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Tuesday, 22 July 2014 09:03

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




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.”

May 30, 2014
U.S. BISHOPS URGE ACTION ON CARBON POLLUTION TO STEM CLIMATE CHANGE
 
WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “to develop standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants and thereby mitigate climate change” in a May 29 letter from Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
 
“The USCCB recognizes the importance of finding means to reduce carbon pollution,” Archbishop Wenski said. “These standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially children, the elderly, as well as poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution emitted from power plants and from the impacts of climate change.” The letter can be found at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/environmental-justice-program/upload/letter-to-epa-from-archbishop-wenski-on-carbon-emissions-standards-2014-05-29.pdf.
 
Archbishop Wenski said that “the best evidence indicates that power plants are the largest stationary source of carbon emissions in the United States, and a major contributor to climate change. Power plants have often been located near low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Air pollution from these plants contributes to respiratory problems, especially in the young and the elderly.”
 
He added that there are “damaging impacts from climate-related events in the United States and across the globe, particularly on poor and vulnerable communities. Beyond the regulations, the United States should exercise leadership for a globally negotiated climate change agreement.”
 
“The communities served by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are already experiencing the tragic consequences of climate change,” Archbishop Wenski said.
 
“Increasingly limited access to water, reduced crop yields, more widespread disease, increased frequency and intensity of droughts and storms, as well as conflict over declining resources – all these are making the lives of the world’s poorest people even more precarious,” he said.
 
Archbishop Wenski urged the EPA to be guided by the following principles, outlined by both the U.S. bishops in their 2001 statement “Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good” and Pope Francis in recent comments.

  • Respect for Human Life and Dignity, “especially that of the poorest and most vulnerable: from children in the womb to the elderly,” who feel “the health impacts of climate change, including exposure to climate-sensitive diseases, heat waves and diminished air quality.”
  • Prudence on Behalf of the Common Good through “wise action to address climate change” now “to protect the common good for present and future generations.”  
  • Priority for the Poor and Vulnerable since “the consequences of climate change will be borne by the world’s most vulnerable people.”
  • Social and Economic Justice. Workers should be protected from negative effects on the workforce resulting from the new standards and should receive assistance to mitigate impacts on their livelihoods and families. Any additional costs that such standards may generate must be distributed fairly, without undue burden on the poor.
  • Care for creation given the call “to be responsible stewards of the earth and to use the gifts we have been given to protect human life and dignity, now and in the future.”
  • Participation of local communities, especially low-income communities, “who should have a voice in shaping these standards based on their local impact.”

 Further information on the environmental efforts of the USCCB Environmental Justice Program can be found at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/environmental-justice-program/

May 29, 2014
MORE THAN 15,000 ACTIVE PERMANENT DEACONS IN U.S. CHURCH
 
WASHINGTON — The 2013-2014 annual survey of permanent deacons in the United States finds the majority are married Caucasians, and the number at retirement age is on the increase. The survey also finds that U.S. permanent deacons reflect a greater ethnic mix than U.S. priests in general but less of a mix than the general Catholic population.
 
The findings are outlined in “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2013-2014.” The study was conducted by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The entire report can be found at www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/diaconate/
 
“Ever since their inception into the modern church in the 1960’s, permanent deacons have served generously in our parishes, institutions and communities and remain special gifts to the Church,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. “As their median age increases, we must take necessary steps to invite others to hear the Lord’s call to serve as deacons.”
 
Major findings from arch/dioceses that responded to the survey note the following:

  • Chicago, with 745 permanent deacons, has the most permanent deacons, followed by Galveston-Houston (418), Los Angeles (407) and Philadelphia (336). Adjusting for Catholic population size, Latin rite dioceses with the lowest ratio of Catholics per permanent deacon include Fairbanks, Alaska (664 Catholics to every deacon), Lexington, Kentucky (722 Catholics per deacon), Amarillo, Texas (748 Catholics per deacon), and Jefferson City, Missouri (787 Catholics per deacon).
  • The 133 Latin Rite responding arch/dioceses (out of 178 arch/dioceses) report a total of 13,866 permanent deacons. The two arch/eparchies (out of 17 arch/eparchies) that responded report 48 permanent deacons. It is estimated that there are as many as 18,725 permanent deacons in the United States today. An estimated 15,191 deacons, or about 82 percent, are active in ministry.
  • The Los Angeles Archdiocese has more than 10,000 Catholics per deacon. Other arch/dioceses with high numbers of Catholics per deacon include El Paso, with more than 26,500 Catholics per deacon, Fresno and San Jose in California, with more than 16,000 Catholics per deacon, and San Bernardino with more than 14,000.
  • On average, responding arch/dioceses and arch/eparchies report 84 deacons in active ministry. The inactive include 15 percent who are retired, one percent suspended from active ministry, one percent on a leave of absence, and two percent inactive for other reasons. 
  • Ninety-three percent of active deacons are currently married. Four percent are widowers, and two percent have never been married. Less than one percent are divorced or remarried.
  • Ninety-four percent of active deacons are at least 50. About a quarter (24 percent) are in their 50s, four in ten (42 percent) are in their 60s, and more than a quarter (28 percent) are 70 or older. Seven in ten active permanent deacons (70 percent) are at least 60. According to Canon Law and the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, the minimum age for ordination to the permanent diaconate is 35. Nine in ten arch/dioceses (91 percent) have a minimum age requirement for acceptance into the diaconate formation program. The minimum age ranges from 29 to 45, with a median age of 32.
  • Dioceses have mandatory ages of retirement from active ministry for deacons. Twelve percent require retirement at age 70; 85 percent at 75, and three percent at another age.
  • Seventy-eight percent of active deacons are non-Hispanic whites. Sixteen percent are Hispanic or Latino. Three percent are African American and 3 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander. One percent of active deacons are Native Americans or members of other racial/ethnic groups.
  • Active permanent deacons are more diverse racially and ethnically than U.S. priests, although not as diverse as the U.S. Catholic population. According to a national random survey of priests conducted by CARA in 2009, 92 percent of U.S. priests are non-Hispanic whites, 3 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 2 percent are African American or black, and 3 percent are Asian American.
  • Six in ten active deacons (60 percent) have at least a college degree. More than one tenth (11 percent) have a graduate degree in a field related to religion or ministry.
  • Eighty-three percent of responding arch/dioceses require post-ordination formation of deacons, with a median of 20 hours of post-ordination formation annually.
  • Nearly three in ten (28 percent) active deacons have a graduate degree.  Almost twice as many have a graduate degree in a field not related to the Diaconate (17 percent) as have one in a religious field such as religious studies, theology, Canon Law, etc., (11 percent). 
  • One third (32 percent) of active permanent deacons have a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. About one in five (18 percent) has some college education or an associate’s degree as their highest level of education. One fifth (20 percent) have a high school degree or GED.  Very few active deacons (1 percent) have less than a high school degree.
  • During the 2013 calendar year, responding arch/dioceses reported 355 deacons retired from active ministry and 237 died. In 2013, 19 deacons requested laicization.
  • Twelve permanent deacons were reported to have left the diaconate to prepare for the priesthood, slightly more than what was reported in 2012 and 2011.
  • About one in six (16 percent) active permanent deacons are financially compensated for ministry.  Deacons compensated for another parish ministerial position (in addition to their diaconal responsibilities) make up the largest proportion among those compensated for their ministry.
  • Among deacons compensated for full-time ministry, three in ten (30 percent) are paid for a full-time ministerial position in a parish, such as director of religious education (DRE) and youth minister.
  • Fewer than one in ten deacons in a compensated ministry (8 percent) serve the diocese in a ministerial position (e.g., diocesan DRE, diocesan youth minister) and the same proportion serve in a non-ministerial position, working, for example, in administration, business, finance.
  • Almost one in four deacons (23 percent) are financially compensated for ministry in hospitals or in prisons. One in ten (10 percent) is financially compensated for the pastoral care of one or more parishes under Canon 517.2, either full-time or part-time.

May 28, 2014
BISHOPS' SPRING GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN NEW ORLEANS TO BE
AVAILABLE BY WEB STREAM, SATELLITE FEED, SOCIAL MEDIA

 
WASHINGTON — The 2014 Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will be broadcast via satellite from New Orleans, June 11-12, to Catholic television outlets and all broadcasters wishing to air it. The satellite feed will run Wednesday, June 11, (10 a.m. CT to 12:30 p.m. CT, followed by media conference, and 2 p.m.-3 p.m. CT followed by media conference), and Thursday, June 12, (9-11:30 a.m. CT followed by media conference).
 
The proceedings will also be live streamed at http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/index.cfm. News updates, addresses and other materials will be posted at that page. For those wishing to follow the proceedings on social media, updates from the meeting will be live tweeted at http://twitter.com/USCCBLive with the hashtag #USCCB14. Updates will also appear at www.facebook.com/usccb.
 
The second day of the general session will include presentations and discussion on two special topics: “Marriage and the Economy” and “the New Evangelization and Poverty.” Information on the meeting agenda is available at www.usccb.org/news/2014/14-074.cfm.
 
Media outlets interested in airing the meeting should contact Ellen McCloskey for satellite coordinates at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

May 28, 2014
FOUNDER OF PHILADEOPHIA COMMUNITY CENTER IS RECIPIENT
OF 2014 CARDINAL BERNARDIN NEW LEADERSHIP AWARD

 
WASHINGTON — A convert to Catholicism dedicated to “serving the immigrant and the stranger” is the recipient of the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. Bethany Welch, Ph.D., is being recognized for her commitment and work to empower immigrants and the poor as founding director of the Aquinas Center, a center of community development created in partnership with the South Philadelphia parish community of St. Thomas Aquinas.
 
Welch will be honored with the New Leadership Award at a reception during the Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in New Orleans, June 11. The award is sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the national anti-poverty program of the U.S. bishops. Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of CCHD, will confer the award.
 
“Bethany Welch is practicing her Catholic faith in an inspiring way. She lives at the service of immigrants and the working poor, those on the margins of our society,” said Bishop Soto. “Her work echoes Pope Francis’ call to reach out to those whom the culture excludes with the evangelii gaudium, the joy of the Gospel. Bethany brings to life the mission of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.”
 
Since graduating from college in 2000, Welch has dedicated herself to helping others, starting a food bank in upstate New York and coordinating federal advocacy efforts there, serving as a VISTA volunteer, and working to secure local CCHD funding in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to organize Catholics to advocate for immigration reform. Her work brought her into contact with many dedicated women religious and laypersons, whose example led her to convert to Catholicism.
 
“I am part of a generation that wants more. I want the Church and my community to ask more of me, to challenge me, to expect a lot,” said Welch.
 
Working with parishioners in South Philadelphia, she led efforts to found the Aquinas Center, re-purposing a former convent to create a space for community organizing, advocacy, service for the immigrant community, urban immersion experiences and revitalization projects, like community gardens. Welch has served in multiple leadership and volunteer positions within the Catholic Church, including service on parish councils, in national Catholic organizations, and with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
 
The Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award honors a Catholic between the age of 18 and 40 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions. It is named for the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, who served as archbishop of Chicago from 1982 till his death in 1996. More information is available online: www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development/cardinal-bernardin-new-leadership-award.cfm

May 21, 2014
USCCB SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN CALLS DECISIONS IN
OREGON AND PENNSYLVANIA TRAVESTIES OF JUSTICE


WASHINGTON — Responding to the ruling by the federal court in Oregon striking down the state’s voter-approved marriage amendment and the ruling by the federal court in Pennsylvania striking down portions of that state’s domestic relations code, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said, “We stand in solidarity with the Oregon and Pennsylvania Catholic Conferences and all the people of both states. These court decisions are travesties of justice.”
 
The federal court decisions in Oregon, May 19, and Pennsylvania, May 20, join a series of federal court decisions since last December striking down state marriage laws recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
 
“Children deserve a mother and a father, and marriage is the only institution that unites children to their own moms and dads,” the Archbishop said. “We need policies and laws that encourage strong, permanent and faithful marriages, and that help young people marry before having children. The ruling in Oregon is another unfortunate example of a serious step backward, but no one is really surprised. As the Oregon Catholic Conference indicated, the state attorney general was derelict in her duties by refusing to defend a law she swore to uphold. Moreover, she even argued against the marriage amendment. Thus, no one defended the law in court. Is this justice, or just a farce?”
 
“The Pennsylvania Attorney General was also derelict in her duties by refusing to defend the state’s marriage laws and making public comments against them. Fortunately, other state officials decided to defend the state’s marriage laws in federal court,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “However, the judge concluded his opinion by saying that it is time to take marriage laws like those under attack in Pennsylvania and ‘discard them into the ash heap of history.’ This is a reckless and irresponsible statement. Marriage deserves better, our democracy deserves better, and our children deserve better.”
 
In the afternoon of May 21, Governor Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania announced that the state would not appeal the federal court’s decision.
 
The statement by the Oregon Catholic Conference is available here: http://www.archdpdx.org/occ/statement%20on%20marriage%20ruling.pdf.
 
The statement by the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is available here: http://www.pacatholic.org/statement-todays-marriage-ruling/.

May 21, 2014
JEWISH, CHRISTIAN, AND MUSLIM NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS
URGE SECRETARY OF STATE KERRY TO CONTINUE
PROVIDING DETERMINED U.S. LEADERSHIP FOR PEACE


WASHINGTON — In a May 20 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 33 religious leaders, including present and past heads of Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations, said “the time for Israeli-Palestinian peace is now,” and that “achieving peace needs your continued, determined engagement.” Signers included 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, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington.
 
The letter comes just ahead of Pope Francis’ May 24-26 visit to the Holy Land, during which he plans to pray for peace.
 
“A two-state agreement in which both peoples will live in peace, security, and mutual recognition represents the only realistic resolution of the conflict,” the letter said. “Over time, developments on the ground and failures of leadership are making that goal more difficult to achieve.”
 
The signers noted their united support for Kerry’s “commitment to achieve peace, drawing on benchmark principles and practical ideas from previous official and informal negotiations that offer possible compromises to resolve all issues in the conflict.”
 
They also assured Kerry that they “continue to be committed to mobilizing public support of our members in synagogues, churches, and mosques across the country for your efforts,” and requested a meeting at an appropriate time “to discuss ways we can help.”
 
The full text of the letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/upload/nili-letter-to-secretary-kerry-on-israeli-palestinian-peace-negotiations-2014-05-20.pdf

May 19, 2014
'PRAYING THE ROSARY WITH POPE FRANCIS' BOOKLET RELEASED
BY U.S. BISHOPS' COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT; ROSARY A DAY,
BLESSED BY HOLY FATHER, TO BE GIVEN AWAY

WASHINGTON—“Praying the Rosary With Pope Francis,” an easy-to-carry booklet of meditations, will be released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Communications, May 19.
 
The USCCB has exclusive rights to distribute the pope’s book in the United States.
 
The booklet offer meditations by Pope Francis on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary and the life of Jesus and Mary. Full color photographs illustrate each of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  
 
The 75-page booklet is available for $7.95 through the USCCB.org bookstore.
 
To promote the book, starting May 19 and going through the end of May, USCCB will give away a rosary blessed by Pope Francis each day. Those who want a chance to win a free rosary can learn more at www.USCCB.org/Rosary

May 15, 2014
ARCHBISHOP KURTZ, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS CELEBRATE
GROWING CLOSENESS BETWEEN CATHOLICS AND ORTHODOX AHEAD OF POPE
FRANCIS, ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW MEETING IN JERUSALEM


WASHINGTON — The historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in January 1964 was a joyful occasion that swept aside centuries of division and has born good fruit, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, in a joint statement, May 15.
 
The statement anticipated the May 25 meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem.
 
Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Demetrios said the growing closeness between Catholic and Orthodox Christians over the last 50 years has allowed them “to speak with one voice” on issues facing society.
 
“We commit ourselves to increased cooperation in these areas, including social, economic, and ethical dilemmas, and we call our people to pray for the success of the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem for the glory of God and the promotion of Christianity in our wounded world,” the statement said.
 
Archbishop Kurtz and Archbishop Demetrios highlighted the lifting of the mutual 1054 excommunications between Rome and Constantinople in 1965, the establishment of ongoing national and international Catholic-Orthodox dialogues and the ongoing work to remove divisions between their Churches as fruits of the initial Jerusalem meeting.
 
Full text of the statement follows:
 
Fifty years ago, in January 1964, two great Christian leaders met in Jerusalem.  Pope Paul VI of Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople swept aside centuries of hostility and embraced one another in the city where Christ was crucified and rose from the dead.  The Pope’s gift of a chalice to the Patriarch and the Patriarch’s gift of an encolpion (an episcopal pectoral medallion with an icon of Christ) to the Pope showed that they were determined to work for the victory of love over enmity, of communion over division.  Reflecting on that encounter immediately after returning to Rome, Pope Paul said, “I had this morning the great happiness of embracing – after a gap of many centuries – the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. We hope that these beginnings will bear good fruit, that the seed will spring up and become fully ripe.”
 
Fifty years later, we rejoice that those beginnings in Jerusalem have indeed born good fruit.  In December 1965 both Churches consigned the 1054 excommunications between Rome and Constantinople to oblivion, erasing them from the memory of the Church.  Meetings between Popes and Ecumenical Patriarchs and other contacts became more common, and led to the establishment of an international theological dialogue between the two churches that met for the first time in 1980 and continues to the present day.
 
Here in the United States, the leaders of our churches followed the example set by the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch and – at the initiative of Archbishop Iakovos of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese – set up a national theological dialogue in 1965, which has functioned uninterruptedly since its establishment.  Joined on the Catholic side by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1997, this theological consultation has issued thirty agreed statements over the years, carefully examining the issues that still divide us and proposing ways to resolve them.
 
We wish to take the opportunity presented by the meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem in May 2014 to reaffirm the dialogue of love initiated by Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras and to continue to strive to remove that which separates us.  We not only express our appreciation of the work of our North American dialogue, but also our joy that our Churches have increasingly been able to speak with one voice on the pressing issues that our society faces today.  We commit ourselves to increased cooperation in these areas, including social, economic, and ethical dilemmas, and we call our people to pray for the success of the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem for the glory of God and the promotion of Christianity in our wounded world.


May 12, 2014
BISHOP PATES BRIEFS BISHOPS AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS ON
U.S. BISHOPS DIALOGUE WITH RELIGIOUS LEADERS IN IRAN

 
WASHINGTON — The chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace will brief bishops and public officials on the details of a dialogue initiated by a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during a trip to Iran, March 11-17. The Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom, the preeminent center of religious scholarship in Iran, hosted the dialogue, which 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 delegation.
 
“We had a productive religious and moral dialogue that we hope will promote understanding between the peoples of Iran and the United States. We are committed to continuing and deepening these discussions in the future in order to contribute to a more just and peaceful world,” said Bishop Pates. “As Pope Francis has said, dialogue is the key to discovering truth and avoiding misunderstanding.”
 
Bishop Pates plans to meet with the Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and officials in Congress, the State Department and the administration this week to share what the delegation learned.
 
The delegation consisted of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington; Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; John Steinbruner, Ph.D., professor of public policy, University of Maryland, and consultant to the USCCB International Justice and Peace committee; Stephen Colecchi, USCCB’s director of International Justice and Peace; and Ebrahim Mohseni, a doctoral candidate at the University of Maryland.
 
Over a four-day period, the delegation engaged in discussions with prominent Ayatollahs and scholars in Qom, including Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei, vice president of the Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers of Qom; Grand Ayatollah Javadi Amoli, Ayatollah Jawad Shahrestani and Ayatollah Ali-Reza Arafi.
 
USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace developed this project over the course of a year and consulted with church and policy experts and public officials. The exchanges focused on the religious and moral dimensions of key public concerns. The project was made possible through the support of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and the hospitality of the hosts in Iran.

May 12, 2014
BISHOPS TO TRAVEL TO CAPITOL HILL MAY 29, TO URGE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TO ACT ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

 
WASHINGTON — Members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’(USCCB) Committee on Migration, including those who celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona April 1, will travel to Capitol Hill, May 29, to urge lawmakers in the House of Representatives to act on immigration reform legislation.
 
“Our trip to the border opened our eyes, even more than previously, to the human tragedies generated by our immigration system,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “Bringing our experience, as well as the solidarity and spirit we felt with residents on both sides of the border, to our lawmakers in Washington is a natural next step.”
 
Bishops participating in the day include Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami; Bishop Elizondo; Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Arizona. The day will include a Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill.
 
“The only real solution to this broken system is action by Congress,” Bishop Elizondo said. “We need a debate and vote on this issue. Inaction is equivalent to supporting the status quo, which Americans agree needs to be changed.”
 
The “Mass for Immigrants and Immigrant Families” will take place on May 29, at 8:30 a.m., at:
 
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church
(Capitol Hill House side)
313 2nd Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20003
 
The bishops will be available for interviews following the Mass and will hold meetings with members of Congress throughout the day. 

May 9, 2014
BISHOP PATES: U.S SHOULD ASSIST NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT IN WAKE OF KIDNAPPINGS

WASHINGTON — The United States should assist the Nigerian government to promote national security and social development and should partner with civil society, especially faith-based institutions, to build social cohesion and stop violence, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The May 9 letter from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, came in response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram.
 
“The Church in Nigeria has called for continuous dialogue among political, military and religious leaders to end the violence, complemented by effective police and military action that brings perpetrators of violence to justice while respecting human and civil rights,” wrote Bishop Pates. Referring to both Christian and Muslim faith-based institutions, he said, “Their efforts will be crucial in counteracting the extremist religious views espoused by Boko Haram.”
 
Bishop Pates said that he has also written to Cardinal John Onaiyekan of Abuja, Nigeria, to express the U.S. bishops’ solidarity. He added that he was encouraged by the efforts of the U.S. government to help Nigeria bring the perpetrators to justice.
 
The full text of Bishop Pates’ letter is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/africa/nigeria/upload/Letter-NSA-Rice-Nigeria-Kidnapping-2014-05-09.pdf

May 7, 2014
U.S. BISHOPS TO MEET IN NEW ORLEANS FOR SPRING GENERAL ASSEMBLY, JUNE 11-13

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will meet June 11-13, in New Orleans, for their annual Spring General Assembly. The opening Mass of the June general session will be celebrated by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, USCCB president, at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis.
 
The second day of the general session will include presentations and discussion on two special topics: “Marriage and the Economy” and “the New Evangelization and Poverty.” Other agenda items include:

  • A presentation on the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family.
  • A presentation on the World Meeting of Families by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia and Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
  • A presentation from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) regarding the relief efforts in the Philippines in the wake of last November’s Typhoon Haiyan.
  • Debate and vote on the request for renewal of the recognitio granted to the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons.
  • Consultation on the cause for canonization of Father Paul Wattson, Servant of God.
  • Update and vote on proposal by working group on Faithful Citizenship.
  • A presentation on the Annual Progress Report of the bishops’ efforts to protect children and young people from sexual abuse, presented by Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., chair of the National Review Board.
  • Debate and vote on the renewal of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty for an additional three year term..
  • An update from Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catechism, on the work of the Subcommittee.
  • An update from Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, on the Subcommittee’s efforts.

May 5, 2014
POPE NAMES MICHIGAN PASTOR TO HEAD CHALDEAN EPARCHY OF ST. THOMAS THE APOSTLE
 
WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend Ibrahim N. Ibrahim from the pastoral governance of the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas the Apostle and has appointed as bishop of the same eparchy Father Frank Kalabat, a priest of the eparchy and until now director of vocations for the eparchy and pastor of St. Thomas Chaldean Church, West Bloomfield, Michigan.
 
The appointment was publicized in Washington, May 3, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
 
Frank Kalabat was born in Beirut in 1970, and moved to the United States in 1989. He was ordained a priest in 1995.
 
Bishop-elect Kalabat began studies for the seminary at St. Francis De Sales Center in San Diego, California, and pursued theological studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit.
 
Assignments after ordination included associate pastor, Mother of God Parish in Southfield, Michigan, 1995-2001; and pastor of St. Thomas Parish, director of vocations and director of the Center for Re-Evangelization, 2001-present.
 
There are an estimated 150,000 Catholics in the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Thomas. The jurisdiction extends to the eastern states of the United States.

May 1, 2014
JUDGE, FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FAMILY THERAPIST
APPOINTED TO NATIONAL REVIEW BOARD

 
WASHINGTON — Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has Named Judge Mary. K. Huffman of Centerville, Ohio; Assistant U.S. Attorney Donald J. Schmid of Granger, Indiana, and Marriage and Family Therapist Nelle Moriarty of Rochester, Minnesota to four-year terms on the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board. Their terms begin in June.
 
Archbishop Kurtz in the appointment letters said that “The National Review Board plays a vital role as a consultative body assisting the bishops in ensuring the accountability of our procedures in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” With a quote from the Charter, he added that “The whole Church, especially the laity, at both the diocesan and national levels, needs to be engaged in maintaining safe environments in the Church for children and young people.”
 
Judge Huffman has served as a judge on the Montgomery County, Ohio Common Pleas Bench since 2002, and is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Dayton School of Law, her alma mater. She currently is president of the Dayton Bar Association.
 
Mr. Schmid has been Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana since 1994. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Notre Dame, where he was an adjunct professor of law, 2001-2008.
 
Nelle Moriarty has been a marriage and family therapist at Bluestem Center for Child and Family Development in Rochester, Minnesota since 1997, and a school counselor in Rochester Catholic Schools since 1992. She has been a trainer for the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” program since 2011, and chairs the diocesan review board of the Diocese of Winona, Minnesota. She holds a master of science in counseling psychology from Mankato State University and has a Specialist Certificate in Human Sexuality from the University of Minnesota.
 

 
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