Category Archives: National News

USCCB Releases Written Report and Recommendations On Promoting Peace in Our Communities

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—The USCCB Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities has released a written version of the report. The report includes findings and recommendations for bishops to continue the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace in communities across the U.S. through concrete action, ongoing dialogue and opportunities for encounter. The USCCB Special Task Force to Promote Peace in our Communities can be found at http://www.usccb.org/racism.

As part of its convening, the special Task Force conducted an in-person listening session in October 2016 involving bishops from communities hit hard by violence and unrest. Participants in the listening session highlighted the strong need for candid conversations about the nature of challenges facing communities, while stressing the need for sustained work in order to move toward lasting solutions and healing on matters of race. Beyond the initial listening session, additional interviews were conducted with key individuals including law enforcement officials and a student who demonstrated at Ferguson and North Charleston. A central component of the Task Force’s findings also stresses the significance of prayer as well as ecumenical and interfaith collaborations, along with building solid and unique models of engagement, particularly for at-risk young people. The important role of bishops in helping to convene these conversations is also emphasized in the report.

General recommendations from the report to help promote peace in our communities include prayer, encountering others through local dialogues, parish-based and internal diocesan conversation and training, and fostering opportunities of encounter toward empowering communities to identify and begin to address challenges as a way to begin community healing.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, appointed the Special Task Force in July, 2016 after incidents of violence and racial tension spread throughout communities across the United States.

As part of the convening of the group, a national Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities took place on September 9, 2016. The day of prayer was celebrated on the feast day of St. Peter Claver (1580-1654), a Spanish Jesuit priest who worked tirelessly to care spiritually and materially for Africans who were being sold as slaves.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta and Chair of the special Task Force, initially presented a summary of the findings of the task force at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fall General Assembly in November, 2016 in Baltimore.

The Task Force also included numerous bishop consultants whose jurisdictions have experienced extreme violence, or who otherwise bring special insight or experience to bear on related questions. A number of lay consultants with relevant expertise also participated. The Task Force has provided additional resources and support at http://www.usccb.org/racism

From the Pope: Pope’s Letter to Young People

Pope’s Letter to Young People
on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Preparatory Document
of the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops

My Dear Young People,

I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the center of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.

I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go,” to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfillment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

When God said to Abraham, “Go!,” what did He want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abraham received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?
But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee your native land. Your cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked Him: “Teacher [...] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend His hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “Yes!” That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throwaway culture,” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, [...], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).

Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).

With paternal affection,
FRANCIS
Vatican City, January 13, 2017

Pope Remembers the People of Aleppo and Condemns Recent Terrorist Attacks

from the Vatican Information Services

“Every day I am close, above all in prayer, to the people of Aleppo,” said the Pope after praying the Angelus. “We should not forget that Aleppo is a city where people live: families, children, elderly, sick people … Lamentably, we have grown accustomed to war, to destruction, but we should not forget that Syria is a country full of history, of culture, of faith. We cannot accept that all of this be negated by war, which is an accumulation of abuse and falsehood. I appeal to all to make efforts towards a choice in favour of civilization: no to destruction, yes to peace, yes to the people of Aleppo and of Syria.”

“We also pray for the victims of brutal terrorist attacks that in the last few hours have struck various countries. The places are different but unfortunately the violence that sows death and destruction is one and the same, as is the response: faith in God and unity in human and civil values. I would like to express my special closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II [Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church] and his community; while praying for the dead and the wounded.

Francis went on to mention the beatification today in Vientiane, Laos, of Mario Borzaga, a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Paul Thoj Xyooj, a lay catechist, and fourteen companions, killed in hatred of the faith. “Their heroic fidelity to Christ can be an encouragement and an example for missionaries, and especially for catechists, who in missionary lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work, for which the whole Church is thankful. Let us think of our catechists who work hard, and do such a good job. Being a catechist is a great thing: it means bearing the message of the Lord so that it grows in us.” He invited the faithful in St. Peter’s Square to applaud catechists.

Finally, he greeted the pilgrims from different countries, emphasizing that his first greeting was reserved for the children and young people of Rome, present in the Square for the traditional blessing of their figurines of the Baby Jesus, organized by parish oratories and Catholic schools. “Dear children, when you pray before the Nativity scene with your parents, ask the Baby Jesus to help all of us to love God and our neighbor. And remember, pray for me too, as I pray for you. Thank you.”

He also greeted the professors of the Catholic University of Sydney, the choir of Mosteiro de Grijo in Portugal, and Italian faithful from Barbianello and Campobasso. He concluded by asking the children in the square to sing a song for him, and wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch.

A Statement from the USCCB President on Bombings and Church Collapse

WASHINGTON– Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers condolences, prayers and words of support for those involved in this weekend’s bombings in Cairo, Turkey and Somalia as well as the Church roof collapse in Nigeria.

As we enter the Third Week of Advent, we are reminded that even the shadow of violence and terrorism cannot obscure the light of our coming Savior. St. Mark himself was no stranger to the persecution of Christians. Those who gathered to worship the Lord at his cathedral this morning in Cairo are family to us. We draw near to our Coptic brothers and sisters in prayer, sorrow and comfort. And we are confident in the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The lives lost strengthen the faith of Christians everywhere and offer a testament to the great privilege of worshiping God in peace. This weekend has witnessed the darkness of violence that reaches into many places, including Turkey, Somalia and the church building collapse in Nigeria. But the light still shines! Today let us offer a special prayer for all those facing persecution.

Share the Joy of the Arrival of the Redeemer

from Vatican Information Services

Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.” It is not a superficial or purely emotional joy that the Apostle Paul exhorts us to,” observed the pope. “It is not worldly, nor is it the joy of consumerism. … It is a more authentic joy, whose flavor we are called to rediscover. The flavor of true joy. It is a joy that touches the intimacy of our being, as we await Jesus, who has already come to bring salvation to the world. … The liturgy of the Word offers us the right context for understanding and living this joy. Isaiah speaks of the desert, the parched land, the steppe; the prophet has before him feeble hands, weak knees, frightened hearts, the blind, the deaf and the mute. It is the picture of a desolate situation, of the inexorable destination without God.

“But finally, salvation is proclaimed: ‘Be strong, fear not!’, says the prophet. Here is your God … He comes to save you. And immediately, everything is transformed: The desert blooms, joy and gladness fill hearts. These signs announced by Isaiah as revelations of a salvation already present, are fulfilled in Jesus. He himself affirms this, responding to the messengers sent by John the Baptist: ‘The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised.’ They are not words, they are facts that show how the salvation brought by Jesus grips every human being and regenerates him. God has entered into history to liberate us from the slavery of sin; He has set up His dwelling in our midst to share our existence, to heal our scars, to dress our wounds and to give us new life. Joy is the fruit of this intervention of salvation and of the love of God.”

“We are called to participate in this sentiment of jubilation, this jubilation, this joy,” Francis affirmed. “A Christian who is not joyful … is missing something  … or he is not a Christian. The joy of the heart, the joy within that drives us forward and gives us courage. The Lord comes, He comes into our lives … to free us from all interior and exterior slaveries. He shows us the path of fidelity, of patience and of perseverance, because, upon His return, our joy will be complete. Christmas is near. The signs of its coming are evident on our streets and in our homes; here too, in the Square, the Nativity scene has been set up, and alongside it, the tree. These external signs invite us to welcome the Lord, Who always comes and knocks at our door; He calls to our heart to come close to us. He invites us to recognize His steps among those of our brothers and sisters who pass by, especially the weakest and most in need.”

“Today we are invited to be joyful for the imminent arrival of our Redeemer,” concluded the Holy Father, “and we are called to share this joy with others, giving consolation and hope to the poor, to the sick, to those who are alone or unhappy. May the Virgin Mary, the ‘handmaid of the Lord,’ help us hear the voice of God in prayer and serve Him with compassion in our brothers…”

Coming Together as Faithful Citizens for the Common Good

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from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement regarding the election of Donald Trump as President-Elect.

Full statement follows.

The American people have made their decision on the next President of the United States, members of Congress as well as state and local officials. I congratulate Mr. Trump and everyone elected. Now is the moment to move toward the responsibility of governing for the common good of all citizens. Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.

We, as citizens and our elected representatives, would do well to remember the words of Pope Francis when he addressed the United States Congress last year, “all political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity.” On November 8, millions of Americans who are struggling to find economic opportunity for their families voted to be heard. Our response should be simple: we hear you. The responsibility to help strengthen families belongs to each of us.

The Bishops Conference looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning to its natural end. We will advocate for policies that offer opportunity to all people, of all faiths, in all walks of life. We are firm in our resolve that our brothers and sisters who are migrants and refugees can be humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security. We will call attention to the violent persecution threatening our fellow Christians and people of other faiths around the world, especially in the Middle East. And we will look for the new administration’s commitment to domestic religious liberty, ensuring people of faith remain free to proclaim and shape our lives around the truth about man and woman, and the unique bond of marriage that they can form.

Every election brings a new beginning. Some may wonder whether the country can reconcile, work together and fulfill the promise of a more perfect union. Through the hope Christ offers, I believe God will give us the strength to heal and unite.

Let us pray for leaders in public life that they may rise to the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage. And may all of us as Catholics help each other be faithful and joyful witnesses to the healing love of Jesus.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Cardinal DiNardo Elected USCCB President, Archbishop Gomez Elected Vice President

BALTIMORE—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, was elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) during the annual fall General Assembly in Baltimore. Cardinal DiNardo has served as vice president of the USCCB since 2013. Archbishop Jose Gomez was elected as USCCB vice president.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez are elected to three-year terms and succeed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, and Cardinal DiNardo, respectively. The new president and vice president terms begin at the conclusion of the General Assembly on November 15.

Cardinal DiNardo was elected president on the first ballot with 113 votes. Archbishop Gomez was elected vice president on the third ballot by 131-84 in a runoff vote against Archbishop  Gregory Aymond of New Orleans.

The president and vice president are elected by a simple majority from a slate of 10 nominees. If no president or vice president is chosen after the second round of voting, a third ballot is a run-off between the two bishops who received the most votes on the second ballot.

Cardinal DiNardo was born May 23, 1949, and ordained a priest of Pittsburgh on June 16, 1977. He previously served as bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, from 1998-2004 before being appointed to coadjutor bishop, then archbishop, of Galveston-Houston. Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal in 2007, making him the first cardinal from Texas. Archbishop Gomez was born December 26, 1951, in Monterrey, Mexico. He was ordained a priest on August 15, 1978. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Denver in 2001, and in 2004, he was appointed archbishop of San Antonio. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles in 2010, and was installed as archbishop of Los Angeles in 2011.

Bishops Call Officials & Americans to Welcome Refugees & Immigrants Without Sacrificing Core Values, Security

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

BALTIMORE—On the first day of the Fall General Assembly, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked his brother bishops to support a post-election statement given by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, Washington, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, repeating the words to our brothers and sisters who come to the country seeking a better life: “We are with you.”

Below is the original statement issued November 11, and now supported by the body of bishops.

We would first like to congratulate President-elect Donald J. Trump and give our support for all efforts to work together to promote the common good, especially those to protect the most vulnerable among us. I personally pledge my prayers for Mr. Trump, all elected officials, and those who will work in the new administration. I offer a special word to migrant and refugee families living in the United States: be assured of our solidarity and continued accompaniment as you work for a better life.

We believe the family unit is the cornerstone of society, so it is vital to protect the integrity of the family. For this reason, we are reminded that behind every “statistic” is a person who is a mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother and has dignity as a child of God. We pray that as the new administration begins its role leading our country,  it will recognize the contributions of refugees and immigrants to the overall prosperity and well-being of our nation. We will work to promote humane policies that protect refugees and immigrants’ inherent dignity, keep families together, and honor and respect the laws of this nation.

Serving and welcoming people fleeing violence and conflict in various regions of the world is part of our identity as Catholics. The Church will continue this life-saving tradition. Today, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, the need to welcome refugees and provide freedom from persecution is more acute than ever and 80 of our dioceses across the country are eager to continue this wonderful act of accompaniment born of our Christian faith. We stand ready to work with a new administration to continue to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans. A duty to welcome and protect newcomers, particularly refugees, is an integral part of our mission to help our neighbors in need.

We pray for President -elect Trump and all leaders in public life, that they may rise to the responsibilities entrusted to them with grace and courage. And may all of us as Catholics and Americans remain a people of solidarity with others in need and a nation of hospitality which treats others as we would like to be treated.

Jubilee Audience: Mercy is Inclusive

from Vatican Information Services

The final Saturday Jubilee audience, which took place on November 12, 2016,  was dedicated to an important aspect of mercy: inclusion, which reflects the action of God, Who does not exclude anyone from His loving plan of salvation, but instead wishes to include all people. “We Christians are invited to use the same criterion,” said Pope Francis. “Mercy is that way of acting, that style, with which we seek to include others in our life, to avoid becoming wrapped up in ourselves and our selfish insecurities.”

It is the invitation Jesus made in the Gospel of Matthew, read that morning before thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ No-one is excluded from this appeal, because Jesus’ mission is that of revealing the Father’s love to every person. It is up to us to open our heart, to trust in Jesus and to welcome this message of love that has enabled us to enter into the mystery of salvation.”

Francis explained that this aspect of mercy is expressed by opening our arms to welcome all without exclusion, “without classifying others on the basis of social condition, language, race, culture, religion: before us there is only a person to love as God does. The person I find in the workplace, in my neighborhood, is a person to love, as God loves him or her. ‘But he is from that country, that other country, this religion, another one… He is a person who God loves, and I must love him.’ This is including, and this is inclusion.”

“How many weary and oppressed people we meet today, too! On the street, in public offices, in medical clinics. Jesus’ gaze falls on every one of these faces, also through our eyes. And our heart, what is it like? Is it merciful? And our way of acting, is it inclusive? The Gospel calls on us to recognize in the history of humanity the plan of a great work of inclusion, that fully respecting the freedom of every person, of every community, every people, calls on all of us to form a family of brothers and sisters, in justice, solidarity and peace, and to form part of the Church, which is the body of Christ.”

“How true Jesus’ words are, when He invites those who are weary and burdened to go to him to find rest! His open arms on the cross show that no-one is excluded from his love and his mercy, not even the greatest sinner: no-one! We are all included in his love and mercy. The most immediate expression by which we feel welcomed and integrated in him is his forgiveness. We all need to be forgiven by God, and we all need to meet brothers and sisters who help us to go to Jesus, to open ourselves to the gift he made to us on the cross. Let us not obstruct each other! Let us exclude no-one! On the contrary, with humility and simplicity, let us be an instrument of the inclusive mercy of the Father. The Holy Mother Church extends in the world the great embrace of the dead and risen Christ. This square too, with its colonnade, expresses this embrace. Let us take part in this movement of the inclusion of others, to be witnesses to the mercy with which God welcomed and welcomes each one of us.” •

New Cycle of Catechesis on the Works of Mercy

The pope announced he will dedicate a new cycle of catechesis to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in our lives,” the pope observed. “It is necessary for those who receive it also to be a sign and instrument for others. … It is not a question of making great efforts or superhuman gestures. The Lord shows us a far easier path, made up of little gestures but which, in His eyes, have great value, to the point of saying that it is on these that we will be judged. … Jesus says that every time we give something to eat to a hungry person and give something to drink to one who thirsts, we dress the naked and welcome the stranger, or we visit the sick or imprisoned, we do this also to Him. The Church calls these gestures corporal works of mercy, as they assist people in their material needs.”

However there are also, as Francis recalled, another seven spiritual works of mercy, that respond to other equally important needs, “especially nowadays, as they affect the most intimate aspect of the person and often make them suffer more. We all surely remember one which has entered into common parlance: to bear patiently those who wrong us. … It may seem to be of little importance, or indeed make us smile, but instead it contains a sentiment of profound charity; and it is the same also for the other six, which are good to remember: to counsel the doubtful, to instruct the ignorant, to admonish sinners, to console the afflicted, to forgive offenses and to pray for the living and the dead.”

“It is better to start with the simplest ones, that the Lord shows us as the most urgent. In a world that is unfortunately afflicted by the virus of indifference, works of mercy are the best antidote. They educate us, indeed, in attention towards the most elementary needs of ‘the least of our brothers,’ in whom Jesus is present. … This enables us always to be vigilant, avoiding that Christ may pass by us without us recognizing him. St. Augustine’s phrase returns to mind: ‘I fear Jesus will go by,’ and I will not recognize him, that the Lord will pass by my side in one of these little people, in need, and I will not realize it is Jesus.”

The works of mercy “reawaken in us the need and the capacity to make faith live and work through charity. I am convinced that through these simple daily gestures we can effect a true cultural revolution. … If each one of us, every day, did one of these, this would be a revolution in the world! How many saints are still remembered today not for the great works they performed, but for the love they knew how to transmit! Mother Teresa, for example, recently canonized: we do not remember her for the many houses that she opened throughout the world, but because she stooped to all the people she met in the street to restore their dignity to them. How many abandoned children she held in her arms; how many dying people she accompanied on the threshold to eternity, holding their hands!”

“These works of mercy are the features of the countenance of Jesus Christ, who cares for the least of his brothers to bring God’s tenderness and closeness to every one. May the Holy Spirit help us; may the Holy Spirit kindle in us the desire to live in this way. Do at least one of them a day, at least! Let us learn again by heart the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, and ask the Lord to help us to put them into practice every day and at the moment in which we see Jesus in a person in need.” •

from Vatican Information Services