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.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daring to DREAM

Rumor has it that the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, may soon be considered by the full House and Senate. The DREAM Act offers U.S. high school graduates who were brought unlawfully to this country at a very young age (some as infants), through no fault of their own, a chance to regularize their status.

For the most part, those who would benefit from the DREAM Act have grown up here and know only the United States as their home. These students and youth can now be detained in federal immigrant detention centers and deported to a country they have never known. Currently, they have no legal means to adjust their status in the U.S.

A movement seems to be growing for a vote on the DREAM Act during the lame so-called “lame duck session” of Congress. Passage of the DREAM Act would give these young people an opportunity to serve our country and earn a pathway to citizenship through higher education or military service.

In broad terms, the DREAM Act would allow unauthorized aliens to become conditional legal permanent residents if they have met certain conditions. To qualify, an unauthorized immigrant must: (1) have entered the United States before the age of 16 and have not yet reached the age of 35; (2) been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than five years preceding the date of enactment; (3) earned a high school diploma or its equivalent or have been admitted to college; (4) been a person of good moral character; (5) have not committed certain crimes; (6) not pose a danger to national security; and (7) have never been under a final order of exclusion.

In order to have the conditional basis of their legal permanent resident status lifted, students will have to complete one of the following requirements within six years of being granted conditional status: (1) earn a two year degree from a U.S. institution of higher education or finish at least two years of a bachelor’s degree program; or (2) serve in the U.S. Armed Forces for at least two years, and, if discharged, receive an honorable discharge.

Given the pre-requisites to obtain a higher education, a second major provision allowing states to offer in-state tuition to these students has been part of the bill in the past.

The DREAM Act would offer hope and a brighter future to those willing to work for it.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking dioceses and parishes to lift up the theme of immigration in support of the DREAM Act in the next three weeks through pulpit announcements, bulletin inserts, prayer vigils and, most of all, encouraging people to take action by sending electronic letters to their members of Congress. They may also set up visits with them during the Thanksgiving recess (Nov. 22-26).

Go to for information and to take action.

The North American Integration and Development Center (NAID) at UCLA also has developed an interesting analysis about the economic potential of DREAM Act beneficiaries.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vatican Clarifies Pope's Comments

In response to attention received by recent comments by Pope Benedict XVI on the use of condoms to combat AIDS, Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi, SJ, has issued the following clarification, which we've included in English and Spanish.


VATICAN CITY, 21 NOV 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the text of a note issued by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. concerning certain remarks by the Pope on the use of condoms, which appear the new book "Light of the World".

"At the end of chapter eleven of the book 'Light of the World' the Pope responds to two questions about the battle against AIDS and the use of condoms, questions that reconnect with the discussions that arose in the wake of certain statements the Pope made on this subject during the course of his 2009 trip to Africa.

"The Pope again makes it clear that his intention was not to take up a position on the problem of condoms in general; his aim, rather was to reaffirm with force that the problem of AIDS cannot be solved simply by distributing condoms, because much more needs to be done: prevention,
education, help, advice, accompaniment, both to prevent people from falling ill and to help them if they do.

"The Pope observes that even in the non-ecclesial context an analogous awareness has developed, as is apparent in the so-called ABC theory (Abstinence - Be Faithful - Condom), in which the first two elements (abstinence and fidelity) are more decisive and fundamental in the battle against AIDS, while condoms take last place, as a way out when the other two are absent. It should thus be clear that condoms are not the solution to the problem.

"The Pope then broadens his perspective and insists that focusing only on condoms is equivalent to trivialising sexuality, which thus loses its meaning as an expression of love between persons and becomes a 'drug'. This struggle against the trivialisation of sexuality is 'part of the great effort to ensure that sexuality is positively valued and is able to exercise a positive effect on man in his entirety'.

"In the light of this broad and profound vision of human sexuality and the problems it currently faces, the Pope reaffirms that 'the Church does not of course consider condoms to be the authentic and moral solution' to the problem of AIDS.

"In this the Pope does not reform or change Church teaching, but reaffirms it, placing it in the perspective of the value and dignity of human sexuality as an expression of love and responsibility.

"At the same time the Pope considers an exceptional circumstance in which the exercise of sexuality represents a real threat to another person's life. In such a case, the Pope does not morally justify the disordered practice of sexuality but maintains that the use of a condom to reduce the danger of infection can be 'a first act of responsibility', 'a first step on the road toward a more human sexuality', rather than not using it and exposing the other person to a mortal risk.

"In this, the reasoning of the Pope certainly cannot be defined as a revolutionary change.

"Many moral theologians and authoritative ecclesiastical figures have supported and support similar positions; it is nevertheless true that we have not heard this with such clarity from the mouth of the Pope, even in an informal and non-magisterial form.

"Thus Benedict XVI courageously makes an important contribution to help us clarify and more deeply understand a long-debated question. His is an original contribution, because, on the one hand, it remains faithful to moral principles and transparently refutes illusory paths such as that of 'faith in condoms'; on the other hand, however, it manifests a comprehensive and farsighted vision, attentive to recognising the small steps (though only initial and still confused) of an often spiritually- and culturally-impoverished humanity, toward a more human and responsible
exercise of sexuality".

VIS 20101122 (630)


CIUDAD DEL VATICANO, 22 NOV 2010 (VIS).-Sigue la nota del padre Federico Lombardi, S.I., director de la Oficina de Prensa de la Santa Sede sobre las palabras del Santo Padre en el libro "Luz del mundo" sobre el uso del profiláctico.

"Al final del capítulo 11 del libro "Luz del mundo", el Papa responde a dos preguntas sobre la lucha contra el SIDA y el uso del preservativo, preguntas que se refieren a la discusión que siguió a algunas palabras que pronunció sobre el tema durante su viaje a África en 2009.

El Papa reafirma claramente que en esa ocasión no quiso tomar posición sobre el tema de los profilácticos en general, pero quiso afirmar con decisión que el problema del SIDA no puede resolverse sólo con la distribución de profilácticos, porque hay que hacer mucho más: prevenir, educar, ayudar, aconsejar, estar cerca de la gente, sea para que no caigan enfermos como cuando están enfermos.

El Papa observa que incluso en ámbito no eclesial se ha llegado a una toma de conciencia similar, según se desprende de la teoría del llamado ABC (Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condon) en la que los dos primeros elementos (abstinencia y fidelidad) son mucho más cruciales y fundamentales para la lucha contra el SIDA, mientras que el profiláctico está en último lugar como recurso, cuando faltan los otros dos. Por lo tanto, debe quedar claro que el profiláctico no es la solución al problema.

El Papa amplía después su mirada, e insiste en el hecho de que concentrarse sólo en el preservativo equivale a banalizar la sexualidad, que pierde su significado como expresión de amor entre las personas y se vuelve como una "droga". La lucha contra la trivialización de la sexualidad forma parte "del gran esfuerzo para que la sexualidad se valore positivamente y
ejerza su efecto positivo sobre el ser humano en su totalidad".

A la luz de esta visión amplia y profunda de la sexualidad humana y de su problemática actual, el Papa reafirma que "naturalmente la Iglesia no considera que los profilácticos sean la solución auténtica y moral" del problema del SIDA.

Con todo ello, el Papa no reforma ni cambia la enseñanza de la Iglesia, sino que la reafirma, colocándose en la perspectiva del valor y la dignidad de la sexualidad humana como expresión de amor y responsabilidad.

Al mismo tiempo, el Papa considera una situación excepcional en que el ejercicio de la sexualidad representa un riesgo real para la vida del otro. En este caso, el Papa no justifica moralmente el ejercicio desordenado de la sexualidad, pero cree que el uso del profiláctico para reducir el riesgo de contagio sea "un primer acto de responsabilidad", "un primer paso en el camino hacia una sexualidad más humana", en vez de no utilizarlo exponiendo al otro a un riesgo para su vida.

En este sentido, el razonamiento del Papa ciertamente no puede definirse como un cambio revolucionario.

Numerosos teólogos morales y notables personalidades eclesiásticas han sostenido y sostienen posiciones análogas; es cierto, sin embargo, que todavía no las habíamos escuchado con tanta claridad en boca del Papa, aunque haya sido de forma coloquial y no magisterial.

Por lo tanto, Benedicto XVI aporta con valor una contribución importante a la clarificación y profundización de una cuestión largamente debatida. Es una contribución original, porque por una parte confirma la lealtad a los principios morales y demuestra lucidez a la hora de rechazar un camino ilusorio como "la confianza en el preservativo"; por otra, pone de manifiesto una visión comprensiva y de amplias miras atenta a descubrir los pequeños pasos -aunque iniciales y todavía confusos- de una humanidad a menudo espiritual y culturalmente muy pobre, hacia un ejercicio más humano y responsable de la sexualidad".

VIS 20101122 (660)

USCCB Comm. Staffer Receives Papal Honor

It isn't every day someone receives a papal honor, which is why the Communications staff here at the USCCB was thrilled to learn that Mar Munoz-Visoso, assistant director of media relations, was recently awarded the Benemerenti Medal by Pope Benedict XVI.

This recognition, which comes directly from the Holy See, is one of the highest honors the pope can bestow on an individual. It's given in gratitude for sustained and exemplary service to the Catholic faith.

In the case of Mar (pictured above with Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., of Denver and USCCB secretary of communications, Helen Osman), the service was rooted in her time working for the Archdiocese of Denver. Mar, who worked in Hispanic ministry, was responsible for founding the archdiocese's Spanish newspaper, El Pueblo Catolico, and the Centro San Juan Diego. For this and the rest of her ministry to the Hispanic community in Denver, Archbishop Chaput conferred this papal honor on Mar. At the USCCB, Mar's serves as a gatekeeper between the bishops and the media, specializing in divine worship, migration, cultural diversity and other areas. She also writes a column, Entre Amigos, on Latino affairs in the Church.

The Benemerenti Medal was created by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Benedict on the Bible

Today the Vatican released Pope Benedict XVI's apostolic exhortation on the Word of God, Verbum Domini. This document is basically the pope's way of summarizing what was articulated at the 2008 Synod of Bishops on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. A Synod of Bishops involves hundreds of bishops meeting in Rome for weeks at a time to discuss a specific topic relevant to life in the Church. This fall saw a synod on the Middle East, and 2009 saw a synod on the Church in Africa.

In true Vatican fashion (unofficial motto: "We think in centuries here"), the document released today accompanies a synod now two years past. Since the apostolic exhortation itself is over 200 pages long, it might be helpful to read the Catholic News Service report on the document. And for a more point-by-point analysis, Mary Sperry from the New American Bible staff here at the USCCB offers the following summary:

Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (the Word of the Lord) reflects on the meetings and proposals of the Twelfth Ordinary Synod of Bishops which took place in October 2008. The theme of the Synod was “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.”

The exhortation begins by affirming that the word is at the heart of every ecclesial activity and likewise should be encountered and interpreted within the community of the Church. After a brief look at 100 years of Church documents on the word and the role of the Synod, the Holy Father divides the exhortation into three main parts.

The first section, Verbum Dei (the Word of God), addresses the multiple understandings of the term “word of God,” all finding their fullest meaning in the person of Jesus Christ. Still, the word of God is Trinitarian. God the Father is the origin of the word. Jesus is the word. And the Holy Spirit inspires the word.

After extensive discussion of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, Pope Benedict turns his attention to our response to Scripture, namely, faith. He holds up Mary as a role model because she heard the word attentively and allowed it to take flesh in her.

Turning his attention to biblical interpretation, Pope Benedict affirms the indispensability of historical-critical exegesis and other methods of textual analysis. The goal of all biblical interpretation is the come to an understanding of the meaning of the Bible as God’s word for today. Such interpretation requires both faith and reason, linking the reality of the faith expressed in the Scriptures to the experience of faith today. He cautions against interpretations which lead to fundamentalism or which are closed to the possibility of Scripture.

In the second section, Verbum in Ecclesia (the Word in the Church), Pope Benedict characterizes the Church as a community that hears and proclaims the word of God. Liturgy is the privileged setting for the word of God and every liturgical action is steeped in Scripture. Similarly, we must understand Scripture in light of the paschal mystery celebrated in the liturgy. Word and gesture are united in the celebration of all the sacraments. There is no separation between what God says and what he does.

The Holy Father offers an extended reflection on the unbreakable bond between Scripture and the Eucharist. In considering the Mass, Pope Benedict discusses the importance of biblical, liturgical, and technical training for readers and gives substantial consideration to the significance of the homily in helping people come to a personal encounter with Christ through the word. He notes that Christ must stand at the center of every homily. Similarly, Scripture must be a part of every sacramental celebration and blessing. The Liturgy of the Hours emphasizes the dialogue at the heart of our encounter with Scripture. As such, participation in at least Morning and Evening Prayer should be encouraged.

Pope Benedict calls the Church to a new season of greater love for Scripture. The Bible should inspire all pastoral work, fostering the personal encounter with Christ who gives himself in his word. Catechesis should be biblically inspired. All the faithful should know the important people and events of the Bible and should even memorize some key passages. Every household should have a Bible to be used for prayer and reading. Scripture helps us to grow in relationship to Christ and, thus, in our call to holiness whatever our vocation.

Turning to Scripture and prayer, Pope Benedict gives extensive consideration to lectio divina, an ancient practice of reading, prayer, and reflection leading to conversion of heart. He looks at traditional Latin and Eastern Marian prayers (including the Angelus and the Akathist Prayer) that help us come to a fuller understanding of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.

The final section of the exhortation, Verbum Mundo (the Word to the World) states emphatically that the Church’s mission is to preach the word of God to the world. All the faithful must develop a missionary consciousness so as to become heralds of God’s word. This mission belongs to all the faithful by virtue of their baptism. This mission has two parts, the mission ad gentes to those who have never heard the word of God and the new evangelization to those who need to hear the word anew. The credibility of this proclamation requires an authentic Christian witness.

Proclaiming the word requires engagement with society, promoting peace, justice, and reconciliation, reaching out to migrants, the suffering, and the poor. Special attention must be given to young people who will find in Scripture the answers to many of life’s questions.

The word of God must have an impact on culture, through shared human values, the arts, and through communications, including new media. The word of God speaks to all peoples and cultures and the Church must give special care to ensuring that all people have a complete translation of the Bible in their own language. Finally, the word of God must inform interreligious dialogue, helping to identify shared values.

Pope Benedict concludes the exhortation by affirming that the proclamation of the word creates communion and brings joy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Bishops Who Would be President

One item bound to draw some attention at this year's Fall General Assembly of the U.S. bishops will be the election of the new president and vice president of the USCCB.

Held every three years, the new president and vice president take office at the conclusion of the meeting. They are chosen from a slate of 10 candidates compiled from nominations by bishops nationwide. The bishops first cast ballots to elect the Conference president. Once he has been selected, the remaining nine names become the slate for vice president.

Here are the names, as well as some statistics and a brief rundown of the current USCCB involvement of the bishops who make up this year's presidential slate.

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond

New Orleans

Age 61
Ordained May 10, 1975
Bishop since 1996
Formerly bishop of Austin, Texas, 2001-2009

Incoming chairman of USCCB Committee on Divine Worship
Member of the USCCB Committees on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire

Stockton, California

Age 68
Ordained April 29, 1967
Bishop since 1990
Formerly auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, 1990-1999

Incoming chairman of USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
Member of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Cap.


Age 66
Ordained August 29, 1970
Bishop since 1988
Formerly bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, 1988-1997

Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American Catholics
Member of USCCB Committees on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Divine Worship, Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Migration, Subcommittee on Marriage and Family Life, Task Forces on Strengthening Marriage and Health Care
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan

New York

Age 60
Ordained June 19, 1976
Bishop since 2001
Formerly Archbishop of Milwaukee, 2002-2009

Chairman of the Catholic Relief Services board
USCCB Moderator of Jewish Affairs
Member of the USCCB Committee on Budget and Finance and Subcommittee on the Church in Africa
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas

Tucson, Arizona

Age 69
Ordained April 27, 1967
Bishop since 1995
Formerly auxiliary bishop of Chicago, 1995-2001

Outgoing vice president of the USCCB
Member of the USCCB Communications Committee, Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign, and the Board of Trustees of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Migration

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

Louisville, Kentucky

Age 64
Ordained March 18, 1972
Bishop since 1999
Formerly bishop of Knoxville, 1999-2007

USCCB Treasurer
Chairman of USCCB Committee on Budget and Finance and Subcommittee on Marriage and Family Life
Vice Chairman of USCCB Priories and Plans Committee
Member of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, the Task Force on Strengthening Marriage, the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services and the Board of Trustees for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.
Consultant to the Committee on Pro-Life Activities

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ

Youngstown, Ohio

Age 61
Ordained June 9, 1979
Bishop since 1995
Formerly bishop of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, 1999-2007

Current secretary of USCCB
Chairman of USCCB Committee on Priority and Plans
Member of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions and the Board of Trustees of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc.

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien


Age 71
Ordained May 29, 1965
Bishop since 1996
Formerly Archbishop for Military Services, 1997-2007

Member of USCCB Committees on and International Justice and Peace
Consultant to the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron


Age 62
Ordained July 26, 1975
Bishop since 1996
Formerly bishop of Oakland, California, 2003-2009

Member of USCCB Committee on Doctrine, the Subcommittee on the Catechism and the Task Force for Strengthening Marriage

Bishop John C. Wester

Salt Lake City

Age 60
Ordained May 15, 1976
Bishop since 1998
Formerly auxiliary bishop of San Francisco, 1998-2007
Outgoing chairman of USCCB Committee on Migration
Member of the USCCB Committee on Catholic Education and the Subcommittee on the Church in Africa
Consultant to the USCCB Comittees on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and International Justice and Peace
Member of the board of directors for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. and Catholic Relief Services

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Catholic communicators: more than a “looking glass”

The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications brought together 204 delegates from 85 countries Oct. 4-7, 2010 to discuss Catholic print publications and the impact of the “new media” (the Internet and social networking sites) on their work.

While the Italians, French, Germans and Americans had some of the larger delegations, the diversity of the experiences of Catholic journalists in areas such as India, Africa and Latin America enriched the conversations. And, despite our diversity, several common themes emerged in the three and half days that we met. We were divided into small groups by languages and geographical regions for discussions following most plenary sessions. There were 11 small groups: four English, two each in Italian, Spanish and French, and one in German. It was obvious that English is becoming the global language, even in a Church that proclaims Latin as its preferred universal tongue. Interestingly, half the time the Germans reported out to the full assembly in English, since, as the reporter said, “it would be faster.”

The week began with a presentation by Amy Mitchell of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Mitchell explained what the Americans already knew: print publications are in serious trouble in the states, and, while the web and all its components didn’t begin the decline in readership for them, it seems to be accelerating it. Other presenters indicated that, while print publications may still be healthy in Europe and actually growing in developing nations, as literacy rises, the implications of an Internet-driven society is that it won’t last long.

Catholic journalists and communication professionals also noted, both in the formal presentations and in reports from the small group discussion, that they are fettered in their work by bosses who fail to understand the implications of not reporting both the good and the bad news. It was encouraging to hear the French Bishop Stanislas Lelanne tell us, while he expects us to deeply love our church, that does not mean that we become “the voice of our master.” He also said that he thought it was a good thing that readers don’t always agree with what they read in their Catholic publications. If there is no debate in a Christian community, it is not a true community, he said.

Other speakers repeated the need for the Church to use its media outlets as places for conversations and dialogue to occur, both among Catholics and with the larger community. We were reminded that in some parts of the world, especially in Asia and Africa, both the Church and the marginalized are still actively persecuted and oppressed. The Church has to serve as the voice for the voiceless, speakers said again and again. Sometimes this means giving voice to those who are oppressed by church leaders. One Polish editor explained that we have to help bishops understand that their Catholic publications are not to serve as “talking mirrors,” telling him that he is the fairest prince in all the land. (I am sure some of these quotes were better in their original language.) This concern, raised again and again, was even more remarkable, in my opinion, since all of the delegates were selected by their episcopal conference and therefore would be considered “loyal” church workers.

As Ludwig Ring Eifel, editor-in-chief of the German news agency Katholische Nachrichtenagentur Pressebild (counterpart to our own Catholic News Service) said, “Believing in the church does not mean that we do not report on conflicts within it. And writing about the tensions in the church does not mean that we abandon its Christian values.”

It seemed that a majority of the participants were also eager to use social media, such as interactive websites, Facebook, Twitter, etc., to engage their populations. Some noted that there, too, they experienced resistance from their bishop-publishers because of fear of criticism and dissent. But those who have been at work in the blogosphere and other social media networks see the potential good outweighing the risks. Across Europe, North America and Oceania readers of print publications are aging. Websites and social media, however, are attracting younger audiences. These younger Catholics are eager to explore their faith and embrace it, and the only way they know to do that is to discuss and challenge their own ideas and others’ opinions.

A presentation by a Dominican priest from Africa showed the rapid deployment of submarine fiber optic, which is giving the African continent as fast and reliable access to the Internet as the rest of the world. It highlighted the fact that the digital divide is rapidly turning into a digital bridge and that the Church in Africa needs to breach the gap and engage in social media as its younger members embrace it.

Finally, the third major theme I observed was a sense that Catholic media have a role that is unique among media. It might be best expressed by a quote from David Quinn, an Irish journalist: “We have to offer an ethic of self-sacrifice and commitment, as opposed to the ethic of individualism” that seems to permeate so many societies, including Western democracies.

This was expressed in several ways: calls for an emphasis on a message of Christian hope, challenging people to work for the common good, to give voice to the voiceless, to present the Gospel in a way that is accessible to today’s attention-deficit-ordered news consumers, to use the professional standards and ethics we learned in journalism school, to face off against the growing and cynical news-as-entertainment mindset, and to provide positive stories about people rising above great suffering and oppression, both in secular Western societies and in non-Christian developing nations.

Telling the Christian message of hope is challenging and necessary, Archbishop Claudio Celli said in his remarks that closed the formal session. But before we do that, he said, Catholic journalists need to challenge our personal vision of the Church. If the Church is going to serve humanity, he said, it must be a place for dialogue and respect, not an institution that attempts to dominate or to condemn. We have to be good listeners before we can be good communicators, he explained. Once we know what is in the heart of humanity, Catholic communicators can speak to that heart, allowing dreams and hopes to be realized. That, he said, is daring to be a prophetic voice for the world.

If you're interested in more information, Catholic News Service carried several stories on the Congress.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bishops Lend Their Voice to 'Defiant Requiem'

Tonight at the Kennedy Center in Washington, the Catholic and Jewish faiths will intermingle with history as well as art during a performance of Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezín, the story of the Jewish prisoners in the Theresienstadt concentration camp -- a camp used as a model by the Nazis during visits by the Red Cross and others -- during World War II who performed the Verdi Requiem as a sign of resistance against their Nazi captors.

Under the direction of conductor Murry Sidlin of The Catholic University of America, the Kennedy Center concert combines Verdi's music with testimony from survivors of the original chorus, a propaganda film about the camp, and actors speaking the words of imprisoned conductor Rafael Schaëchter and other prisoners.

One of the co-sponsors of the event is the United States Conference of Catholic, and Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the bishops' moderator of Jewish affairs, will attend the eventand speak at a reception following the performance. A message from Archbishop Dolan also appears in the program:

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.” I am deeply moved tonight thinking how this prayer, so often on my lips as a Catholic priest and bishop presiding at the rites of burial, became a song of defiant hope on the lips of Jews who were facing their darkest hour. These are the words that begin and end this evening’s performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem, sung by the prisoners of the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp sixty-six years ago. The prayer belongs to the living liturgy of the Church, from which generations of Catholic believers have drawn spiritual strength. As a Catholic who daily prays the Psalms as an echo of the prayer of Jesus, I am aware that these sacred texts are both recited and heard differently between our two communities. Tonight Catholics are invited to hear these familiar prayers of the Requiem liturgy in the voices of our elder brothers and sisters in the faith as an expression of unquenchable hope.

Conductor Rafael Schächter told the choir: “We will sing to the Nazis what we cannot say to them.” The text of the Requiem assures that God’s justice will right all wrongs and that the King of Glory will deliver “the souls of all the faithful from the pains of hell.” Surely for many of the Jews living in the “antechamber of hell”—which was how Theresienstadt was described by one of the survivors—the final sequence, Libera me (“Deliver me”), was both a cry to the God of Abraham who had preserved His people many times from the forces of annihilation and a witness of the Jewish people to their collective will to survive.

The Second Vatican Council’s decree Nostra aetate (1965) may be heard as a response to the Requiem prayer sung by the Theresienstadt prisoners in its unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism and in its desire to renew the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people. Inspired by Pope John Paul II (d. 2005), who held out the promise that Christians and Jews might truly be “a blessing to one another,” may our listening together to the Defiant Requiem become a fruit of that blessing and a sign of hope to the people of our age.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stories from Sudan

Jill Rauh, outreach coordinator for the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD,) was part of a Catholic Relief Services delegation to Juba, Sudan, for the Sudanese Catholic bishops’ launch of the 101 Days of Prayer for a Peaceful Referendum in Sudan. She recounts some of her experiences below.

Last week, all over Sudan, the Catholic Church celebrated the launch of 101 Days of Prayer for a Peaceful Referendum in Sudan. Parades, masses and interfaith prayer services in dioceses across the country were attended by thousands of people. With a delegation from Catholic Relief Services, I was blessed to witness the lively and hopeful celebrations in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.

But what left the most lasting impression were the stories of the people with whom I spoke—stories filled with longing for peace after decades of civil war.

Hannah, a young woman working her way through college, shared about her father’s death at the hands of rebels in a rural area of Sudan.

Willy, a father with young children, described the pain of being separated from his family, who are across the border in Uganda. He fears a return to war and will not bring them home to Sudan until he is certain of peace.

Priscilla described her life growing up in a refugee camp after her family fled from violence. The camp provided safety, but Priscilla mourns the loss of years of social development, especially lost educational opportunities.

Taban expressed the sentiments of so many Sudanese: “If you ask me what peace is, I cannot answer. I do not know what peace is like. But I long to know it.”

The Church in Southern Sudan has been one of the only stable institutions during decades of civil war in Sudan, and the Catholic bishops there are leading the efforts for peace. Many fear that war will return if the January 9, 2011 referendum on independence for southern Sudan goes badly.

The USCCB has urged our government to help Sudan find peace. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services, USCCB has pledged to support the Church’s efforts for peace in Sudan. Catholics in the U.S. are invited to Pray, Learn, Advocate, and Give in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Sudan. College students are being trained to serve as ambassadors to educate and involve fellow students on campus in efforts for peace. All Catholics can send a message to the President urging him to do everything he can to guarantee a peaceful and stable Sudan.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bishops' Haiti Report

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chair of the USCCB task force on Haiti. introduced September 27 the report “The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions” on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) mission to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas.

Archbishop Wenski made a plea to the international community not to lose focus on Haiti at this critical time. An executive summary of findings, recommendations contained in the report is below. Full report can be found posted at:

The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions

· Recovery and reconstruction efforts are proceeding slowly, leaving Haiti’s displaced, both inside the country and outside, at grave risk;

· After an initial generous response, nations in the region, including the United States, are beginning to pull back the welcome mat for Haitians displaced because of the earthquake;

· Haitian children remain in danger, subject to difficult living conditions, domestic servitude, and human trafficking;

· Haitian families are divided and policies pursued both by Haiti and surrounding nations, including the United States, have not been designed to reunite them; and

· Interdiction and deportation policies toward Haitians in the region continue or have resumed, despite the fragile state of the recovery effort in Haiti.

· The United States and other nations must provide reconstruction funds in a timely manner and assist the Haitian government in rebuilding the country, including a plan for re-location or return of the displaced to homes;

· Family tracing efforts for orphans must be increased and best interest determinations for Haitian orphans in Haiti and the Dominican Republic should be introduced;

· The United States should liberalize immigration policies toward Haitians, including the reunification of the families of medical evacuees, a re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians who arrived after January 12, 2010, and humanitarian parole for Haitian family members who have been approved for a U.S. visa but await a priority date;

· Efforts should be increased to protect children and women along the Haiti-Dominican Republic border to minimize the incidence of human trafficking; and

· U.S. interdiction policies toward Haitians should include proactive asylum screening; the United States should urge the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas to cease deportations of Haitians until the recovery and reconstruction of Haiti progresses and new homes are built or identified.

Latter Day Saints Promote Catholic News Service Movie Reviews

A former Catholic bishop of Salt Lake City once facetiously boasted that he headed the second largest church in Utah. There Catholics comprise nine percent of the population. Well known of course is that most people in the state belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons.

The two churches differ significantly. However, in one area, that of family values, they hold much in common. That becomes clear in a recent article in the Mormon-owned daily newspaper, the Deseret News.

The Deseret News is now promoting the movie reviews of Catholic News Service, reviews that boast a 74-year history in the Catholic Church. A Sept. 23 article from The Deseret News explains the daily’s rationale:

The CNS reviews stand as a “unique voice in a noisy lobby,” the article noted.

Reviews offer both a moral and artistic analysis. Written primarily with families in mind, they offer guidance to filmgoers of any age. They’ve offered guidance to Catholics for almost 75 years. But obviously more than Catholics recognize their great value.

“The CNS reviews concentrate particularly on how a character’s negative behavior and ethical choices, such as crime and abortion, are presented: and depictions of human sexuality, including premarital sexual encounters, nonmarital cohabitation and adulterous relationships,” the article notes.

Given the popularity of movies, both on the big screen, video, CD and television, one has to be proud of this Catholic Church contribution to modern society. Adult moviegoers benefit by checking the CNS reviews before heading off to the cinema. The guidance makes for both more intelligent viewing and a warning that some movies aren’t worth your ten bucks. The reviews are a perfect resource for parents who must make decisions about what their offspring will view.

The Mormon Church has steadily supported family values. Their promotion of the CNS movie reviews is one more proof of this.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions

The Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will publish September 27, the document "The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions," a report on a recent mission to Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the Bahamas to study the situation of Haitians displaced by the January earthquake.

A link to the report will be provided through this blog on that day. Members of the news media also are invited to participate in a telephonic briefing on this topic with Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, as well as CLINIC and USCCB staff who participated in the mission. (Members of the media call 202-541-3200 for additional info.)

“It is clear that efforts to clean up and recover from the earthquake are progressing slowly,” said Archbishop Wenski. “However, the international community must remain steadfast in working with the Haitian government to reconstruct the country and strengthen its institutions. The survival and long-term future of the Haitian people are at stake,” said Archbishop Wenski upon returning from the fact-finding mission.

Following the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of Haitians were forced from their homes and out onto the streets. While the international community provided a great deal of help in this time of crisis, including the distribution of daily necessities and the construction of tent camps, challenges continued to surface in the following months.

Tent camps are not a permanent solution. It has become critical to build long term shelters so that the Haitian people can continue on with their lives. Clearing away the debris and rubble that was left in the aftermath of the earthquake is a constant struggle, but a crucial first step in reconstruction efforts that are ongoing.

Children in particular are at risk of being trafficked, both domestically and also to countries in the surrounding region. Confronting this threat head-on remains a primary challenge for the Haitian government, the Dominican Republic (Haiti’s next door neighbor) and for the international community as a whole.

The effects of the earthquake are not felt in Haiti alone, but have spilled over into the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and surrounding countries. How are government officials from surrounding countries dealing with Haitians who are trying to start a new life? Will they put into place mechanisms that will help to integrate Haitians into their community or will they put into place policies that will further alienate them going forward?

Observations and recommendations moving forward will be published September 27 in "The Displaced of Haiti: Long-Term Challenges and Needed Solutions," a Report of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raíces y Alas: Pensar y caminar con sus pastores

(Note: this is the Spanish version of yesterday’s posting “Raíces y Alas: Thinking and walking with their shepherds” by Mar Muñoz-Visoso)

Esta semana se realiza en Chicago el congreso nacional católico hispano “Raíces y Alas 2010” []. El congreso está organizado por el National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), una organización nacional que aglutina a más de cincuenta estructuras, organizaciones y movimientos nacionales y regionales. La agenda de la reunión es ambiciosa: “recrear y reconstruir la visión nacional para el ministerio hispano”. El congreso ha sido convocado en colaboración con el Secretariado de Diversidad Cultural en la Iglesia de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB).

Aunque el congreso está dirigido principalmente a líderes en el ministerio hispano, también acudirán representantes de entidades educativas, universidades, congregaciones religiosas y otras instituciones católicas estadounidenses “en reconocimiento de que cualquier aspecto del ministerio de la Iglesia afecta a la población hispana…de la misma manera [que] cualquier actividad de la comunidad católica hispana se entiende como una actividad de la Iglesia Católica.”
En total, se espera a más de 500 participantes.

Los objetivos planeados para la reunión son la “celebración”, la “reflexión” teológica y pastoral “de la realidad actual del ministerio hispano en Estados Unidos” y “una mirada hacia el futuro con proyecciones concretas para acciones ministeriales”.

Ha de notarse que la agenda de la reunión — esta reflexión sobre la realidad de los hispanos católicos en Estados Unidos — estará basada en las cinco prioridades actuales de los obispos estadounidenses:

· Matrimonio (aunque, como era de esperar, los latinos han ampliado la reflexión a la “Familia”)
· Formación en la fe y práctica sacramental
· Los jóvenes y las vocaciones
· Vida y dignidad de la persona humana
· Diversidad cultural, con énfasis especial en los hispanos

Hasta donde sabemos, esta es la primera organización nacional católica con una representatividad tan amplia y diversa en ministerios e intereses profesionales, con o sin un enfoque étnico o cultural, que haya manifestado de forma tan pública y abierta su intención de caminar con los obispos y de hacer suyas las prioridades de éstos. De hecho, se están retando a sí mismos a reflexionar sobre cómo sus estructuras, ministerios y enfoque pastoral abordan o no dichas prioridades.

Los participantes, de seguro, también lanzarán un reto a las estructuras diocesanas, regionales y nacionales (incluyendo las de USCCB) y a otras asociaciones católicas para que promuevan el liderazgo hispano en todas esas áreas. Se trata de un esfuerzo sincero para pensar y caminar con sus pastores; para dar un paso al frente y ejercer el liderazgo a que están llamados por los pastores, por el pueblo, y simplemente por su proporción en número dentro de la Iglesia.

En contra de lo que algunos han visto, y despreciado, como un esfuerzo por parte de los obispos de ser “políticamente correctos” — por haber hecho del reconocimiento de la diversidad cultural en la Iglesia con énfasis especial en los hispanos una de sus actuales prioridades dentro de su plan quinquenal — los esfuerzos de los obispos estadounidenses por entender, afirmar, guiar y caminar con su diverso rebaño puede que estén empezando a dar fruto.

Decir que una convocatoria del liderazgo católico hispano a este nivel hacía falta desde hace mucho tiempo se queda corto. Los organizadores afirman su “deseo de revivir el espíritu de los Encuentros y de celebrar el décimo aniversario del Encuentro 2000”.

El proceso de los Encuentros guió y proporcionó una visión nacional para la pastoral hispana en el último cuarto del siglo XX. Fruto de ellos — hubo tres — fueron el Plan Pastoral Nacional para el Ministerio Hispano, la creación de numerosas estructuras parroquiales, diocesanas, regionales y nacionales, muchos planes pastorales locales y numerosas asociaciones para el avance del ministerio hispano.

Cuando los católicos hispanos se preparaban para convocar el que sería su “Cuarto Encuentro” en el año 2000, se les pidió que sacrificaran — por esta vez — el enfoque ad intra étnico/cultural de su proceso de Encuentro y que lo compartieran y lo transformaran en una celebración multicultural del Jubileo 2000. Hubo sus más y sus menos pero, al final, el Encuentro 2000 resultó ser una expresión magnífica y multitudinaria de la catolicidad de la Iglesia, de su unidad en la diversidad en la diversidad. Es justo, pues, celebrar con gozo su décimo aniversario.

Pero los católicos hispanos y el ministerio hispano también necesitan atención y enfoque. Las realidades pastorales de hoy no son las mismas que hace 30 o 40 años. Tampoco los protagonistas son los mismos — tanto los ministros como la gente — ni sus necesidades. Por lo tanto, las estructuras que les sirven, así como su participación y liderazgo en la Iglesia en general, necesitan ser reexaminados a esa luz.

El último Encuentro Nacional de Pastoral Hispana sucedió hace 25 años. Tras el 2000, percibiendo la urgencia de abordar las necesidades particulares del desarrollo del ministerio hispano, los obispos realizaron una consulta al liderazgo. El fruto de este “Simposio 2001” en Colorado Springs, Colorado, fue el documento “Encuentro y misión: Un marco pastoral renovado para el ministerio hispano”, que los obispos ofrecieron como anexo y actualización del Plan Pastoral Nacional para el Ministerio Hispano de 1987.

Raíces y Alas 2010 promete ser un paso serio en la dirección adecuada; ambicioso, sin duda, pero también necesario.

El Cardenal Francis George de Chicago, presidente de USCCB, dará la bienvenida y liderará a los participantes en oración el viernes por la mañana. Representarán a los obispos estadounidenses en el diálogo el Monseñor Jaime Soto, obispo de Sacramento, presidente del Comité de Obispos sobre Diversidad Cultural; Mons. José Gómez, Arzobispo Coadjutor de Los Ángeles; Mons. Jerry Barnes, obispo de San Bernardino, CA; Mons. Francisco González, obispos auxiliar de Washington; Mons. Gustavo García Siller, obispo auxiliar de Chicago; y Mons. Felipe Estévez de Miami. Representando a los obispos de Puerto Rico estará Mons. Félix Lázaro, obispo de Ponce.

Otros obispos benefactores y que han dado su apoyo incluyen a: Mons. Timothy Broglio, arzobispo de los Servicios Miliares, USA; Mons. Robert J. Carlson, arzobispo de Saint Louis; Mons. Charles J. Chaput, arzobispo de Denver; Mons. Walter A. Hurley, obispo de Grand Rapids, Michigan; Mons. Edward U. Kmiec, Obispo de Buffalo, Nueva York; Mons. Roger P. Morin, obispo de Biloxi, Mississippi; Mons. Richard E. Pates, obispo de Des Moines, Iowa; Mons. Joseph A. Pepe, obispo de Las Vegas, Nevada; y Mons. Joe S. Vazquez, obispo de Austin, Texas.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Raíces y Alas: Thinking and Walking with Their Shepherds

This week the Hispanic national congress “Raíces y Alas 2010” will be held in Chicago. The organizers are the National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry (NCCHM), an umbrella organization of more than fifty Hispanic Catholic national and regional structures and movements, with an ambitious agenda: “to recreate and reconstruct the vision for national Hispanic ministry.” The congress was convened in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Although this Congress is directed toward leaders in Hispanic ministry, there will be representatives from colleges, universities, religious congregations and U.S. Catholic institutions and movements “recognizing that any aspect of the Church’s ministry affects the Hispanic population. In the same manner, [that] any activity of the Hispanic Catholic community is understood as an activity of the Catholic Church.”

Overall more than 500 participants are expected.

The gathering has been planned as one of “celebration,” theological and pastoral “reflection on the current reality of Hispanic Ministry in the United States,” and “a look toward the future with concrete projections for ministerial actions.”

Notable is that the agenda for the meeting — the reflections on the reality of Hispanics Catholics in the U.S. — will be based on the five priorities of the U.S. Catholic Bishops:
  • Marriage (though in pure Latino fashion, they’ve broaden it up to “Family”)
  • Faith formation and sacramental practice
  • Young people and vocations
  • Life and dignity of the human person
  • Diversity with special emphasis on Hispanics
To our knowledge, this is the first national Catholic organization representing such diversity and scope in ministries and professional interests, with or without an ethnic or cultural focus, that has so plainly and openly stated that it intends to walk with the bishops and make the bishops’ priorities theirs. In fact, they are challenging themselves to reflect on how the structures, ministries, pastoral focus do or do not address those priorities.

Participants will also challenge the diocesan, regional and national structures (including those of the USCCB) and other Catholic associations on how to promote and empower Hispanic leadership on all those areas. This is a sincere effort to think and walk with their shepherds; to step up to the plate and exercise the leadership called by their pastores, el pueblo, and just the sheer numbers.

Against what some viewed, and derided, as “political correctness” on the part of the U.S. bishops —who set cultural diversity with an emphasis on Hispanics as one of their five priorities in their current five-year plan—, the bishops’ efforts to understand, affirm, guide and walk with their diverse flock may just be paying off.

To say that a convening of the Hispanic Catholic leadership at this level is overdue is an understatement. Organizers affirm their “desire to revive the spirit of the Encuentros and celebrate the 10th anniversary of Encuentro 2000.”

The process of the Encuentros guided and provided a national vision for Hispanic pastoral ministry in the last quarter of the 20th century. Fruits of them — there were three— were the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry and the creation of numerous, parish, diocesan, regional and national structures, many local pastoral plans, and associations for the advancement of Hispanic ministry.

As Hispanic Catholics were readying themselves to convene their would-be ‘fourth Encuentro’ in 2000, they were asked to sacrifice — for this one time — the inward cultural/ethnic focus of their Encuentro process and to share it and to transform the Encuentro into a multicultural celebration of the Jubilee. In the end, Encuentro 2000 was a magnificent, massive expression of the Church’s catholicity, of its unity in diversity. It is right, then to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

But Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic ministry also need nurturing and focus. Today’s pastoral realities are not the same as they were 30 and 40 years ago. Neither are the actors — ministers and people alike — or their needs. Thus the structures that serve them, as well as their participation and leadership in the wider Church, need to be reexamined in that light.

The last Encuentro de Pastoral Hispana happened 25 years ago. After 2000, sensing the urgency to address the need to further develop ministry among Hispanics, a leadership consultation was held by the U.S. bishops. This “2001 Symposium” in Colorado Springs, Colorado, led to “Encuentro and Mission: A Renewed Pastoral Framework for Hispanic Ministry,” issued by the U.S. Catholic Bishops as an addendum to the 1987 National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Ministry.

Raíces y Alas 2010 promises to be a serious step in the right direction; ambitious indeed but so necessary.

Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president will be leading participants in prayer on Friday morning. Representing the U.S. bishops in the dialogue will be Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, president of the bishops’ Committee on Cultural Diversity; Coadjutor Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles; Bishop Jerry Barnes of San Bernardino; Auxiliary Bishop Francisco González of Washington; Auxiliary Bishop Gustavo García Siller of Chicago, and Auxiliary Bishop Felipe Estevez of Miami. Also, representing the bishops of Puerto Rico will be Bishop Félix Lázaro of Ponce.

Other benefactors and supporters include Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, Archdiocese of Military Services, USA; Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver; Bishop Walter A. Hurley of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bishop Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo; Bishop Roger P. Morin of Biloxi, Mississippi; Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa; Bishop Joseph A. Pepe of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Bishop Joe S. Vazquez of Austin, Texas.