Category Archives: National News

U.S. Bishops Chairman on Migration Says New Executive Order Still Leaves Many Innocent Lives at Risk

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of the day’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:

We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.

USCCB Chairmen Call on Congress to Consider Moral Criteria During Debates on Health Care Policy

WASHINGTON—As Congress prepares to discuss possible changes to the Affordable Care Act, the chairmen of four United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees called on lawmakers to consider important moral criteria, especially pertaining to the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn and those experiencing deep poverty. The Bishops of the United States have consistently advocated for a health care system in which—as the late Cardinal Francis George used to say—everyone should be cared for and no one should be deliberately killed.

In a letter from March 8, 2017, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, urged Congress: to respect life by preventing the use of federal funds to facilitate abortion or purchase health care plans that provide abortion; to honor conscience rights; and to ensure access for all people to comprehensive, quality health care that is truly affordable.

The Bishops called on Congress to ensure coverage for those who now rely upon it after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and expressed concern about any structural changes to the social safety net that could impact access to health care for millions. Noting that the Catholic Church “provides health care, purchases health care and helps to pick up the pieces for those who fall through the cracks of the health care system when it fails,” the bishops urged “a new spirit of cooperation for the sake of the common good” on this vital concern during the debates ahead.

The full letter is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Joint-Letter-to-Congress-ACA-Principles-03-07-2017.pdf.  •

From the Pope: Rise, Victorious, Above Temptation

from Vatican Information Services

The temptations of Jesus during his 40 days in the desert were the theme of the Holy Father’s meditation before praying the Angelus with the faithful and pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square on March 5.

The episode, narrated by St. Matthew, takes place in a precise moment in Jesus’ life: immediately after his baptism in the river Jordan and before his public ministry, and he confronts his declared enemy, Satan, face to face.

“The devil appeals to his title of ‘Son of God’ to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his mission … and suggests that he perform miraculous gestures – that he be a ‘magician’- such as transforming stones into bread to satisfy his hunger, and throwing himself from the walls of the temple to be saved by the angels. These two temptations are followed by a third: to adore him, the devil, to have dominion over the world.”

With these three temptations, Satan seeks to divert Jesus from the way of obedience and humiliation, “because he knows that on this way evil will be defeated – and lead him on the false shortcut of success and glory. However, the devil’s poisonous arrows are all deflected with the shield of the Word of God, which expresses the will of the Father. Jesus does not say a word of his own: he responds only with the Word of God. And thus the Son, filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, emerges victorious from the desert.”

“During the 40 days of Lent, follow in Jesus steps and face the spiritual combat against the Evil One with the strength of the Word of God. Not with our word, which is useless, but with the Word of God: that which has the strength to defeat Satan. Therefore, it is necessary to draw confidence from the Bible: to read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it. The Bible contains the World of God, which is always current and effective.”

“It has been said,” continued the bishop of Rome, “What would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our mobile phone? If we always carried it with us, or at least a small pocket Bible, what would happen? If we went back to look for it when we forgot it, if we opened it several times a day; what would happen if we read God’s messages contained in the Bible as we read our phone messages? The comparison is clearly paradoxical, but it makes us reflect. If we had the Word of God always in our heart, no temptation would be able to estrange us from God and no obstacle would be capable of making us deviate from the path of goodness; we would be able to overcome the daily suggestions of evil that are in us and outside us; we would be more capable of living a resurrected life according to the Spirit, receiving and loving our brothers, especially the weakest and most in need, and also our enemies.”

“May the Virgin Mary, perfect icon of obedience to God and of unconditional trust in His will, sustain us on our Lenten journey, so to listen in docility to the Word of God, to undertake a true conversion of the heart.”

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

by Deacon Michael Straub, Safe Environment Coordinator

“One of the contemporary challenges in our society today is to ensure the proper respect and treatment of children.”
       – Bishop William B. Friend, Catholic Connection, August 2003

Before 2002, when a nationwide call was made to create safe environment programs and policies in dioceses around the country, our diocese had already established policies for the protection of children in January 1994. This included a permanent review board and measures to keep children safe on field trips, camps and youth events. With the development of a nationwide charter for the protection of youth designed and established by the USCCB, our diocese amended its policies to be in line with this charter and to train adults and children on safe environment and to background check all employees and those individuals volunteering around children. Today the charter extends to the protection of vulnerable adults and recognition of zero tolerance with child pornography. This is only successful because of the many people who have committed the time and resources to be in compliance with these policies and help keep children and vulnerable adults safe from harm. Thank you to all those who make this possible. •

Holy Father’s Message for Lent

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend Who never abandons us. Even when we sin, He patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, He shows us His readiness to forgive.

Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life. It exhorts us to sincere conversion.

1. The other person is a gift
The parable begins by presenting its two main characters. The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds. The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.

The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means “God helps.” This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.

Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.

2. Sin blinds us
The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man. Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man.” His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (Jer 10:9) and kings (Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day.” In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10). It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.

The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence.

The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting and lying at his door.

Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).

3. The Word is a gift
The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).

We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.

The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony.” In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.

The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive. But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them.” Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.”

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.

Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and with our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the 40 days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.

From the Pope: Hope Does Not Disappoint

from Vatican Information Services

In the catechesis of this general audience, Pope Francis returned to the theme of hope, this time in the light of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, in which he urges them to be proud. But what does this refer to? As the Holy Father remarked, “Since childhood we are taught that it is not good to boast. And it is right, because boasting of what one is or what one has betrays, aside from a certain arrogance, also a lack of respect for others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

What, then, is it right to be proud of? And how is it possible to do this, without offending, without excluding anyone?

In the first case, we are invited to be proud of “the abundance of grace with which we are pervaded in Jesus Christ, through faith. Paul wants to make us understand that, if we learn to interpret everything with the light of the Holy Spirit, we realize that everything is grace, everything is a gift! Indeed, if we pay attention, we see that – in history, as in our life – we are not alone in acting; there is, above all, God … Who creates every thing as a gift of love, Who weaves the fabric of His plan for salvation and Who fulfills it for us, through His Son Jesus. We are requested to recognize all this, to welcome it with gratitude and to make it become a reason for praise, blessing and great joy. If we do this, we are at peace with God and we experience freedom. And this peace then extends to all environments and all the relationships of our life: we are at peace with ourselves, we are at peace in the family, in our community, at work and with the people we meet every day on our journey.”

But Paul also encourages us to be proud even in our troubles, which is more difficult for us and can seem to have nothing to do with the condition of peace I have just described.

“Instead it constitutes the most authentic and truest presupposition”, Francis emphasized. “Indeed, the peace that the Lord offers and guarantees to us must not be understood as a lack of worries, disappointments, scarcity, or reasons for suffering. If it were thus, if we succeeded in staying at peace, that moment would soon come to an end and we would inevitably return to dejection. The peace that springs from faith is instead a gift: it is the grace of experiencing that God loves us and that He is always by our side, and that He never leaves us alone even for a moment of our life. And this, as the Apostle affirms, gives rise to patience, because we know that even in the hardest and most troubling moments, the Lord’s mercy and goodness are greater than any other thing and nothing can tear us from His hands and from communion with Him.”

This, then, is why “Christian hope is solid, and this is why it does not disappoint. It is not based on what we can do or be, or even on what we can believe in. Its foundation, that is the basis of Christian hope, is the most faithful and secure possible; that is, the love that God Himself has for each one of us. It is easy to say: God loves us, we all say this,” commented the Holy Father. “But think a little: every one of us is capable of saying: I am sure that God loves me. It is not so easy to say it, but it is true. It is a good exercise to say to ourselves: God loves me. It is the root of our security, the root of hope. And the Lord has poured His Spirit, which is God’s love, abundantly into our hearts, as creator, as guarantor, precisely so as to nurture faith within us and to keep this hope alive. God loves me. ‘But in this horrible moment? God loves me. I, who have done these bad things? God loves me’. No-one can take this security away from us. And we must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me. I am sure that God loves me.”

“Now we understand why the Apostle Paul urges us always to be proud of all this. ‘I glory in God’s love, because He loves me’. The hope that is given to us does not separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit them or marginalize them”, the Holy Father explained. “It is instead an extraordinary gift for which we are called to be channels, with humility and simplicity, for everyone. And therefore our greatest pride will be having as a Father a God Who does not have preferences, Who excludes no one, but Who opens His house to all human beings, starting from the last and the most distant, so that as His children we learn to console and support each other. And do not forget: hope never disappoints.”

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.