Monday, June 22, 2015

New U.S. Catholic-Buddhist “Dialogue of Fraternity” Begins Today in Rome

CNS photo/L'Osservatore Roma no via Reuters

By Anthony Cirelli

The Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, is sponsoring a Buddhist-Catholic interreligious dialogue to be held for the first time in Rome from June 22 to 27, 2015. This Catholic-Buddhist dialogue is being held to implement the vision of Pope Francis: a “Dialogue of Fraternity.” The meeting will include 46 Catholic and Buddhist interreligious and social action leaders in the United States. The Catholic participants are from New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the Washington D.C. area (representing the USCCB, the Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, the National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Georgetown University). The Buddhist participants are leaders of communities in the five U.S. cities that represent the rich variety of Sri Lankan, Thai, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Tibetan Buddhism traditions.

Catholic-Buddhist interreligious dialogue in the USA, which in the past focused largely on developing mutual understanding, seeks with this new form of dialogue to build upon the traditional form by fostering interreligious collaboration to address the social problems faced by people in our communities. Accordingly, the theme of this Catholic-Buddhist dialogue will be “Suffering, Liberation, and Fraternity.” As part of the overall agenda, time will be given to discuss how Buddhists and Catholics in the five cities can continue to expand this fraternity upon their return and to collaborate in addressing social ills.

The participating members from the Buddhist tradition have been involved in interreligious relations and are committed to building fraternal collaboration with the Catholic Church. The Catholic participants are representatives of the groups listed above, as well as other Catholic social services agencies, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue, the Friars of the Atonement, and the Focolare Movement, the hosts of the dialogue in Rome. The program includes participation in the Papal audience on Wednesday.

His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who will deliver the welcoming address at the dialogue, has called for “cooperation with other pilgrims and people of good will…denouncing all those social ills that damage fraternity.” (2014 PCID Vesakh Message) Given this request, Donald W. Mitchell, organizer of the dialogue, says: “We will meet to dialogue about nature, causes, and healing of relational ills and the social problems they cause. Then, we will explore ways to work together upon our return to the United States to heal and reconcile relational ills in our cities in the spirit of fraternity.”


Anthony Cirelli, Ph.D., is associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Five Things To Remember On June 22

1. The Fortnight For Freedom began yesterday in Baltimore. According to the Catholic Review, Archbishop William Lori said during his homily, “Religious institutions in the United States are in danger of losing their freedom to hire for mission and their freedom to defend the family. Endangered is the freedom of church ministries to provide employee benefits and to provide adoptions and refugee services in accord with the church’s teaching on faith and morals. It is one thing for others to disagree with the church’s teaching but quite another to discriminate against the rights of believers to practice our faith, not just in word but in the way we conduct our daily life, ministry and business.”

2. As people await the Supreme Court's decision on marriage, it's worth sharing the Catholic teachings on marriage

3. If you're still unpacking the teachings of Laudato Si', perhaps Catholic News Service's terminology guide for the encyclical will be helpful to share.

4. Did you miss Archbishop Joseph Kurtz's statement on the Charleston shooting, racism and violence? Read it here.

5. God loves you.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 19

1. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the USCCB, responded to the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, with “grief and deep sadness,” June 19. He said the Catholic community “stands with all people who struggle for an end to racism and violence, in our families, in our places of worship, in our communities and in our world.”

2. The Fortnight For Freedom begins this Sunday. Learn more at

3. Did you miss the press conference discussing the release of the encyclical "Laudato Si'" with Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington? Watch it here:

4. Here are a number of resources to help you, your staff or friends discuss the encyclical and Church teachings on the environment.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 18

1. Pope Francis' encyclical on the need to care for creation is stirring conversation. Read it now on the Vatican's site.

2. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, welcomed the encyclical and you can see his press conference from earlier today.

3. Archbishop Kurtz commented on the Charleston shooting briefly before starting the conference.
A video posted by U.S. Catholic Bishops (@usccb) on

4. As you close the day, watch this incredible video produced by the Vatican on Laudato Si'.

5. God loves you. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

'Laudato Si' Media Conference Live Stream

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, welcome Pope Francis' new encyclical "Laudato Si," Thursday, June 18, 8:30 a.m., at the National Press Club in Washington.

The event will also be streamed over Twitter via Periscope. Those on Twitter can watch by following the USCCB’s Twitter account. Shortly before the event begins, the will share a link via Periscope. Downloading the Periscope app via Apple and Android app stores will allow you to watch the app by following @USCCB there as well.

USCCB resources on the encyclical and environmental justice can be found at:

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 16

1. In just two days, the Vatican will release Pope Francis' highly anticipated encyclical letter "Laudato Si': On the Care of Our Common Home."  Find resources on the topic and read what the U.S. bishops and previous popes have written about our environment.

2. The Fortnight for Freedom is taking place from June 21 to July 4, 2015, with the theme of the “Freedom to Bear Witness.” The Fortnight is a two-week period of prayer, education, and action in support of religious liberty. For more information, visit

3. The Peter's Pence Collection is June 27-28 and helps Pope Francis reach out to victims of war and natural disaster witness charity.

4. Pope Francis said today that priests showing a concern for poverty issues is not a sign of communism. It is at the heart of the Gospel.

5. God loves you.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 15

1. This Thursday, the Vatican will release Pope Francis' highly anticipated encyclical letter "Laudato Si': On the Care of Our Common Home." Find resources on the topic and read what the U.S. bishops and previous popes have written about our environment.

2. The Fortnight For Freedom starts this Sunday in Baltimore with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop William E. Lori. The focus is on the right to bear witness to faith in society. Learn more at

3. Did you miss any of the presentations or reports from last week's USCCB General Assembly? Catch up here.

4. During a homily, Pope Francis talked about today's readings and the need to turn the other cheek to those who have done us wrong.

5. God loves you.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 8

1. Catholics are called to uphold the dignity of all people, including migrants, the poor, victims of trafficking and people with illnesses and disabilities, says the theme for Catechetical Sunday 2015, “Safeguarding the Dignity of Every Human Person.”

2. Pope Francis was self-depreciating today, telling young people he's ancient and from the Stone Age. Still, he had some advice for them, saying if, "you live glued to the computer and become a slave to the computer, you lose your freedom. And if you look for obscene programs on the computer, you lose your dignity."

3. Starting Wednesday, the USCCB General Assembly proceedings in St. Louis will be live streamed at News updates, addresses and other materials will be posted on this page. For those wishing to follow the proceedings on social media, updates from the meeting will be live tweeted at with the hashtag #USCCB15. Updates will also appear at
Get to know the General Assembly Agenda before Wednesday.

4. Watch this introduction to, and learn how our faith inspires us to respond as disciples in the world today. 

5. God loves you.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 5

1. Celebrating the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ with an evening Mass outside Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran June 4, Pope Francis prayer for persecuted Christians.

2. The 2015 Bernardin Award Winner, Edith Avila Olea, is following Pope Francis' lead in smelling like the sheep.

3. Miss our Journey to the Heart of Family video series? Catch up on the USCCB YouTube channel.

4. The Fortnight for Freedom this year will be two weeks of prayer, education and action. Learn more:

5. God loves you.

2015 Bernardin Award Winner Helps People See Seamless Connection Between Charity, Justice

Pope Francis' admonition that a shepherd must have the "smell of the sheep" is frequently referenced in the work of pastors and bishops. But for Edith Avila Olea, 22, it applies to any leader in the Church, especially those working on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Edith, who serves as the Parish Outreach and Board of Young Professionals Coordinator for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, is the 2015 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award winner.

"Catholicism calls us to be anything but silent," she says. "Fighting for justice for all people isn’t an option for Catholics, it is our mission."

The Bernardin Award is sponsored by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. bishops. It honors a young person who has dedicated him or herself to addressing the root causes of poverty in his or her community. Edith will be honored during the U.S. bishops' annual Spring General Assembly, June 10, in St. Louis.

Edith describes her work for Catholic Charities of Joliet as one of building relationships -- between Catholic Charities, parishes and the people she serves.

"I visit with pastors, religious, and lay people. I educate about our programs," she says. "The relationship opens a door for education about Catholic Social Teaching – learning how to create a preferential option for the poor with what is currently available. To address systematic change and future laws, I point people to the Peace and Justice department at the diocese. We should be actively working together."

So Edith's work takes her beyond direct service to those in need and into the realm of giving Catholic Charities' clients "their own human dignity back." It's about showing Catholics and community leaders that charity and justice are seamlessly interconnected. And then it's about getting everyone involved in the process, whether that's working for just wages or immigration reform.

"In our offices, we seek to find long-term solutions that lead back to self-sufficiency," she says. "Advocacy plays a huge role in this process. Every person who is a part of this process is answering their baptismal right of helping those in most need."

It's here that her own story imbues her with the "smell of the sheep." One of six children, Edith's family emigrated from Acapulco, Guerrero in Mexico when she was still a little girl. Edith says that growing up poor wasn’t easy. She attended five different elementary schools and two middle schools. Her family eventually settled in Georgia, where she witnessed the burden poverty placed on her parents, the stress of working multiple jobs and the failures of a broken immigration system. Through it all, faith provided the strength necessary to move forward and address the systemic issues of poverty.

This involved moving 12 hours away from her family to serve as the CCHD intern for the Diocese of Joliet, eventually becoming a full-time employee. Her twin responsibilities -- of outreach to parishes and the Board of Young Professionals -- are both initiative she started. The newly formed Board of Young Professionals, comprised of about 50 members, encourages young adults to serve and lead in the community.

"Our goal is to serve and lead in our community. They say that the best leaders are those who smell like their flock. This too requires relationships, most importantly relationships between the poor and rich. My goal is to have every service project give our board members an opportunity to see and interact with our clients," she says. "In this process, we are all learning how to see each other as neighbors. Together, we can advocate and create systematic change in society."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 4

1. The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis' ecology encyclical will be released June 18.

2. This is the fourth and final video of the series “Journey to the Heart of Family,” in which individuals share their own stories cherishing marriage, what it means to them, and how their personal experiences have enriched their bond of marriage and family. Matt shares how he and his wife have placed faith at the center of their marriage and how as parents of young children, they see the seeds of faith grow in their daily life.

3. The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is celebrated on June 7. Mark the day by reading about and reflecting on what we mean by "The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist."

4. In case you missed it, the Bishops’ Spring General Assembly in St. Louis Will Be Available by Web Stream, Social Media, Satellite Feed

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 3

1. Father Ralph B. O'Donnell, Associate Director for the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations for the USCCB was recently challenged to take part in the #biking4vocations exercise and prayer challenge to raise awareness for vocations. He's got a challenge of his own as well.

Rev. Ralph B. O'Donnell, Associate Director for the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life & Vocations for the USCCB was recently challenged to take part in the #biking4vocations exercise and prayer challenge to raise awareness for vocations. He's got a challenge of his own, seminarians of Conception Abbey. Are you ready?
Posted by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2. A small but powerful whirlwind blew through Washington a few weeks ago in the person of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. His visit included major addresses at the Nostra Aetate Symposium at the Catholic University of America, and at the Georgetown University hosted conference The Second Vatican Council: Remembering the Future. Learn some of the takeaways.

3. A new Catholic News Service looks at the upcoming papal encyclical on the environment.

4. In case you missed it: A new website will help Catholics respond to Jesus’ call to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” found in the Matthew’s Gospel. is a project of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 2

1. A new site from the USCCB debuted today called, "We Are Salt And Light," and will help Catholics respond to Jesus’ call to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” found in the Matthew’s Gospel.

Watch an introduction video:

2. Archbishop William Lori, of Baltimore, talks about how Catholics witness to their faith in the United States and across the globe in this video. The Fortnight For Freedom is June 21 through July 4.

3. Pope Francis is heading to Bosnia to be a "brother messenger of peace."

4. Richard Doerflinger of the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities reflects on Christian hope, which is counter-cultural in a society that increasingly highlights despair with efforts to make assisted suicide legal in many parts of our nation.

5. God loves you.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Five Things To Remember On June 1

1. Speaking to the Science and Life Association during the weekend, Pope Francis said, “The degree of progress of a civilization is measured by its ability to protect life, especially in its most fragile stages.”

2. As the world prepares for Pope Francis' encyclical, the USCCB is sharing images, quotes and links to Catholic teaching on caring for the environment and creation. '

3. The USCCB and dioceses across the country are preparing for the Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness. Learn more about the campaign for religious freedom awareness in the U.S. and around the world.

4. The Peter’s Pence Collection will be taken up in most dioceses the weekend of June 27-28. Learn more about how you can stand with Pope Francis and witness charity.

5. God loves you.