Thursday, December 9, 2010

Religious Leaders, Young People Meet in Intergenerational Day of Dialogue

Religious leaders and young adults from the Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities met for a day of dialogue and fellowship at the first ever “Generations of Faith Interreligious Encounter” in Washington, DC. The event was co-sponsored by the Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation, the Sacred Military Order of Constantine and the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The concept of the day was simple,” said Fr. Leo Walsh, Associate Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at USCCB. “We sought to gather the most prominent religious leaders involved in interreligious dialogue in the United States, have them discuss their experiences of the past few decades and ask them what lessons they might wish to pass on to the next generation. Meanwhile, the young people would be asked to discuss their experiences of living in a pluralistic society and what they would like their religious leaders to teach them regarding interreligious dialogue and cooperation. We were also interested in what the young people might be able to teach the religious leadership. The intergenerational dynamic of the encounter was very exciting.”

The keynote address was delivered by the Most Rev. Felix Machado, Archbishop of Visai, India. Machado had worked previously fourteen years as Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Basing his remarks on the Vatican II Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Nostra Aetate, he commented how the document has shaped the Catholic approach to engagement with other world religions, the significant achievements in the 45 years since its proclamation, and the challenges which remain in the political, theological and sociological spheres.

The two groups then met separately in the morning and together in different formats throughout the course of the day, sharing experiences and insights.

“Archbishop Machado gave us so much to think about,” said Ravi Gupta, a young Hindu participant. “It kept us going the whole day. It was a great opportunity to connect with other young adult leaders from the other faiths and to build on the wisdom that has come before.”

The increasingly pluralistic nature of the United States was reflected in the lives of the participants. While almost all of the young adults had encountered friends and neighbors who belonged to other world religions, many of the leaders grew up in religiously homogenous environments.

The importance of interreligious cooperation and mutual understanding was a recurring theme for the young adults. Usually personal experiences, both negative and positive, led them to seek deeper relations with those of other religious communities.

“The encounter confirmed for me that the more I am involved in interreligious dialogue, the more I am inspired to become a better Catholic and to learn more about my own faith, so that I can present it faithfully to those from other religions,” commented Kateri Ambrow, Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.

The learning went both ways. Asked what he had learned from the young adults as a result of the encounter, Dr. Manohar Singh Grewal, past president of World Sikh Council, North America commented, “First, I have learned that the future of interreligious dialogue is in good hands. I have also learned that the communication methods of interreligious relations must change with the times. Young people today are very connected, but in a different way. They text and tweet and have hundreds of friends on Facebook. Interreligious dialogue must make use of social media in all its forms.”

In addition to Machado and Grewal, religious leaders participating in the encounter included Most Rev. Tod Brown, Catholic Bishop of Orange; Sriman Anuttama Dasa, International Society for Krishna Consciousness; Most Rev. Francis Reiss, Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Rabbi Jeffrey Wohlberg, Adas Israel Congregation, DC; and Rev. Dosung (Moojin) Yoo, Won Buddhist International.

Young adult leaders participating in the encounter were: Gupta, Ambrow, Ahmed Ali Akbar, from the University of Michigan and a member of ISNA: Osman Atiq, from the University of Arkansas, also from ISNA; Kate Bailey, Communications Director at Adas Israel Congregation; Brother Dominic Bump, O.P., seminarian of the Order of Preachers; Craig Campbell, CSP, seminarian studying for the Missionary Society of St. Paul; Mr. Vineet Chander, Coordinator for Hindu Life at Princeton University; Rebecca Cohen, student at Georgetown and intern at the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington; Mary Curtis, Catholic Archdiocese of Washington; Brother John Maria Devaney, O.P., seminarian for the Order of Preachers; Anhad Singh Jolly, Kansas State University, with the World Sikh Council; Molly Linehan, Georgetown University and Program Director at the St. Vincent Pallotti Center; Rev. Doyeon Park, of Won Buddhist International; Bro. Augustine Marie Reisenauer, O.P., seminarian of the Order of Preachers; Savraj Singh, Founder and CEO of Wattsvision and member of the World Sikh Council; Sam Wagner, former Assistant to the Executive Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: and Sarah Yaklic, Coordinator for Young Adult Ministries for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.

Los Angeles on the DREAM Act



December 8, 2010

Cardinal Roger Mahony

Archbishop of Los Angeles

Archbishop José Gomez

Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles

Tonight’s vote in the House of Representatives of 216 to 198 in favor of passage of the DREAM Act is a victory for the great American spirit of welcome to immigrants who come here to improve the quality of American life and to contribute to building up the greatness of America.

The young men and women who will benefit from the passage of the DREAM Act have not intentionally broken any laws. They were brought here by others when they were minors. The only country they know and love is the United States. Their only interest is in becoming a vital part of our great nation and to help improve our country over the coming years.

Thousands of young men and women have truly earned their way towards legal residency in the United States, and they stand as beacons of hope and of greatness for our country. Their only goal is to give, to contribute, to the betterment of our communities and our society. They are not here “to take” but “to give” to our country.

We now urge the U.S. Senate to pass the DREAM Act and to send it to President Barack Obama for final signature.

What is so significant about the passage of the DREAM Act in the House is the recognition of the values, commitment, and talents of our younger immigrants who only want to see the United States become even greater.

We are grateful to everyone who has helped to put a human face upon our young immigrants, and who have helped all of us realize that the deep aspirations, yearnings, and talents of our immigrants make our country stronger and greater in the world.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gomez on the DREAM Act

If all goes as planned today in Capitol Hill, ten years after it was first introduced, the DREAM Act finally will be voted on in a chamber of Congress. Here is the letter in support of the bill that Archbishop José Gomez, chairman of Committee on Migration sent to Congress December 2 on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Dear Representative/Senator:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I write to express our support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). This legislation would make a difference in the lives of undocumented youth who were brought to the United States by their parents and now, because of their lack of legal status, face obstacles to their future. By removing such barriers, the DREAM Act permits immigrant students to pursue a promising future through college education or military service.

Those who would benefit from the DREAM Act are talented, intelligent, and dedicated young persons who know only the United States as their home. They can become some of the future leaders of our country, provided we are wise enough to provide them the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Under the DREAM Act, deserving immigrant youth can adjust to permanent resident status provided that they entered the United States before age sixteen, have been physically present in the United States for not less than five years, demonstrated good moral character, have no criminal record and do not threaten national security, and have earned their high school diploma. This bill also offers students a fair opportunity to earn U.S. citizenship if they commit to and complete at least two years of college or two years of honorable service in the military.

Importantly, this legislation will apply to students in both public and private education, including those attending Catholic schools.

It is important to note that these young persons entered the United States with their parents at a young age, and therefore did not enter without inspection on their own volition. We would all do the same thing in a similar situation. The United States is the only country that they know. They have incredible talent and energy and are awaiting a chance to fully contribute their talents to our nation. We would be foolhardy to deny them that chance.

With the passage of the DREAM Act, we can welcome a new generation of Americans who one day will become the leaders of our nation. There are times when a proposal should be enacted because, simply put, it is the right thing to do. This is one of them.

The DREAM Act represents a practical, fair, and compassionate solution for thousands of young persons in our nation who simply want to reach their God-given potential and contribute to the well-being of our nation. I urge you to support this measure and call for its immediate enactment.


Most Reverend Jose H. Gomez
Coadjutor Archbishop of Los Angeles
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration

---Spanish version follows---

Si todo marcha como está planeado hoy día en la colina del Capitolio nacional, la propuesta de ley DREAM Act finalmente, diez años después de su primera introducción, se someterá a votación al menos una cámara del Congreso. A continuación se reproduce el texto de la carta que Monseñor José Gomez, presidente del Comité para Asuntos Migratorios de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estado Unidos envió al Congreso el 2 de diciembre en apoyo de la medida.

Estimado Representante,

En nombre de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB), le escribo para expresar nuestro apoyo al Development, Relief, and Education for alien Minors Act (DREAM Act). Esta legislación haría una gran diferencia en la vida de jóvenes indocumentados que fueron traídos a los Estados Unidos por sus padres y ahora, debido a su falta de estatus migratorio legal, enfrentan [graves] obstáculos a su futuro. Al retirar esas barreras, el DREAM Act permite a los estudiantes inmigrantes buscar un futuro prometedor a través de la educación universitaria o el servicio militar.

Aquellos que se beneficiarían del DREAM Act son personas jóvenes, con talento, inteligentes y dedicadas que conocen solamente los Estados Unidos como su patria. Tienen el potencial de convertirse en algunos de los futuros líderes de nuestro país, siempre que tengamos la sabiduría de ofrecerles la oportunidad de lograr sus sueños.

Según las disposiciones del DREAM Act, jóvenes inmigrantes merecedores de ello, pueden ajustar su estatus migratorio al de residentes permanentes si entraron al país antes de los dieciséis años, han estado físicamente presentes en los Estados Unidos durante al menos cinco años, han demostrado buen carácter moral, no tienen historial delictivo y no suponen un riesgo a la seguridad nacional, y han obtenido su diploma de educación secundaria y preparatoria (high school). Esta propuesta de ley también ofrece a los estudiantes una oportunidad justa de obtener la ciudadanía estadounidense si se comprometen a cursar, y lo cumplen, al menos dos años de estudios superiores o a prestar dos años de servicio honorable en el ejército.

De manera importante, esta legislación afectará a estudiantes tanto en escuelas públicas como privadas, incluyendo las escuelas católicas.

Es importante tener en cuenta que estos jóvenes ingresaron a los Estados Unidos con sus padres siendo ellos muy pequeños, y que no entraron sin inspección de las autoridades migratorias por su propia voluntad. Todos haríamos lo mismo en una situación similar. Estados Unidos es el único país que conocen. Poseen un talento y energía extraordinarios y están esperando una oportunidad para contribuir sus talentos de forma plena a nuestro país. Seríamos muy insensatos si les denegáramos esa oportunidad.

Con la aprobación del DREAM Act, podemos dar la bienvenida a una nueva generación de estadounidenses que un día serán líderes de nuestra nación. Hay ocasiones en las que una propuesta debe convertirse en ley porque, sencillamente, es lo correcto. Ésta es una de ellas.

El DREAM Act representa una solución práctica, justa y compasiva para miles de jóvenes que simplemente desean alcanzar el potencial que Dios les ha dado y contribuir al bienestar de nuestra nación. Les apremio a que apoyen esta medida y llamen a su aprobación inmediata.


Rvdmo. Mons. José H. Gomez
Obispo Coadjutor de Los Angeles
Presidente, Comité de Asuntos Migratorios


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Illustrated “Cliff Notes” of Benedict XVI

The illustrated “Cliff Notes” of Benedict XVI.
That’s how I describe Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy. You can learn more about the book at (If you’re into cyber-shopping, the site can lead you to a great bargain.)
Since I’m editor of the book, interviewers have asked how we decided to approach coverage of this papacy. Simply put: As if we were People magazine. We sought short essays and limited most writers to 400 words. You can do that when you’re dealing with people who know what they’re talking about. (Some say it is easier to write a poem then a novel because for a poem you have to really crystalize your thought.) Choosing writers from USCCB staff , we found people up to the task. Some brought wry humor, such as Don Clemmer who “investigated” Benedict’s relationship with cats and clothes. Others, such as Father James Massa, an interfaith and ecumenical expert, waded into the world of relations among churches. Virginia Farris looked at the pope and China, a smoldering topic in some ways. Richard Doerflinger treated the complicated world of bioethics
Pictures are vital to People magazine and to this book as well. The photos are splendid and in researching them we found a company of Italian women, Catholic Press Photo, who combine news photographer’s sense of timeliness and an artist’s eye for beauty. The cover shot, for example, shows they both saw Pope Benedict in a reflective mode and recognized the Cologne Cathedral in the distance. The cover is a photo poem of the man from Germany.
U.S. bishops opened up with personal observations and some even spoke on video for
Cardinal Francis George describes the pope as “a kindly man” who is “good with people in difficulties.” Archbishop Dolan paints the pope as teacher. He recalls Pope Benedict’s early days as a theology teacher and noted that his students would say. “from his mouth to a book,” that is, “when he lectured, it was with such clarity and such precision and such research and credibility that you could almost take the notes and immediately publish a book.”
Most reviewers are zeroing in on the splendid still photos. It’s hard not to. “Part of what makes the book worth a look is that the photography is superb,” says Bill Tammeus of the Kansas City Star.
But there’s much in the brief essays and the even briefer reflections of those who have seen the pope up close and personal.
“This overview provides enough visual and spiritual manna to satisfy the … faithful,” notes Margaret Flanagan in Booklist Online. Another reviewer, John Leonard Berg, writing in Library Journal, looked at the breadth of the book, saying “The pope is shown here as a loving man, a benevolent priest, and a diplomatic world leader.” And Michael Sean Winters of the “Distinctly Catholic” blog that runs on National Catholic Reporter Online, notes “most of all, this book brings the human face of our faith, in the person of the Pope, closer to us.”