Monday, December 22, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 22

1. Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Indianapolis, 56, as bishop of Burlington, Vermont. Bishop Coyne, who was recently elected the chairman of the communications committee of the USCCB, is a regular blogger and active on Facebook and Twitter.

2. The pope, according to News.Va, encouraged Vatican employees to care for their families, their spiritual and personal lives, their work, and to care for others.

3. News.Va also reports that Pope Francis pointed out a “disease” of feeling “immortal” or “essential” – irreplaceable – which was one of fifteen maladies, which he identified during the course of his address to the Curia. For more of this talk, read here. 

4. Learn about the horrific crime of human trafficking that is on the rise even in the developed world. Pray for trafficking victims and an end to this crime against human dignity.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 16

1. Today, the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life issued the final report of the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America. Read Catholic News Service's story on the report as well.

2. Pope Francis said salvation comes from a humble heart that trusts God.

3. A mother who had a son die during the Sandy Hook shooting said people must "let love lead." She spoke of her faith amidst tragedy at an Iowa College this week.

4. The USCCB and many parishes conduct Giving Tree projects during Advent. Asking the family to select someone, perhaps a stranger, for special attention at Christmas is a good way to remind children and adults alike that Christ's face is often overlooked by busy people. He is among us in the needy and the excluded. Our gifts to the poor at Christmas can be more than a token charity if we can find ways to notice the unnoticed all year long.

5. God loves you. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 15

1. The USCCB has made the daily readings for Mass in Spanish available online. Bishop John Wester said of this big moment, “Being able to provide the daily readings in Spanish online has been a long journey. We are happy to see this work turned into a reality. This is part of our continued efforts to answer the pastoral needs of Hispanics and Spanish speaking Catholics and to provide them resources and information in ways that encourage them to grow in their faith.” Read the release on this in Spanish as well.

2. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz met with USCCB staff today to thank them for their service and to celebrate Mass. You can catch some photos on our Facebook and follow him as well on Facebook and Twitter.

3. Pope Francis doesn't want to see "funeral faces," as the joy of Christmas approaches.

4. Dylan Corbett, manager for mission & identity outreach at USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development, writes about the Bishop Cantú's reaction to the recent torture report.

5. God loves you.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 12

1. Catholic News Service reports: "In a tradition that hails from Mexico, more than 250 people rode their horses on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines Dec. 7 to pay homage to Mary."

2. See images and video from around the USCCB on this Feast at our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.

3. You might have questions about Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here are some answers.

4. We launched a video series on vocations for Hispanics in the U.S. Watch and share.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 11

1. Father John Crossin reflects on the USCCB's collaboration with Christian Churches Together to educate about racism, criminal justice and mass incarcerations.

2. Pope Francis called climate change is a moral and ethical responsibility and the time to act is now.

3. In case you missed it, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved 79 grants for a total of $2,854,878 in aid to finance pastoral projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The subcommittee evaluated and approved grant proposals for 2015 during the bishops’ annual fall General Assembly on November 9 in Baltimore.

4. Tomorrow is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. See a panoramic shot on our Twitter account of a chapel here in D.C. honoring Our Lady.

5. God loves you.

Seeking Justice for All

Father John Crossin, right, participates in an ecumenical event on criminal justice at the USCCB headquarters in June.
By Father John Crossin, OSFS

Recent public events call attention to serious divisions in our country about justice and race relations. Christian Churches Together [CCT], the most diverse of the ecumenical groupings of churches in this country, has been considering such justice issues for many years. The Catholic Church has been an active participant in this work.

In its recent document, "Principles on Mass Incarceration," CCT noted: “Each person is of inestimable worth—even when the likeness of God is marred in a person’s life and distracts others from seeing the image of the divine.”

The consensus of the churches is that all people are due respect.  They go on to say that “We need to acknowledge and confront the reality that prisoners most likely are from poor families and of African American and Hispanic Heritage.”

Racial prejudice is part of our heritage. Some say that it is the American original sin. Martin Luther King addressed the question head on in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail”  On the 50th Anniversary of the letter, the leaders of the CCT members met in Birmingham and signed their response to the letter, calling for renewed efforts for racial justice. They also developed a study guide to go with their response to the letter, which enables church members to engage one another on the racial divisions that trouble America today more than ever.

I was very impressed with the presentation of a Jewish leader who spoke at our recent dialogue with the Council of Synagogues. Two things he said stand out in my mind as they apply to prejudice and injustice. He noted that anti-Semitism thrives on what I would call misinformation: these Jewish people are not really how they appear. Of course the solution for this is for people to get to know one another in some depth. Relationships help to dispel misinformation and prejudices. The study guide provides a way to build relationships that break down walls. But this, of course, requires taking some time to be with others and, as Pope Francis says, "walk with them."

The leader also noted that leaders in Europe are responding to the recent bout of anti-Semitism there. They are taking action. Leaders have to stand up. The CCT leaders closed their recent Principles with a call for leadership.

"Mass incarceration must stop. Mass incarceration has not produced the correction of errants, healing of addicts, restoration of families, nor increased our national wellbeing. We are challenging ourselves together with government and the nation to seize this moment when multiple forces are aligning toward positive actions to correct the injustices within our 'justice' system."


Father John Crossin, OSFS is executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He tweets @crossinusccb.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 10

1. The 2015 World Day of Peace Message of Pope Francis was released on Wednesday. The theme for the 48th Message for Peace is “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters.” Here is the full text.

2. Catholic News Service reports: "The October extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family was not the scene of 'a clash between factions, but of a debate among bishops,' a work that will continue with the 2015 general synod 'for the good of families, the church and society,' Pope Francis said."

3. The USCCB's Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved 79 grants for a total of $2,854,878 in aid to finance pastoral projects in Central and Eastern Europe. The subcommittee evaluated and approved grant proposals for 2015 during the bishops’ annual fall General Assembly on November 9 in Baltimore.

4. Keep up-to-date on issues impacting the life and dignity of the human person by signing up for a free subscription to the People of Life newsletter.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Synod Process Paints Promising Future for Ecumenism

By Father John Crossin, OSFS

The Vatican’s release today of the working document and survey for the 2015 Synod on the Family reminds us that the Synod process begun in 2014 will continue into most of next year. The 2014 Synod on the Family was very encouraging from the point of view of an ecumenist. There are two aspects that I think were particularly significant for Christian unity.

Pope Francis invited all the participants to speak their minds. They were to say what they needed to say. And there were disagreements.

This openness sends a message to our Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican colleagues that, should we come into full communion, their voices would be heard. I believe that they have some fear that in full communion with such a large hierarchical church their voices would be lost or drowned out.

This Synod sent the opposite message. All voices will be heard though of course not all will get their way.

A related experience of the Synod was that there are different schools of thought in the Catholic Church. Adherents do not always agree with one another.

This has been true for centuries but is not always quite so evident. Catholics realize that the various schools of thought have distinguished members. Most members tend to think that they are the best, have the truth, preserve orthodoxy and have the correct pastoral approach. It seemed clear at the Synod and in the immediate preparatory time that the adherents of the schools represented points of view that can be far from definitive.

There are different schools of thought in Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. The witness of the Synod is that there is room for multiplicity in unity.  Full Communion with others would bring even more diverse ways of thinking. Pope Francis has noted on more than one occasion that unity is not uniformity. This diversity could be of great benefit to a Synodical process of discernment of God’s will for the Church.

One danger of multiple schools is that they can become isolated from each another.  Living and working in ‘gated communities’ of the like-minded can make it difficult to hear the voices of others outside the group. Pope Francis describes this as the risk of becoming self-referential.

A process that encourages all to listen for the voice of the Spirit while engaging one another‘s best thoughts and practices can contribute to our progress toward Christian unity.

Father John Crossin, OSFS is executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He tweets @crossinusccb.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 9

1. Catholic News Service reports that for agenda for the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, the Vatican is "sending the world's Catholic bishops' conferences a list of questions on a range of topics..."

2. Pope Francis celebrated the feast of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna Dec. 8.

3. Today, we remember St. Juan Diego to whom the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared on a hill in Mexico in the 16th century.

4. Are you following our Instagram at @USCCB?

5. God loves you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 4

1. Some in the country are talking about racial divides. The USCCB has long spoken out against the sin of racism.

2. Did you know there's a prayer for Year of Consecrated Life? Add to your daily prayers!

3. Here's an alternate Christmas gift idea: Consider purchasing gifts that support farmers and artisans and their families in developing countries and in low income communities in the United States.

4. Yesterday we shared videos photos of the Christmas tree arriving at the USCCB. Today, a tree arrived at the Vatican as well.

5.God loves you.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Unity Without Conditions: Why Francis' Trip to Turkey Matters

(CNS photo/CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)
By Father Ronald Roberson, CSP

November 30 is the feast of Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the highest ranking patriarchate of the Orthodox Church. There is now a longstanding tradition that the Vatican sends a delegation to participate in this celebration each year in Istanbul (the modern Turkish name for ancient Constantinople), just as the Ecumenical Patriarchate sends a delegation to Rome each year for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.  This reciprocal participation in each other’s celebrations has become a reliable sign of the growing friendship and communion between Rome and Constantinople.

This year Pope Francis himself headed the Vatican delegation.  In itself this was not unusual; Popes have headed the delegation a number of times in the past, including the one in 1979 when Saint John Paul II and Patriarch Dimitrios announced together the establishment of an official international dialogue between the two churches. This year the presence of Pope Francis cemented his clear desire and that of Patriarch Bartholomew to continue down the path of reconciliation, bolstered by their personal friendship that became so apparent when they met in the Holy Land last May.

Pope Francis was present at the Eucharist celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew on November 30. At the end of the service, Pope Francis spoke movingly about the need for full unity between Catholics and Orthodox. He reaffirmed Vatican II’s statement that Orthodox sacraments are valid, and said that the full communion we seek “does not signify the submission of one to the other, or assimilation.  Rather, it means welcoming all the gifts that God has given to each.” He went on to say that the Catholic Church “does not intend to impose any conditions except that of the shared profession of faith” for the restoration of full communion. 

For his part, Patriarch Bartholomew expressed the hope that “during your tenure the rapprochement of our two great ancient Churches will continue to be established on the solid foundation of our common tradition, which always preserved and acknowledged in the constitution of the Church a primacy of love, honor and service within the framework of collegiality.” Then, in a dramatic gesture, Pope Francis bowed his head before Patriarch Bartholomew and asked for his blessing on himself and the Church of Rome.

CNS photo/Paul Haring
The encounter culminated in the signing of a Common Declaration by the Pope and Patriarch. In it they stress three basic points:  
  1. Their “firm resolution” to promote Christian unity, especially between Catholics and Orthodox, and their request that the faithful join them in praying for this goal.  
  2. Their concern for the situation in the Middle East and especially the suffering minorities including Christians.  
  3. The importance of dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship in an effort “to build a culture of peace and solidarity” among all peoples, and the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine. 

This latest encounter between Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has lent strong support for the continuation of the theological dialogue and for greater common witness by Catholics and Orthodox on the pressing issues that humanity faces today.

Father Ronald Roberson, CSP is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is also a consultor to the Vatican's Congregation for the Oriental Churches. 

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 3

1. Ignoring God, not glorifying him, leads to violence, Pope Francis says.

2. Maybe you've heard the term "New Evangelization" but aren't sure what it means. Find out here.

3. Our Instagram and Facebook accounts showcased some images of our new Christmas tree, which arrived today.

4. Watch Bishop Burbidge explain how the Year of Consecrated Life is a great opportunity to reflect upon the special gift consecrated men and women are to the Church.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 2

1. Religious leaders from around the world gathered today to discuss working toward the eradication of modern day slavery.

2. Today is #GivingTuesday! Learn how you can help the Church in Africa. Staff members are taking part in social media to help promote it.

3. In 2013, Pope Francis declared that a Year of Consecrated Life (YCL) be celebrated throughout the world. YCL began on November 30. It will close on the World Day of Consecrated Life, February 2, 2016.

4. A Catholic policeman recounts the stories he's seen in Ferguson, Missouri in recent months and how faith has helped him.

5. God loves you.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Dec. 1

1. Need an Advent Calendar with daily tips? Make sure you see the USCCB's calendar.

2. Make sure you see Catholic News Services' expansive coverage of Pope Francis' historic trip to Turkey,

3. The Year of Consecrated Life opened yesterday. To celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life in the United States, the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) collaborated with three religious leadership conferences to create the “Days With Religious.” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh is Chairman of the CCLV Committee and delivered these remarks (in Spanish) to introduce the Days With Religious. These three days will be an opportunity for dioceses, parishes and schools to explore religious life in three ways.

4. This 60-second video features some of the Catholic sisters, brothers, and religious order priests who benefit from the Retirement Fund for Religious.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 25

1. In response to the violence in the community last night, Archbishop Robert Carlson will celebrate another Mass for Peace and Justice at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis this evening at 5:00 p.m. All are welcome and encouraged to attend. Mass will be live streamed at

2. Archbishop Carlson also released this statement last night via YouTube.

3. Father Ronald Roberson, CSP associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the USCCB, says, "The fact that Pope Francis has decided to allow Eastern Catholic bishops anywhere in the world to ordain worthy married men to the priesthood is a great step forward. He has recognized that the validity of Eastern Catholic traditions is not limited to certain geographical areas, but applies to those churches wherever they may be found. The Latin practice of ordaining celibate men to the priesthood remains intact and unthreatened by those observing a different tradition."

4. The Year for Consecrated Life will begin next week and there will be major events throughout the year. Learn more.

5. God loves you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

With Married Eastern Catholic Priests, Pope Francis Shows Catholic Church Respects Eastern Traditions

By Father Ronald Roberson, CSP

It was recently announced that Pope Francis had decided to allow Eastern Catholic bishops anywhere in the world to ordain married men to the priesthood. Previously, even if Eastern Catholic bishops in their homelands could ordain married men, this was not allowed in other parts of the world, including North America. The tradition of ordaining married men to the priesthood is very strong in the Christian East: for many centuries the norm in those churches has been that the parish priesthood is mostly married while the charism of celibacy is preserved in the monasteries and the episcopate. This tradition continued in the Eastern Churches that came into full communion with Rome beginning, for the most part, in the 16th century.

Towards the end of the 19th century increasing numbers of immigrants from eastern and central Europe came to North America. Many of them were “Greek Catholics” (at that time mostly Ukrainians and Ruthenians) who were accompanied by their married priests and their families. But the presence of such married Catholic priests in the United States caused great concern in the hierarchy, who felt that preserving the unity of their Catholic flock required uniformity in discipline, including celibacy of the clergy. Even after hearing warnings that such a decision could result in a schism among Eastern Catholics, they felt so strongly on this point that, at a meeting in 1893, the country’s Catholic archbishops unanimously adopted this resolution: “It is the solemn judgment of the Archbishops of the United States that the presence of married priests of the Greek rite in our midst is a constant menace to the chastity of our unmarried clergy, a source of scandal to the laity and therefore the sooner this point of discipline is abolished before these evils obtain large proportions, the better for religion, because the possible loss of a few souls of the Greek rite, bears no proportion to the blessings resulting from uniformity of discipline.”

Eventually the Holy See responded to repeated petitions of this type, and in first half of the 20th century issued a number of decrees that had the effect of banning the ordination of married men to the priesthood not only North America but everywhere in the world outside the traditional territories of these Eastern Catholic Churches, mostly in eastern Europe and the Middle East. True, a number of married Eastern Catholic priests have always been present in the United States and elsewhere, but virtually all of them were ordained by bishops overseas where the practice was allowed.

As the recent document lifting the ban acknowledges, the Holy See’s action resulted in as many as 200,000 Eastern Catholics leaving the Catholic Church and becoming Orthodox in order to retain their married clergy. This was a devastating loss to the Eastern Catholic communities in the United States and elsewhere. Eastern Catholics have long felt that the ban represented a great injustice, a lack of respect for their ancient traditions, and for the terms by which they entered into full communion with the Catholic Church centuries ago.

Attitudes towards this issue began to shift in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, which called for each Eastern Catholic church to “retain its traditions whole and entire” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum n. 6), and spoke of the “holy vocation” of those individuals who have received both the sacraments of marriage and priesthood (Presbyterorum Ordinis n. 16). Gradually the Catholic bishops of several countries, including Canada and Australia, went on record as having no objection to the restoration of a married Eastern Catholic priesthood. Speaking at a gathering of Eastern Catholic Bishops from around the world in Boston in November 1999, Bishop Wilton Gregory, then bishop of Belleville and vice president of the USCCB, commented on the growing acceptance of married Eastern Catholic priests, assuring them that “if in the judgment of our Eastern Catholic brothers in the episcopate such a resolution would be helpful, I believe that the bishops of the United States would give it the highest consideration.”

This question also has an ecumenical dimension. Just last June the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation issued an agreed statement calling for a lifting of the ban. They wrote: “This action would affirm the ancient and legitimate Eastern Christian tradition, and would assure the Orthodox that, in the event of the restoration of full communion between the two Churches, the traditions of the Orthodox Church would not be questioned.”

The fact that Pope Francis has decided to allow Eastern Catholic bishops anywhere in the world to ordain worthy married men to the priesthood is a great step forward. He has recognized that the validity of Eastern Catholic traditions is not limited to certain geographical areas, but applies to those churches wherever they may be found. The Latin practice of ordaining celibate men to the priesthood remains intact and unthreatened by those observing a different tradition. The presence of an increasing number of married Eastern Catholic priests in our midst should be welcomed because “far from being an obstacle to the Church's unity, a certain diversity of customs and observances only adds to her splendor, and is of great help in carrying out her mission” (Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 16).

Father Ronald Roberson, CSP is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is also a consultor to the Vatican's Congregation for the Oriental Churches. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 21

1. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news Thursday that the Obama administration will defer deportations for many undocumented immigrants and their families.

2.Archbishop Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has been using his Twitter account to advocate for immigration reform.

3. According to Catholic News Service, Pope Francis said The Catholic Church "is a mother without limits and without borders," welcoming and assisting all of God's children, particularly those fleeing violence, oppression and poverty.

4. Find out how Catholics are assisting Central Americans with the issues they face.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 20

1. Two U.S. bishops applauded a proposal by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission that would help provide sustainable broadband capacity to Catholic schools. In a November 18 letter, Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City expressed their appreciation and support for the proposal of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to permanently increase the funding level of the E-Rate program. The proposal is subject to a vote of the full Commission, December 11.

2. Pope Francis says Christian unity remains important for Catholics.

3. Earlier this week, Pope Francis confirmed he was coming to the U.S. next year and Philadelphia is thinking big.

4. Catholic News Service's new book “Pope Francis: A Guide to God’s Time,” explains the church’s liturgical year using the pope’s homilies.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 19

1. Catholic News Service reports: Pope Francis condemned the "unacceptable episodes of violence" in Jerusalem, episodes that "do not spare even places of worship," after an attack in a synagogue left four worshippers, a policeman and the two attackers dead.

2. More than 46 million Americans live below the poverty line. Learn about the state of poverty. Hashtags on social media for this weekend's Catholic Campaign for Human Development Collection include #PowerofCCHD and #OnTheMargins

3. Today at 12:30 pm EST is your chance to ask questions about peace and a two-state solution in the Holy Land.

4. Archbishop Charles Chaput reacts to the exciting news that Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Five Things to Remember November 18

1. Welcome to Chicago, Archbishop Cupich. The ninth archbishop of Chicago is installed at Holy Name Cathedral at 3 p.m. Eastern today. Chicago media will provide live streaming coverage of the event.

2. Human life and dignity: In the last 24 hours, bishops representing different USCCB committees have reached out to Congress on a range of issues, including protecting conscience rights against participation and coverage of abortion and defending programs that serve the poor and vulnerable.

3. As the 50th anniversary of Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism nears this Friday, the new chairman of USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, blogs about "the power of becoming a Church in dialogue."

4. Still buzzing about yesterday's announcement of Pope Francis' September 2015 visit to Philadelphia and the World Meeting of Families? Registration is open online.

5. God loves you.

(CNS Photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

The Power of Becoming a Church in Dialogue

By Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski

Our choice of words can make a profound difference.

Our posture can make a profound difference.

We as a Church have learned these lessons as we have engaged in dialogue with our fellow Christians for the past 50 years. When the words we use are harsh and judgmental, people don't stick around to hear what else we might have to say, even if it might be beneficial to them. When we assume a posture that is defensive and closed, people don't bother to approach us in the first place.

With its Decree on Ecumenism, issued 50 years ago this month, the Second Vatican Council transformed the Catholic Church into a Church of dialogue. Our focus shifted from the errors we saw  in other Christian traditions to an acknowledgement that the Holy Spirit is also working in the lives of these communities and that, yes, there are positive elements to them, even things Catholics can learn from them.

And thus it becomes imperative that we dialogue.

In 50 years of dialogue with other Christians, we have seen progress that would have been unimaginable before the Council:
The world of dialogue has received a real shot of adrenaline with Pope Francis, a man of dialogue to his core. The response to the world's challenges, Pope Francis said in Brazil last year, should be "dialogue, dialogue, dialogue."

"Dialogue between generations, dialogue with the people, because we are all people, the capacity to give and receive, while remaining open to the truth," Pope Francis said.

In this light, we see that dialogue is not merely a tool for different Christians and religions to better understand the truth of one another, but an answer to the call for the Church to go out from itself and bring Christ's mercy to people on the margins.

This is the power of being a Church in dialogue. The world of ecumenical relationships has seen the Holy Spirit at work time and again over the past 50 years. Now it is up to the Church to answer the call of Pope Francis, Blessed Paul VI and the Council, to take this model and truly apply it to a dialogue with the whole world.

Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski is bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the new chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Things to Remember November 17

1. Pope Francis is coming to Philadelphia! This morning the pope announced his intention to travel to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September 2015. More information on the event, including how to register, is available online.

2. Archbishop Cupich is in Chicago. Tuesday will see Archbishop Blase Cupich installed as the ninth archbishop of Chicago, the third largest diocese in the United States. NBC News and America Magazine interviewed Archbishop Cupich, and America has the full transcript.

3. This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism. Father John Crossin, head of USCCB Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, blogs about the decree's call to all Christians to pray to the Holy Spirit for ongoing conversion that will lead to unity.

4. Did you miss the U.S. bishops' 2014 Fall General Assembly in Baltimore last week? Video on demand of all public sessions and media conferences is available online.

5. God loves you.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

For Christian Unity to Occur, We Have to Convert (Seriously)

By Father John Crossin, OSFS

Before the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church had a simple solution to the challenge of achieving Christian unity: all the other Christians could convert.

The Second Vatican Council offered a new pastoral lens for approaching this issue. It is through this lens that the Council's Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) -- or the Restoration of Unity -- should be viewed. The decree calls for positive relationships with Christians outside the Catholic Church, and it calls for inward reflection and renewal of our Catholic tradition.

In other words, Catholics are also called to conversion.

This is because, in order to effectively mission to those outside our tradition, there had to be internal examination of our broken relationships with other Christians. For a long stretch of history, Christians of differing denominations ignored or were hostile to each other. The communication, cooperation, and collaboration that has been a hallmark of the ecumenical movement hardly existed in years leading up to the Council. The decree puts in stark terms why that had to change, namely that Christian disunity "openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature."

The decree doesn't pretend that this self reflection necessary for inward renewal will be easy. But it makes clear that this is a prerequisite for entering into ecumenical relationship and is also a "duty"-- "to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever need to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles."

This means ecumenism is not just for the intellectual elite and clergy of Catholic institutions. The Council demands that every Catholic "recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism."

Of course, healing wounds and divisions that have been in place for centuries is a daunting task. That's why, thankfully, it's not ultimately up to us, but to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit plays a key role in every step of the ecumenical process. Recognition of the movement of the Holy Spirit in other Christian traditions is how the Catholic Church was ever able to get to a place where it could engage other Christians “with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility." The Council fathers wrote that “anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what is genuinely belongs to  the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church."

Echoing the Council, Pope Francis says unity is a gift we need to ask for, and the Holy Spirit accompanies us on the path toward unity and continual conversion.

"Unity will not come about as a miracle at the very end. Rather, unity comes about in journeying; the Holy Spirit does this on the journey," Pope Francis said in January. "If we do not walk together, if we do not pray for one another, if we do not collaborate in the many ways that we can in this world for the People of God, then unity will not come about! But it will happen on this journey, in each step we take. And it is not we who are doing this, but rather the Holy Spirit, who sees our good will."

Father John Crossin, OSFS is executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He tweets @crossinusccb.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 14

1. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, said the last year has been an adventure in an interview with Catholic News Service at the Fall General Assembly. (more videos)

2. Pope Francis has directed that showers in St. Peter's Square be reserved for the homeless.

3. Bishop Christopher Coyne, who was recently voted chairman-elect of the USCC Communications Committee, recapped the General Assembly on his blog, giving insight in how the bishops work together.

4. Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio. In honor of that, here's a "blog-alogue," blog posts about dialogue, one on Catholic relations with the Eastern Orthodox, as told by a Catholic priest, and one on Catholic relations with the Lutherans, as told by a Lutheran pastor.

5. God loves you.

Fifty Years of Dialogue, as Told by a Lutheran

By Rev. Donald J. McCoid

When I entered seminary in 1965, it became very evident that the Second Vatican Council was influencing theology, liturgy, and ecumenism for Catholics and for other Christians. What was changing was a new way to renewal in the church and an intentional opportunity to build relationships among Christians. With the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, there was a clear signal to other Christian communities that ecumenical conversations, dialogues, and relationships would be the direction for the future.

Through serious bilateral dialogues, much has been learned and much has been realized in the last 50 years. In Lutheran-Catholic dialogues in this country and with the Lutheran World Federation-Vatican dialogue, we have mutual faith agreements as a result of Vatican II. We are talking with one another, learning from one another and affirming that we hold much in common.

The bilateral dialogues have addressed subjects that would not have been touched before Vatican II. Common statements in the U.S. dialogues were developed and were widely distributed and embraced. They included: Scripture and Tradition; The Condemnations of the Reformation Era – Do They Still Divide?; The Status of the Nicene Creed as Dogma of the Church; One Baptism for the Remission of Sins; The Eucharist as Sacrifice; The One Mediator, the Saints and Mary; Teaching Authority, and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This is a joint declaration on how we are forgiven and how we are saved. We are no longer saying to one another that one of us is going to hell … at least automatically because of our church affiliation.

As Catholics saw changes in church life and liturgy, so did Lutherans. As I grew up, it was the practice of most Lutheran congregations to celebrate Holy Communion only five or six times a year. There was a movement in the early sixties to increase this frequency to once a month and festivals. With a renewed understanding of the centrality of Word and Sacrament, the frequency has moved to the weekly celebration of Communion in most congregations. Along with this centrality around the Eucharist, liturgical renewal has also unfolded. The Prayer of Thanksgiving rather than the Words of Institution became the widespread practice. The use of Eucharistic vestments, musical settings, and increased lay involvement in the liturgy have been welcomed changes.

Vatican II most certainly influenced Lutheran churches in practices and in relationships with other Christians. Through dialogues, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has had 50 years of dialogues with Catholics, Orthodox and other Christians. We have full communion agreements with six Christian Churches (Episcopal, Moravian, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church in America and the United Methodist Church). Vatican II opened the way to dialogues and relationships.

As members of the ELCA remember Vatican II, we remember what happened in the hearts and minds of Christians. There was a change in attitude, spirit, and cooperation that was born out of Vatican II’s commitment and call for unity and understanding. It was a change that was a gift of the Holy Spirit to Christ’s family, and the fruits continue to blossom.

Rev. Donald J. McCoid is director for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This post is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council.

CNS Photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters -- Pope Francis greets a delegation from the Lutheran World Federation at the Vatican in October 2013.

Catholic and Orthodox, Two Traditions Gradually Growing Together

By Father Ronald Roberson, CSP

When the Second Vatican Council was convened, there had been virtually no relationship at all between the leadership of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches of the East for over 500 years. The last time a pope and Patriarch of Constantinople had met was in 1438. But when he convoked the Council, Pope John XXIII made sure that the unity of Christians was high on its agenda. This was due in part to his personal experience during the years he lived in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece as papal representative to those countries, where he gained an appreciation of Eastern Christianity.

In its final form, the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) has a separate section dedicated to relations with the Orthodox entitled, “The Special Position of the Eastern Churches” (paragraphs 14-18).  These churches are special first and foremost because the Catholic Church recognizes the validity of Orthodox sacraments. In fact, since we share the same Eucharist and sacrament of Holy Orders, the Orthodox Churches “are linked with us in closest intimacy.” The decree goes on to praise the many spiritual and theological treasures that are found in the Christian East and recognizes that these churches “have the power to govern themselves according to the disciplines proper to them, since these are better suited to the character of their faithful, and more for the good of their souls.”  The decree also calls for a gradual realization of unity between Catholics and Orthodox, “especially by prayer, and by fraternal dialogue on points of doctrine and the more pressing pastoral problems of our time.”

The centuries-long icy silence between Catholics and Orthodox had already been broken in January 1964, when Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras met in the Holy Land. Now the process of reconciliation was quickly moving forward. The excommunications of 1054 were “erased from the memory of the church” in 1965, and Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras exchanged visits in Rome and Istanbul in 1967.

In 1979, an official theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was established by Pope John Paul II and Patriarch Demetrios of Constantinople. It produced some important agreed statements in its early years, but has run into difficulty following the clashes between Catholics and Orthodox after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. It is now looking at the vexed question of primacy in our churches.

The most fruitful Catholic-Orthodox dialogue begun after Vatican II has been the one in North America.  Founded in 1965, it has produced about 30 agreed statements over the years on a wide variety of topics. Its most recent major study was its “Steps Towards a Reunited Church” document that outlines what a reconciled Orthodox and Catholic Church might look like and the role that the pope would play in it. In early June, it issued a brief agreed statement calling for the restoration of the faculty of Eastern Catholic bishops in North America to ordain married men to the priesthood. This would not only recognize an authentic Eastern Christian tradition, but would also serve as an assurance to the Orthodox (most of whose parish clergy are married) that the Catholic Church would respect their longstanding traditions.

Relations between Catholics and Orthodox have improved immeasurably since the Decree on Ecumenism was issued nearly 50 years ago. As Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew put it so well in their Joint Declaration in the Holy Land in May, “While fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion, today we confirm our commitment to continue walking together towards the unity for which Christ our Lord prayed to the Father so 'that all may be one' (Jn 17:21)."

Father Ronald Roberson, CSP is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He is also a consultor to the Vatican's Congregation for the Oriental Churches. This post is part of a series commemorating the 50th anniversary of Unitatis Redintegratio, the Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council.

CNS Photo/Paul Haring

Friday, November 7, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 7

1. Internet users recently expressed their views on the perfect relationship. The USCCB and saw it as an opportunity to enter into the online conversation in a meaningful way. The meme below is how we answered the question, "Is there such a thing as a perfect relationship?" Share, pin or tweet to get the word out.

The perfect relationship
The perfect relationship

2. The 2014 Fall General Assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore will be live streamed on the Internet, November 10-11, and will also be available via satellite feed for broadcasters wishing to air it. The feed will run Monday, November 10, from 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Eastern, and Tuesday, November 11, from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Eastern, covering both the open sessions of the meeting and media conferences.

3. Pope Francis says people should share the Gospel with sinners and not be afraid to do it.

4. Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Raleigh and chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, celebrates National Vocations Awareness Week with this special reflection on today's readings.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 6

1. This is National Vocations Awareness Week and some religious are using Skype to share their vocation.

2. The third edition of Guidelines for Receiving Pastoral Ministers in the United States, which will be discussed at the November USCCB General Assembly, is now available online and to purchase.

3. “In the United States, many Americans continue to face the effects of a stagnant economy, debilitating unemployment, a dehumanizing cycle of poverty, and growing civic disenfranchisement,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. “Families are choosing between food and rent and are worried about job security and low paychecks. Poverty affects us all. Following the mandate of Jesus, CCHD creates opportunities for communion and solidarity that help us all, especially the most vulnerable. Through CCHD we foster the common good and work to build a society where no one is left behind.”

4. Make sure you're following the USCCB on Instagram during the next week as we share photos from the General Assembly.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 5

1. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development awarded more than $12 Million in grants to antipoverty, human life and dignity projects last year.

2. During #VocationAwareness Week, we are sharing daily video reflections from bishops and priests on our YouTube channel. Make sure you are subscribed to the USCCB channel.

3. More than 3,000 people have joined the Catholic Health Association in 100 Days of Prayer for the sick and caregivers. Those wishing to participate can sign up at

4. Pope Francis said the church's marriage annulment process should be more efficient and perhaps even free of charge.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Nov. 4

1. Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Peter F. Christensen, 61, of Superior, Wisconsin, as bishop of Boise City, Idaho, and accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael P. Driscoll, 75, from pastoral governance of that diocese.

2. Catholic Home Missions is Allocating $9 Million to U.S. Dioceses and Eparchies in Need. Learn more.

3. The USCCB General Assembly live stream on Nov. 10 and 11 will be available at News updates, vote totals, addresses and other materials will be posted to this page. Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media can do so at with the hashtag #usccb14. Updates will also be posted to

4. It's National Vocation Awareness Week and Bishop Michael Burbidge tweeted, "Vocations are rooted in a divine plan which is mysterious because we see only our weaknesses but God sees our potential #vocationawareness."

5. God loves you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 30

1. The United States should pursue non-proliferation and diplomacy to promote U.S. and global security, not allocate funds to modernize its nuclear forces, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in an October 30 letter to Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. In the letter, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, noted that the Congressional Budget Office estimates $355 billion in spending on nuclear forces over the next decade, much of that toward modernizing those forces.

2. See social media talk about Bishop Pates' talk on weapon with the hashtag: #IranDialog

3. Pope Francis said people shouldn't be lulled into thinking the devil isn't real.

4. The lighting of the Sistine Chapel has people talking.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Oct. 29

1. Pope Francis is encouraging action and prayer toward stopping Ebola.

2. With elections less than a week away, learn about Catholic teachings on civic participation.

3. As people discuss end of life issues, Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, of Portland, is encouraging one woman to not give up hope.

4. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, had a brother with Down Syndrome. Today, he reflected on families that have a member with special needs and the extraordinary gifts they bring to the Catholic Church.

5. God loves you.