Category Archives: National News

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Issues Statement Following Meeting with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY—Following a private audience with Pope Francis on September 13 in Vatican City, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement regarding the recent moral crisis in the American Catholic Church.

“We are grateful to the Holy Father for receiving us in audience. We shared with Pope Francis our situation in the United States –  how the Body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse. He listened very deeply from the heart. It was a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange.

As we departed the audience, we prayed the Angelus together for God’s mercy and strength as we work to heal the wounds. We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.” •

Letter of the Holy Father Francis to the People of God

from Vatican Information Services

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately 70 years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side He stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise He made to our fathers: “He has scattered the proud in their conceit; He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by His disciples, their unworthy reception of His body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces His heart. We can only call to Him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command. This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people.”

Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to Himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combating all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer,” seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them. •

U.S. Bishops Announce Effort to Resolve to Address “Moral Catastrophe”

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with other bishops. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.” •

From the Pope: General Audience: Live with Strength of Life

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!June 13 is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua. Who among you is called Anthony? An applause to all the “Anthonies.” Today we will begin a new itinerary of catechesis. It will be on the theme of the Commandments. The Commandments of the law of God. To introduce it, let us take as a starting point the passage we have just heard: the encounter between Jesus and a man, he is a young man, who, on his knees, asks Him how he can inherit eternal life (cf. Mk 10: 17-21). And in that question there is the challenge of every existence: ours too: the desire for a full, infinite life. But how can we arrive at this? What path should we take? To live truly, to live a noble existence. How many young people seek to “live” and then destroy themselves in the pursuit of ephemeral things.

Some think that it is better to extinguish this impulse, the impulse to live, because it is dangerous. I would like to say, especially to the young: our worst enemy is not concrete problems, however serious and dramatic they may be: the greatest danger in life is a poor spirit of adaptation that is not meekness or humility, but rather mediocrity, pusillanimity.

Is a mediocre young person a young person with a future, or not? No! He stays there, he doesn’t grow, he will not be successful. Mediocrity or timidity. Those young people are afraid of everything: “No, I am this way…” These young people will not go ahead. Meekness, strength and no timidity, no mediocrity. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati – who was a young man – used to say that it is necessary to live, not to get by. The mediocre get by. Live with the strength of life. We must ask the heavenly Father, for the young people of today, the gift of a healthy restlessness. But at home, in your houses, in every family, when you see a young person who stays seated all day, at times the mother and father think, “But he is ill, he has something,” and they take him to the doctor. The life of the young person is about going ahead, being restless, healthy restlessness, the capacity not to settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for authentic life, I wonder, where will humanity end up? Where will humanity end up with quiet young people who are not restless?

The question of that man in the Gospel passage we have heard is within each one of us: how do we find life, life in abundance, happiness? Jesus answers: “You know the Commandments,” and cites a part of the Decalogue. It is a pedagogical process, by which Jesus wishes to lead to a precise place: indeed it is already clear from his question that the man does not have a full life, he seeks more and he is restless. What must he therefore understand? He says: “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy” (v. 20).

How do we pass from youth to maturity? When we begin to accept our own limits. One becomes an adult when one becomes relative and aware of what is missing (cf. v. 21). This man is compelled to acknowledge that everything he can “do” does not go beyond a roof, it does not go beyond a margin.

How good it is to be men and women! How precious our existence is! And yet there is a truth in the history of recent centuries that man has often refused, with tragic consequences: the truth of his limits.

Jesus, in the Gospel, says something that can help us: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Mt. 5: 17). The Lord Jesus gives fulfilment, He came for this. That man had to arrive at the threshold of taking a leap, where there opens up the possibility of stopping living for oneself, one’s own works, one’s own goods and, precisely because full life is lacking, leave all to follow the Lord.

Seemingly in Jesus’ final invitation – immense, wonderful – there is not the offer of poverty, but of wealth, of the true kind: “One thing you lack… Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (v. 21).

Who, given the choice between the original and a copy, would choose the copy? Here is the challenge: to find the original of life, not the copy. Jesus does not offer surrogates, but true life, true love, true wealth! How can the young follow us in faith if they do not see us choose the original, if they see us addicted to half measures? It is bad to find Christians of half measures, if I may permit myself the word, “dwarf” Christians; they grow up to a certain point and no further; Christians with a shrunken, closed heart. It is bad to find this. There needs to be the example of someone who invites me “beyond” to “more,” to grow a little. Saint Ignatius called it the “magis,” “the fire, the fervor of action that rouses the dormant.”

The road of what is missing passes for what there is. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil. We have to start from reality to make the jump to “what is missing.” We must scrutinize the ordinary to open ourselves to the extraordinary.

In these catecheses we will take the two tablets of Moses as Christians, hand in hand with Jesus, to pass from the illusions of youth to the treasure that is in heaven, walking behind Him. We will discover, in each of those laws, ancient and wise, the door opened by the Father Who is in heaven because the Lord Jesus, who has passed through it, leads us into real life. His life. The life of the children of God.  •

President of USCCB Welcomes Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on Holiness in the Contemporary World

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is welcoming the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), subtitled “On the Call to Holiness in the Contemporary World.” In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo expresses his deep gratitude to the Holy Father for the exhortation and the call for each Christian to “acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be.”

In the introduction to the exhortation, the Pope emphasizes that the goal of his exhortation is to “repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.”

An apostolic exhortation is considered the second-highest form of papal teaching after an encyclical letter. Since his election, Pope Francis has issued two other exhortations: Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel) in 2013 and Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in 2016.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement on Gaudete et Exsultate follows:
“I want to personally express my deep gratitude to the Holy Father for his powerful, straightforward words in Gaudete et Exsultate. In this exhortation, Pope Francis is very clear – he is doing his duty as the Vicar of Christ, by strongly urging each and every Christian to freely, and without any qualifications, acknowledge and be open to what God wants them to be – that is ‘to be holy, as He is holy’ (1 Pet 1:15). The mission entrusted to each of us in the waters of baptism was simple – by God’s grace and power, we are called to become saints.

‘Do not be afraid of holiness (no. 32).’ These words of the Holy Father jumped out at me when I first read them. In a way, each one of us has a fear of striving for holiness – a fear that we would be mocked, ignored, or even hated by others because we would stand out. Yet that is what the Lord has called each and every person to! Pope Francis calls us out: A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth without seeing it as a path of holiness, for ‘this is the will of God, your sanctification (I Thess 4:3) (no. 19).’

The Holy Father describes how holiness comes through the daily struggles each of us face. In the ordinary course of each day, the pope reminds us, ‘We need to recognize and combat our aggressive and selfish inclinations, and not let them take root’ (no. 114). Yet, he says, this ‘battle is sweet, for it allows us to rejoice each time the Lord triumphs in our lives’ (no. 158).

One paragraph in particular points out the continuing need we have for civility in all our interactions, especially in the media. ‘Christians too,’ the Holy Father writes, ‘can be caught up in networks of verbal violence through the internet and the various forums of digital communication.’ This can be true even in Catholic media (no. 115). ‘Even in our heated disagreements with one another, we always need to remember that it is God who judges, not man (James 4:12).’

In the light of Easter joy, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, I encourage every Christian to rekindle their baptismal call to be holy by reading this wonderful exhortation by Pope Francis, especially the beautiful section on the Beatitudes. Through an exploration of the Beatitudes, and by offering examples of how to live out our call to holiness in everyday life, the Holy Father has given us a wonderful tool for renewing our love for God and for each other.”

The USCCB has made the exhortation available for order online at http://store.usccb.org/rejoice-and-be-glad-p/7-599.htm.
The Vatican has also posted the exhortation online at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20180319_gaudete-et-exsultate.html.

Pope Francis’ Easter Message

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!
Jesus is risen from the dead!

This message resounds in the Church the world over, along with the singing of the Alleluia: Jesus is Lord; the Father has raised him and he lives forever in our midst.

Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection using the image of the grain of wheat. He said: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). And this is precisely what happened: Jesus, the grain of wheat sowed by God in the furrows of the earth, died, killed by the sin of the world. He remained two days in the tomb; but his death contained God’s love in all its power, released and made manifest on the third day, the day we celebrate today: the Easter of Christ the Lord.

We Christians believe and know that Christ’s resurrection is the true hope of the world, the hope that does not disappoint. It is the power of the grain of wheat, the power of that love which humbles itself and gives itself to the very end, and thus truly renews the world. This power continues to bear fruit today in the furrows of our history, marked by so many acts of injustice and violence. It bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment, where there are migrants and refugees (so often rejected by today’s culture of waste), and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.

Today we implore fruits of peace upon the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war. This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course, that humanitarian law may be respected and that provisions be made to facilitate access to the aid so urgently needed by our brothers and sisters, while also ensuring fitting conditions for the return of the displaced.

We beseech fruits of reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless, for Yemen and for the entire Middle East, so that dialogue and mutual respect may prevail over division and violence. May our brothers and sisters in Christ, who not infrequently put up with injustices and persecution, be radiant witnesses of the risen Lord and of the victory of good over evil.

We invoke on this day fruits of hope for those who yearn for a more dignified life, above all in those areas of the African continent deeply affected by hunger, endemic conflicts and terrorism. May the peace of the risen Lord heal wounds in South Sudan and open hearts to dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us not forget the victims of that conflict, especially the children! May there be no lack of solidarity with all those forced to abandon their native lands and lacking the bare essentials for living.

We implore fruits of dialogue for the Korean peninsula, that the discussions underway may advance harmony and peace within the region. May those who are directly responsible act with wisdom and discernment to promote the good of the Korean people and to build relationships of trust within the international community.

We also beseech fruits of peace for Ukraine, that the steps taken to favor harmony may be consolidated, and facilitated by the humanitarian initiatives needed by its people.

We also invoke fruits of consolation for the Venezuelan people, who, as their bishops have written, are living in a kind of “foreign land” within their own country. May that nation, by the power of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, find a just, peaceful and humane way to surmount quickly the political and humanitarian crises that grip it. May welcome and assistance not be wanting to its sons and daughters forced to abandon their homeland.

May the risen Christ bring fruits of new life to those children, who as a result of wars and hunger, grow up without hope, lacking education and health care; and to those elderly persons who are cast off by a selfish culture that ostracizes those who are not “productive”.

We also implore fruits of wisdom for those who have political responsibilities in our world, that they may always respect human dignity, devote themselves actively to the pursuit of the common good, and ensure the development and security of their own citizens.

Dear brothers and sisters,
The words heard by the women at the tomb are also addressed to us: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6). Death, solitude and fear are not the last word. There is a word that transcends them, a word that only God can speak: it is the word of the resurrection (cf. John Paul II, Conclusion of the Way of the Cross, 18 April 2003). By the power of God’s love, it “dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord and brings down the mighty” (Easter Proclamation).

Happy Easter to all!

Domestic Justice and Education Chairmen Urge Concrete Actions to Address Scourge of Gun Violence

photo by Fabrice Florin from Mill Valley, USA (Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting)  [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the tragic attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the USCCBs Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, Chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, urged national leaders to finally come together and address the crisis of gun violence in a comprehensive way.

The full statement follows:
“Once again, we are confronted with grave evil, the murder of our dear children and those who teach them. Our prayers continue for those who have died, and those suffering with injuries and unimaginable grief. We also continue our decades-long advocacy for common-sense gun measures as part of a comprehensive approach to the reduction of violence in society and the protection of life.

Specifically, this moment calls for an honest and practical dialogue around a series of concrete proposals—not partisanship and overheated rhetoric. The idea of arming teachers seems to raise more concerns than it addresses. Setting a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership, requiring universal background checks (as the bishops have long advocated), and banning ‘bump stocks are concepts that appear to offer more promise. We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help.

Most people with mental illness will never commit a violent act, but mental illness has been a significant factor in some of these horrific attacks. We must look to increase resources and seek earlier interventions.

For many years, the USCCB has supported a federal ban on assault weapons, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines, further criminalizing gun trafficking, certain limitations on the purchase of handguns, and safety measures such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using guns without permission.

The advocacy by survivors of the Parkland shooting—and young people throughout our nation—is a stark reminder that guns pose an enormous danger to the innocent when they fall into the wrong hands. The voices of these advocates should ring in our ears as they describe the peaceful future to which they aspire. We must always remember what is at stake as we take actions to safeguard our communities and honor human life. In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth (1 Jn. 3:18).”

USCCB Offers Congratulations to Pope Francis on His Fifth Year Anniversary

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Administrative Committee has issued the following statement today marking the fifth anniversary of the election of Pope Francis. The Administrative Committee is comprised of USCCBs officers, committee chairmen and other bishops representing every region of the United States.

Full statement follows:
“The members of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, now gathered in ordinary session on the 13th day of March 2018, take this opportunity to express our filial affection on the fifth anniversary of your election to the Chair of St. Peter.
May the Lord bless you with His grace as you confirm all the brothers and sisters in unity and shepherd us in charity.”

From the Pope: Eucharistic Liturgy: I. Presentation of Gifts

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Let us continue with the catechesis on the Holy Mass. The Liturgy of the Word – on which I have reflected in the last catecheses – is followed by the other constitutive part of the Mass, which is the Eucharistic Liturgy. In this, through the holy signs, the Church continuously makes present the Sacrifice of the new covenant sealed by Jesus on the altar of the Cross (cf. Vatican Ecumenical Council II, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 47). It was the first Christian altar, that of the Cross, and when we approach the altar to celebrate Mass, our memory goes to the altar of the Cross, where the first sacrifice was made. The priest, who in the Mass represents Christ, carries out what the Lord Himself did and handed over to the disciples at the Last Supper: He took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, and gave them to the disciples, saying: “Take, eat, and drink: this is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood. Do this in memory of me.”

Obedient to the command of Jesus, the Church has arranged the Eucharistic Liturgy in moments that correspond to the words and gestures made by him on the eve of his Passion. Thus, in the preparation of the gifts, bread and wine are brought to the altar, that is, the elements that Christ took in his hands. In the Eucharistic Prayer we give thanks to God for the work of redemption and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is followed by the breaking of the Bread and the Communion, through which we relive the experience of the apostles, who received the Eucharistic gifts from the hands of Christ himself (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 72).

The first gesture of Jesus: “He took the bread and the cup of wine,” therefore corresponds to the preparation of the gifts. It is the first part of the Eucharistic Liturgy. It is good that the faithful present the bread and wine to the priest, because they signify the spiritual offering of the Church gathered there for the Eucharist. It is beautiful that it is the faithful themselves who bring the bread and wine to the altar. Although today “the faithful no longer bring from their own possessions the bread and wine intended for the liturgy as in the past, nevertheless the rite of carrying up the offerings still retains its force and its spiritual significance” (ibid., 73). And in this regard it is significant that, in ordaining a new priest, the bishop, when he gives him bread and wine, says:  “Receive the oblation of the holy people, to be offered to God” (Roman Pontifical – Ordination of bishops, priest and deacons).

The people of God who bring the offering, the bread and the wine, the great offertory for the Mass! Therefore, in the signs of bread and wine, the faithful people place their offering in the hands of the priest, who lays it on the altar or table of the Lord, “which is the center of the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist,” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 73). That is, the center of the Mass is the altar, and the altar is Christ; we must always look at the altar, which is the center of the Mass. In the “fruit of the earth and the work of man,” the faithful therefore offer their commitment to make of themselves, obedient to the divine Word, a “sacrifice pleasing to God the Father Almighty,” “for the good of all His holy Church.” Thus “the lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1368).

Of course, our offering is small, but Christ needs this little that we give. He asks little of us, the Lord, and he gives us much. He asks little. He asks us, in ordinary life, for good will; he asks us for an open heart; he asks us for the desire to be better, to welcome him, he who offers himself to us in the Eucharist; he asks us for these symbolic offerings that then become his body and his blood. An image of this oblative movement of prayer is represented by the incense which, consumed in the fire, releases a fragrant smoke that rises upwards: incensing the offerings, as is done on feast days, incensing the cross, the altar, the priest and his people visibly manifests the offertory bond that unites all these elements to Christ’s sacrifice (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 75). And do not forget: there is the altar, which is Christ, but always with reference to the first altar, which is the Cross, and on the altar that is Christ, we bring our small gifts, the bread and the wine, which will then become great: Jesus himself who gives life to us.

And all this is also expressed by the offertory prayer. In it the priest asks God to accept the gifts that the Church offers Him, invoking the fruit of the wonderful exchange between our poverty and His wealth. In the bread and in the wine we present to Him the offering of our life, so that it may be transformed by the Holy Spirit into the sacrifice of Christ and become with Him the single spiritual offering pleasing to the Father. While the preparation of the gifts is concluded, the Eucharistic Prayer is recited (cf. ibid., 77).

The spirituality of the gift of oneself, that this moment of the Mass teaches us, can illuminate our days, our relationships with others, the things we do, and the sufferings we encounter, helping us to build the earthly city in the light of the Gospel.

Bishop Conference President Reaction to Shooting at Florida High School

WASHINGTON—Following the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, called for prayer and healing.

The full statement is as follows:

“We are deeply saddened by the shootings in Broward County, Florida, and by the needless and tragic loss of life. May the mercy of God comfort the grieving families and sustain the wounded in their healing. Catholics and many other Christians have begun the journey of Lent today. I encourage us to unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence in these last weeks and for a conversion of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace. I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence. Our hope is in the Lord, as he promised after his resurrection, ‘behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt. 28:20).”