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WASHINGTON – The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth and the Committee on Catholic Education, expressed gratitude for the Trump Administration’s repeal of the “deeply disturbing” May 2016 guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education entitled “Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students.”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, together issued the following statement:

We are grateful that the Trump Administration has withdrawn the guidance which had indicated that public pre-K through 12 schools, as well as all colleges and universities, should treat “a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex.” The Dear Colleague Letter sought to impose a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with sensitive issues involving individual students.  Such issues are best handled with care and compassion at the local level, respecting the privacy and safety concerns of all students.

Pope Francis has taught that “biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated” (Amoris Laetitia, no. 56).  The Catholic Church consistently affirms the inherent dignity of each and every human person and advocates for the well being of all people, particularly the most vulnerable.  Children, youth, and parents in these difficult situations deserve compassion, sensitivity, and respect.  All of these can be expressed without infringing on legitimate concerns about privacy and security on the part of all young students and parents.

February 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — The annual Catholic Relief Services Collection will be held in most parishes on Laetare Sunday, March 26 with the theme, “Help Jesus in Disguise.”

“The needs of our world are great, and the effects of this collection are far-reaching.,” said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on National Collections. “Through this collection we humbly respond to the suffering Christ who comes to us bearing the face of the vulnerable refugee, the immigrant family, the rejected poor, and the abandoned stranger. We serve these, our brothers and sisters, because by doing so we serve Christ.”

Entities within the USCCB that receive support include: the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, the Department of Justice Peace and Human Development, and the  Department of Migration and Refugee Services. Other Catholic Church organizations that receive funds are: Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., and the Holy Father’s Relief Fund. The USCCB Administrative Committee is responsible for grant-making from this national collection.

February 23, 2017
WASHINGTON — On February 20, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued two memoranda implementing Executive Orders 13768 and 13767, relating to border and interior immigration enforcement.  In response to the memoranda, the Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, has issued the following statement:

“We recognize the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to do that.  However, the two memoranda issued by Secretary Kelly on February 20th contain a number of provisions that, if implemented as written, will harm public safety rather than enhance it.  Moreover, taken in their entirety, the policies contained in these memoranda will needlessly separate families, upend peaceful communities, endanger the lives and safety of the most vulnerable among us, breakdown the trust that currently exists between many police departments and immigrant communities, and sow great fear in those communities.

The DHS memoranda eliminates important protections for vulnerable populations, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers. They greatly expand the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border.  Taken together, these memoranda constitute the establishment of a large-scale enforcement system that targets virtually all undocumented migrants as ‘priorities’ for deportation, thus prioritizing no one.  The memoranda further seek to promote local law enforcement of federal immigration laws without regard for the existing relationships of trust between local law enforcement officials and immigrant communities.  The engagement of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law can undermine public safety by making many who live in immigrant communities fearful of cooperating with local law enforcement in both reporting and investigating criminal matters.
I urge the Administration to reconsider the approach embodied in these memoranda, just as it should reconsider the approach it has taken in a number of executive orders and actions issued over the last month.  Together, these have placed already vulnerable immigrants among us in an even greater state of vulnerability.
Moving forward, we remain steadfast in our commitment to care for and respect the human dignity of all, regardless of their immigration status.  During this unsettling time, we will redouble our work to accompany and protect our immigrant brothers and sisters and recognize their contributions and inherent dignity as children of God.”

February 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — In a letter to the United States Secretary of State today, chairmen of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and Committee on International Justice and Peace, along with Sean Callahan, President of Catholic Relief Services, urged the Administration to do everything they can to care for creation both domestically and globally.

Building upon Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato si’ the letter emphasizes the importance of adaptation policies and specifically calls for continued U.S. support of the Paris climate agreement as well as the Green Climate Fund, which provides poorer nations with resources to adapt to and mitigate changing climate realities.
“The Judeo-Christian tradition has always understood the environment to be a gift from God, and we are all called ‘to protect our one common home,’” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico and Sean L. Callahan, President of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The call to care for the environment echoes Pope Francis’ call to help poor and vulnerable people adapt to the effects of climate change.
The message also recognizes that “uncompromising support for adaptation policies in no way excludes efforts to mitigate the anthropogenic contributors to climate change” and called for an “energy revolution” to deliver “not only sustainable, efficient and clean energy, but also energy that is secure, affordable, accessible and equitable.”
The full text of the letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/USCCB-CRS-Letter-to-Secretary-Tillerson-on-Care-for-Creation-02-17-2017.pdf

February 17, 2017
“The cry of Christ in the voice of the migrant moves us.”
WASHINGTON — More than 20 Bishops along the border of Texas and Northern Mexico have issued a joint statement emphasizing the need for us to listen to the cry of our migrant brothers and sisters.  The bishops issued the statement while participating in the biannual Tex-Mex Border Bishops meeting this week.  The meetings included priests, religious and layperson as well as invited representatives from other border dioceses in the United States and Mexico.  The bi-annual meetings have taken place for more than 30 years. 
In the statement, the bishops ask each of us to reflect on the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as migrants and refugees more than two-thousand years ago and to also heed the gospel call of Christ, “Because I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was hungry and you gave me food….(Mt. 25: 35-36).” 
A copy of the bishops statement was shared with the USCCB and we are providing that statement below in both English and Spanish:

February 16, 2017
WASHINGTON — In early February, several media outlets reported that President Donald J. Trump is considering issuing an executive order establishing a government-wide initiative to respect religious freedom. A copy of a draft executive order was published by multiple news outlets. The President has not yet signed the executive order on religious freedom.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and  Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, jointly issued the following statement urging support for the draft executive order:
The right of all human beings to religious freedom, based on the inherent dignity of every person, has long been supported by the Catholic Bishops of the United States.  Over the last several years, to our great dismay, the federal government has eroded this fundamental right, our first and most cherished freedom.  The HHS mandate, for example, poses an incredibly heavy burden for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others due to conscientious objections to facilitating coverage of sterilization and contraception, including drugs and devices that may cause abortions.  The Little Sisters—and so many others—still do not have adequate relief and still face possible fines in the tens of millions of dollars if they do not comply with the HHS mandate.
President Trump has pledged that his “administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land.”  We urge the fulfillment of this promise, including an end to regulations and other mandates by the federal government that force people of faith to make impossible choices. We express our fervent hope that with new leadership in the Executive Branch, basic protections for religious practice may be restored and even strengthened.
As President Trump himself has affirmed, religious freedom is under severe threat, including in our own country, even though it is the first of our Constitutional freedoms.  An immediate remedy to these threats is needed, for without it, our freedom to serve—as exemplified by the Little Sisters and others who serve the poor—will remain in jeopardy, and needless conflict between the faith community and the federal government will continue.
It is indeed encouraging to hear that the President may be considering an Executive Order to implement strong protections for religious freedom across the federal government, in many of the areas where it has been eroded by the preceding Administration, such as health coverage, adoption, accreditation, tax exemption, and government grants and contracts.  We ourselves, as well as those we shepherd and serve, would be most grateful if the President would take this positive step toward allowing all Americans to be able to practice their faith without severe penalties from the federal government.
As Christians, our goal is to live and serve others as the Gospel asks.  President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the public square.  Restoring the federal government’s proper relationship with the First Amendment and other laws protecting conscience and religious freedom will enable us to continue our service to the most vulnerable of Americans.

February 16, 2017

WASHINGTON — A worldwide effort sponsored by the Vatican to energize and empower grassroots leaders will convene in Modesto, Calif., February 16-19. Twenty U.S. bishops will join nearly 700 participants representing 12 countries to examine and discuss collective responses to the issues of land, labor, lodging, racism and migration.

Celebrated as the first U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements (WMPM), the gathering is organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development (IHD), PICO National Network and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. bishops’ national program working to break the cycle of poverty in the United States and educate on poverty and its causes.
"Participants in the World Meeting of Popular Movements represent a multitude of political perspectives both here in the United States and around the world,” said Bishop David Talley of Alexandria, Louisiana, chairman of the USCCB subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. “We are here because, regardless of our political beliefs, we share a vision of a world in which the ‘economies of exclusion’ have been ended, and a commitment to working together to achieve that goal.”
Long in the planning, the Modesto meeting was organized as a follow-up to three larger international meetings held in Rome in Oct. 2014 and Nov. 2016 and in Bolivia in July 2015.
"I join the Holy Father in inviting all ‘to be protagonists of change of their own situation’ and share his hope that we are able to deepen the well-springs of empathy in our society,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of IHD, who will deliver the keynote address. “We are fortunate to have this opportunity to build relationships, develop our understanding of societal structures which contribute to the ‘economy of exclusion,’ and to deepen solidarity between social justice movements in the United States and the Church.”

February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan and Archbishop William E. Lori – as chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities and Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, respectively – wrote to both Houses of the United States Congress on February 8, urging support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2017 (H.R. 644, S. 301).

The Conscience Protection Act, they wrote, is “essential legislation protecting the fundamental rights of health care providers…to ensure that those providing much-needed health care and health coverage can continue to do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.”
“While existing federal laws already protect conscientious objection to abortion in theory, this protection has not proved effective in practice,” the bishops noted, citing recent examples in which the federal government has refused to enforce these laws.  “The Conscience Protection Act will address the deficiencies that block effective enforcement of existing laws,” they said, “most notably by establishing a private right of action allowing victims of discrimination to defend their own rights in court.”
Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori recalled the Hippocratic oath’s rejection of abortion in the profession of medicine, indicating that the Act will benefit not only Catholic medical professionals but “the great majority of ob/gyns [who] remain unwilling to perform abortions.”
Finally, they explained that conscience protection facilitates access to life-affirming health care: “When government… mandates involvement in abortion as a condition for being allowed to provide life-affirming health care services, it not only undermines the widely acknowledged civil rights of health care providers but also limits access to good health care for American women and men.”
The full text of their letter to Senate is posted at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Conscience-Protection-Act-Dolan-Lori-Ltr-to-Senate-02-08-17.pdf.

For more on the bishops’ promotion of conscience rights, including a video about a nurse who was coerced to take part in a late-term abortion, visit:  www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection.

February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committees on Migration, Religious Liberty and International Justice and Peace, along with the board of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) issued a joint statement expressing solidarity with Christians and all those who suffer in the Middle East.
The full statement follows:
A statement from Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.
Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East need our solidarity, and the Middle East needs our Christian brothers and sisters.  A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians.
A recent USCCB delegation visit to Iraq confirmed once again that what has happened—and continues to happen—to Christians, Yezidis, Shia Muslims, and other minorities in Syria and Iraq, at the hands of the so-called “Islamic State,” is genocide.  It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening, and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities.  Likewise, a particular focus on minorities is essential to forming communities that respect the rights of all, including members of the majority.
What can our nation do?  The United States can:
    1.    Accept our nation’s fair share of the most vulnerable families of all religions and ethnicities for resettlement as refugees, including special consideration of the victims of genocide and other atrocities;
    2.    Encourage both the central government in Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil to strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all, including vulnerable minorities; U.S. assistance should help local and national efforts to improve policing and the judiciary, while encouraging appropriate self-governance at the local level; similar actions will also be needed in Syria; and
    3.    Provide generous U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced persons and communities in Iraq and Syria as they rebuild, including funding for trusted faith-based non-governmental agencies like Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies so that aid reaches all groups, including majority and minority communities.
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.

February 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — On February 9, 2017, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a unanimous decision upholding a lower court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the implementation of several key provisions of Executive Order 13769. The TRO was put in place by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on February 3, 2017. The provisions that that have temporarily been blocked by the TRO include: a 120 day halt of the U.S. refugee resettlement program; an indefinite prohibition of resettling and admitting Syrian refugees; a preference for resettling Christian minorities; a case by case evaluation of refugee admission during the 120 day pause on resettlement; and a 90 day prohibition on entry, travel, and visas for individuals from the seven identified predominantly-Muslim countries of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

In response to the Appeals Court ruling, Most Reverend Joe Vasquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chair of the Committee on Migration stated: “We welcome the decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. We respect the rule of law and the American judicial process. We remain steadfast in our commitment to resettling refugees and all those fleeing persecution. At this time, we remain particularly dedicated to ensuring that affected refugee and immigrant families are not separated and that they continue to be welcomed to our country. We will continue to welcome the newcomer as it is a vital part of our Catholic faith and an enduring element of our American values and tradition.”

February 3, 2017

WASHINGTON—The annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will be held in most parishes on Ash Wednesday, March 1, with the theme: “Restore the Church, Build the Future.” The collection supports pastoral, evangelization, and construction projects, as well as scholarships in Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

In 2016, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe awarded $7 million through more than 200 grants. Projects supported through the collection address a variety of needs of the Church in countries of the former Soviet Union. These projects focus on providing pastoral care and developing resources to build the faith of those who still struggle in a post-communist society.

“Remembering our brothers and sisters around the world who are struggling is a humbling way to begin the season of Lent,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. “As we begin this penitential season, we remember those in Central and Eastern Europe who have made great sacrifices to keep the faith alive in their communities, and who share a legacy of faith with us through the many immigrants who came to America from these lands.”

The Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe oversees the Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information about the collection can be found at www.usccb.org/ccee.

February 2, 2017

WASHINGTON—Nearly all of the religious men and women who professed perpetual vows in 2016 had a strong prayer life prior to entering their religious institute, according to a survey on men and women religious conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University. The survey results were released February 2, to coincide with the annual celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to conduct the annual survey of the religious profession class of 2016.

The large percentage of newly professed religious who responded to the survey is the result of the generous cooperation of religious institutes across the United States. “The participation in the survey by religious communities is remarkable,” said Cardinal Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R., of Newark, chair of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. “The Church is grateful for those women and men who have given their lives to Jesus Christ through the profession of final vows. Their participation in this survey and the information gained from it, helps the Church’s work to encourage all to listen for God’s call.”

The survey polled women and men religious who professed perpetual vows in 2016 in a religious congregation, province, or monastery based in the U.S. CARA received a response from 610 of 759 major superiors, for an overall response rate of 80 percent among religious institutes.
Of these 216 identified women and men religious, a total of 81 sisters and nuns and 96 brothers and priests responded to the survey. These 96 men may include some brothers who intend to pursue studies leading to priestly ordination. This represents a response rate of 82 percent of the 216 potential members of the Profession Class of 2016 that were reported to CARA by major superiors.

Some of the major findings of the report are:

* Nearly nine in ten or 86 percent of responding religious regularly participated in some type of private prayer activity before they entered their religious institute. About two-thirds participated in Eucharistic Adoration, prayed the rosary, or attended retreats before entering. Nearly six in ten participated in spiritual direction before entering.

* Most religious did not report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to their institute. Among the 4 percent who did report having educational debt, however, they averaged about 4 years of delay while they paid down an average of $29,100 in educational debt.

* The average age of responding religious is 39.  Half of the responding religious are age 36 or younger.  The youngest is 26 and the oldest is 86.

* Two-thirds of responding religious (66 percent) identify as white, more than one in six (16 percent) identifies as Asian, and more than one in ten (11 percent) identifies as Hispanic.

* Most responding religious (67 percent) were born in the U.S.  Of those born outside the United States, the most common country of origin is Vietnam.

* Among those identifying as Hispanic/Latino six in ten (58 percent) are U.S. born. Those identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian (96 percent) are predominantly foreign born.  Nearly all identifying as Caucasian/white (91 percent) are U.S. born.
* Almost half of responding religious (46 percent) attended a Catholic elementary school, which is about the same as that for all Catholic adults in the United States (39 percent). These respondents are more likely than other U.S. Catholics to have attended a Catholic high school (38 percent of respondents, compared to 19 percent of U.S. adult Catholics) and much more likely to have attended a Catholic college (37 percent of responding religious, compared to just 10 percent of U.S. adult Catholics).  Responding women religious are less likely than brothers to have attended a Catholic college (31 percent for women compared to 42 percent for men).

* On average, responding religious report that they were 19 years old when they first considered a vocation to religious life, but half were 18 or younger when they first did so.

* One-half say that a parish priest (53 percent) encouraged their vocation.

*Four in ten report being encouraged to consider a vocation by a religious sister or brother.  Women religious were more likely than men religious to do so.

* Over four in ten report that they were encouraged to consider a vocation by their friends.

The survey and more information on the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations can be found at www.usccb.org/consecratedlife.

February 2, 2017

WASHINGTON — In a letter issued yesterday congratulating Secretary Rex Tillerson on his confirmation as Secretary of State, Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called on the Secretary to work for peace in Israel and Palestine.

Bishop Cantú, who recently participated in a solidarity visit to Israel and Palestine, enclosed a joint communiqué by bishops from Europe, Canada, South Africa and the United States. The bishop notes that “2017 marks the fiftieth anniversary of a crippling occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, crippling for both peoples.”  Quoting the joint communiqué of the bishops, he goes on to state that “[t]he occupation violates ‘the human dignity of both Palestinians and Israelis.’  Settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands undermines a two-state solution, destroying the homes and the livelihoods of Palestinians as well as the long-term security and future of Israelis.”

Decrying “egregious injustices and random acts of violence,” Bishop Cantú expressed the opposition of U.S. and international bishops to Israeli settlement expansion and confiscation of Palestinian lands. In addition, he implored the Secretary to maintain the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. He wrote, “Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would erode the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, and is a threat to pursuing peace and ending conflict. Its impact would incite and destabilize the area, compromising U.S. security. As Pope Francis declares, ‘the two-state solution must become a reality and not merely a dream.’”

Bishop Cantú called on Secretary Tillerson to work “to end fifty years of occupation and build a brighter future for both Israelis and Palestinians.” He concluded, “[T]he United States has always provided leadership and support to the peace process. We continue to profess hope for a diplomatic solution that respects the human dignity for both Israelis and Palestinians and advances justice and peace for all.”

The full text of the bishops’ joint communiqué and Bishop Cantú’s letter to Secretary Rex Tillerson are available online at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/letter-to-secretary-tillerson-from-bishop-cantu-on-israel-palestine-2017-02-01.cfm.

February 2, 2017

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Ronald P. Herzog, 74, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. Bishop David P. Talley, 66, up until now coadjutor bishop of the same diocese, will succeed him as bishop of Alexandria.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, February 2, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Talley was born in Columbus, Georgia on September 11, 1950. He pursued seminary studies at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Indiana and was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1989. He holds a doctorate in canon law from the Gregorian University in Rome. In 2001, Pope John Paul II named him a prelate of honor with the title of monsignor. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Atlanta, on January 3, 2013. Pope Francis appointed him as coadjutor bishop of Alexandria on September 21, 2016.

Bishop Talley currently serves as chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and as a member of USCCB’s Committee on National Collections and Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Bishop Ronald P. Herzog was born April 22, 1942 in Akron, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 1, 1968; he was appointed bishop of Alexandria on November 4, 2004, and ordained a bishop on January 5, 2005. Bishop Herzog most recently served as a consultant on the USCCB’s Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

The Diocese of Alexandria comprises 11,108 square miles in central Louisiana. It has a population of 368,065 people of whom, 36,280, or 10 percent, are Catholic.

February 1, 2017

WASHINGTON — The bishop-chairmen of two USCCB committees expressed concern and disappointment with President Donald Trump’s decision to retain President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13672 of July 21, 2014, which prohibits federal government contractors from undefined “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” discrimination, and forbids “gender identity” discrimination in the employment of federal employees.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, together issued the following statement:

The new administration’s decision not to rescind Executive Order 13672 is troubling and disappointing. The Executive Order is deeply flawed, and its many problems are outlined in our statement from 2014. The Church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace. Executive Order 13672, however, creates problems rather than solves them. In seeking to remedy instances of discrimination, it creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith. Keeping the Executive Order intact is not the answer.

We hope that the Administration will be open to continued conversations to find ways to advance the cause of justice and respect the conscience rights of all people.

January 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — On January 27, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order that, among other things: suspends issuance of visas and other immigration benefits to nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days; indefinitely suspends resettlement of refugees from Syria, which is also predominantly Muslim, subject to a possible exception for those who are “religious minorities” in their home countries and facing religious persecution; and suspends virtually the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, also subject to a possible exception for such “religious minorities.”

Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and Chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Most Reverend Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, jointly issued the following statement in response to this action:

We recognize that Friday evening’s Executive Order has generated fear and untold anxiety among refugees, immigrants, and others throughout the faith community in the United States.  In response to the Order, we join with other faith leaders to stand in solidarity again with those affected by this order, especially our Muslim sisters and brothers.  We also express our firm resolution that the Order’s stated preference for “religious minorities” should be applied to protect not only Christians where they are a minority, but all religious minorities who suffer persecution, which includes Yazidis, Shia Muslims in majority Sunni areas, and vice versa.  While we also recognize that the United States government has a duty to protect the security of its people, we must nevertheless employ means that respect both religious liberty for all, and the urgency of protecting the lives of those who desperately flee violence and persecution.  It is our conviction as followers of the Lord Jesus that welcoming the stranger and protecting the vulnerable lie at the core of the Christian life.  And so, to our Muslim brothers and sisters and all people of faith, we stand with you and welcome you. 

January 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — Bishop Oscar Cantú, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, today urged Congress to reject a Congressional Review Act (CRA) (Senate: SJR 9; House: HJR 41) that would repeal rules designed to institute greater transparency and accountability in the payments that oil and mining companies make to foreign governments.

The Securities and Exchange Commission established these rules to implement the Cardin-Lugar Anti-Corruption Rule, also known as “Section 1504” or the “Publish What You Pay” provision. The goal of the provision is to reduce corruption in poor yet resource rich countries. Research shows that countries receiving 50% or more of government revenue from oil or mineral companies tend to have higher rates of corruption which undermine democratic institutions, good governance, and fair elections while allowing repressive governments to remain in power. In such cases, a country’s natural wealth can become more of a curse than a blessing.

Bishop Cantú has issued the following statement in response to Senate Resolution SJR 9 and House H.J. Resolution 41.

I renew our strong support for greater transparency and comprehensive reporting in revenue payments.  As my predecessor as Chairman, Bishop Howard Hubbard wrote, ‘Transparency in extractive industry payments to governments is important to us as leaders of the Catholic community of faith and institutions that are investors and consumers. We believe these principles, policies, and rules can help protect the lives, dignity and rights of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth. The rules have moral and human consequences as well as economic and political impact.’  Therefore, I urge all members of Congress to reject the CRA (SJR 9; HJR 41) and instead protect the life and human dignity of all people from suffering the “resource curse.”

January 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — National Marriage Week USA and World Marriage Day are opportunities “to celebrate the gift and blessing of marriage,” said the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“Promoting and strengthening marriage remains a pastoral priority of our Conference,” wrote Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, in a letter to his brother bishops. “Marriage, both as a natural institution and as a Christian sacrament, is an irreplaceable good for society and all people.”

National Marriage Week USA is celebrated each year February 7-14, and World Marriage Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of February, this year February 12.

The USCCB provides numerous resources that can be of assistance to bishops, priests and lay leaders in promoting, strengthening and defending the gift of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman, including the websites For Your Marriage, Por Tu Matrimonio, and Marriage: Unique for a Reason. Archbishop Chaput encouraged participation in the “Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty,” an invitation to prayer and sacrifice for the protection of life, marriage, and religious liberty in the country. His letter and additional resources, including a homily resource and bulletin insert, are available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/national-marriage-week.cfm.  

A daily virtual marriage retreat for National Marriage Week is also available through Facebook: www.facebook.com/foryourmarriage. This year’s retreat draws from both Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (2015) and the USCCB pastoral letter Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan (2009).

The celebration of National Marriage Week in the U.S. began in 2002, originating from Marriage Week International. World Marriage Day, held the second Sunday of February each year, was started in 1983 by Worldwide Marriage Encounter.

January 30, 2017

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, have issued the following joint statement regarding the recent executive order on the new refugee policy announced by President Trump this past Friday. President Trump’s executive order suspends the entry of refugees into the United States for 120 days. The order also indefinitely stops the admission of Syrian refugees and for 90 days, bars individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Full joint statement as follows:

Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God’s people. We are grateful for their witness.  Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice.  The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.

The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom.  Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors.  They stand firm in their faith.  Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil.  We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.

The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life.  It is the very form of Christianity itself.  Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity.  Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him.

Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today.  In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present.  And He says to each of us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (MT 25:40).

January 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order addressing the U.S. refugee admissions program and migration to the United States, generally. The executive order virtually shuts down the refugee admissions program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In addition, it prioritizes religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, thereby deprioritizing all other persons fleeing persecution; calls for a temporary bar on admission to the United States from a number of countries of particular concern (all Muslim majority); and imposes a yet-to-be determined new vetting process for all persons seeking entry to the United States.
Regarding the Executive Order’s halt and reduction of admissions, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:
“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones.”
Regarding the Executive Order’s ban on Syrian refugees, the prioritization of religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, Bishop Vásquez added:
“The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”
Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vásquez concluded:

“Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will redouble their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in this area of concern.”

January 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — National Catholic Schools Week 2017 will be observed in dioceses around the country January 29–February 4. This year’s theme, “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service,” focuses on the important faith-building, academic and societal contributions provided by a Catholic education.

“Catholic schools are integral to our nation’s character – serving the common good, strengthening local communities, and building the Kingdom of God on earth,” said Bishop George Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, chairman of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Education.
In response to increased conversation around parental choice policies at the state and federal level, Bishop Murry added, “The Catholic education community’s commitment to empowering parents’ decision-making and the incredible witness our schools provide means we cannot be silent in the conversation over education policies.”

1.9 million students are currently educated in 6,525 Catholic schools in cities, suburbs, small towns and rural communities around the country. Students receive an education that prepares them for higher education, a competitive work environment, and most importantly, living a Christian life of virtue in a challenging society.  “For centuries, Catholic schools have provided a well-rounded education to disadvantaged families, new arrivals to America and to all who seek a seat in our schools. We have always tried to accommodate families of all backgrounds while maintaining our principles and teaching in a spirit of charity,” Bishop Murry said.

The observance of Catholic Schools Week began in 1974. Schools and parishes around the country will hold activities such as Masses, open houses, and pot luck gatherings to celebrate the communities they represent.  The week also highlights the educational and community successes of Catholic schools around the county.  One example is that an estimated 99 percent of students graduate from high school and 86 percent of Catholic school graduates attend college.  This percentage has been consistent over the past 20 years.

January 23, 2017

WASHINGTON—Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Migration has issued the following statement in response to yesterday’s executive order signed by President Donald Trump. The executive order would deny federal funding for jurisdictions that choose not to cooperate with federal efforts to deport undocumented immigrants. Bishop Vásquez says such an order could be injurious to local relationships between communities and law enforcement where building trust and supportive relations with immigrant communities is essential to reducing crime and helping victims.

Full statement follows:
I share the concern that all of us feel when someone is victimized by crime, especially when the perpetrator of that crime is someone who is in the United States without authorization.  I urge our local, state, and federal elected officials to work together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that all persons — U.S citizens and newcomers alike — are protected from individuals who pose a threat to national security or public safety. I am concerned, however, by the Executive Order issued by the President on January 25, 2017.  This order would force all jurisdictions to accept a one-size-fits-all regime that might not be best for their particular jurisdictions.

We believe in the inherent value of subsidiarity, and as spiritual leaders who minister to and live every day in our communities, we recognize the importance of relationships between local law enforcement and the people of the communities that they police. My brother bishops and I work to engage both local law enforcement and immigrant communities and help to foster dialogue between the two. We know that cooperative relationships between law enforcement and immigrant communities are vital.  I fear that this Executive Order may be injurious to that vital necessity.

I have enormous respect for and value our federal law enforcement agents who risk their lives every day to enforce our immigration laws.  I also recognize that there may well be situations where local government feel they need to foster a relationship with their communities by working with the victims of or witnesses to crime without instilling a fear that by coming forward, they or their family members will be handed over to immigration authorities.

As Archbishop Cordileone eloquently wrote in July of 2015 when confronted by tragedy in the Archdiocese of San Francisco, “Over the long-term, and in conjunction with my fellow bishops, I call upon Congress and the Administration to work together to comprehensively repair our nation’s flawed immigration system, a system that divides families and undermines human dignity. Such reform, long overdue, should preserve family unity, ensure the due process of law, protect those fleeing persecution, and ensure the integrity of our nation’s borders.”

January 25, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump today issued an executive order to construct a wall at the U.S./Mexico border, to significantly increase immigrant detention and deportation, and  to disregard/preempt/overrule the judgment of state and local law enforcement on how best to protect their communities.

The U.S./Mexico border, spanning approximately 2000 miles, already has roughly 700 miles of fencing and barrier that was constructed under the George W. Bush administration.  In response to the decision to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, stated:

“I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. This action will put immigrant lives needlessly in harm’s way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brother bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will “look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.’

In regards to the announcement of the planned surge in immigrant detention and deportation forces, Bishop Vasquez added:

“The announced increase in immigrant detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigrant detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain firm in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform. We fear that the policies announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”

Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vasquez noted:

“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today’s decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey.”

January 25, 2017

WASHINGTON — On January 24, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic charitable organizations filed an amicusbrief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Catholic and other religious health systems in cases involving the “church plan” exemption to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The amicus brief states that an “established by a church” requirement to qualify for ERISA’s “church plan” exemption “would pose a grave threat to the ability of many Catholic ministries to provide aid to the millions of needy individuals who benefit from their services each year.”

The cases before the Court challenge lower court decisions that would dramatically narrow the scope of the “church plan” exemption to ERISA, so that Catholic hospitals are excluded. The brief emphasizes that the narrower exemption would likely also exclude Catholic schools and universities, and the full range of Catholic charitable organizations, which also benefit from the “church plan” exemption. The brief also underscores how a legal definition of “church” that excludes these charities threatens needless conflict with Church teaching that “‘charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.’”  Deus Caritas Est, No. 25.

In part, the brief states, “If this Court embraces an ‘established by a church’ requirement, then federal agencies and courts will have no choice but to make sensitive determinations—more frequently and more often contested—about which religious organizations should be deemed ‘a church’ and which should not. … In sum, the ‘established by the church’ rule embraced by the courts below is fundamentally incompatible with the realities of religion in America, fundamentally incompatible with Congress’ manifest intent, and fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution.”

The full text of the amicusbrief is available at: http://www.usccb.org/about/general-counsel/amicus-briefs/upload/16-74-16-86-16-258-tsac-United-States-Conference-of-Catholic-Bishops.pdf

January 24, 2017

WASHINGTON—The National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held from Thursday afternoon, January 26 to Friday morning, January 27, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Over 20,000 pilgrims from around the nation will pray there for an end to abortion before the annual March for Life. The Vigil marks the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion nationwide. Since those decisions, over 57 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.

The principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Opening Mass will be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. It will be concelebrated by his fellow cardinals and many of the nation's bishops and priests in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church. The Vigil continues overnight in the Crypt Church with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Byzantine Rite Night Prayer, and holy hours led by seminarians from across the country from 11 p.m.- 6 a.m.

“Each year, the National Prayer Vigil for Life is a joyful, if sober, event, with thousands of young people from around the country. Led by our bishops, we are working to end abortion through prayer, education, advocacy, and acts of mercy,” said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“This beautiful night of prayer also falls within the bishops’ annual prayer and action campaign, 9 Days for Life, which covers a range of life issues,” McQuade continued. “Ours is an abortion-wounded nation, and so we pray, too, for healing for mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and others who are suffering in any way after abortion.”

On the day of the March for Life, January 27, the Basilica will host Morning Prayer in the Crypt Church at 6:30 a.m., and then the Vigil’s Closing Mass at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church, with Archbishop Aymond of New Orleans as principal celebrant and homilist.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America.

January 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Monsignor Michael J. Boulette of the Archdiocese of San Antonio as Auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio, Texas.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, January 23, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. 

Michael Boulette was born on June 4, 1950 in Hudson Falls, New York and was raised in Texas. He was formed through the Roman Catholic seminaries in the Archdiocese of San Antonio and completed his theological degrees and formation at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend where he received master’s degrees in Theology and Divinity in 1975. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from St. Mary University in 1971 and a master’s degree in Psychology from Trinity University in 1972. He received his Doctorate of Ministry from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1993.

Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of San Antonio on March 19, 1976, his assignments included: Parochial Vicar of St. James Catholic Church in Gonzalez, Texas (1976-1980), Parochial Vicar of St Ann Catholic Church, San Antonio (1980-1983), Director of Spiritual Formation and Liturgy at Assumption Seminary, San Antonio (1983-1992), sabbatical from 1992-1993, Pastor, Notre Dame Church, Kerrville (1993-2004), Administrator, Notre Dame Church in Kerrville (2010-2016).  In 2004, he was also commissioned to begin a new ministry for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, St. Peter Upon the Water Center for Spiritual Direction and Formation, where he has also served as its director (2004-present).  

The Catholic Diocese of San Antonio comprises 23,180 square miles in the state of Texas, with a population of 2,604,607 people of whom 758,812, or 29 percent, are Catholic. 

January 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — At their General Assembly in Baltimore last fall, the full body of bishops voted to confer permanent status on the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. The Subcommittee is part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on National Collections.

“It is an important step for the Church in the United States to continue walking in faith with our brothers and sisters in Africa,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR, Archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and chairman of the Subcommittee. “The Church in Africa is faith-filled, vibrant, and rapidly growing. I am grateful to all of those who have supported our work thus far, and am looking forward to continuing to support programs of evangelization and pastoral support in the Church in Africa.”

In its meeting on November 13, 2016, the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa approved 45 grant requests totaling over $1.2 million. The grants approved support projects across Africa including leadership training, seminarian and religious formation, and evangelization. Since the Solidarity Fund began in 2004, it has given over $20 million from Catholics in the United States to support the growing Church in Africa.

Examples of recent projects funded include:

    •    In Uganda, the local Episcopal Conference received a grant to train and strengthen the formation of lay catechists and members of parish pastoral councils. Funding will support training for 830 
          lay catechists and 1,080 members of parish pastoral councils.
    •    The Episcopal Conference of Burkina-Niger, in Burkina-Faso, received a grant to support Catholic education for children and youth from preschool to high school. Fifty-six percent of children
          enrolled in Catholic schools in Burkina Faso are children of peasants, farmers, artisans and small traders, and after 56 years of independence access to education is still a major challenge. This 
          grant provides support for a construction project that will provide space for all administrative, accounting, and teaching staff of the Catholic Education Commission.
In 2004, an Ad Hoc Committee on the Church in Africa was established and it began a voluntary Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. In 2008, this Ad Hoc Committee became a subcommittee of the Committee on National Collections with temporary status, and remained as such until the vote on November 15, 2016. This Subcommittee is charged with strengthening the pastoral capacity of the Church in Africa, which is both one of the fastest growing populations of the Catholic Church and one of the poorest.

The Subcommittee on the Church in Africa allocates the revenue received from the voluntary Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa as pastoral grants to episcopal conferences and their regional associations in Africa. To learn more about the work of the Subcommittee visit www.usccb.org/africa.
January 19, 2017

WASHINGTON—Representatives of bishops’ conferences from several countries, including the United States, gathered in the Holy Land to call for peace and action to end the occupation that violates “the human dignity” of Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
“As Bishops we implore Christians in our home countries to recognize our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action,” the bishops wrote on a statement signed by the 14 gathered representatives. “So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarizing social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity.”
Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) at the gathering, which included bishops and representatives from Europe, North America and South Africa. The group visited communities in conflict in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem among others.
"The occupation has allowed both Israelis and Palestinians to see and treat each other as enemies. After fifty years, this has worn down their spirits and dampened their hopes," said Bishop Cantú said. "Walking through the city of Hebron for fifty minutes, the tension was palpable. I can't imagine living with these tensions for fifty years. Both Palestinians and Israelis are impacted."
The Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met every January since 1998 to pray and act in solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land.
The full statement is available at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/holy-land-coordination-communique-january-2017.cfm.

January 18, 2017


WASHINGTON — As Congress discusses a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, the Chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, is urging members of the House and Senate to provide a replacement plan concurrently so that millions of Americans will continue to have access to vital health care.
In a letter sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate on January 18, 2017, Bishop Dewane wrote that repealing the ACA should not be undertaken without simultaneous passage of a replacement plan that will continue healthcare access for those who rely on it for their well-being. At the same time, the letter also underscores the importance of creating a replacement plan that will safeguard human life from conception to natural death and also protect conscience rights and adequate healthcare services for the poor including healthcare for immigrants.  
The full text of the letter sent to the U.S. Senate/U.S. House of Representatives is available at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/letter-to-congress-from-bishop-dewane-re-aca-2017-01-18.pdf

January 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Rev. Alfred Baca from the Diocese of Orange in California, has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based in Washington D.C. 

"Fr. Baca brings to the Conference a wealth of knowledge and experience in the realm of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, both at the institutional and at personal levels," said USCCB General Secretary, Rev. Msgr. Brian Bransfield, who made the appointment. "I am very grateful to Fr. Baca for accepting this vital position in service to the bishops and to the Conference. I am equally grateful to Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange, California, for his tremendous support of the Conference and generosity in releasing Fr. Baca for this important service."

Fr. Baca earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy in 1985, and a Masters of Divinity in 1989 from St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, California. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1989, he served in various parish assignments before attending the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, where he received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology with a specialization in Ecumenical Studies in 2006.

Since 2015, Father Baca has served as Pastor of St. Columban Church in Garden Grove, California. From 2009-2015, Father Baca served as the Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs in the Diocese of Orange. Prior to that, he served as Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Officer from 2007-2009. 

Of his new role, Father Baca states, "In today's world, efforts to heal the Christian family are more important than ever.  Cooperation with the other religions of the world can only benefit the human family.  I'm looking forward to collaborating with the Bishops and the USCCB staff in furthering the Church's mission, especially in the work toward Christian unity and reconciliation."

Fr. Baca is a member of the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers (CADEIO). Until last year, Fr. Baca also served as a representative for CADEIO of the United States.

He will assume his role with the bishops’ conference beginning July 1, 2017.

January 17, 2016
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved over $2.3 million in funding for 75 projects in 23 countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

 “A new generation of Catholics in Central and Eastern Europe needs our support as they continue to face the ongoing consequences of decades of communist rule,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe,
“These grants give the people living there, especially the younger generation, a place to encounter Christ and the courage and strength to re-build their church communities.”
Grants approved include:
•    Support to Caritas Georgia for a rehabilitation center for youth in Kutaisi to reach out to disadvantaged youth. This center will provide vulnerable youth and their families a place of support, empowerment, and career counseling to grow in self-knowledge and relationships with others, keeping them off the streets and giving them a path for the future. The center will also provide community and economic support for their families.
    •    Funding for The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Custody of St. Padre Pio in Ukraine and Russia to reconstruct and refurbish a building to provide spiritual, psychological, and educational support to those affected by the armed conflict in Ukraine. Support will be provided to wounded servicemen, grieving or affected families, internally displaced persons, victims of war and other refugees. People will also have access to humanitarian aid, legal support, counseling, and cultural activities.

Other projects approved by the subcommittee include scholarships, the rebuilding of churches and schools, and outreach to the poor.

Grants are funded by the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. The national date for this collection is Ash Wednesday, although dioceses may take it up on different days. The Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe oversees the collection and an annual grant program as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information about the collection and who it supports can be found at www.usccb.org/ccee.

January 13. 2017
WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) committees issued a joint statement welcoming the Vatican’s release of the preparatory document for the upcoming Synod of bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” The Synod takes place in October 2018.
The full statement from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, of Newark, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations; and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., of Philadelphia, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, follows:
A Joint Statement from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., in Response to the Synod Questionnaire
The Church of the United States is filled with great anticipation as we welcome the preparatory document for the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment.” Our Holy Father Pope Francis has called us to this important work, aptly entrusting the preparatory document to youth and young adults themselves as their “compass” on the journey ahead.
As bishops, this document will be our compass, too. We pray that it will guide our steps as we walk alongside our young people in preparing for this global conversation. We also pray that youth and young adults across the United States, and those who minister to and with them, will help us more fully understand the experience of young people in our Church and in our country—their hopes, dreams, fears, and struggles—so that the Synod may bear fruit in offering more insight and direction to our ministry with young people.
May all young people respond generously to the vocation and mission the Lord Jesus is calling them to daily—to take up His cross, and to follow Him wherever He invites them.
January 13, 2017

WASHINGTON—The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Full statement follows:
A Statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Since the time of the founding fathers, our country has been blessed with citizens who have had the courage to rise above the challenges of their day and call their fellow citizens forward in the unending task of building an ever more just nation. Today, we celebrate such a citizen, Martin Luther King, Jr. His inspiration guides us as we seek to build peace in our communities under the recent strain of division and violence. Recently, USCCB’s Task Force for Peace in Our Communities has examined and reported on how the bishops of the United States may improve their own contribution to this ongoing national effort.
While there have been real gains in our country, we must not deny the work before us to heal both old rifts and new wounds, including those created by the evil of racism and related mistrust and violence.  Society cannot continue this work if its members are unwilling to engage in encounters of the heart that honestly immerse them in one another’s lives. The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday provides a wonderful opportunity to examine how well each of us is doing in walking together with others in true encounter and solidarity.
Dr. King reminded us that our obligations to one another “concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify.  Such obligations are met by one’s commitment to an inner law, written on the heart.  Man-made laws assure justice, but a higher law produces love.” On this national holiday, may we think prayerfully about the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. King who directed his work toward both the structural and personal causes of racism.  As he urged the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “no, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream’" (Amos 5:24).

January 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — On January 12, 2017, the Obama Administration announced the end of the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy towards Cuban arrivals, which allows Cubans who arrive onto American soil to stay in the U.S. and apply to become legal residents while returning those Cubans intercepted at sea back to Cuba. Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration at the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated in response to the announcement, “I am disappointed over the Administration’s sudden policy change to end the ‘Wet Foot/ Dry Foot’ policy for Cuban arrivals.”
 Bishop Vasquez noted in regards to the Administration’s actions, “While we have welcomed normalizing relations with Cuba, the violation of basic human rights remains a reality for some Cubans and the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy helped to afford them a way to seek refuge in the United States.”
 Noting the remarkable contributions of Cuban Americans to our society, Bishop Vasquez stated: “Cuban Americans have been one of the most successful immigrant groups in U.S. history. The protections afforded them were a model of humane treatment.” The end of the Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy, Bishop remarked, “will make it more difficult for vulnerable populations in Cuba, such as asylum seekers, children, and trafficking victims, to seek protection.”
 Going forward, Bishop Vasquez, stated: “My brother Bishops and I pledge to work with the outgoing and incoming administrations to ensure humane treatment for vulnerable populations, from Cuba and elsewhere, seeking refuge in the United States.”

January 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — The follow statement has been issued by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in support of Pope Francis’ video message issued today during National Migration Week. National Migration Week is an opportunity to recognize the contributions of immigrants, refugees, migrants and survivors of human trafficking in our communities as well as to highlight the work of the Church to serve and accompany newcomers. The theme for National Migration Week 2017 draws attention to Pope Francis’ call to create a culture of encounter.  Today, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles played Pope Francis' taped video message at the end of a Mass as part of National Migration Week celebrations. The video of Pope Francis' remarks can be found at the 56-minute mark in the following link: https://www.facebook.com/NOELDIAZESNE/videos/1716869905005089/ 

Cardinal DiNardo’s statement:  

T his week, in large cathedrals and small parish churches across the country, people of faith are celebrating National Migration Week with prayer and sharing. This morning in Los Angeles, Pope Francis joined that prayer with a special video message.  It was an excellent reminder of how the universal Church gathers us, no matter our station in life, as one body in Christ.

In the days and weeks ahead, there will be intense debate over immigration reform and refugee policy. Ultimately, the question is this: Will our nation treat all migrants and refugees, regardless of their national origin or religion, in a way that respects their inherent dignity as children of God? Pope Francis reminds us we are all equal before God.  In equal measure, we are in need of and can receive God’s great mercy.  This is what makes us sisters and brothers, regardless of how we chose to divide ourselves.

Achieving “one nation under God” has not always been easy, but each earlier period of immigration has ultimately strengthened our society.  Those who seek to do us harm must be kept from our shores, but those fleeing persecution in need of hope and ready to help us build a better America must be welcomed. We need not sink into the darkness of isolation.  Comprehensive immigration reform and a humane refugee policy are equally necessary and possible. We join our voice with the Holy Father and the universal Church in a continued witness to the love that unites us, praying for the strength to resist the fear that divides us.

January 9, 2017

WASHINGTON — The annual Collection for the Church in Latin America will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of January 21-22. This collection has existed for over 50 years as a sign of solidarity between the Churches of the United States and those in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Through this collection, Catholics in the United States walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America. “This important collection signals our unity with our brother and sisters in the faith.”

The collection supports the work of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America by funding grants for a variety of pastoral efforts such as lay leadership training, seminarian and religious formation, prison ministry and youth ministry. All of these efforts help Catholics share their faith.

The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the collection and an annual grant program as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. Additional resources to learn about the collection and the projects it supports include an interactive map, a video on the history of the collection, and an annual report. The home page for the collection is www.usccb.org/latin-america.

January 6, 2017

WASHINGTON — The following is a joint statement from Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on National Migration Week, taking place January 8-14, 2017.

Full messages as follows:

Beginning Sunday, the Catholic Church in the United States marks National Migration Week.  The observance began more than 25 years ago as a way to reflect upon the many ways immigrants and refugees have contributed to our Church and our nation. This year, we are invited to create a culture of encounter where citizens old and new, alongside immigrants recent and longstanding, can share with one another their hopes for a better life. Jesus, Mary and Joseph knew life as refugees, so let us also begin this encounter within our very own families.

Migration is, more than anything, an act of great hope. Our brothers and sisters who are forced to migrate suffer devastating family separation and most often face dire economic conditions to the point they cannot maintain a very basic level of living. Refugees flee their countries due to war and persecution which inspires them to risk everything for an opportunity to live in peace. As Catholics in the United States, most of us can find stories in our own families of parents, grandparents or great-grandparents leaving the old country for the promise of America. Take time this Migration Week to seek out those stories. Let us remind ourselves of those moments when our loved ones were forced to seek the mercy of others in a new land.

Americans have a great national heritage of welcoming the newcomer who is willing to help build a greater society for all. Fear and intolerance have occasionally tested that heritage. Whether immigrating from Ireland, Italy or countless other countries, previous generations faced bigotry. Thanks be to God, our nation grew beyond those divisions to find strength in unity and inclusion. We have kept dear the words of scripture, “do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels” (HEB 13:2).

This National Migration Week is an opportunity to embrace the important work of continuing to secure the border, to welcome the stranger and serve the most vulnerable—all components of a humane immigration policy.

January 5, 2017

WASHINGTON — The USCCB Special Task Force to Promote Peace in Our Communities has released a written version of the report today. The report includes findings and recommendations for bishops to continue the vital work of fostering healing and lasting peace in communities across the U.S. through concrete action, ongoing dialogue and opportunities for encounter. The USCCB Special Task Force to Promote Peace in our Communities can be found at  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/upload/racism-task-force-report-20161110-peace-in-our-communities.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

Additional bishop members of the special Task Force included: Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs; Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, Bishop Emeritus of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, former chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Church in Africa, member of the USCCB Subcommittee for African American Affairs, and member of the board of the National Black Catholic Congress; and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).

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

January 4, 2017

WASHINGTON — Throughout 2016 dioceses across the country participated in three emergency appeals, donating over $7 million for support in response to natural disasters.
“The generosity of Catholics across the country to these appeals is a beautiful act of solidarity and mercy,” said Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of Mobile, Alabama, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on National Collections. “Those affected by these disasters found themselves suddenly in situations of dire need, and, as a community of faith, we have been able to provide some measure of relief and hope.”
In January 2016, the 2015-2016 Calamities Collection was created in response to storms that hit the south and mid-west regions of our country during Advent 2015 and in anticipation of additional natural disasters in 2016. To date, this collection has raised $3.2 million from dioceses across the United States. Funds are being allocated as follows:

  • 75% distributed to Catholic Charities USA to cover emergency assistance such as food, water, shelter, medical care and long-term recovery efforts.
  • 25% to the USSCB to support affected dioceses with rebuilding and reconstruction needs. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions has been tasked with administering the USCCB share of this collection.
  • In August 2016, the 2016 Louisiana Floods Collection was created in response to the extraordinary flooding occurring in southern Louisiana. To date, this collection has raised $3.8 million from U.S. dioceses.

    Funds from this special collection are being allocated as follows:
  • 80% to Catholic Charities USA for immediate emergency needs and humanitarian relief.
  • 20% to the USCCB to support the rebuilding and reconstruction needs of affected dioceses. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions has been tasked with administering the USCCB share of this collection.

In October 2016, the Hurricane Matthew Collection was created in response to the disastrous category 4 hurricane that struck large portions of the Southeastern coast of the United States and countries in the Caribbean, especially Haiti. To date, approximately $326,000 has been raised from U.S. dioceses with more funds anticipated soon. Hurricane Matthew Collection funds are being allocated as follows:

  • 30% to Catholic Relief Services for humanitarian efforts in the Caribbean in the form of water, food, shelter, and medical care, and to restore communities after widespread destruction.
  • 25% to Catholic Charities USA for immediate humanitarian efforts in the United States as well as for long-term recovery efforts.
  • 30% to the USCCB for pastoral and reconstruction needs of the Church in the Caribbean. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America will administer the USCCB collection portion designated for church rebuilding in this region.
  • 15% to the USCCB for church reconstruction needs in the United States. The National Collections’ Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions will administer the USCCB collection portion designated for church rebuilding here at home.

Emergency collection appeals are called for by the president of the USCCB, fund allocation decisions are made by the USCCB Executive or Administrative Committee and collection funds are administered by the USCCB Committee on National Collections. For more information on these emergency appeals or any of the other national collections, visit www.usccb.org/nationalcollectionsor call 202-541-3400.

December 28, 2016

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Richard G. Lennon from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Cleveland and has named Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese until the installation of a new bishop.

The resignation and appointment was publicized in Washington, December 28, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.  

Bishop Lennon was installed as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Cleveland on May 15, 2006.  His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, appointed Bishop Lennon on April 4, 2006.  

A native of the Boston area, Bishop Lennon was ordained to the priesthood in May, 1973 in the Archdiocese of Boston where he served as a parish priest, Fire Department Chaplain, an Assistant for Canonical Affairs, and Rector of St. John’s Seminary. Ordained as an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Boston on September 14, 2001, he was also called upon to serve as Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese from December of 2002 to July of 2003.

The Diocese of Cleveland comprises 3,414 square miles that include eight counties in the north-central part of the state of Ohio. It has a total population of 2,774,113 people of which 682,948 or 24 percent, are Catholic.

December 21, 2016

WASHINGTON — National Migration Week 2017 will take place January 8-14. This year’s theme is "Creating a Culture of Encounter.” The celebration provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the contributions of migrants, including refugees, and victims of human trafficking in our communities.

With over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes globally, the world is increasingly affected by migration. National Migration Week offers a time to educate Catholic communities about migration and to come together to encounter immigrants and refugees in parishes, dioceses, and communities.

“National Migration Week is an excellent opportunity to highlight Biblical tradition and our mission to welcome the newcomer,” said Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “While the observance is only a week long, it is a vital time to show welcome, compassion, and solidarity with our migrant and refugee brothers and sisters.”

As part of the 2017 National Migration Week celebration, the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) coalition will be launching a new website that will feature news, background materials on migration policy issues, and ways for individuals to get involved.

The observance of National Migration Week began over 25 years ago by the U.S. bishops to give Catholics an opportunity to honor and learn about the diverse communities of the Church and the work that the Church undertakes to serve immigrants and refugees. The week serves as both a time for prayer and action to highlight the contributions of immigrants and vulnerable populations coming to the United States.

December 20, 2016

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) encourages us to visit the manger this Christmas and reflect upon how we can give of ourselves in the New Year.

Cardinal DiNardo has released the following Christmas message. A video version of his message is also available at https://www.facebook.com/usccb/videos/10154186175772285/

Full message follows:

The Gift of Ourselves

My brothers and sisters in Christ, like the Magi and the shepherds before us, we are making our Christmas journey to see the new born savior. Centuries ago, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh greeted the infant Jesus. People in need of God’s love rejoiced in the news of his birth and offered gifts of gratitude. This Christmas, let us also visit the manger and give the gift of ourselves. This gift arises from our desire and search for peace at this time and place.

We discover the fragile innocence of hope in the eyes of a new born baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Mary and Joseph welcomed this young hope, for Jesus made known, in his very Person, the promise of “great joy that will be for all people.” We can nurture that same hope today. We do this by greeting one another in love and charity, embracing civility and not letting our differences hide the dignity and beauty God has given each of us as his children.

Allow me to say a special word to our sisters and brothers who find themselves immigrants and refugees on Christmas Day. In you, we see the very struggles of the Holy Family. From the angel of the Lord, Joseph heard the call to “rise and flee” in order to keep Mary and Jesus safe from violence at home. The Catholic Church in the United States is praying for you and is working to welcome you as we would the Holy Family.

We remain a people in need of God’s love this Christmas, especially the unborn or unemployed, the suffering and sick, the lonely and the grieving. Let us pray the Holy Spirit will come upon us as he overshadowed the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation so that filled with the love of her Son, we will “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.” Merry Christmas!

December 19, 2016

WASHINGTON — The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage has released the final video in a series that highlights the unique meaning of marriage. Entitled Made for the Common Good, the video features personal witnesses and policy experts discussing the importance of marriage between one man and one woman for children and for society at large.

Made for the Common Goodis designed to frame a conversation about marriage and its benefits for individual families and for our communities,” said Bishop Conley of Lincoln, chairman of the Subcommittee. “We all need to consider the importance of marriage, the unique partnership of a man and a woman, as the foundation of the family, and the foundation for our society. When marriage is not understood, supported, or valued – society suffers.”

Made for the Common Goodis part of Marriage: Unique for a Reason, an educational initiative that promotes and explains the unique gift of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The other videos in the series are Made for Each Other, on sexual difference and complementarity, Made for Life, on procreation, and Made for Freedom, on the impact of the redefinition of marriage on religious freedom. A video in Spanish, entitled El Matrimonio: hecho para el amore y la vida, covers all of these topics as well. Each video can serve as a discussion-starter and resource for clergy, catechists, teachers, and other leaders.

These resources are available online at www.marriageuniqueforareason.organd are for purchase through www.usccbpublishing.org. A Made for the Common Goodstudy guide is forthcoming.

Bishop Conley was recently appointed as chairman of the Subcommittee by Archbishop Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. Bishop Conley succeeds Archbishop Cordileone upon the completion of his second term as Subcommittee chairman.

December 16, 2016

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Monsignor Louis Kihneman III, 64, as bishop of Biloxi, Mississippi, and accepted the resignation of Bishop Roger Morin, 75, from the pastoral governance of that diocese. Msgr. Kihneman is a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, and currently serves as vicar general.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, December 16, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Louis Kihneman III, was born on February 17, 1952 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He holds a bachelor of arts degree and master degrees in religious education and theology from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He attended St. Mary’s seminary, Houston, and was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi on November 18, 1977.

Assignments after ordination included, parochial vicar at: San Isidro Labrador Church, Arteaga, Mexico, 1977; St. Anthony of Padua Church, Robstown, Texas, 1978; Christ the King parish, Corpus Christi, 1980; Saints Cyril and Methodius Church, Corpus Christi, 1981. Pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Alice, 1983; diocesan director of vocations and seminarians, 1986-1993; director, St. John Vianney House of Studies, 1986-1993; director of Christian leadership vocations, 1986-1993; pastor, Sacred Heart Church, Rockport, 1993-2011; vicar general, 2010-present; pastor, St. Philip Church, Corpus Christi, 2014 - present.

Other assignments include: marriage tribunal advocate, 1983-1987; diocesan director of religious education, 1978-1983; priest personnel board, 1984-1993; associate vicar for clergy, 1988-1995; presbyteral council member, 1977-1986; 2000-present; and as chancellor, 2013-2014.

Bishop Roger P. Morin was born on March 7, 1941 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was ordained a priest on April 15, 1971; he was appointed auxiliary bishop of New Orleans on February 11, 2003, and ordained a bishop on April 22, 2003. He was appointed bishop of Biloxi on February 23, 2009, and was installed on April 27, 2009.

The Diocese of Biloxi comprises 9,653 square miles in the state of Mississippi. It has a total population of 818,801 people of which 57,912 or seven percent, are Catholic.

December 2, 2016

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), welcomed Pope Francis’ November 20 apostolic letter “ Misericordia et Misera” (“Mercy and Misery”). In his letter, Pope Francis extended the Year of Mercy provision granting priests worldwide a faculty related to the sin of abortion: “Lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness, I henceforth grant to all priests, in virtue of their ministry, the faculty to absolve those who have committed the sin of procured abortion.” Cardinal Dolan responded with gratitude in the following statement:

I express heartfelt appreciation for the Holy Father’s continued proclamation of God’s mercy worldwide, clearing the path to reconciliation and healing for all who have
been involved in abortion.

Pope Francis wrote: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must 
state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father” ( Misericordia et Misera,

The Holy Father reminds us that God, the Father of Mercies, welcomes all those who are repentant, seeking mercy and peace after involvement in abortion — and that an
experience of God’s great mercy gives rise to joy.

For many years in the United States, most bishops have granted their priests this faculty. In addition to sacramental confession, the Church offers confidential and
compassionate help through diocesan Project Rachel ministries.

Since 1984, dedicated ministries throughout the nation have accompanied those seeking forgiveness, healing, and peace after losing a child to abortion. Wherever a
person might be in their healing journey, Project Rachel offers free, confidential help.

To find the nearest diocesan healing ministry, go to the ‘Find Help’ map at www.hopeafterabortion.orgor  www.esperanzaposaborto.org.

December 1, 2016

WASHINGTON — A Day of Prayer with a focus on the plight of refugees and migrants will take place across the United States on December 12, 2016, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It will be a time to place before a merciful God the hopes, fears, and needs of all those families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.

“As Christmas approaches and especially on this feast of Our Lady, we are reminded of how our savior Jesus Christ was not born in the comfort of his own home, but rather in an unfamiliar manger,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). “To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season,” Cardinal DiNardo added.

Prayer services and special Masses will be held in many dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking an opportunity to provide for their families. If you are unable to attend or there is not one near you, Catholics are invited to offer prayers wherever they may be.  For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ office of Migrant and Refugee Services (MRS) has also developed a Scriptural Rosary entitled “Unity in Diversity” that includes prayers for migrants and refugees at http://www.justiceforimmigrants.org/documents/Scriptural-Rosary-Eng.pdf.

“So many families are wondering how changes to immigration policy might impact them,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice-president of the USCCB. “We want them to know the Church is with them, offers prayers on their behalf, and is actively monitoring developments at the diocesan, state, and national levels to be an effective advocate on their behalf.”

In the coming days, the USCCB will be developing additional pastoral resources, reflecting the active collaboration of various USCCB Committees whose mandates touch on the concerns of migrants and refugees.  These efforts will continue to follow the basic principles contained in Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, the 2003 pastoral letter issued jointly by the bishops of the United States and Mexico. A pamphlet introducing and summarizing this document is available in both English ( http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/immigration/strangers-no-longer-together-on-the-journey-of-hope.cfm) and Spanish ( http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/immigration/juntos-en-el-camino-de-la-esperanjuntos-en-el-camino.cfm/).





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