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.