Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 30

1. Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, said the circumstances surrounding the failed execution and ultimate death of Clayton Lockett "really highlights the brutality of the death penalty, and I hope it leads us to consider whether we should adopt a moratorium on the death penalty or even abolish it altogether. In the meantime, let us pray for peace for all those affected by or involved in last night’s execution in any way – including Lockett himself, his family, prison officials and others who witnessed the event. My compassion and prayers go out especially to the family of Stephanie Neiman, whom Lockett was convicted of killing.”

2. In the latest edition of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities' Life Issues Forum, Deirdre McQuade writes about a downward trend in support for the death penalty.

3. The USCCB has a prayer for an end to the death penalty.

4. Pope Francis spoke on the power of understanding at his general audience today, saying, "Dear friends, how important the gift of understanding is for our Christian life! Through this gift, the Spirit of God breaks through the darkness of our minds and our hearts and makes us true believers, able to enjoy what the Lord reveals to us in His Word and rejoice in all that he does in our lives."

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 29

1. Nuclear weapons “present an existential threat to mankind,” said former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to a group of Catholic leaders on April 24. “We need to reduce the numbers of these weapons, identify and take the steps needed to keep them under better control, and ultimately eliminate them.” Secretary Shultz and former Secretary of Defense William Perry hosted a Colloquium on Revitalizing Catholic Engagement on Nuclear Disarmament, April 24-25, at Stanford University.

2. Catholic dioceses and parishes across the United States are once again encouraged to raise awareness for domestic and international religious freedom concerns during the third annual Fortnight for Freedom, June 21-July 4. The two-week celebration will focus on the theme, “Freedom to Serve,” emphasizing the link between religious liberty and service to the poor and vulnerable.

3. The 2014 Collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) will be taken up in many dioceses the weekend of May 31-June 1. The collection offers an opportunity for Catholics around the country to support evangelization through technology and social media by supporting the production and dissemination of high-quality Catholic content via the Internet, television, radio, and print publications.

4. Catholic News Service reports: "Beware of the devil, who wants a jealous, power-hungry and divided church," Pope Francis said.

5. God loves you.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 25

1. Did you know there are apps for the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II?

2. The impact of both men stretched beyond the Catholic faith, as you can see in our blog series.

3. Broadcast information for Sunday's canonizations can be found here.

4. Asian and Pacific Catholics will hold their 12th annual Marian Pilgrimage Saturday, May 10. This one-day pilgrimage is a celebration of faith and heritage held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and is open to everyone.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pope John Paul II at Judaism’s holiest site

By Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg

He stood alone in the shadow of the western retaining wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Then, God’s representative on Earth to nearly a billion Catholics slipped a sheet of paper into a crack in the holiest site in Judaism. And prayed.

On March 26, 2000, this unprecedented image was transmitted globally via Internet, tv and in countless newspaper photographs. The image will forever symbolize Pope John Paul historic effort to build a new relationship of respect, mutual understanding and friendship with the Jewish people after nearly 2,000 years of damage and destruction.

I was an eyewitness to this moving event. As the religion reporter for a New York City newspaper, I had been assigned to cover the first official visit by a pope to the State of Israel. Through high level connections, I obtained an invitation to the ceremony at the Western Wall. Security was extraordinarily tight. The streets leading to the Temple Mount were restricted to all but a handful of Israeli and Vatican officials. Military helicopters circled overhead.

Yet the scene was eerily quiet as the stooped 79-year-old pontiff tucked his note into the ancient stones. He was following a 300-year old Jewish tradition of slipping prayers for God into the giant golden-hued stones. The wall is the last remaining physical structure linked to the sacred site of King Solomon’s First Temple; the Second Temple - which the Maccabees liberated in 165 BCE; and Herod the Great’s magnificently renovated Temple, where Jesus walked. The tradition of placing prayers in the wall stems from the Jewish belief that the Divine Presence has never moved from this ancient, much destroyed site.

Pope John Paul’s text - a plea to God to forgive those who have persecuted the Jewish people throughout history – in essence repeated the profound words he uttered weeks earlier at his famous Mass of apology in Rome.

His prayer note said:

God of our fathers,
You chose Abraham and his descendants
to bring your Name to the Nations:
we are deeply saddened
by the behaviour of those
who in the course of history
have caused these children of yours to suffer,
and asking your forgiveness
we wish to commit ourselves to
genuine brotherhood
with the people of the Covenant.
Jerusalem 26, March 2000

Signed: John Paul II

Interestingly, John Paul had insisted his visit was a personal spiritual pilgrimage tracing Jesus’ life, from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem. Yet he knew the political significance it held for Israelis, Palestinians, non-Catholic Christians, Jews around the world and Muslims.

Tens of millions of Christian TV viewers who followed the Pope’s movements saw the Israeli police pull off one of the most hand-wringing security projects in their history. Israelis also for the first time began learning something about Christians and their beliefs, an important step toward better relations. Many learned that this Pope had done more than any in history to repair the torturous attitude of Christians toward Jews. He had declared anti-Semitism a sin, talked about God’s enduring Covenant with the Jewish people and established diplomatic relations with Israel. On another level, he delivered powerful words about the evils of the Holocaust, 2,000 years of persecution by Christians against Jews, and his determination to forge a new positive relationship with the Jewish people, whom he referred to as beloved brothers.

The pope’swords and image raised important questions about the future of Jewish-Catholic relations. Would the stirring images of this frail, charismatic holy man at the Western Wall and Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial be sufficient to bring reconciliation after 2,000 torturous years of Jewish-Christian relations?

More than a decade later, we have answers. Pope Benedict XVI followed in John Paul’s footsteps with successful visit to Israel in 2009. Today, Pope Francis is discussing his own plan to visit Israel. So Israel is now a required destination for any pope.

However more effort is needed to bring John Paul’s message to the pews and Catholic schools - particularly to Catholics in South America, Africa and Asia. The local churches and bishops conferences face the challenge to provide educational programs on the meaning of the State of Israel and Judaism and the Holocaust an all levels. Then the legacy of John Paul II will live on, to the benefit of all mankind.

--- Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg is Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Anti-Defamation League and a co-editor of “The Saint for Shalom: How Pope John Paul II Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations.”

Five Things To Remember On April 24

1. The Vatican is starting to release the delegation numbers for this Sunday's canonizations.

2. We've highlighted, thanks to Jesuit Father James Martin, the surprising humor of Pope John XXIII, who will be canonized this Sunday along with Pope John Paul II.

3. There wasn't a doubt in Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's mind that Pope John Paul II was a saint.

4. Many people are unaware that the Easter celebration is actually 50 days.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pope John Paul II and the Orthodox Church

By Thomas FitzGerald

Pope John Paul II affirmed the importance of the ecumenical movement and strengthened the quest for the restoration of full communion with the Orthodox Church. Continuing the tradition established by Paul VI, Pope John Paul II traveled to Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) in 1979 to meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios, senior bishop of the Orthodox Church. This visit expressed the pope’s desire for dialogue between Rome and the Orthodox Church.

At that meeting, the religious leaders established of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. This historic action signaled that both churches saw that the time was right to begin examination of points of agreement and difference. The new commission followed the establishment in 1965 of a similar Bilateral Dialogue in the U.S.

The leaders met again in Rome in 1987, the year the twelve hundredth anniversary of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787). This is the final Ecumenical Council jointly recognized by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and affirmed the value and use of icons especially as an expression of authentic Christology.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was elected to his office in 1991 when the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church was severely strained in many parts of the world. Following political changes in Russia and Eastern Europe, there was a resurgence of the Eastern Catholic Churches, which led to sharp clashes between members of the Eastern Catholics and the Orthodox over property rights. The revival of the Eastern Catholic Churches troubled many Orthodox.

Amidst such tensions, Pope John Paul wrote the encyclical Ut Unum Sint in 1995, which reaffirmed the importance of the quest for unity. The pope also called upon other church leaders and theologians to engage in a “patient and fraternal dialogue” on the role of the Bishop of Rome. The Orthodox welcomed the Pope’s encouragement of this study, since most Orthodox see the present articulation of this primacy as a key impediment to the restoration of full communion.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited Rome later in 1995. Relationships were still troubled, but both the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch reaffirmed the importance of the theological dialogue between their churches.

This meeting set the stage for meetings with other Orthodox leaders. Pope John Paul met with Patriarch Teoctist and the synod of the Church of Romania in 1999 and with Archbishop Christodoulos the primate of the Church of Greece and its synod in 2001. At this meeting, the Pope issued a formal apology for the historic abuses of Catholics against the Orthodox, with a particular reference to the sack of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade of 1204. A year later, the Pope met with Patriarch Maxim and the synod of the Church of Bulgaria in 2002.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew found Pope John Paul committed to the process of reconciliation between Orthodoxy and Catholicism. They both supported the restoration of the Theological Consultation that met in Baltimore in 2000 after a period of inactivity. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew also joined with the pope at an historic meeting in Assisi, Italy in 2002, for a “Day of Prayer for Peace in the World.” The two issued an historic joint declaration on the protection of the creation in 2002.

Knowing that the pope’s health was in decline, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew journeyed to Rome and met with him on June 29, 2004. A few months later, they presided at an historic celebration in St. Peter’s in Rome, November 27, 2004. This marked the return to the Orthodox of the relics of St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, honored by both Orthodox and Roman Catholics. The return of the relics stood as a vivid reminder of how much the two churches share, including the veneration of the saints, and showed that the relationship between the churches had improved.

When Pope John Paul died in 2005, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew led the Orthodox delegation at the funeral in Rome on April 8, 2005. It was truly a dramatic and unprecedented gesture of respect for the pope who advanced the relationship between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.


Father Thomas FitzGerald, Th.D. (Greek Orthodox) is the Professor of Church History and Historical Theology and former Dean at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, MA. He is the Orthodox Executive Secretary of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Bilateral Consultation.

Five Things To Remember On April 23

1. Pope Francis said today that the risen Jesus, not money or power, is the source of life.

2. Have you checked out our series on the two Popes that will be canonized this week? The bloggers cover so many aspects of the lives of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II that each is a must-read.

3. Deirdre McQuade, Assistant Director for Policy and Communications of the USCCB's Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, sees a positive trend in a new Pew Research Center that shows a shrinking majority in the support of the death penalty.

4. The Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States (ARC-USA) has concluded a six-year round of dialogue with the release of “Ecclesiology and Moral Discernment: Seeking a Unified Moral Witness,” approved at the most recent meeting February 24-25, at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 22

1. This is a big week in the Catholic Church, as two popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, will be canonized as saints in Rome on April 27. Read expert reflections on each.

2. People are making Earth Day today and you can see the USCCB's efforts on the environmental justice.

3. Father James Martin, SJ, points out the humor of Pope John XXIII is well-known, now get to see some of his jokes and quips.

4. The Vatican has set the 51st World Day for Vocations for May 11, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The theme for this year’s celebration, which falls on Mother’s Day this year, is “Vocations, Witness to the Truth.”

5. God loves you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 17

1. Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 guests today in a Holy Thursday Mass at a rehabilitation center.

2. Questions about the next few days of the Holy Week are natural. Here are some answers for you.

3. Students from The Catholic University of America took part in an outdoor Stations of the Cross this week.

4. The USCCB will be closed on Good Friday, April 18. We wish you a moving Holy Week and a Happy Easter.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 16

1. Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., is is in his first year as Chairman of the National Review Board, a lay body that collaborates with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to prevent sexual abuse of minors by persons in the service of the Church. He explores some of the myths and truths surrounding abuse in the Church today.

2. Helen Osman, the secretary for communications at the USCCB, explains how Pope Francis is changing the way the church transmits its message.

3. During this Holy Week, you may have questions about the Paschal tridduum. We have 18 answers and questions about this time in the faith.

4. The  Pope will distribute pocket-sized Gospels in a Roman prison today.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Continuing Myths of the Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church

By Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D

In 2002 the Catholic Church was faced with its biggest crisis in decades if not centuries- the child sexual abuse scandal. Many strides have been made over the past 12 years; the Catholic Church has taken considerable action to protect children, help victims heal, and remove offending clerics. Much has been accomplished in this arena. In spite of these strides to protect children many people do not know about the changes that have been made.

Myth: The Catholic bishops have done nothing since 2002 to stop the sexual abuse of children.

Fact: Catholic bishops have implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, along with Essential Norms and a Statement of Episcopal Commitment. 99% of clerics, employees, educators and volunteers have had background checks and have been trained on how to create safe church and school environments. Nearly 6,000 clerics who had credible accusations made against them were removed from ministry between the years 1950 and 2013. There is a zero tolerance policy and all clerics with a credible allegation must be permanently removed from ministry.

Myth: Thousands of children are still being abused by Catholic priests

Fact: While the Church receives hundreds of allegations each year, 99% of them are reporting abuse that happened years ago. Current allegations from minors averaged 10 per year between 2005 to 2013. Everyone agrees that is 10 too many and the church continues to take steps to protect children and to remove those who would harm them.

Myth: Child sexual abuse occurs only in the Catholic Church

Fact: Child sexual abuse occurs in all socio-economic levels, and does occur in every type of youth serving organization from sporting teams, to churches of all denominations and public and private schools. The Catholic Church has implemented effective measures to stop sexual abuse from occurring in its parishes and schools. It requires background evaluations on all clerics, employees and volunteers. It requires all be trained on how to create and maintain safe environments for children. Clergy with credible allegations are permanently removed from ministry.

Myth: Bishops cover up abuse and hide priests from the law

Fact: Dioceses are required to report all cases to the local law enforcement agencies. Failing to report known abuse is a crime. Victims and their families are encouraged to report abuse directly to police. Each diocese is required to have a victim assistance coordinator and a diocesan review board to review the allegations and make recommendations to the bishop.

Myth: The Holy See insists that bishops protect the church at the expense of children.

Fact: In May 2011, a directive in the form of a letter required all episcopal conferences to have policies and procedures on dealing with sexual abuse by clergy. The Holy See requires all allegations of sexual abuse to be reported to local civil authorities.


Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., is president of Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts. He is in his first year as Chairman of the National Review Board, a lay body that collaborates with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to prevent sexual abuse of minors by persons in the service of the Church.

Five Things To Remember On April 15

1. Pope Francis asks people during Holy Week to think about which character in Jesus' story they resemble.

2. Sister Mary Ann Walsh looks at Holy Saturday and the many people who are joining the Catholic faith.

3. In 12 days, Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized saints. Check out this helpful chart created by Catholic News Service that explores the often long road to becoming a saint.

4. See video reflections in Spanish on the Word of God for the Triduum and Easter on our Lent Videos page.

5. God loves you.

Holy Saturday, Holy Christians, Holy Spirit

 By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

On Holy Saturday, April 19, most of the 18,000 parishes nationwide will welcome new members into the Catholic community. Some are catechumens, to be baptized for the first time. Others will come into full communion with the church, having already been baptized but now receiving the other two sacraments of initiation, Eucharist and Confirmation. Some return to the church in which they were once fully initiated but fell away, perhaps when their lives grew too busy for weekend Mass.

Last year, the Official Catholic Directory, aka the Kenedy Directory, reported 41,917 adult baptisms and 71,582 people coming into full communion. (Not included here are the 763,208 infant baptisms.) Early statistics for 2014 suggest that the numbers for this year may remain the same. Some think they’ll inch up with a Francis effect – the jump from good feeling about the pope to seriously following him.

Why one makes a leap of faith to join the Catholic Church remains a mystery. Often, what’s clear, however, is that faith is caught, more than taught. Some intellectuals reason their way into the faith, but most converts follow the example of how the faith is lived by others.

Mass has drawing power. Many non-Catholic men and women who have gone to Mass with spouses and children over the years decide to formally enter the church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults on Holy Saturday. The weekly hour of prayer nourished both family and faith. Many others who enter the church plan to marry a Catholic and rightly think that sharing the same faith will be good for their marriage. Data from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life 2008 Religious Landscape Survey found 72 percent of converts to Catholicism joined the church because they married a Catholic.

Others catch the faith from co-workers, neighbors, teachers and other friends. Wilton Gregory, now archbishop of Atlanta, recalls his faith being nurtured in Catholic elementary school days in Chicago. When he said he wanted to become a priest, he learned he’d have to become a Catholic first. His conversion took.

The silent witness of religious devotions, a promise to pray for another’s concern, faithful Mass attendance and warm celebrations of Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations and Marriages proclaim the joy of the Christian community and become a silent evangelization.

Roads big and small line the map to Catholicism. Sometimes it’s the magnificent boulevard of finding one’s true love; other times it’s the unexpected byway of the sudden death of a loved one. Eleven percent of those in the Pew Survey converted after a loved one passed away.

Holy Saturday celebrates the enigma of how the unseen God draws a heart. Jesuit Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in “God’s Grandeur” opined on nature in his poem, but he also may have hinted at the why of conversions when he noted, “Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Five Things To Remember on April 14

1. On Palm Sunday, yesterday, Pope Francis in his homily asked: “We would do well to ask just one question: who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, who enters into Jerusalem in celebration? Am I able to express my joy, to praise Him? Or do I keep distant? Who am I, before Jesus Who suffers?” He spoke of Judas, Pilate, Barabbas Simon of Cyrene, Joseph of Arimathea, Mary. Pope Francis concluded his homily saying that this question ought to accompany us through Holy Week: “Where is my heart? To which of these people am I most alike?” Text found at:

2. Pope Francis spoke April 13 of World Youth Days and said the next WYD will take place in 2016 in Krakow, Poland, under the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5,7). he also announced that he will visit to Daejeon, South Korea, on August 15 where he will meet with the youth of Asia.

3. Ten of thousands of men and women are in the final stages of preparing to come into the Catholic Church on Hoy Saturday, April 19. Last year, the Official Catholic Directory, aka the Kenedy Directory, reported 41,917 adult baptisms and 71,582 people coming into full communion. (Not included here are the 763,208 infant baptisms.) Early statistics for 2014 suggest that the numbers for this year may remain the same. Some think they’ll inch up with a Francis effect – the jump from good feeling about the pope to seriously following him.

4. The season of Lent is a time for confession. For a Q&A on what to know for the Sacrament of Penance look at this US Conference of Catholic Bishops Resource

5. God loves you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 11

1. Pope Francis spoke out in defense of life, from natural conception to death, and also spoke on the existence of the devil on Friday. In addition, he said the Church would take "not one step back" from correcting clerical sexual abuse

2. See video reflections in Spanish on the Word of God for the Triduum and Easter on our Lent Videos page.

3. Listen to bishop-led audio retreats based on the readings for the Sundays of Lent in English and Spanish.  Your retreat leaders for Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion, April 13, are Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati (English) and Archbishop Joseph William Tobin, CSsR, of Indianapolis (Spanish).

4. Did you miss this reflection on Palm Sunday, which is this weekend?

5. God loves you.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 10

1. Today, Pope Francis spoke out against the "open wound" of human trafficking. See how the USCCB is fighting to end it.

2. Members of the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee ratified a recommendation to evenly distribute the proceeds of the special collection for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan between humanitarian relief and long-term church reconstruction and program needs. The decision was made during the USCCB Administrative Committee Meeting on March 11-12.

3. The Vatican Television Center has released information for broadcasters regarding worldwide telecasts of the events presided over by Pope Francis in Holy Week and Easter and the canonization of Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII. All times are UTC/GMT (Coordinated Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time).

4. Catholic News Service reports: "Responding to concerns about Catholic involvement with Girl Scouts, a U.S. bishops' committee released key points from its dialogue with Girl Scout leaders outlining major concerns of church leaders and the national organization's responses."

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 9

1. Members of the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee ratified a recommendation to evenly distribute the proceeds of the special collection for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan between humanitarian relief and long-term church reconstruction and program needs.

2. Pope Francis says "There are no two people like you."

3. Catholic News Service reports: "Pope Francis said the assassination of 'my confrere,' a 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit in Syria, 'filled me with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country.'"

4. Today, there will be a Twitter Q&A and the topic is the bipartisan and bicameral “Do Not Track Kids Act” with Senator Markey & Congressman Barton. Their handles are @MarkeyMemo @RepJoeBarton. Join the chat at 2 PM EDT. Use the hashtag ‪#‎AskKidsPriv‬. For more information, visit:

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 8

1. The Holy See announced that on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass for people with disabilities at a rehabilitation center.

2. Tomorrow, there will be a Twitter Q&A and the topic is the bipartisan and bicameral “Do Not Track Kids Act” with Senator Markey & Congressman Barton. Their handles are @MarkeyMemo @RepJoeBarton. Join the chat at April 9, 2014 2 PM EDT. Use the hashtag ‪#‎AskKidsPriv‬. For more information, visit:

3. On the weekend of April 26-27, parishes across the U.S. will take up the Catholic Home Missions Appeal. This year, the collection will fund $8.45 million in grants to needy dioceses, including Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi. Read more in the press release.

4. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Get the facts on child abuse and learn what the Catholic Church is doing to protect children and young people.

5. God loves you.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Five Things to Remember on April 7

1. In case you missed it, you can watch Cardinal Seán O’Malley and brother bishops’ Mass on the U.S.-Mexico border at They prayed for all those who have died trying to cross the border and for immigration reform.

2. Pope Francis gave away pocket-sized copies of the Gospels to thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square yesterday and encouraged them to perform an act of charity. During the Angelus, Pope Francis reminded us that there’s no limit to God’s divine mercy.

3. In our USCCB Sunday Lenten Reflections, Fr. Dan Merz explores the different reactions of people who hear about the death of Lazarus and their faith in Christ as the resurrection.

4. The 2014 Catholic Home Missions Appeal is coming up, April 26-27. The appeal supports isolated, challenged parishes and missions in dioceses and eparchies across the United States.

5. God loves you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 4

1. World Youth Day in Rio was a massive success in 2013, but now talk is turning to 2016 and Krakow, Poland. Youth pastoral leaders from around the globe are meeting in Poland this week.

2. Check out bishop-led audio retreats based on the readings for the Sundays of Lent in English and Spanish. The retreat leaders for the Fifth Sunday of Lent are Bishop William Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi (English) and Bishop Mark J. Seitz, of El Paso (Spanish).

3. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Get the facts on child abuse and learn what the Catholic Church is doing to protect children and young people.

4. Be sure to read Nancy Wiechec blog from the U.S.-Mexico border on the Catholic events from earlier this week.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Five Things To Remember On April 3

1. Bishop Richard E. Pates, chair of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, applauds the recent decision by Senators Susan Collins (R/ME) and Angus King (I-ME) to vote in favor of declassifying parts of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) report on CIA interrogation practices. Support from all Senators on the Committee in an upcoming vote on the release of this report is crucial to putting this shameful chapter of U.S. sponsored torture behind us.

2. This video highlights the efforts that the Church has undertaken in the past and continues to do so in the present. Advocating on behalf of immigrant communities and providing pastoral support is central to the Church's work.

3. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Get the facts on child abuse and learn what the Catholic Church is doing to protect children and young people.

4. Later this month, Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II will be canonized. Experts and journalists reflect about these holy men who have impacted so many in the 20th and 21st centuries.

5. God loves you.

Pope John XXIII and the Quest for Ecumenism

By John Borelli

From the start, Pope John wanted the Second Vatican Council to be “ecumenical.” Of course, the Council would be one of the already twenty historic universal or “ecumenical” councils, but Pope John wanted his council to be “ecumenical” in the modern sense. Among the stated goals in his announcement on January 25, 1959, was an invitation to separated Christians and that unity to which many aspired.

The pope knew that his two predecessors, Pius XI and Pius XII, had each considered calling a council, or of re-convening the first Vatican Council, which was suspended in 1870 as Garibaldi’s forces approached Rome in the seizure of the Papal States for a unified Italy. Pope John wanted a new council and a new approach, one for modern times already witnessing the groundbreaking ecumenical movement underway among Protestants and Orthodox Christians.

Three decades earlier, the future pope came under the influence of Benedictine Abbot Lambert Beauduin, who in 1925 founded a monastery in Belgium with an ecumenical mission. Roncalli and Beauduin became acquainted in Rome while teaching at pontifical universities. Assigned to be apostolic visitor to Bulgaria in 1925, Roncalli asked Beauduin for one of his monks to be his secretary in that Orthodox Christian land. Roncalli and Beauduin were reunited in Paris in late 1944, where Roncalli became apostolic nuncio to France, where Beauduin was on an extended banishment for being too ecumenical in his attitude towards Anglicans in precursory dialogues held in Belgium, the Malines Conversations (1921-27). In 1957, Cardinal Roncalli summed up the influence of Beauduin on him while speaking in Palermo, a year before he was elected pope. He praised Dom Beauduin, who many years before perceived the need for a church supported ecumenical movement. He also included a Secretariat for Christian Unity among the preparatory commission for the council and named the capable Cardinal Augustin Bea, a Jesuit, to head it.

Pope John trusted Cardinal Bea and the bishops at the council to find ways to implement his ecumenical intentions. In fact, the Secretariat for Christian Unity was the most successful of all the conciliar commissions, producing three of the 16 final documents of Vatican II, sharing responsibility with the Doctrine Commission on a fourth, the Constitution on Divine Revelation, and securing authority from the proceedings of the council to produce an ecumenical directory. The directory was published in two parts in 1967 and 1971, and revised and expanded in 1993. Delegated observers and guests from other churches and Christian communities attended all four sessions of the Council. Afterwards, ecumenical dialogue began in earnest. The Decree on Ecumenism, the Declaration on Religious Liberty, and the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, the Secretariat’s three documents, were remarkable achievements, each inaugurating a new era for Catholics.

There is very good evidence that before Pope John met the Jewish French Historian Jules Isaac on June 13, 1960, the idea had not come to him for his Council to address relations with Jews. The meeting was only eight days after the announcement of the Secretariat. Isaac, a Holocaust survivor, had dedicated his life to exploring how Jews and Christians could come to terms with the conditions that allowed the Holocaust to happen, and brought with him a file of materials from meetings and consultations. Pope John wanted Isaac to share the materials with Cardinal Bea. From that point, Pope John never gave up on the idea of a statement on the Jews. The evolution of that project into a conciliar declaration is one of the remarkable stories of Vatican II.

By November 1963, in the second session of the Council, when Cardinal Bea presented to the assembled bishops a first draft on ecumenism with additional chapters on Jewish relations and religious liberty, Pope John was no longer living. Lambert Beauduin had died in January 1960, Jules Isaac in September 1963. Four 80-year-old men and only Bea was alive to guide these intentions into conciliar statements that would bear immeasurable fruit in the decades to come.


John Borelli, Ph.D. is the Special Assistant to the President for Interreligious Initiatives at Georgetown University. Before joining Georgetown he was the associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Canonization of Two Popes: A Blog Series

The canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II April 27 will mark a historic moment for the Catholic Church. To explore the meaning of the lives of these modern-day spiritual heroes, the U.S. Bishops Office for Media Relations asked several persons to reflect on their contributions. Writers include scholars and theologians – Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish – and media personnel involved in coverage of the much travelled John Paul II. Each could have written a book, but we limited them to the brief reflections presented here.

Pope John XXIII’s Gift to the Church: Laity at the Center

By Dolores Leckey

When Pope John XXIII announced he was convening an ecumenical council of the Church – the 20th in Catholic history – he contacted the French Dominican theologian Yves Congar and invited him to be part of the Theological Commission to lay out the work for it.

Father Congar’s master work, “Lay People in the Church,” had been published earlier to the consternation of some Church leaders. Pope John, however, understood and valued Congar’s major thesis, namely that the laity love and serve God by their life in the world. Not only that, argued Father Congar, the lay person also has a role in the worshiping community, bringing the things of the world, “the work of our hands,” to the celebration of the Eucharist. Of primary importance was Congar’s probing of the power of baptism as the primary sacrament of evangelization and mission. All of this became foundational for a number of Council documents, including the Decree on the Laity.

For decades prior to the Council, the ground for change had been cultivated by theologians like Congar, but also by international lay movements and by journalists who were making the ideas and writings of the European theologians accessible to lay people and clergy worldwide. Bishops in the mission lands contributed their experience to the dialogue.

When the Decree on the Laity was passed during the Council’s final session (1965), the debate that preceded the vote caused excitement. Clericalism was referred to “as a sin” (one hears echoes of that in pronouncements by Pope Francis); many bishops publicly stated their desire for a larger and more meaningful role for the laity. The debate illustrated how much the bishops in council trusted the laity and trusted one another. This deserves mention because trust is an essential component of Christian community.

Laity celebrated the passage of the decree, an official church document that announced to the world that lay life is a true vocation, not something second best. The word “freedom” rings throughout, perhaps reflecting the influence of Belgian Cardinal Jozef Suenens who insisted that the Holy Spirit could not be “hemmed in.” The term “spirituality,” uncommon at that time, appears in describing the lay vocation. Friendship is held up as a primary relationship in lay life and in the work of the apostolate. Collaboration of laity and clergy on behalf of the church’s mission is urged … and there is so much more.

Fifteen years after the decree was promulgated, the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral reflection on the laity, “Called and Gifted.” Its name reveals the contents, namely, that the laity have a true vocation by reason of their baptism, and that they are called to live out their vocation as adult members of the church community .They are also called, in the Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, to holiness not by leaving the world but in the “web of their existence.” Furthermore, they are called to live in community with one another, and to engage in ministry in the world and in the church. “Called and Gifted” has long been a blueprint for subsequent documents and statements on the laity – the 99 percent of the Church.

Pope John did not live long enough to see the laity’s role played out on the Council stage – and beyond – but he may have known in his heart that calling forth Yves Congar to be one of the chief theologians at the Council, was tantamount to planting a seed that would grow and flourish. Every choice has consequences, whether one be pope or a hidden member of the People of God.


Dolores Leckey is the founding director of the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women and Youth where she served for twenty years. From 1998-2012 she was a Senior Fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center. Now retired she is still studying and writing.