The public sessions of the annual Spring General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Atlanta will be available through streaming video online, USCCB’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter and via satellite for stations wishing to broadcast the proceedings. The live coverage will be Wednesday, June 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. EDT, and Thursday, June 14, 9-10 a.m. EDT.
The streaming video will be available at http://www.usccb.org/about/leadership/usccb-general-assembly/. This page will also include meeting documentation as it becomes available. The Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/USCCBLive will feature live tweets of the meeting. The page http://www.facebook.com/usccb will feature updates including pictures and news releases.
The meeting will include a two-hour floor discussion on domestic and international religious freedom, an address by the new president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Carolyn Woo, a report and recommendations by the National Review Board on the Church’s efforts to prevent clergy sexual abuse, a presentation on the upcoming Year of Faith and the discussion of a proposed message on work, poverty and the economy.
Over 3,000 participants at the sixth annual World Congress of Families in Madrid, Spain issued a declaration calling the family essential in solving present-day crises.
“We assert that the lasting solutions to human problems, including the current economic crisis, come from families and from small communities,” reads the statement titled, the Declaration of Madrid.
Ignacio Arsuaga, president of the civil rights organization Hazteoir.org, told Catholic News Agency that the closing of the May 25-27 congress was “one of the most moving” of all the events.
During the closing ceremony, Fernando Benzo Saiz — Spain’s undersecretary for the Ministry of Education — was interrupted by applause “three times” during his speech, in which he denounced modern attacks on the family, Arsuaga recalled.
Members of the international committee of the World Congress of Families also called this year’s event in Madrid one of the best organized since the first was held in 1997.
The declaration, read aloud by Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center, first underscores the “sanctity of human life from conception to natural death.”
“Each newly conceived person has the right to live, to grow, to be born and to share a home with his or her natural parents united in marriage,” it says, adding that “Abortion, euthanasia and all forms of manipulation of human beings in an embryonic or fetal state, therefore, are attacks against human life.”
The World Congress of Families’ document also criticized population control efforts, arguing that “the world is abundant in resources.”
“The weakening of the traditional family and moral and political failings, not human ‘overpopulation,’ have cause poverty, hunger and the decline of the environment,” the statement asserts.
“The real demographic danger that the earth faces in this new century is the crisis of births and the aging of the population. Our societies need more people, not less.”
After affirming the rights of parents to educate their children without interference from the State, the declaration states that all human beings have the right to religious freedom, which must be respected by politicians.
The World Congress of Families was held in anticipation of the 7th World Meeting of Families, which will take place May 30-June 3 in the Milan. Pope Benedict XVI is slated to attend the event.
More than 350 attendees from Haiti and from over 30 U.S. states, Canada and France will fill the National Conference on Solidarity, “Haiti: One Table, Many Partners,” at The Catholic University in Washington (CUA), June 1-3. This is the largest gathering ever of its kind between the church in Haiti and the United States.
“We are very pleased that this important conference has attracted such great interest,” said Bishop Chibly Langlois of Les Cayes, Haiti, president of the Episcopal Conference of Haiti. “It’s so important for all of us committed to Haiti to come together in prayer and to share our experiences, ideas, and vision for Haiti’s future.”
“Helping the people of Haiti and supporting the church there in serving the needy and rebuilding church structures as well as people’s lives is of great importance to the church in the United States. We are committed to doing everything we can to assist our brothers and sisters in Haiti” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston and a member of the Haiti Advisory Group of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“Haiti: One Table, Many Partners” will be hosted by USCCB and Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The conference will include Haitian and U.S. church leaders who are involved in parish and diocesan partnerships, evangelization, church reconstruction, and those working in sustainable development. In addition to expert speakers, the conference will feature workshops on project areas like catechesis, reconstruction, education and livelihoods.
Keynote speakers include Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, archbishop of Miami and chairman of the USCCB Haiti Advisory Group; Bishop Chibly Langlois; Carolyn Woo, president and chief executive officer of CRS; and Jesuit Father Allan Figueroa Deck, a noted speaker on multiculturalism in the church.
Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, 61, as archbishop of Denver; Bishop Richard J. Malone of Portland, Maine, 66, as bishop of Buffalo, New York; and accepted the resignation of 75-year-old Bishop Edward U. Kmiec from the pastoral governance of the Buffalo Diocese.
The appointments and resignation were publicized in Washington, May 29, by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States.
Bishop Aquila succeeds Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., who was named archbishop of Philadelphia last July.
Samuel Joseph Aquila was born September 24, 1950, in Burbank, Calif. He studied at St. Thomas Seminary, Denver, where he earned a master’s degree in theology, and at San Anselmo University, Rome, where he earned a licentiate in theology. He was ordained a priest for the Denver Archdiocese in 1976. In the archdiocese he served as director of the Office of Liturgy, secretary for Catholic education, the first director of the St. John Vianney Seminary, and chief executive officer of Our Lady of the New Advent Theological Institute. He was named coadjutor bishop of Fargo in 2001 and bishop of Fargo in 2002.
Richard Joseph Malone was born in Salem, Mass., March 19, 1946, and ordained a priest for the Boston Archdiocese in 1972. He holds a bachelor of theology degree, a master of divinity degree, and a master of theology in biblical studies from St. John Seminary School of Theology, a doctor of theology degree in religion and education from Boston University, and a licentiate in sacred theology from Weston Jesuit School of Theology.
Bishop Malone was named an auxiliary bishop of Boston in 2000, and bishop of Portland in 2004. Prior to his ordination as a bishop, he taught theology at the archdiocesan seminary, had served as director of campus ministry at Harvard University, director of the archdiocesan office of ecumenical and interreligious affairs, director of religious education and secretary for education.
Edward Urban Kmiec was born in Trenton, N.J., June 4, 1936. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, the Gregorian University, Rome, and the North American College. He was ordained a priest in 1961. He was named auxiliary bishop of Trenton in 1982, bishop of Nashville, Tennessee, in 1992, and bishop of Buffalo in 2004.
The Denver Archdiocese has a population of 3,299,911people, with 541,419, or 16 percent, of them Catholic. It includes 25 counties across 40,154 square miles in northern Colorado.
The Buffalo Diocese has 1,527,470 persons, with 633,550, or 41 percent, of them Catholic. It includes eight counties across 6,357 square miles in western New York State.
Supreme Knights calls on Knights of Columbus to stand in prayerful solidarity with Pope Benedict XVI
On May 28, 1977 Father Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — was consecrated a bishop. Yesterday, on the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Pope’s episcopal ordination, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson asked the 1.8 million members of the Knights of Columbus to remember the pope in prayer on Sunday.
“I ask that every member of the Knights of Columbus offer an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be before or after Mass on this coming Sunday, June 3, for the pope’s intentions and in honor of his 35 years as a bishop,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. He continued: “At this important moment in the history of the Church and in the life of Pope Benedict XVI, it is important that we commit ourselves in prayer and solidarity to our Holy Father in a special way.”
The Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization. Its more than 1.8 million members worldwide, are based throughout North and Central America and the Caribbean. The organization also counts strong membership in the Philippines and most recently in Europe, with its establishment in Poland.
Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will declare St. Hildegard of Bingen and St. John of Avila as Doctors of the Church on Oct. 7 2012 at the beginning of this year’s Synod of Bishops in Rome.
“These two great witnesses of the faith lived in very different historical periods and came from different cultural backgrounds,” said the pope in his Regina Coeli address May 27.
“But the sanctity of life and depth of teaching makes them perpetually present: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fact, projected them into that experience of penetrating understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world that constitutes the horizon of permanent life and action of the Church.”
The title of “Doctor of the Church” is bestowed upon a saint whose writings are deemed to be of universal importance to the Church. The Pope must also declare the individual to be of “eminent learning” and “great sanctity.” Other Doctors of the Church include St. Augustine, St. John Chryosostom, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Catherine of Siena.
St. John of Avila was a 16th century Spanish priest, mystic, preacher and scholar. Pope Benedict announced his intention to name him a Doctor of the Church at World Youth Day in Madrid last August but had not set a specific date for doing so.
St. Hildegard was a 12th century German nun, writer, composer, philosopher and mystic, as well as an abbess and founder of several monasteries. This month Pope Benedict formally added her to the church’s roster of saints, extending her liturgical feast throughout the world.
“Especially in light of the project of the new evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated, and on the vigil of the Year of Faith, these two figures of saints and doctors are of considerable importance and relevance,” said Pope Benedict.
The papal declaration came on the Feast of Pentecost which marks the conclusion of Eastertide and recalls the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles after the Ascension of Christ.
“Jesus, risen and ascended into heaven, sends His Spirit to the Church, so that all Christians can share in His divine life and become His effective witness in the world,” said the pope, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
He then prayed the Eastertide midday Marian prayer along with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square before imparting his apostolic blessing.
Advocates of religious liberty have announced plans to launch religious freedom caucuses in all 50 state legislatures in order to fight against the erosion of religious liberty at the local level.
The caucuses will be “a focal point for those who are working on religious freedom in the states to direct and generate their efforts,” said Brian Walsh, executive director of the American Religious Freedom Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Working alongside a wide variety of faith communities and other groups, the American Religious Freedom Program is helping form and support the caucuses, which will allow state legislators to share information and connect with religious and public policy organizations as they focus on threats to religious liberty.
The caucus initiative was announced at the 2012 National Religious Freedom Conference in Washington, D.C. on May 24.
Concerns over religious freedom have escalated in recent months, reaching a peak with the Obama administration’s federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has been widely criticized as an attack on religious liberty. Catholic bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against it, warning that it could force Catholic hospitals, schools and charitable agencies to close their doors.
Organizers of the state caucus initiative said that many threats to religious freedom begin or are found at the state level.
These attacks include attempts to require individuals to perform health care procedures that violate their beliefs, censure of policy arguments that incorporate religious beliefs, and efforts to weaken religious groups’ ability to choose their own leaders.
Concerns have also been voiced over the threat to religious freedom posed by a redefinition of marriage so that it includes homosexual couples. In states that have legalized “gay marriage,” lawsuits have already been filed against those who object to cooperating with them, threatening the conscience rights of adoption agencies, church halls and photographers, as well as other individuals and organizations.
Walsh described the developing caucuses as “a place for religious freedom expertise to reside.”
He explained that the creation process has already begun in a dozen states, including Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Utah.
Walsh expects these caucuses to be up and running soon. He said that a total of about 25 caucuses are anticipated by the end of this year, and nearly every state is expected to have a caucus by the end of 2013.
The effort has drawn praise from a diverse group of religious leaders, many of whom will be helping create and support the caucuses.
“Since the founding of our nation, we have never before witnessed threats of this magnitude from all levels of government,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee. “Citizens who care about this fundamental American right must take action to protect it.”
“Blessed by two centuries of First Amendment protections in the United States, Jews must speak up when the liberties of conscience afforded their fellow Americans are being threatened,” added Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University.
“The Religious Freedom Caucuses will be a central tool in addressing these threats to religious rights before the courts are left as the only recourse,” said Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Walsh explained that the effort to build caucuses has received strong support at the state level.
This is not “a partisan issue,” but “an American issue,” he said in a Catholic News Agency report. “Religious freedom is at the core of what it means to be American.”
A new survey shows that while more Americans are opposing the federal contraception mandate, the majority of voters also doubt that Catholic institutions would shut down rather than comply with the rule.
According to a May 22-23 Rasmussen poll, 51 percent of voters find it unlikely that Catholic organizations would shut down rather than buy insurance to cover abortifacients, sterilizations and contraceptives, as required by the Obama Administration’s Health and Human Services mandate.
Although 43 Catholic institutions recently announced lawsuits against the federal government over the mandate, only 40 percent of voters believe it to be “somewhat likely” that institutions would actually close their doors over the issue.
Sixteen percent believe such action to be “very likely” while 17 percent think it would be “not at all likely.”
Despite this doubt, 51 percent of voters disagree that the government should force religious organizations to provide contraception coverage if it violates their beliefs. Thirty-six percent of voters support this policy even if it violates religious beliefs.
Overall support of the mandate has fallen slightly when compared to those surveyed in a Feb. 7 poll. Of those questioned in the most recent poll, only 39 percent of voters favor the mandate as compared to the 43 percent who supported it in an earlier poll.
This new poll indicates a slight rise in women’s opposition to the mandate, with female voters now evenly split over the issue. Men still overwhelmingly disagree with the mandate, with 52 percent in opposition and 34 percent in favor, according to a Catholic News Agency report.
Bishops nationwide have voiced support for a wave of recent lawsuits against the federal contraception mandate, explaining that the dioceses that did not take legal action are represented by those that did.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta explained that the lawsuits “represent a concerted effort to exemplify the broad spectrum of Catholic institutions that are directly impacted by the HHS mandate.”
He said that while many other Catholic organizations “would certainly seek to join this legal action,” the most important actions are prayer and support for initiatives to protect religious liberty.
In a May 23 statement, Archbishop Gregory emphasized his full support for several recent lawsuits challenging the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.
Forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations across the country announced legal action against the federal government on May 21.
The lawsuits, which are being filed in 12 dozen different jurisdictions across the country, challenge a federal regulation that will require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
Bishops from every diocese in the United States have spoken out against the mandate, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious liberty and could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations to shut down.
The Archdiocese of Atlanta is not one of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuits, but Archbishop Gregory made it clear that he supported the efforts of his brother bishops.
A member of the religious freedom committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he explained that the conference “has tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress. No resolution has been made as of this date.”
Now, he said, the bishops must turn to the court “to protect our valuable ministries and fundamental right to practice religion without government interference.”
Known for his work in the African American community and for the critical leadership he provided in developing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Archbishop Gregory served as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001 to 2004.
As the archbishop of Atlanta, he will be hosting the bishops’ upcoming Spring General Assembly in June.
Pat Chivers, communications director for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, explained that while the archdiocese is not being legally represented in the newest wave of lawsuits, its interests are being represented by the dioceses that are filing the suits.
Archbishop Gregory has written a letter that will be read at all Masses next weekend “to show that we are in support” of the legal action taken by several dioceses across the country, she told Catholic News Agency.
Chivers explained that Jones Day, the law firm that is filing the lawsuits, has an office in Atlanta, and the archdiocese has therefore been “part of the legal strategy” behind the effort.
The goal was not to have every diocese in the U.S. to file a lawsuit, she said. Rather, the dioceses that did file them offer a broad and diverse representation of the concerns, situations and interests of dioceses across the country.
Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio agreed.
“The particular plaintiffs in this lawsuit were chosen by legal counsel at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” he explained. “They are representative of dioceses and Catholic institutions across the nation.”
Bishop Murry explained that his diocese “unambiguously supports” the legal action to defend religious freedom, which “is a cornerstone of basic human rights and is necessary for the flourishing of a just society.”
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati echoed his remarks. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has not filed a lawsuit, but it is unnecessary “for every diocese to join the suits in order for them to be effective,” he said.
“The various plaintiffs reflect a broad cross-section of Catholic institutions, and together they represent the wide variety of issues, impacts, economic consequences, and divergent facts that exist among Catholic organizations nationwide,” Archbishop Schnurr observed.
He voiced support for the recently-announced lawsuits, saying that litigation has become “the only way left to fight for our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion.”
U.S. bishops to meet with bishops from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean to discuss migration issues
Representatives of bishops’ conferences of the United States, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean countries will convene May 28-30 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for the 2012 Regional Bishops’ Consultation on Migration. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock, Arkansas will lead the U.S. delegation.
The meeting is an annual event that brings together bishops to focus on migration issues in the hemisphere. The participants are expected to discuss the current situation of migrants in their respective countries and explore ways to work together to positively impact the migration of peoples throughout the hemisphere.
The discussions will focus upon current conditions impacting migration in sending and receiving countries; the treatment of immigrants living in or in transit through their countries; the impact on communities left behind; and the implications of these realities on the Church’s pastoral care, advocacy and public policy, and service responses.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the participants will issue a statement on their discussions and make recommendations for regional cooperation between governments on the issue of migration.
The annual consultations have grown out of regular meetings between the migration-related committees of the U.S. and Mexico episcopal conferences that began in 1999 and resulted in the historic joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, issued in 2003. Since then, the consultations have been expanded to other bishops’ conferences and their staff involved in human mobility work in Canada and Latin America, especially in Central America and the Caribbean. The meetings have served to strengthen collaboration among the participating episcopal conferences on behalf of migrants, in the hemisphere, allowing for a more comprehensive Church pastoral and political response to their situations. In 2011, the consultation was held in San Jose Costa Rica.
Scheduled to participate at the consultation in Dominic Republic are representatives of other episcopal conferences including Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz of Tijuana (Mexico), Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini (Guatemala), Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez (El Salvador), Bishop Arturo Gonzalez (Cuba), Bishop Yves Pean (Haiti), Bishop Pedro Hernandez (Panama), Bishop Jose Grullon (Dominican Republic), Bishop Angel San Casimiro (Costa Rica), Archbishop Pablo Varela (Panama), and Bishops Maurus Muldoon and Juan José Pineda (Honduras).