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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

111317 bishopsBALTIMORE — Last July's Convocation of Catholic Leaders proved to be such a hit among participants that local dioceses were encouraged during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly to build on the momentum that emerged to answer Pope Francis' call to evangelize.

Addressing the assembly, a trio of bishops said the convocation energized attendees and offered an opportunity to "be bold and creative" in building evangelization efforts to bolster church and parish life.

"This was certainly a great event that reached key people throughout the world," Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, a member of the bishops' Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, which planned the convocation. "My brothers, not only was this event great, it was different. It was not just another meeting. It has given us an opportunity of a new moment of evangelization in the United States."

The gathering brought together more than 3,200 Catholic leaders for four days in Orlando, Florida. Archbishop Wenski said that while the event was led by the bishops, it gave attendees the opportunity to hear and be heard.

The convocation was developed in response to Pope Francis' call to missionary discipleship in his apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel, "Evangelii Gaudium."

A survey of attendees showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the event, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas. Of more than 1,500 responses, 93 percent considered the event excellent or good, "with a clear majority claiming it to be excellent," he said.

"We are humbled by this reception, which challenges us to advance the next step effectively," he told the assembly.

Respondents also reported that having the bishops on hand to listen and join in discussions was among the best outcomes of the convocation, he said.

"It was good to be with our bishops knowing they wanted to be with us," Archbishop Naumann quoted one participant as saying in the survey.

Another, he said, responded, "My favorite part of the convocation was feeling that all the church leadership was walking together."

Attendees also said they wanted to continue the discussions with key leaders in their home dioceses, he said.

"We should also see this as a time to ask, 'How can we encourage this dialogue in our dioceses?'" Archbishop Naumann said.

The survey also found that people most commonly viewed "personal prayer and holiness" as key to living the call to missionary discipleship. Another question asked how attendees could best help form missionary disciples and that "personal witness" was the leading response.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, urged the bishops to act quickly as possible to tap the energy coming from the convocation.

"In many ways, the momentum of the 2017 convocation must move from the national level now to the local level, to our dioceses, local parishes, Catholic institutes, movements, apostolates and in the local work of national organizations," he said. "The convocation was always seen as a resource to assist the church in the United States especially to our bishops and delegations of leaders to take the next steps of evangelization in our local churches."

Bishop Ricken pointed to local convocations that have convened since July and how they have generated their own excitement to carry out "Evangelii Gaudium " ("The Joy of the Gospel").

He said resources from the Orlando convocation, including the posting of video and audio recordings of panel discussions and presentations, texts, and practical suggestions that emerged, are available at www.usccb.org/convocation.

"Pope Francis' challenge of a missionary renewal still remains with us," the bishop added. "We pray that the convocation was one step to assist our continued efforts in the missionary and pastoral conversion so well modeled every day by our Holy Father, Pope Francis."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

111317 bishopsBALTIMORE — Last July's Convocation of Catholic Leaders proved to be such a hit among participants that local dioceses were encouraged during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly to build on the momentum that emerged to answer Pope Francis' call to evangelize.

Addressing the assembly, a trio of bishops said the convocation energized attendees and offered an opportunity to "be bold and creative" in building evangelization efforts to bolster church and parish life.

"This was certainly a great event that reached key people throughout the world," Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, a member of the bishops' Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, which planned the convocation. "My brothers, not only was this event great, it was different. It was not just another meeting. It has given us an opportunity of a new moment of evangelization in the United States."

The gathering brought together more than 3,200 Catholic leaders for four days in Orlando, Florida. Archbishop Wenski said that while the event was led by the bishops, it gave attendees the opportunity to hear and be heard.

The convocation was developed in response to Pope Francis' call to missionary discipleship in his apostolic exhortation on the proclamation of the Gospel, "Evangelii Gaudium."

A survey of attendees showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the event, said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas. Of more than 1,500 responses, 93 percent considered the event excellent or good, "with a clear majority claiming it to be excellent," he said.

"We are humbled by this reception, which challenges us to advance the next step effectively," he told the assembly.

Respondents also reported that having the bishops on hand to listen and join in discussions was among the best outcomes of the convocation, he said.

"It was good to be with our bishops knowing they wanted to be with us," Archbishop Naumann quoted one participant as saying in the survey.

Another, he said, responded, "My favorite part of the convocation was feeling that all the church leadership was walking together."

Attendees also said they wanted to continue the discussions with key leaders in their home dioceses, he said.

"We should also see this as a time to ask, 'How can we encourage this dialogue in our dioceses?'" Archbishop Naumann said.

The survey also found that people most commonly viewed "personal prayer and holiness" as key to living the call to missionary discipleship. Another question asked how attendees could best help form missionary disciples and that "personal witness" was the leading response.

Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, urged the bishops to act quickly as possible to tap the energy coming from the convocation.

"In many ways, the momentum of the 2017 convocation must move from the national level now to the local level, to our dioceses, local parishes, Catholic institutes, movements, apostolates and in the local work of national organizations," he said. "The convocation was always seen as a resource to assist the church in the United States especially to our bishops and delegations of leaders to take the next steps of evangelization in our local churches."

Bishop Ricken pointed to local convocations that have convened since July and how they have generated their own excitement to carry out "Evangelii Gaudium " ("The Joy of the Gospel").

He said resources from the Orlando convocation, including the posting of video and audio recordings of panel discussions and presentations, texts, and practical suggestions that emerged, are available at www.usccb.org/convocation.

"Pope Francis' challenge of a missionary renewal still remains with us," the bishop added. "We pray that the convocation was one step to assist our continued efforts in the missionary and pastoral conversion so well modeled every day by our Holy Father, Pope Francis."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Committee sees growing number of texts, rise of digital technology

Committee sees growing number of texts, rise of digital technology

BALTIMORE — A growing number of texts, not only in English and Spanish but in other languages, and the rise of digital technology is having an impact on the work of the U.S. bishops' Subcommittee on the Catechism, said its chairman, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The subcommittee, which uses bishops, staff and contractors to read proposed catechetical texts from publishers, is charged with certifying that they are in conformity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Spanish texts also must go through a "translation verification" process that is supposed to render the English-language catechism faithfully.

"We have seen a dramatic increase in the variety of and number of such texts," Bishop Caggiano said Nov. 14 during the U.S. bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, said earlier that the subcommittee would typically receive 5,000 pages of material. But, noted Bishop Caggiano, "a single publisher sent a single series that was consisting of 10,000 pages. With only two full-time staff members overseeing the review process for religious education in the entire country, it's simply becoming unmanageable."

And that's just from the traditional print format in English. An increased number of materials in Spanish have been submitted by publishers.

"We do not have the competency or the resources to date to review those cultural materials in those languages other than English. We don't have the resources, the personnel to the competency to review a culturally sensitive work via the protocols (either). Quite frankly, as these catechetical materials in Spanish and other language might bleed into the digital content," he added, "we do not have a clear answer on how to proceed."

Another phenomenon is publishing on demand, which will "allow a publisher to edit a particular text to meet the particular needs a diocese, school or even a particular parish, and print a limited amount of texts based on that need," he added.

Digital publishing represents "a change in the landscape of catechesis that is both complex and continues to grow," Bishop Caggiano said. "When we speak of digitization, we must remember there are variety of ways in which a text can be published in a digital format.

"One mimics a standard textbook," he continued. Others, though, are "not subject to a standard format; it can be changed today, this afternoon, tomorrow, next week, and can be linked to website that have a vast amount of information that has varying degrees of quality and accuracy," none of which had been vetted through the subcommittee. It is known in tech circles, Bishop Caggiano said, as "blended learning, a mixture of printed text and something that is in digital or electronic format, including videos."

Archbishop Blair said the subcommittee must also supervise the copyright of the catechism "on behalf of the Holy See," which requires a "consistency review of any text using 5,000 or more words from the catechism." These are typically sent to a trained contracted reviewer. He added 24 bishops currently review texts, and 70 have done so since the catechism was first published in 1992.

While there were no quick fixes offered, Bishop Caggiano listed four "desired outcomes" from the current situation.

"First, we hope to become more proactive rather than reactive in the formation of catechetical texts," he said. "We will find ways to collaborate with publishers so that texts and materials they create, regardless of the format and the language to be used, will be more in conformity with the cathechism."

Bishop Caggiano added, "Our fervent hope to be able to extend our oversight as a committee beyond traditional printed texts and to exercise oversight over all catechetical materials, including customized printed material, digital texts and Spanish language material. We will have to reimagine what such oversight would entail."

It is important, he said, to "retain the relationship, which is collaborative and quite positive, with publishers of catechetical material. Effective materials must be placed in the hands of competent catechists," he said.

"Lastly, however we reimagine our work, that we will provide assistance to any bishop who needs to review texts for their diocese, while providing specific assistance to bishop in dioceses where publishing houses are now located."

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

Bishops voice support of migrants, worries over 'poisoning rhetoric'

Bishops voice support of migrants, worries over 'poisoning rhetoric'

BALTIMORE — The longest and most passionate discussion on the first day of the fall assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 13 focused on immigrants, on how to help them but also how to drive home the point that they, too, are our brothers and sisters and should not be demonized.

During a discussion period after a presentation from a working group on immigration issues, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley spoke to the bishops about a visit he made over the weekend to a Washington parish where he had served as a young priest.

On Nov. 11, he met with young adults at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart who shared their stories of migration, but also shared with the cardinal how they had benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which is now in peril.

"It was very moving to listen to these young people," Cardinal O'Malley said.

A young woman told him of how she crossed the desert when she was 10 years old and how terrifying it was. Another told him it took years to see his parents, whom he hadn't seen since birth because they had left their home country seeking a better economic future for the family.

"Another young man said, 'With DACA, I became a person in society, I could get a driver's license, travel on the airplane, register in school, have a bank account.' ... Some of them were here because their fathers had been killed in the violence in El Salvador," the cardinal said.

It was encouraging to hear their stories of "how positive their experience of the church has been," the help they have received from the parish and from other church organizations, the cardinal said. He urged the bishops to help them.

Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez talked to the group about their efforts to help young adults, refugees, including some seeking refuge from religious persecution, as well as those who benefit from Temporary Protected Status, in an increasingly difficult political climate.

"We have vigorously opposed recent administrative decisions regarding immigration and refugees," said Bishop Vasquez. "Our teachings compel us to do so."

The country "desperately" needs comprehensive immigration reform, he said, and helping migrants and refugees and anyone else who might need help is "who we are as Catholic leaders," he said.

"We need a path to legalization and citizenship for the millions of our unauthorized brothers and sisters who are law-abiding, tax-paying and contributing to our society," Bishop Vasquez said to applause from the room.

"We also know our country has the right and responsibility to regulate our borders and enforce our laws. We're ready to work with all," he said.

But seeking the deportation of those who have been in the country for many years, "whose children are our children, who work alongside us and pay taxes, and respect the same laws we respect," does not serve the common good, Bishop Vasquez said.

"We all need to come together and define good, just and right solutions," he added.

The bishops said they will issue a statement calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said that along with advocacy work, it's important that the bishops also think about how to deal "the poisoning rhetoric" in the country that degrades immigrants and demonizes them and which some church members embrace.

"We also have to have a call to conversion of our people because there's something wrong when they begin to buy into that poisoning rhetoric that gives a very skewed view" of immigrants and refugees, he said. "There's something wrong in our churches, where the Gospel is proclaimed, and yet people leave our worship services, our Masses on weekends, with that rhetoric still echoing in their hearts."

Bishop Vasquez said it is important for bishops to use their role as teachers and tell Catholics about the church's social teachings on immigration and encourage those who may not have encounters with immigrants to get to know them.

"They're not problems, they're not statistics, they're people, just like us," he said.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami said that as pastors, they can comment on the common good in the light of Catholic social teaching on the dignity of the human person. Immigrants are not problems, he said, they're strangers, yes, but strangers who should be seen and treated as brothers and sisters and who make the country better even though others may say otherwise.

"We can make America great, but you don't make America great by making America mean," he said.

— Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

Watch live video from the USCCB conference

Watch live video from the USCCB conference

 

Archbishop Vigneron elected next USCCB secretary

Archbishop Vigneron elected next USCCB secretary beginning fall 2018

BALTIMORE — Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit will be the next secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, taking office next November.

Bishops voted 96-88 to elect Archbishop Vigneron Nov. 14 during their fall general assembly.

Votes also were cast for a new chairman of the bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty and chairmen-elect for the committees on Communications, Cultural Diversity in the Church, Doctrine, National Collections and Pro-Life Activities.

Archbishop Vigneron will succeed New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, who is starting his third and final year of his three-year term. The Detroit prelate will serve one year as secretary-elect and then start a three-year term in office at the conclusion of the 2018 fall general assembly.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, was elected over Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee as chairman of the Committee on Religious Liberty by a 113-86 vote. He was to assume his duties at the conclusion of the assembly.

At their spring meeting in June, the bishops voted to make what was an ad hoc religious liberty body a permanent standing committee. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori served as chairman of the committee since its creation in 2011.

Bishops also voted for chairmen-elect of five committees. Those elected will serve for one year before beginning three-year terms at the conclusion of the bishops' 2018 fall general assembly.

Those elected include:

-- Committee on Pro-Life Activities: Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, over Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, 96-82.

-- Committee on Communications: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington, Virginia, over Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre, New York, 116-70.

-- Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church: Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Cleveland over Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, 102-77.

-- Committee on Doctrine: Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, over Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, 110-95.

-- Committee on National Collections: Bishop Joseph R. Cistone of Saginaw, Michigan, over Archbishop Michael O. Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, 124-65.

Bishops also were to choose six members for the CRS board. An electronic vote was bypassed in favor of a paper ballot. Results were to be announced before the conclusion of the assembly.

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Catholic Church sometimes has been part of racism problem

Catholic Church sometimes has been part of racism problem, says bishop

BALTIMORE — Though the Catholic Church has responded to racism for many years, some leaders and church institutions have at times been part of the problem, said a bishop who is heading a committee against racism.

Bishop George V. Murry, speaking to bishops gathered Nov. 13 for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops fall gathering in Baltimore, said that while racism was not unique to the United States, it "lives in a particular and pernicious way in our country, in large part because of the experience of the historic evil of slavery."

Bishop Murry, who became the head of the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism earlier this year, said the church must recognize "and frankly acknowledge" its failings.

The country has tried to address the problem before, he said, and yet, "even with that progress, one does not need to look very far to see that racism still exists and has found a troubling resurgence in modern years."

Christ calls us to break down the walls created by the evils of racism, he said.

Though African-Americans have suffered intensely from "the sin of racism," racism also has ravaged lives and livelihoods and many people of other races, he said. Its targets seem to be growing.

Weeks ago, in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists and neo-Nazis marched with hate-inspired messages, leading to violence and death, he said.

"Racial hatred that is often in hiding, for some, was on full display for many," Bishop Murry said of the events in Charlottesville.

The committee he heads, he said, is working to provide pastoral accompaniment and one way is to listen to the "voices of people suffering because of racism."

Created by the U.S. bishops in August, the committee will have listening sessions and create and disseminate theological, liturgical, pastoral and community resources. The committee, he said, is also looking at ways to best commemorate the 50th anniversary to the assassination of civil rights icon the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Bishops chimed in with comments and suggestions.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, whose retirement as head of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, was recently accepted by Pope Francis, suggested that the bishops take "symbolic actions," much in the way other church members have taken at events such as masses on both sides of the southern border.

"Racism isn't going to be conquered by speech but by actions," said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

Bishop Murry said committee's efforts also will focus on evangelization geared toward healing and reconciliation, toward conversion of those who harbor racist beliefs and who commit racist actions as well as caring for the victims of racism.

"All of this is aimed at one goal: to change hearts, which will lead to a change in behavior because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God," he said.

While on the committee, he said, he has heard certain comments.

"Some people think that there's no need to confront racism or that we should confront it only in private," Bishop Murry said, but confronting racism "is necessary because the Gospel calls us to work for justice, and racism denies justice to people simply because of their race -- and that is morally wrong."

Much work has already been done, but there is much more to be done, he said.

"Racism has lived and thrived in various ways for far too long," he said. "As a result, our efforts to root it out will not succeed overnight. Yet, the church's contribution at this time is vital."

— Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

Abortion, assisted suicide focus of pro-life activities

Abortion, assisted suicide focus of pro-life activities, says cardinal

BALTIMORE — Assisted suicide and abortion remain the focus of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, according to Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the committee chairman.

One of those issues was being taken up by the American Medical Association House of Delegates as the U.S. bishops held their fall general assembly in Baltimore Nov. 13-14.

Regarding assisted suicide, the AMA House of Delegates at its own meeting was holding a forum to get more input on whether the AMA's decades-long position against assisted suicide should be one of "neutrality." The AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs has been studying the issue.

"In light of the complex and deeply contested nature of the issues at stake, CEJA believes it is wisest to proceed cautiously and allow ample time for thoughtful reflection in developing its report," the AMA has said.

"Efforts continue, in collaboration with other groups, to provide CEJA with compelling reasons to maintain the AMA's long-held opposition to assisted suicide," Cardinal Dolan said in a report submitted in advance of the bishops' meeting. "Similar efforts continue with state-level medical associations to urge them to maintain or adopt opposition to assisted suicide."

In his remarks Nov. 13, the first day of the USCCB meeting, Cardinal Dolan lauded the bishops' longtime collaboration with the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment. "They have been with us for 45 years," since the 1973 Supreme Court decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that allowed legal abortion virtually on demand, Cardinal Dolan told his fellow bishops.

The national committee's Human Life Action arm was busy over the past year, issuing alerts urging Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act, and urging the House Appropriations Committee to nullify a District of Columbia law permitting assisted suicide. It also sought activists to ask senators to include protection for the unborn in their efforts to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, and to urge the Trump administration to issue an executive order to protect religious liberty.

Launched in August was a "condensed, tweetable" version of the anti-assisted suicide video "John's Story: Beyond Independence." "Born without arms, John Foppe speaks to a way of life beyond independence, namely inter-dependence: Together we are more," says a promo for the video.

The video is part of an initiative intended to foster greater respect for those with disabilities, help assuage people's fears of becoming debilitated, and cultivate a stronger coalition with leaders in the disability rights community.

"The young and healthy get suicide prevention ... while the sick and disabled get suicide assistance. Assisted suicide: an alarming double standard," says one of the initiative's messages. "Legalizing assisted suicide sends a clear message: You're better off dead than disabled," says another. "That's not autonomy, that's discrimination."

"Human Life Action educated and mobilized the grass-roots on the Conscience Protection Act through its Take Action Sunday initiatives," Cardinal Dolan said. The USCCB Office of Government Relations identified five states -- Alaska, Indiana, Maine, Pennsylvania and West Virginia -- as deserving of greater focus due to the possibility of "garnering the support of key senators in those states" for the conscience bill, he added.

The 2017-18 Respect Life program with the theme "Be Not Afraid" was unveiled in October, and planning was already underway for the 2018-19 Respect Life program, Cardinal Dolan said.

Plans also are firming up for the annual "9 Days for Life" prayer and action campaign slated for Jan. 18-26. It is held at that time to wrap around the Roe v. Wade anniversary and the annual March for Life in Washington with affiliated marches around the country.

"One of the intentions will highlight the fundamental relationship between concern for migrants and refugees and respect for all human life," Cardinal Dolan said.

A new round of training for the Project Rachel Ministry for post-abortion pastoral care and outreach is scheduled for Feb. 19-22 in Washington.

"The training will focus on the central role of the sacrament of reconciliation, the theology of forgiveness, the unique role of the church in post-abortion healing ministry, and how to make the ministry known in a diocese as a work of evangelization," Cardinal Dolan said.

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

'Share the Journey' migration campaign a call to prayer, action

Vasquez: 'Share the Journey' migration campaign a call to prayer, action

BALTIMORE — Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, told his fellow bishops Nov. 13 that more than 100 U.S. dioceses have participated in the "Share the Journey" campaign launched by Pope Francis Sept. 27.

He said many more took part in the campaign's week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees, which took place Oct. 7-13.

The two-year campaign "calls on Catholics and others of goodwill to encounter migrants and refugees, breaking down barriers of fear and suspicion, building bridges of understanding and hospitality," Bishop Vasquez said in a report on the initiative the first day of the U.S. bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore.

It is a call to prayer, reflection and action, he said. It calls attention to 65 million people displaced from their homes around the world.

The campaign began across the U.S. with special Masses, prayer vigils and events involving local migrants and refugees.

Bishop Vasquez thanked the bishops for participating in the campaign, which includes sharing personal photos on social media.

"It was a great effort and a sincere show of solidarity with our sisters and brothers on the move," many of them fleeing violence, terrorism and disaster, he said.

"Their journey is our journey," the bishop added.

One component of the campaign is sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere.

In the upcoming year, the campaign will continue promoting solidarity with migrants and refugees with various events, he said. He urged others to share the message and spirit of the campaign focused on the words: welcome, protect, promote and integrate. He asked the bishops to continue supporting the pope's efforts by "encouraging the spirit of encounter among people of diverse backgrounds in our dioceses, parishes and institutions."

Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies. U.S. partners in the effort are the USCCB and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

A Share the Journey toolkit is available in English and Spanish at www.sharejourney.org. It includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney.

— Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service

Nuncio: Bishops must focus on youth, evangelization, Jesus

Nuncio: Bishops must focus on youth, evangelization, Jesus

BALTIMORE — There are three things bishops must always keep in mind as they exercise their episcopal ministry, according to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States: youth, the mission of evangelization and "the Lord himself."

"The Holy Father has demanded of bishops that their mission requires passion," Archbishop Pierre said in an address to the U.S. bishops Nov 13, the first day of their fall general assembly in Baltimore. "We need to have the passion of young lovers and wise elders."

Pope Francis has warned that "the biggest threat of all is gluttony," Archbishop Pierre added, in "which all appears to proceed normally while in reality faith is winding down."

"I ask you for passion -- the passion of evangelization -- what are we as bishops, totally be passionate about," he said. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrates its centennial in 2017, the archbishop added, "I think this is a fundamental question that the illustrious past of your conference gives as Christ as the center of your life and your church."

In focusing on youth, Archbishop Pierre said, "Pastors, parents and teachers know the difficulties of transmitting the faith in our day, which is not so much the nature of change as the change in age. Young people struggle not only with existential questions but practical ones, like finding work."

He noted that "50 percent of Catholics under 30 identify as 'nones' (having no religious affiliation) ... and nearly 14 million Hispanics born Catholic but raised here have become nones."

Archbishop Pierre said, "Perhaps we could become discouraged. However, we are a people of hope. Our hope is basically in the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Are we passionate about our youth? If so, this means being open to accompanying them personally as spiritual fathers, even if this means demands on our time and our energy."

The USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis is beginning discussions on how best to reach out to and address the challenge of the growing numbers of people who are unaffiliated or identify as "none" when it comes to religious affiliation.

"The committee hopes to study the issue and learn more about the 'nones' so as to offer to the bishops a greater understanding of why people are leaving the church and no longer identifying with any religion. This is especially true of younger people who are leaving the church," said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, committee chairman, in a September report included in materials provided to the bishops for the fall meeting.

On evangelization, Archbishop Pierre reminded the bishops that Pope Francis had sent them a video message last year. In that message, "the challenge is to create a culture of encounter which encourages individuals to share the rich tradition of experience, to break down walls and build bridges," he said. "The church in America is called to come out of its comfort zone and become a leaven of communion. We need to become fully a community of disciples filled with love and enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel."

The archbishop gave two recent examples of U.S.-born holy men: Blessed Stanley Rother and Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, whose beatification was to take place in Detroit the weekend following the bishops' meeting.

"It was this land that gave birth to Blessed Father Stanley Rother, even in the face of martyrdom even though he gave his life for his people, even though he could have given up," Archbishop Pierre said.

Father Casey "made time for people. He listened to the pilgrims and he touched the sick with great compassion," Archbishop Pierre added. It was, he said, "this love for the Lord and his people (that caused) light to rise in darkness."

Setting the example for Catholics in their dioceses "by example of our personal relationship with Jesus" are among "the most essential activities to be carried out in our pastoral ministry," he noted. "There is always one more task to be done. There is always a risk of being functionally a manager, but Jesus calls us to a lonely place to pray. The need for silence, and contemplation cannot be greater as an antidote to the busyness of life."

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

Young people want to be heard, be part of leadership

Young people want to be heard, be part of leadership, report says

BALTIMORE — Young people in the church want to be heard and be invited to be a part of church leadership, according to a report by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in preparation for next year's Synod of Bishops on youth.

They are often at transition points in their lives, yet they don't know where to go for mentorship, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said Nov. 13.

He presented a summary of the responses gathered from dioceses and Catholic organizations to the bishops during their annual fall assembly in Baltimore.

The cardinal noted that pulling together the responses of young people from high school age to young adults is a challenge because of the group's broad diversity and many different needs.

He also said the report affirms a growing awareness of the challenges young people face today with economics, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse.

The cardinal pointed out that the survey responses indicate that church leaders have work to do to walk with young people and address challenges they face, but he also said there has been some positive growth in young people's faith, especially for those in high school and college.

We have "talented leaders out there doing incredible things with limited resources," Cardinal DiNardo said, adding that he is grateful for their enthusiasm and leadership.

The responses gathered by the USCCB will be sent to the Vatican which is gathering survey responses from young Catholics around the world.

The USCCB also is going to send three young adults to the pre-synod gathering next March in Rome. In announcing the meeting, the pope said: "The church wants to listen to the voices, the sensibilities, the faith as well as the doubts and criticisms of young people. We must listen to young people."

The theme for the Synod of Bishops, which will be held in October 2018, is: "Young people, faith and vocational discernment."

Young people attending the meeting will represent bishops' conferences, the Eastern Catholic churches, men and women in consecrated life and seminarians preparing for the priesthood. It will also will include representatives from other Christian communities and other religions and experts in the fields of education, culture, sports and the arts.

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Catholic Charities resets focus to disaster relief after huge storms

Catholic Charities resets focus to disaster relief after huge storms

BALTIMORE — Disaster relief work has become the top priority of Catholic Charities USA, the agency's president told the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

This fall's onslaught of destructive hurricanes -– Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands –- has caused the agency to shift its priorities in the short-term toward aiding people who have lost homes and livelihoods, Dominican Sister Donna Markham said Nov. 13 in a report on agency activities.

"It's been a tough year and it's been very tough in the last few months," Sister Markham said.

While she reported that the agency has collected $21 million from donors for hurricane relief since early September, she said millions of dollars more are needed because of the widespread devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which will take years to rebuild.

Through early November, Catholic Charities USA had distributed $18 million to its affiliated diocesan agencies. The amount includes $2 million that Sister Markham delivered Nov. 10 to Father Enrique Camacho, director of Caritas Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities affiliate on the island, and another $1 million given to Bishop Herbert A. Bevard of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, during a private meeting in Baltimore at the bishops' assembly.

She told Catholic News Service the Puerto Ricans she visited were living in destroyed homes with little shelter from the elements and had nowhere else to go. She said she was stunned by what she saw.

"People were sleeping in piles of rubble in their homes in corners where the roof still stood, under what little cover they could find," she said.

Father Camacho took her to a parish where the priests continued to sleep on cots in the kitchen of their rectory "because that was the only place that had cover."

"Seeing the mattresses on the floor and knowing they were going to be there for months was heartbreaking."

Funding has been distributed for emergency housing, food, water, cleaning supplies, clothing, bedding, diapers and other baby needs. The agency also has deployed 150 case managers in storm-battered areas to assist people in navigating the unfamiliar task of seeking assistance.

Sister Markham's report included a rundown of other agency priorities, including the need to develop hundreds of thousands of units of affordable housing around the country.

Converting surplus church property into affordable housing is one area Catholic Charities staff has identified as a workable solution. The nationwide need for affordable housing is growing daily and crosses urban and rural communities, Sister Markham said.

Other agency priorities outlined for the bishops included the integration of health and nutrition programs; serving the needs of immigrant and refugee communities; leadership development and strengthening the understanding of Catholic identity among staff nationwide; accelerating the development of small businesses and an entrepreneurial spirit in struggling communities; and boosting advocacy and collaborating on social policy concerns at the state and federal levels in partnership with the USCCB and other organizations.

In an earlier presentation, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, chairman of the Catholic Relieve Services board of directors, delivered a report outlining the work of the bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

Joined by Sean Callahan, CRS president and CEO, Bishop Mansour stressed the importance of the agency's work in collaborating with local parishes and church agencies in 112 countries that are part of the church's Caritas Internationalis network.

CRS served more than 121 million people during fiscal year 2016, an increase of 14 percent from the previous year, Callahan said. CRS prioritizes working through local organizations and church groups -- what the church calls subsidiarity -- to ensure that people have a say in how their communities develop, he explained.

"They're not just looking for our staff to be there," Callahan told the bishops. "They're looking at a relationship with our conference. They want the U.S. to be with them and behind them. That's what we call the solidarity that we do in working together in these different areas and being in there during their toughest times."

Callahan said CRS invested between $100 million and $300 million during the last three years in developing local capacity, "so they can be on their own afterward, so we're not the one continually doing the initiatives."

He focused on four main tasks that guide the agency's work:

-- Promoting human dignity by helping people's livelihoods, ensuring that children are educated and people can work on their farms so they can produce food for their families.

-- Finding opportunities for health care, the production of food or goods, and ways to strengthen security so that people do not have to migrate for a better life.

-- Providing hope to people so they can be productive in their lives and see a better future without having to turn to violence to survive.

-- Empowering people to enable them to break down barriers so they can promote peace.

Bishop Mansour said such work changes lives in communities around the world.

"It's beautiful work," he said. "It's God's work."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Persecuted Christians at risk of being forgotten

Persecuted Christians at risk of being forgotten, bishop says

BALTIMORE — Persecuted Christian minorities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are at risk of being forgotten, according to the chairman of the U.S bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

"It is important that the church tell their stories," said Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, during a news conference Nov. 13, the first day of the bishops' annual fall general meeting in Baltimore.

The plight of minority Christians will be the focus of "A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians" to be observed Nov. 26. The initiative was announced in July by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with "Solidarity in Suffering," a week of awareness and education on their situation starting Nov. 26.

"The solemnity of Christ the King is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedoms and persecution," said a joint statement Nov. 9 by Bishop Cantu and Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president.

Based on a report titled "Persecuted and Forgotten?" issued by Aid to the Church in Need in July, which covers the period of August 2015-July 2017, there appears to be a wall of hostility against Christians. In addition to Nigeria in West Africa, there is a contiguous line of nations cited in the report starting in Sudan, going to Eritrea and north to Egypt, then working its way through Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India and China before winding up in North Korea.

Of those 13 countries, "the situation for Christians has declined," said the report, "as a result of violence and oppression. The lone exception was Saudi Arabia, it added, but only because "the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse."

Bishop Cantu said at the news conference that "there are countries that fund and support" terror groups which target Christians in the affected area. One of them, Islamic State, has been losing its grip in the region.

"The defeat of Daesh (another name for Islamic State) and other Islamists in major strongholds of the Middle East offers the last hope of recovery for Christian groups threatened with extinction," the Aid to the Church in Need report said. "Many would not survive another similar violent attack."

The setbacks facing Christians are not limited to the countries in Aid to the Church in Need's report.

Last April, the Pew Research Center issued a report showing that the number of countries where Christians fell victim to government restrictions and social hostilities had grown from 108 in 2014 to 128 in 2015.

Another organization supporting persecuted Christians, Open Doors, said in its "World Watch Monitor Report" that covered 2016, "More than 200 million Christians in the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian experience persecution because of their faith." The Center for Studies on New Religions suggest the number is triple that.

One such example cited in the Aid to the Church in Need report was based in Sudan. "When the government removed the citizenship rights of people with origins outside the country," it said, "it sparked a massive exodus of Christians, who were forced to go to their ancestral homelands in neighboring South Sudan, in spite of having lived in Sudan itself for 30 years or more."

"It has often been said that Christianity can survive without the Middle East, but that the Middle East cannot survive without Christianity, because it is such an ancient presence and moderating influence in the region," Bishop Cantu said. Biblical accounts place the journey of Abraham from the Nineveh Plains in present-day Iraq to the birth of Jesus in the Palestinian Territories and the travels of St. Paul and the Apostles to spread the good news throughout the region.

Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Cantu cited a USCCB statement issued in February that said: "To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others. Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

Civility must guide debate on social challenges

Civility must guide debate on social challenges, USCCB president says

BALTIMORE — Acknowledging wide divisions in the country over issues such as health care, immigration reform, taxes and abortion, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called for civility to return to the public debate.

Contemporary challenges are great, but that they can be addressed without anger and with love Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in his first address as USCCB president during the bishops' fall general assembly.

"We are facing a time that seems more divided than ever," Cardinal DiNardo said. "Divisions over health care, conscience protections, immigration and refugees, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, gender ideologies, the meaning of marriage and all the other headlines continue to be hotly debated. But our role continues to be witnessing the Gospel."

He explained that the National Catholic War Council, created by the U.S. bishops in 1917 in the response to the world refugee crisis that emerged from World War I and the forerunner to the USCCB, was formed to address great national and international needs at a time not unlike today.

He said the history of the American Catholic Church is full of examples of the work of "holy men and women" responding to social challenges. He particularly mentioned Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, who ministered alongside homeless and poor people in Detroit and who will be beatified Nov. 18.

"The history of Christianity is also the story of reconciliation. In 2017, we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Begun as a moment of painful division, it stands as a journey toward healing, from conflict to communion," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He continued, "Civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as we come of age? Or when we come to old age?"

The cardinal lamented that abortion continues despite the existence of alternatives to save the life of unborn children.

Cardinal DiNardo also laid out several policy stances for the country to pursue.

He said hospitals and health care workers "deserve conscience protections so they never have to participate in the taking of a human life."

The cardinal called for "good and affordable health care" for poor people and action to address the country's opioid abuse epidemic.

To applause, Cardinal DiNardo urged lawmakers to enact comprehensive immigration reform and protections for the country's 800,000 young adults who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

President Donald Trump in September called for an end to the program, handing off the solution to the immigration status of young adults brought to this country illegally as children to Congress and giving the lawmakers a six-month window to act.

Acknowledging that a country has the right to defend its borders, Cardinal DiNardo reminded the country's leaders that it should be done in a humane way.

"We join our Holy Father in declaring that a pro-life immigration policy is one that does not tear families apart, it protects families," he said.

Racism, too, has risen to become a major challenge for the country, the USCCB president said.

"In our towns and in our cities, as civility ebbs, we have seen bolder expressions of racism, with some taking pride in this grave sin. Sometimes it is shocking and violent, such as in Charlottesville (Virginia, in August). More often it is subtle and systematic. But racism always destroys lives and it has no place in the Christian heart," he said.

The cardinal called for a "bold national dialogue ... a frank and honest commitment to address the root causes of racism."

"Americans don't like to talk about it. Nonetheless, it is time to act. Our common humanity demands it of us. Jesus demands it of us," Cardinal DiNardo said.

He discussed the work of Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the bishops' new Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. The committee will meet with people throughout the country to learn how the best can best respond "in ending this evil," he added.

Beyond such challenges, Cardinal DiNardo said, society has had to respond to a series of natural disasters including hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, wildfires in California and earthquakes in Mexico.

Such tragedies have brought the church in America together, he said, "and has reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are."

"We need to constantly put forward these virtues, especially in light of violence from what is a long and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches and place of recreation," he explained.

"The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons, be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room," the cardinal said.

Cardinal DiNardo said the love of Jesus is "stronger than all the challenges ahead."

"My brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God, all things are possible."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

 

Cardinal praises USCCB for century of working for 'a more just society'

Cardinal praises USCCB for century of working for 'a more just society'

BALTIMORE — The mission of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is as timely now as 100 years ago when the conference was founded as a "wise and Spirit-filled response to the immense suffering and displacement" caused by World War I, the Vatican secretary of state said Nov. 12.

"The church in your country seeks to bring not only material assistance but also the spiritual balm of healing, comfort and hope to new waves of migrants and refugees who come knocking on America's door," Cardinal Pietro Parolin said.

He made the remarks in his homily at a Mass celebrating the USCCB's centenary in Baltimore on the eve of the bishops' fall general assembly.

As it developed from its formation as the National Catholic War Council to the present-day USCCB, the conference has never wavered "in that commitment to Christian charity" and "has proved to be an effective means for coordinating the pastoral outreach and evangelical witness of the church in America," the cardinal said.

The 62-year-old Italian cardinal was the main celebrant of the Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A career Vatican diplomat, the cardinal is Pope Francis' top aide both for internal church matters as well as for relations with governments and international organizations.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori welcomed the cardinal, his fellow archbishops and bishops, priests, religious men and women, laity and seminarians to "America's first cathedral," built between 1806 and 1821. The Baltimore basilica was the first Catholic church to be constructed in United States after the adoption of the new Constitution.

The basilica, filled to capacity, was a fitting setting to celebrate the USCCB's centenary, a landmark in the history of the U.S. Catholic Church.

Archbishop Lori was among the dozen or more concelebrants on the altar, who included Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the USCCB, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States. The rest of the U.S. bishops filled several of the basilica's front pews.

Before Mass, the bishops gathered for an afternoon workshop for presentations on the history of the USCCB by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, head of a task force on the centenary observance; Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, Michigan; and retired Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Washington. Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Skylstad are both former USCCB presidents.

Outside the basilica, children from various Catholic schools in the Baltimore Archdiocese lined the steps to greet people arriving for Mass. Below the steps a few protesters held placards or placed them on the sidewalk, calling on the U.S. bishops to embrace pacifism.

"There is no such animal as a 'Just War,'" said one sign quoting Benjamin Joseph Salmon (1889–1932), a prominent Catholic conscientious objector and outspoken critic of the Catholic Church's just-war theory. "1000+ U.S. Catholics have died in vain in Iraq and Afghanistan," read another.

Inside before Mass began, worshippers were greeted with an organ prelude of pieces such as a toccata by Johann Speth and a larghetto by George Frideric Handel. The readings were given in Spanish and English.

In his homily, Cardinal Parolin drew on the day's Gospel reading from Chapter 25 of the Gospel of St. Matthew describing how "the wise virgins filled their lamps with oil in preparation for the coming of the bridegroom."

He used the symbolism of the oil "to reflect with you on some of the present-day opportunities and challenges facing your conference at the dawn of its second century."

"That oil is also spiritual joy, the joy of the Gospel -- 'Evangelii gaudium' -- that the church is called to proclaim before the world," the cardinal said. "Ultimately, it is a joy grounded in our hope in the Lord's victory over death and the promise of our own resurrection."

"In an age increasingly marked by secularization, materialism and a coarsening of human relations," he said, "an essential aspect of your task as pastors of the church in America is to propose that hope, in season and out of season, trusting in its power to attract minds and hearts to the truth of Christ.

He remarked that U.S. Catholic community with its "vast network" of parishes and educational, health care and charitable institutions "is challenged to propose in an ever more vital way the wisdom of the Gospel, which alone brings true joy and satisfies the deepest longings of the human heart."

He held up the USCCB's convocation in Orlando, Florida, and the ongoing preparations for the Fifth National Encuentro in 2018 as examples of the conference's "far-sighted initiatives aimed at encouraging dialogue and cooperation at every level" in the life of the U.S. church.

"In this way, you are seeking to foster that heightened sense of missionary discipleship that Pope Francis considers the heart of the new evangelization," Cardinal Parolin said.

In the century before the founding of the bishops' conference, "the great challenge facing the church in this country was to foster communion in an immigrant church, to integrate a diversity of peoples, languages and cultures in the one faith, and to inculcate a sense of responsible citizenship and concern for the common good."

Today, he continued, "the urgent need to welcome and integrate new waves of immigrants continues unabated. At the same time, the Catholic community is called, under your guidance, to work for an ever more just and inclusive society by dispelling the shadows of polarization, divisiveness and societal breakdown by the pure light of the Gospel."

He said the USCCB has made many "responsible contributions" to the discussion "of important social issues and political debates, above all when these involve the defense of moral values and the rights of the poor, the elderly, the vulnerable and those who have no voice."

The U.S. church has made an "outstanding witness" to defending the right to life of the unborn, "but also, in more recent times ... to ensure due protection for the family and access to affordable health care."

"You have done this not only by engaging in policy debates in your own country, but also by assisting international processes of dialogue and peacemaking, and by providing much-needed humanitarian aid to peoples beset by war and civil conflict," he said.

"In this process of accompaniment, may you continue to exercise your prophetic office by bringing the balm of mercy to discussions that all too often take refuge in policies and statistics, while ignoring the faces and needs of real people."

At a dinner that evening with the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Parolin told them Pope Francis sent his "cordial good wishes for this anniversary" and he recalled the pontiff's "message of encouragement" to them during their meeting last year at the Vatican.

He quoted the pope, who said that the great challenge that the Catholic Church faces is "to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of our traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges. The church in America, as elsewhere, is called to 'go out' from its comfort zone and to be a leaven of communion. Communion among ourselves, with our fellow Christians, and with all who seek a future of hope."

"It is my hope and prayer that this anniversary will strengthen your communion and common resolve in rising to this challenge," Cardinal Parolin said.

— Julie Asher, Catholic News Service

Bishops must focus on youth, evangelization, Jesus

Nuncio: Bishops must focus on youth, evangelization, Jesus

BALTIMORE — There are three things bishops must always keep in mind as they exercise their episcopal ministry, according to Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States: youth, the mission of evangelization and "the Lord himself."

"The Holy Father has demanded of bishops that their mission requires passion," Archbishop Pierre said in an address to the U.S. bishops Nov 13, the first day of their fall general assembly in Baltimore. "We need to have the passion of young lovers and wise elders."

Pope Francis has warned that "the biggest threat of all is gluttony," Archbishop Pierre added, in "which all appears to proceed normally while in reality faith is winding down."

"I ask you for passion -- the passion of evangelization -- what are we as bishops, totally be passionate about," he said. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrates its centennial in 2017, the archbishop added, "I think this is a fundamental question that the illustrious past of your conference gives as Christ as the center of your life and your church."

In focusing on youth, Archbishop Pierre said, "Pastors, parents and teachers know the difficulties of transmitting the faith in our day, which is not so much the nature of change as the change in age. Young people struggle not only with existential questions but practical ones, like finding work."

He noted that "50 percent of Catholics under 30 identify as 'nones' (having no religious affiliation) ... and nearly 14 million Hispanics born Catholic but raised here have become nones."

Archbishop Pierre said, "Perhaps we could become discouraged. However, we are a people of hope. Our hope is basically in the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Are we passionate about our youth? If so, this means being open to accompanying them personally as spiritual fathers, even if this means demands on our time and our energy."

The USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis is beginning discussions on how best to reach out to and address the challenge of the growing numbers of people who are unaffiliated or identify as "none" when it comes to religious affiliation.

"The committee hopes to study the issue and learn more about the 'nones' so as to offer to the bishops a greater understanding of why people are leaving the church and no longer identifying with any religion. This is especially true of younger people who are leaving the church," said Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, committee chairman, in a September report included in materials provided to the bishops for the fall meeting.

On evangelization, Archbishop Pierre reminded the bishops that Pope Francis had sent them a video message last year. In that message, "the challenge is to create a culture of encounter which encourages individuals to share the rich tradition of experience, to break down walls and build bridges," he said. "The church in America is called to come out of its comfort zone and become a leaven of communion. We need to become fully a community of disciples filled with love and enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel."

The archbishop gave two recent examples of U.S.-born holy men: Blessed Stanley Rother and Capuchin Franciscan Father Solanus Casey, whose beatification was to take place in Detroit the weekend following the bishops' meeting.

"It was this land that gave birth to Blessed Father Stanley Rother, even in the face of martyrdom even though he gave his life for his people, even though he could have given up," Archbishop Pierre said.

Father Casey "made time for people. He listened to the pilgrims and he touched the sick with great compassion," Archbishop Pierre added. It was, he said, "this love for the Lord and his people (that caused) light to rise in darkness."

Setting the example for Catholics in their dioceses "by example of our personal relationship with Jesus" are among "the most essential activities to be carried out in our pastoral ministry," he noted. "There is always one more task to be done. There is always a risk of being functionally a manager, but Jesus calls us to a lonely place to pray. The need for silence, and contemplation cannot be greater as an antidote to the busyness of life."

— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

Protesters at bishops' gathering ask for sanctuary, anti-war stance

Protesters at bishops' gathering ask for sanctuary, anti-war stance

BALTIMORE — As the U.S. bishops were beginning their fall assembly in Baltimore, also marking their 100th anniversary as a conference, a couple of nonviolent protesters gathered nearby.

One was seeking dialogue with church leaders to urge them to offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, and another voiced displeasure with church leaders he said support war.

Felix Cepeda, a Catholic from New York City involved in the sanctuary movement, held a sign that said "Sanctuary Now" Nov. 13 in the lobby of Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, where the meeting was being held.

He said he was fasting and praying for three days, hoping that bishops would hear his pleas to open up at least one parish property as a place of sanctuary in every diocese for a family or any immigrant facing deportation.

In response the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement, saying it shares the concern for migrants and refugees but that there is not only one way to be of service.

"No doubt there is fear among the immigrant community. The bishops never tired of saying to immigrants, 'We are with you.' That being said, the proper role for the conference is to provide resources to member bishops so they can make the best decision for their own diocese," the statement said. 

"In many ways, the church has stood by immigrants and refugee families, including advocating on their behalf with the administration and congress as well as community awareness resources that help ensure that they know their rights," it said.

Cepeda told Catholic News Service that "a lot of people who are facing deportation are Catholics. The Protestants, they're our brothers, we love them, but I think it's a shame that we can't protect our own people when they're needing it."

He said he recently helped a Catholic woman find sanctuary in an Anglican church because he couldn't get help from the Archdiocese of New York as she faced deportation. Though Catholic Charities offered a lawyer, the lawyer was too busy to meet with her, he said.

Bishops' stances vary on sanctuary for immigrants facing deportation. Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, for example, has said that in the event of mass deportations, Catholic churches in the diocese should stand ready to offer sanctuary to these immigrants.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has said that while the Catholic Church's values mandate opposition to deportation of people already living in the United States, there is no certainty that immigrants staying on church grounds would avoid being arrested and eventually sent to their home country. 

"When we use the word sanctuary, we have to be very careful that we're not holding out false hope," he said in a March 2 interview with editors of The Washington Post daily newspaper.

In Cepeda's view, the church could use many closed properties in New York, and elsewhere to help its own.

"The Obama administration and this one, too, they're deporting a lot of people," Cepeda told Catholic News Service. "Sanctuary is an option to keep families together while lawyers fight."

Mark Scibilia-Carver said he was protesting at fall assembly because the USCCB was marking its 100th anniversary of its formation as the National Catholic War Council. The council was established to address issues brought about by World War I, including the spiritual needs of soldiers and the needs of refugees in wartime.

Christians cannot support war, said Scibilia-Carver, who held a book he called a scroll of remembrance of Catholics who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said U.S. bishops and other church leaders need to listen better to pope's anti-war stance. 

The evening before Scibilia-Carver was in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with some of his anti-war signs. Inside Mass was celebrated to mark the centenary of the USCCB.

The book he held included homilies for funerals for some of those Catholics who died in which he claimed the celebrants glorified war.

"I'm a witness to nonviolence," which is what the Gospel calls for, he said, adding that he objected to what he believes is a contradiction in bishops saying they are anti-war but support U.S. troops.

The U.S. Catholic Church has long provided pastoral and spiritual services to those serving in the U.S. armed forces or other federal services overseas

Though only the two men were present to protest, Cepeda said he had called on others locally to come out and support his cause while the bishops gathered in Baltimore.

— Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service