided at Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles, 2012-2013. He was named a Chaplain of His Holiness (Monsignor) in 2005.
Father Robert Barron has served as rector of Mundelein Seminary and president of University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, since 2012. He was born November 19, 1959, in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a master’s in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington (1982), a licentiate in sacred theology from University of St. Mary of the Lake (1986) and a doctorate in sacred theology from Institut Catholique de Paris (1992). He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in May 1986.
Assignments following ordination included associate pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Church in Park Ridge, Illinois (1986-1989), Institut Catholique de Paris (1989-1992), professor of systematic theology at University of St. Mary of the Lake (1992), visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame (2002) and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome (2007) and scholar in residence at the Pontifical North American College, Rome (2007, 2010, 2011). He was appointed the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary in 2008. While teaching in the United States, he served in parishes throughout the Chicago Archdiocese during weekends. Bishop-elect Barron is fluent in French and has reading and some speaking knowledge of German.
Msgr. David G. O’Connell has served as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Los Angeles since 2003. He was born August 16, 1953, in Cork, County Cork, Ireland, and attended All Hallows College in Dublin. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on June 10, 1979.
Assignments following ordination included associate pastor of St. Raymond Parish, Downey (1979-1983), St. Maria Goretti Parish, Long Beach (1983-1984) and St. Hilary Parish, Pico Rivera (1984-1988); and pastor of St. Frances X. Cabrini Parish, Los Angeles (1988-1998) and Ascension Parish, Los Angeles (1998-2003). He was named a Prelate of Honor (Monsignor) on November 30, 1999. He served on the presbyteral council (1996-2002, 2003-2006), the priests’ pension board (2000-2004) and as dean of the Inglewood Deanery (2011-2014).
Bishop Gerald E. Wilkerson was born October 21, 1939, in Des Moines, Iowa. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on January 5, 1965, appointed an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles on November 4, 1997, and ordained a bishop January 21, 1998.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles comprises 8,762 square miles in Southern California. It has a total population of 11,518,233 people, of whom 4,362,469, or 38 percent, are Catholic. It is the largest diocese by Catholic population in the United States. The archdiocese has four other active auxiliary bishops and two other retired ones.

July 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved 177 grants totaling more than $5.2 million in aid to finance pastoral, educational, and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Funding for these grants comes from the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
The projects focus on providing scholarships; rebuilding churches, schools, and orphanages; programs for youth and children; and outreach to the poor. The projects will be implemented in 23 countries, covering a geographical area spanning Eastern Europe into Central Asia. The Subcommittee evaluated and approved grant proposals on June 9 during the bishops’ annual spring General Assembly in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Recovery from Soviet rule in Central and Eastern Europe has been a slow and challenging process,” said Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “Catholics in this area are in great need of our help. The Church is doing much to support the rebuilding not only of the churches and structures, but also the lives of individuals both spiritually and physically.”
Caritas Georgia received a grant to support its soup kitchen in Tbilisi, Georgia, where they provide food for poor families, children, individuals with mental and physical disabilities, and internally displaced persons. The soup kitchen serves 194 people daily.
In Kazakhstan, in the Diocese of Astana, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate have provided food, clothing and medicine to the poor since 2006. Their ministry has more than doubled and now assist about 120 people in need. This grant will ensure that they continue providing those services, plus coal and firewood during the harsh wintertime.
The Subcommittee also approved nearly $520,000 in scholarship grants for 68 students from Central and Eastern Europe. These scholarships are provided for priests, religious, and lay people to continue their education, typically at the doctoral level. After they complete their studies, they return to their local parishes to serve the pastoral needs of their home communities.
“I am grateful for all who have so generously contributed to this collection,” said Archbishop Cupich. “Your support makes these grants possible. There is a great need, and your prayers, along with your financial support go a long way to strengthen the Church in this area and provide a foundation to build upon for future generations.”
The Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe oversees the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. The national date for this collection is on Ash Wednesday. However, some dioceses take it up at other times during the year. More information on the work of the Subcommittee is available online www.usccb.org/ccee.

July 16, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Catholic Education, applauded recent action by the Senate and the House to reauthorize the Elementary Secondary and Education Act (ESEA). The Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), July 16. The House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (HR 5), July 8. Both bills contain significant improvements for providing equitable services for students and teachers in religious, private and independent schools.   
“This is wonderful news and a testament to what can be achieved when we put the needs of children first,” Archbishop Lucas said. “The members of Congress, by passing legislation to reauthorize ESEA have put us one step closer towards restoring equity and ensuring that all children are afforded the educational services, benefits and opportunity our government has to offer, regardless of the type of school they attend.”
Since 1965, ESEA has upheld the principle that students in need, regardless of whether they attend a public or private school, are entitled to an equitable share of services and benefits.

July 16, 2015
WASHINGTON — The bishops chairing two committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) renewed the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”
“Our faith tradition offers a unique perspective on crime and punishment, one grounded in mercy and healing, not punishment for its own sake. No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so. Today, we have this capability,” wrote Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
The bishops cited progress over the last decade, including several states abolishing the death penalty, other states enacting moratoria, and death sentences being at their lowest level since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. The bishops also noted Pope Francis’ call for an end to the use of the death penalty.
“Pope Francis, like his predecessors, provides a clear and prophetic voice for life and mercy in calling for all people of good will to work to end the use of the death penalty,” Archbishop Wenski said of the message. “In anticipation of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States in September, we join our voices with his and continue our call for a culture of life. As a people of life, we say it is time for the U.S. to abandon use of the death penalty.”
The full text of the message is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/wenski-omalley-end-of-death-penalty-2015-07-16.cfm

July 14, 2015

WASHINGTON — The “momentous agreement” reached between the United States and its partners with Iran over Iran’s nuclear program is a “significant achievement” that Congress should support, said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a July 14 letter to Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote: “It is no small achievement that the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, China, Germany and France have reached this agreement with Iran.”
The deal aims to curb Iran’s development of nuclear weapons while allowing the country to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
“The United States and its international partners have taken a remarkable step with Iran in reaching this agreement,” wrote Bishop Cantú on behalf of the committee. “We encourage Congress to support these efforts to build bridges that foster peace and greater understanding. In the words of Pope Francis, may the negotiated framework ‘be a definitive step toward a more security and fraternal world,’ a goal we all share.”
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/iran/cantu-welcomes-iran-nuclear-agreement-2015-07-14.cfm

July 8, 2015

WASHINGTON — Congress should address challenges faced by the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year from prisons, jails and detention centers. This was the message of the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA in a July 8 letter supporting the Second Chance Act (S. 1513).
“Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. These include finding housing and stable employment, high rates of substance abuse, physical and mental health challenges and social isolation,” wrote Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Dominican Sister Donna Markham in a July 8 letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Archbishop Wenski and Sister Markham wrote that, without necessary support services, these individuals have an increased chance of re-offending.
“The Second Chance Act supports much needed programs in government agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide employment assistance, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, mentoring, victim support and other services to individuals returning to the community from prison or jail,” they wrote.
The full text of the letter is available online: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/letter-to-senate-judiciary-committee-on-second-chance-act-2015-07-08.cfm

July 7, 2015
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America approved funding for 228 projects, totaling more than $3.3 million. The funds will be disbursed as grants to aid the pastoral work of the Church in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The top funded countries in this grant cycle are Colombia, Peru, Haiti, Mexico, and Ecuador. Projects include training of lay catechists, youth ministries, evangelization and communication. The projects were approved at the Subcommittee’s meeting on June 8 in St. Louis, Missouri.
The diocese of Managua in Nicaragua received a grant to strengthen its sign-language ministry, which aims to better serve the needs of hearing-impaired Catholics and facilitate their access to receive the sacraments, attend Mass and fully participate in the life of the parish. Participants will learn sign language for religious themes, attend religious education classes and participate in a retreat.
The Subcommittee also approved projects to support the cultural and religious heritage of those of African descent living in Latin America and the Caribbean. One project in the Archdiocese of Cali in Colombia will use music and dance to help children, adolescents and adults live out their faith within their culture. Topics of the various workshops include the history of musical instruments, Afro-Colombian music history, and faith and culture in the New Evangelization. Another project will fund a youth congress in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and Subcommittee chairman, recently visited the City of Cartagena in Colombia, the site of the tomb of St. Peter Claver and several projects the Subcommittee supports in that archdiocese. “The people of Latin America and the Caribbean have a rich culture and heritage, and grants in this ministry area support projects that deepen their faith,” Bishop Elizondo said. “The generosity of Catholics in the United States is inspiring and so valuable for our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean. I am grateful for all of the support given to these projects to foster a growth in faith.”
In addition, the subcommittee also approved $346,000 for 32 pastoral projects for Haiti and $574,750 to four reconstruction grants for Church buildings in Haiti. Funding for these projects comes from the special collection for Haiti taken in 2010. 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.
“Much has been achieved in Haiti in providing both the immediate humanitarian aid and in long-term support for reconstruction,” said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the subcommittee’s Haiti Advisory Group. “But there is a still a lot of work to be done. We will continue to stand with the people of Haiti and work with them through the reconstruction process,” he added.
The Collection for the Church in Latin America is scheduled for the fourth Sunday in January, but some dioceses take it up on other dates. More information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America and the projects it supports can be found at: www.usccb.org/latin-america.

June 30, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on the Church in Africa approved 47 grants for a total of $1,205,236.00 to support pastoral projects for the Church in Africa. The Subcommittee evaluated and approved the grant proposals at a meeting held in conjunction with the USCCB Spring General Assembly in St. Louis, Missouri.

The funded projects focus on providing pastoral support to the rapidly growing Church in Africa. This often includes supporting the Church’s response in caring for migrants, refugees, youth and children, and those living in extreme poverty. Of extreme importance and a primary focus are programs for catechetical and leadership formation as well as those that build faith and strengthen families.

“The Church in Africa is fully alive and developing at a rapid pace. It is vital to assist Catholics there by providing urgently needed pastoral support,” said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The people of Africa greatly benefit from proper training in pastoral care, leadership, and management. The support from the Church in the United States is integral to helping the Church in Africa become self-sustaining and meet the spiritual needs of its people.”

In Angola, the Archdiocese of Luanda and the Dioceses of Viana and Caxito received a grant for a formation program of the laity in the pastoral care of migrants and itinerant people. With this grant, these dioceses will provide training, workshops, and retreats for pastoral workers, formation and training for migrant communities, and preparation of materials in different languages. It will help parishes to combat xenophobia and welcome and integrate foreigners into local parishes.

A grant was awarded in Ethiopia to support formation and training in the pastoral care of families. In light of the upcoming Synod on the Family, this program will provide resources and workshops to fully understand Christian marriage and the Church’s teaching on marriage. Topics will include challenges facing families in Ethiopia, understanding the sacrament of marriage as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, formation of laity on marriage and teaching children to grow in faith, and providing pastoral care for married couples.

The Diocese of Cape Palmas in Liberia received a grant to establish a Catholic women’s organization. This project will help promote the rights and dignity of women in the Church and society, unite Catholic women to work collaboratively, develop leadership skills and awareness of the country’s civil law, and promote natural family planning and healthy lifestyles.

These grants are funded by donations to an annual collection for the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. The Subcommittee on the Church in Africa oversees the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. The Subcommittee also 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 here.

June 30, 2015
WASHINGTON—Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to the United States is “a source of joy and gratitude,” said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in response to the release of the full visit schedule by the Vatican, June 30. Pope Francis will visit Washington, New York and Philadelphia, September 22-27. His visit will include addresses to Congress and the United Nations, the canonization of Blessed Junípero Serra and will culminate in his participation in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
“It’s a source of joy and gratitude for U.S. Catholics that Pope Francis will be visiting us this September,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president. “We look forward to journeying with him, whether in person, in prayer or via the media, as he goes out to the peripheries and shows us what it means to live as brothers and sisters in one family.”
More information on the apostolic journey to the United States is available at www.uspapalvisit.org.
June 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court decision, June 26, interpreting the U.S. Constitution to require all states to license and recognize same-sex “marriage” “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The full statement follows:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.

June 24, 2015

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, urged Congress to answer Pope Francis’ call to protect creation and oppose legislation and appropriation riders that would reverse efforts to develop a national standard to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants.
“The U.S. bishops stand united with the Holy Father in his call to protect creation,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, in letters to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, June 24.
Archbishop Wenski emphasized the importance of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, released last week where Pope Francis “called on all people to care for God’s creation and our common home for the well-being of current and future generations.”
“Our Conference has long spoken out on the importance of prudent action to address the growing impact of global climate change,” wrote Archbishop Wenski. “As government leaders, we ask you to resist any effort to impair the development of a national carbon standard and instead to support our nation’s ability to address this urgent global challenge confronting the human family.”
His letter to Congress is available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/letter-to-congress-on-carbon-standards-2015-06-24.cfm

Archbishop Wenski along with Bishop Pates, former Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace also wrote a previous July 30, 2014 letter to the EPA expressing support for a national carbon standard: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/environmental-justice-program/upload/Comments-to-EPA-from-Archbishop-Wenski-Bishop-Pates-on-carbon-pollution-standards-2014-07-30.pdf

June 22, 2015

WASHINGTON — In comments made in conjunction with World Refugee Day, observed 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 U.S. officials to do more to respond to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq.
“This is a crisis that continues to grow and has no end in sight,” said Bishop Elizondo. “We can no longer turn our heads away from the human suffering of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East.”
The refugee crisis stemming from conflict in Syria and Iraq has reached historic proportions, with close to 15 million persons forced from their homes, many at risk of death. 7.6 million Syrians are internally displaced and as many as 4 million reside in neighboring countries or have fled to Europe or other parts of the world, while over 3 million Iraqis are internally displaced.
Bishop Elizondo specifically cited the plight of religious minorities fleeing ISIS in both Syria and Iraq, particularly Christians. “It is clear that religious minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, are being targeted and need our moral and material support,” Bishop Elizondo said.  “The goal of ISIS is to eliminate these minorities from the region, a goal which should be strongly opposed and defeated.”
Bishop Elizondo cited steps the United States could take to assist the suffering, including an increase in resettlement opportunities for the most vulnerable refugees and additional assistance to displaced populations. To date, the United States has resettled less than 1,000 Syrian refugees.
“These refugees are themselves victims of terror and deserve protection. Our nation must take leadership in protecting them so that the rest of the world follows suit,” Bishop Elizondo concluded.

June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, gave their strong support for the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which is a federal non-discrimination act.
The First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) would prohibit the federal government from discriminating against individuals and organizations based upon their religious beliefs or moral convictions that marriage is the union of one man and one woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.  For such individuals and organizations, the Act provides broad protections, including in the areas of federal contracts, grants, employment, and tax-exempt status. The bills were introduced June 17 in the U.S. Senate (S. 1598) by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2802) by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID).
The chairmen, in a joint letter of support to each of the sponsors, noted that “persons who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman are increasingly having their religious liberties jeopardized and even forfeited.”  Noting some examples of efforts to discriminate on the bases of religious beliefs regarding marriage and human sexuality, the Archbishops said, “It is becoming apparent that some who promote marriage redefinition do not support the coexistence and tolerance of different ideas in a pluralistic society but instead have a ‘comply or else’ agenda.”  Further, they indicated, “As a non-discrimination Act, FADA would protect these individuals and organizations from federal government discrimination.”
The Act refers to the recent exchange at the U.S. Supreme Court when the marriage cases were being argued, noting that “when asked whether a religious school could lose its tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, the Solicitor General of the United States represented to the United States Supreme Court that ‘[i]t’s certainly going to be an issue’.”  Aware of this atmosphere, the chairmen in their letters of support for FADA said, “In a climate of increasing intolerance, these protections are very much needed.”
Encouraging passage of the Act, the Archbishops said, “The leadership of our Church will continue to promote and protect the natural truth of marriage as foundational to the common good.”
The letters of support for and a backgrounder on the First Amendment Defense Act are available at www.usccb.org/defenseofmarriage/defense-of-marriage-in-the-news.cfm.
June 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), responded to the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with “grief and deep sadness,” June 19. He said the Catholic community “stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world.”
Full text of the statement follows:
It is with grief and deep sadness that we learned of the tragic murder of Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and eight members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. There have been far too many heartbreaking losses in the African-American community this year alone. Our prayers are with all those suffering from this heinous crime.
We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address racism and the violence so visible today. As the U.S. Catholic Bishops said in our pastoral letter on racism, “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.”
The Catholic community stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world. We must continue to build bridges and we must confront racism and violence with a commitment to life, a vision of hope, and a call to action.

June 18, 2015

WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on ecology, Laudato Si’, June 18.
Full text of Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows:
Statement on the Occasion of the Promulgation of Laudato Si’
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz
Archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

With an open heart and gratitude I, along with my brother bishops in the United States, welcome Laudato Si’. In this beautiful and extensive treatment on care for our common home, the Holy Father calls all people to consider our deep and intertwined relationships with God, our brothers and sisters, and the gifts that our Creator has provided for our stewardship.
Drawing extensively from the teaching of his predecessors, the Pope teaches that care for the things of the earth is necessarily bound together with our care of one another, especially the poor.  This interdependency extends from the deep respect due every human person to all living beings and to the earth where we make our home. “Each creature has its own purpose…and the entire material universe speaks of God’s love.”84 The Pope uses the term “integral ecology” to draw our attention to a rich treasury of thought that people of faith bring with them to conversations about the human person and our environment. He states, “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.”229
In Laudato Si’, the Holy Father invites us to reflect deeply on all points of human activity, whether we consider care for creation at the level of our individual choices or in the public square. The need for urgent action is clear and he appeals to us to become “painfully aware” of what is happening to the world and “to grow in solidarity, responsibility and compassionate care.”210 The Holy Father makes it clear that we were given the earth as a gift from our Creator. It is our responsibility to avoid contributing to a culture of acquisitiveness, individualism, or exploitation.
Pope Francis repeatedly urges us to renewed and urgent action and honest dialogue about our environment – both social and ecological. “The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together”48, both of which disproportionately affect our poorest brothers and sisters. Reflecting on inner city slums, lack of clean drinking water, and a consumerism mentality, Pope Francis asks “what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?”160 This question is at the heart of this encyclical and rightfully calls us all to work harder against the challenges the human family faces today.
Genuine efforts to true dialogue will require sacrifice and the confronting of good faith disagreements, but let us be encouraged that at “the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us…he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward.”245 May we help answer Pope Francis’ call in this encyclical, receiving his message and growing in responsibility towards the common home that God has entrusted to us all.
Numbers are reflective of the paragraph numbers in Laudato Si’.

June 11, 2015

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. bishops, gathered for their annual Spring General Assembly, voted on and approved a draft of their priorities for the 2017-2020 strategic plan and the “Program of Priestly Formation, 5th edition.” They also voted on English translations of the Old and New Testament Canticles.
In a 165-14-3 vote, the bishops approved a working draft of the Conference’s strategic priorities for their 2017-2020 planning cycle. Input shared by the bishops from the floor will be provided to the various committees as they write the final version. The resulting draft will be presented for approval by the full body of bishops at the November 2015 General Assembly. The priorities are:

  • Family and marriage
  •  Evangelization
  • Religious Freedom
  • Human Life and Dignity
  • Vocations and ongoing formation

The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations sought the approval of the renewal of the recognitio granted to the “Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition,” for an additional five-year period without any changes to the norms. The item was approved in a 179-1-1 vote.
The “Program of Priestly Formation, Fifth Edition,” is the set of national norms issued by the USCCB and confirmed by the Vatican that govern the education and formation of seminarians as priests in the United States. These national norms are based upon the universal norms for priestly formation that come from the Holy See. The accreditation of each U.S. Catholic seminary is based upon these national norms.  Approval of this item requires the majority vote of the members present and voting.
Also presented for a vote was the inclusion of the revised Canticles for the Liturgy of the Hours for use in U.S. dioceses. The Committee on Divine Worship submitted this item which was short of approval by 1 vote in a 165-5-3 vote. Bishops able to vote but not present will be canvassed for votes.
The revised English translations of the Old and New Testament Canticles would be used in the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours. This proposed revision has been prepared by Conception Abbey. The new translation renders the texts of the Old and New Testament Canticles in a style similar to the Revised Grail Psalms, with emphasis on sprung rhythms and faithful translation. The Canticles will help establish a unified style and meter among the tests included in the future revision of the Liturgy of the Hours.
Approval of this text requires an affirmative vote by two-thirds of the Latin Church USCCB members, with subsequent Vatican recognitio by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

June 10, 2015

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Catholic University of America hosted as part of its annual meeting an in-depth conversation with leadership of Black Pentecostal congregations. The conversation centered on the impact of poverty on African American families. Noted sociologist and author, Dr. Jacqueline Rivers presented an overview of African American family concerns and offered suggestions for church pastors and community leaders.
Bishop Jaime Soto, Chair of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development said “The debate of culture versus economics looms all around us but our people struggle because of a lack of hope and could care less about the winner of that argument.”
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, President of the USCCB who attended the meeting noted, “The Black family is historically acknowledged as being the reason the African American community has been able to sustain some of the harshest treatment in the history of humanity”.
The meeting was attended by Catholic bishops and Black Evangelical bishops, ministers’ from around the country and distinguished academics. The meeting highlighted the 50th anniversary for the Moynihan report, a report that spoke of the importance of African American family stability.

June 10, 2015

ST. LOUIS — The solidarity of the Catholic Church in the United States with the Church in Haiti goes beyond the over $100 million contributed by U.S. parishioners after the 2010 earthquake. It includes the development work of CRS, twinning relationships and the supporting of parish, diocesan and national efforts through the Collection for the Church in Latin America, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) president and the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Church in Latin America, in a presentation to the Spring General Assembly.  The presentation included an 8-minute video, which will be available online, showing the progress made and covered the work of Catholic Relief Services and many of the Church buildings being rebuilt or already dedicated.  
“The money Catholics in the United States gave us in trust has been well spent and we can show a lot for it. The people CRS served especially after the earthquake were comforted and helped. The structures we have built and continue to build are all hurricane and earthquake resistant and are now housing priests, sisters, brothers and serving as places of community building and worship,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and subcommittee chairman, in his update to the bishops. “We also need to start reflecting on what our next steps will be to continue helping the people and the Church in Haiti. It seems to me that we cannot say, ‘Good job, well done, and that is it!’ This rather is the time to say, ‘what is next? How do we keep this momentum going?’”
“This is an appropriate time for us to receive an update about all the progress that has been made and begin to consider options about how to continue supporting the humanitarian and reconstruction needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of USCCB, in remarks before the update given by Bishop Elizondo. A USCCB delegation, including Archbishop Kurtz, visited several rebuilding projects in Haiti and attended the Vatican’s Day of Reflection on Solidarity with Haiti in January.
Bishop Elizondo highlighted the ongoing pastoral work supported in Haiti, stating, as an example, that the Subcommittee had approved a grant to help fund the National Youth Congress to take place in August that will help young people celebrate their faith and find new ways to be missionary disciples.
Emergency relief provided by CRS includes more than 10 million meals provided to over a million people, 10,000 transitional shelters, access to medical treatment for 71,000 patients, and help for 100,000 individuals to resettle in their communities. In addition to having led the rebuilding of the Saint Francis de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince, among its ongoing long-term projects, CRS is helping to train doctors, nurses and technicians, and to improve education and literacy among adults and children.
USCCB has awarded “nearly $23 million to 29 reconstruction projects through PROCHE, the partnership for reconstruction established with the Church in Haiti and sister churches. Ten buildings have been completed and there are 35 projects currently in progress. And this has been accomplished—although slowly and with great difficulty at times—with transparency and accountability,” said Bishop Elizondo.
The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the Collection for the Church in Latin America and the special collection for the Church in Haiti as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information on these collections and the support to the Church in Haiti can be found at www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/latin-america/.

June 11, 2015

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. bishops approved a statement on race relations delivered by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), at their annual Spring General Assembly, June 10.
The full statement follows:
Statement of Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 10, 2015

Gathering here in the city of St. Louis, so near to Ferguson, and looking ahead to Baltimore in November, I cannot help but think of recent events that have taken place around our beloved country.  We mourn those tragic events in which African Americans and others have lost their lives in altercations with law enforcement officials. These deaths have led to peaceful demonstrations, as well as violent conflicts in the streets of our cities. In every instance, our prayer for every community is that of our Lord in Saint John’s Gospel, “that they all may be one.”
Sadly, there is all too often an alienation of communities from those sworn to protect them. I respect the sacrifices made by police officers throughout the nation, who in their daily work are placed in harm’s way.  Let us pray that they suffer no harm as they carry out their duties, and that they always be guided in good and right action as they serve.
We join our voices with civic and religious leaders in pledging to work for healing and reconciliation. Our efforts must address root causes of these conflicts. A violent, sorrowful history of racial injustice, accompanied by a lack of educational, employment and housing opportunities, has destroyed communities and broken down families, especially those who live in distressed urban communities. Confronted by these realities, the familiar words of Blessed Pope Paul VI still resonate and continue to call us to action in our day: if you want peace, work for justice.
The Church has been present in these communities, active in education, health care and charities. Positive efforts are being made in collaboration with ecumenical and interfaith groups in communities where confrontations between individual citizens and law enforcement have taken place. Pope Francis calls each of us to work for a culture of encounter and has encouraged all people of good faith to reach out to those in their community and be truly welcoming of all.  Let the rich cultural diversity of our local communities be woven together in charity, hospitality and service to one another, to join us together as sisters and brothers.
The 1979 U.S. Bishops’ pastoral letter, “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” named racial prejudice as a grave sin that denies the truth and meaning of the Incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the words of that letter still ring true: “Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church.” The bishops called for decisive action to eradicate racism from society and considerable progress has been made since 1979. However, more must be done. Let us again call upon our Catholic people to pray frequently in their homes and in their churches for the cause of peace and racial reconciliation.
Here we are in St. Louis where, in 1947, Cardinal Joseph Ritter integrated Catholic schools well before the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It shows that the Catholic Church can be at the forefront of promoting justice in racial tensions. It is time for us to do it again. I suggest five concrete ways in which the Catholic community can commit to ending racism and promoting peace, justice and respect for all persons:

  • 1. Pray for peace and healing among all people.
  • 2. Study the Word of God and the social teaching of the Church in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the dignity
        of all persons.
  • 3. Make a sincere effort to encounter more fully people of different racial backgrounds with whom we live, work and
  • 4. Pursue ways in which Catholic parishes and neighborhoods can be truly welcoming of families of different racial
        and religious backgrounds.
  • 5. Get to know our local law enforcement officers. Let them know of our support and gratitude. And encourage
        young people to respect all legitimate authority.

Sadly, the present racial tension in the United States is not something new. It is the most recent manifestation of a relationship as old as the history of our nation, one marred by the tragedy of human slavery. Promoting peace and reconciliation is the only way forward. And we must constantly strive to achieve these goals, trusting in the Lord to lead and guide us, accompanied by his merciful love. May He help all of us to recognize the dignity inherent in every human being, for God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.”

June 4, 2015

WASHINGTON — The 2015 Annual Peter’s Pence Collection will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of June 27-28. Through this collection, Catholics have an opportunity to support the humanitarian and charitable works of Pope Francis that reach out to the marginalized and poor.
The theme for the collection is “Be a Witness of Charity,” emphasizing the need to show the mercy of God to others. Donations to this annual worldwide collection help the pope support victims of war and religious persecution, natural disasters, and those suffering around the world.  
“Through the Peter’s Pence Collection individuals can join with Pope Francis in providing much needed care and relief to those who find themselves suffering or on the margins.” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the Committee on National Collections of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “This collection is a way to be a witness to the love of Christ in unity with Catholics all around the world.”
More information about the Peter’s Pence Collection can be found at http://www.usccb.org/catholic-giving/opportunities-for-giving/peters-pence/collection/index.cfm


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