Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pope Francis: Pastoral Challenges for our Spiritual Journey

By Father John W. Crossin, OSFS

Pastors, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant, know that challenging the members of the Congregation is part of the job description. Issuing such “wakeup calls” is usually not the pastor’s favorite thing to do. The pastor’s popularity -- and collections -- might go down as people can initially be shaken or even angry about a challenge. Yet the pastor is charged with the spiritual well-being of the members of the Congregation.

Recently Pope Francis’ poll numbers have gone down a bit. Most everyone knows that he has been saying quite challenging things since he was elected bishop of Rome. Reading the texts first of his exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, and now his encyclical, Laudato Si', I see something to challenge almost everyone. I include myself as one who has been challenged, for example, to live more simply, among other things.

The purpose of such challenges is to create “disequilibrium.” The call to conversion upsets our comfortable balance of friends who agree with us and our ways of thinking that are well insulated from some parts of the world. The challenge affects all the things we say to ourselves when we want to avoid real issues. All of us have blind spots and sometimes we want to stay blind. So we defend ourselves--at least initially.

Of course, the call of the Gospel is to open ourselves, even reluctantly, to transformation in Christ. Our problem is not really with Pope Francis, but with following Jesus in the Church. We can shape our ways of thinking to be more like His. We can walk with some of the disparate, and sometime disreputable, people Jesus talked to and healed.

The challenges should lead us into prayer. What is God saying to me? Should I take another look at my ways of thinking or acting?

These questions might lead us to consult a spiritual friend or two. These are friends or family members who are spiritually wise, have good judgment and will be honest with us. They can help us with discerning God’s will.

Among the larger number of suggestions Pope Francis makes, we are called to discern, what is the one path I am called to follow now? Who is God calling me to be now? These are the underlying challenges when Pope Francis speaks of the poor, immigrants, environmental degradation and other issues. He invites us to take merciful action, and the challenge is always to go deeper in following Christ.

Father Crossin is an Oblate of St. Francis De Sales and executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Whirlwind--Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

By Father John Crossin, OSFS

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. His itinerary included visits with Hindu, Jain, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

During the visit, he reviewed the Declaration on Interreligious Dialogue [Nostra Aetate] for its 50th Anniversary, visited local communities, encouraged local and national dialogues and set an agenda for the future.

I heard his Catholic University address “The Catholic Church in Dialogue with Islam since the Promulgation of Nostra Aetate” on Tuesday evening May 19th. In it the Cardinal:

• Reminded us that Islam is simultaneously a religion, a political system and a civilization;

• Recalled that Nostra Aetate did not begin dialogues—these began centuries before—but that it pointed to a “a more positive attitude towards and a constructive relationship with the followers of other religious traditions.”

• Encouraged local dialogues that build from sharing about our lives, to sharing work for the good of the community, to sharing about our faiths, to sharing our personal spiritual journey.

• Noted that we cannot be passive as our Muslim brothers and sister struggle with modernity, religious liberty, and a host of other issues. Our presence must be one of friendship and support in the midst of the struggles of our neighbors.

• Suggested that we are entering a new period of Muslim-Catholic dialogue where Catholics in all parts of the church will need to learn more about Islam and where Muslim-Catholic theological reflection will become more prominent.

Cardinal Tauran also led by example. He met informally with Muslim leaders while at the CUA Symposium and he joined Cardinals Koch and McCarrick, Bishops Rozanski and Madden in conversation with Jewish leaders. The following weekend he dialogued with Hindu and Jain leaders at their temples and shared a meal with them. I joked with him that he had more pictures taken of him with interreligious friends during this visit than the Pope has on one of his trips!

Despite jet-lag and non-stop speeches/conversations, Cardinal Tauran exemplified the genuine humanity and the perseverance that are essential as we move into deeper relationships.

Father John Crossin is an Oblate of St. Francis De Sales and executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Five Things To Remember On July 30

1. A group of interfaith leaders have issued a welcome to Pope Francis, who will arrive in the U.S. in less than two months.

2. In case you missed it, Cardinal O'Malley said Planned Parenthood’s work reflects the ‘Throwaway Culture’ decried by Pope Francis

3. It's one year from World Youth Day in Krakow. Here's a guide to prepare for World Youth Day for U.S. pilgrims.

4. Check out, which is a new resource that serves men in discerning a call to the priesthood.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 28

1. A nurse, a chastity educator, and the retired director of the bishops’ national grassroots organization received the 2015 People of Life Award for lifetime commitment to the pro-life movement, July 27, during the annual Diocesan Pro-Life Leadership Conference in Kansas City, Kansas. Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap., of Boston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB, presented the awards to Nancy Valko, Molly Kelly, and Michael Taylor. Over 120 diocesan, state and national Catholic pro-life leaders and guests from across the country attended the private awards dinner sponsored by the USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities.

2. The July 24 ruling by Judge Dolly Gee of the Federal District Court of California ordering the Obama administration to release from detention families fleeing violence in Central America was applauded today by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration. The administration has pursued a detention policy for these families –young mothers with children– as a means to deter other families from migrating to the United States.

3. Pope Francis tweeted about marriage this morning, aiming his message to young people.
4. The Archdiocese of Chicago will set a benchmark for all of its buildings for energy efficiency.

5. God loves you.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 27

1. Forty-five thousand sign up for next year's World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland only a few hours after registration opened yesterday. Pope Francis was the first to register. Follow for all U.S. pilgrim information.

2. Cardinal William Baum, former archbishop of Washington and the longest serving U.S. Cardinal, died Thursday. Learn more about his life and see remembrances of his contributions to the Catholic Church.

3. Catholic News Service launched a new version of their site. Check out all the great features at

4. Natural Family Planning Awareness Week came to a close during the weekend, but you can find an NFP class through

5. God loves you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 23

1. USCCB President Archbishop Joseph Kurtz spoke today on Catholic Radio on XM about recent abortion issues in the news. Listen to his interview:

2. Catholic News Service looks at how, over time, Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the United States has blossomed. Learn more about his three-city visit.
3. In case you missed it, the USCCB's Subcommittee on Aid to the Church in Central and Eastern Europe approved 177 grants totaling more than $5.2 million in aid to finance pastoral, educational, and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Funding for these grants comes from the annual Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
4. Earlier this week, Catholic News Service profiled Bishop-elect Robert Barron and his use of various media to evangelize.
5. God loves you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 22

1. Two months from today, Pope Francis will arrive in the U.S. See the schedule of his apostolic visit to the U.S.

2. Pope Francis told mayors from around the world that he worries about the idolatry of technocracy.

3. Learn about the benefits of Natural Family Planning during NFP Awareness Week.

4. In case you missed it, USCCB committee chairmen have called for the end of the death penalty.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 21

1.  Watch the stream of the press conference introducing three new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Archbishop José H. Gomez will be leading the press conference as he welcomes his new auxiliaries.
2. Learn more about the Bishop-elects Brennan, O'Connell and Barron.
3. Many people say they have heard of Natural Family Planning but aren’t quite sure what it is. Take time to learn the basics of NFP.
4. Pope Francis is encouraging mayors to put the environment and human trafficking concerns at the top of their priorities.
5. God loves you.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 20

1. Bishops James Massa and Witold Mroziewsk will be ordained in the Diocese of Brooklyn and you catch live at at 1:30 p.m. today.

2. Yesterday, Pope Francis spoke of the “the words of the Shepherd.” He said Jesus sees people “with the eyes of the heart."

3. Catholic News Service looks at some of the iconic backgrounds for Pope Francis' trip to D.C. this September.

4. It's been a month since the release of Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', but people are still talking about Catholic teachings on the environment.

5. God loves you.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 17

1. Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Catholic Education, applauded recent action by the Senate and the House to reauthorize the Elementary Secondary and Education Act (ESEA). The Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), July 16. The House of Representatives passed the Student Success Act (HR 5), July 8. Both bills contain significant improvements for providing equitable services for students and teachers in religious, private and independent schools.

2. Join today's Call To Prayer at

3. In case you missed it: The bishops chairing two committees of the USCCB renewed the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”

4. Catholic News Service has a fun piece on how to greet and understand Pope Francis, based off his recent visit to South America. The pope will be in the U.S. this September.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 16

1. The bishops chairing two committees of the USCCB renewed the bishops’ opposition to the death penalty in a message, July 16. The message commemorated the 10th anniversary of the bishops’ Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty and their accompanying message, “A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death.”

2. Resources on the Catholic stance on the death penalty and past statements are available.

3. The USCCB's site has a tremendous amount of resources for human life and dignity worth exploring.

4. UNESCO has declared the Jordan bank where Jesus was baptized a heritage site.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 15

1. Tweeting for the first time in 11 days, Pope Francis wrote today:
2. Attention media: The deadline for registering for credentials for Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. is July 31.
3. You can find the schedule for Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. here.
4. Yesterday, Bishop Cantú welcomed the Iran Nuclear Deal and urged Congress to endorse the result of the negotiations.
5. God loves you. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 14

1. The “momentous agreement” reached between the United States and its partners with Iran over Iran’s nuclear program is a “significant achievement” that Congress should support, said the bishop who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a July 14 letter to Congress, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote: “It is no small achievement that the United States, the United Kingdom, the Russian Federation, China, Germany and France have reached this agreement with Iran.”

2. Pope Francis has returned home after his trip to South America. While there, though, he stressed the need for the Catholic Church to be welcoming.

3. Sunday is the start of Natural Family Planning Awareness Week. Learn more about NFP and get resources for the week.

4. Today is the Feast Day of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. Learn about her life and how she became the first Native American saint.

5. God loves you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 10

1. Pope Francis issued a passionate call to defend the poor and the earth in Bolivia.

2. Pope Francis also apologized for past sins of Christian people colonizing American.

3. Today's Call to Prayer intention‬: Holy Spirit, inspire our words and actions to promote the dignity of each person through our daily activities. Visit for more.

4. Father Ron Roberson looks at the potential of a common date for Easter with the Orthodox Church and what it means.

5. God loves you.

“A Common Date for Easter?”

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Father Ronald Roberson, CSP

Last month, in his address to a group of priests in Rome from around the world, Pope Francis again raised the question of the date of Easter, which Orthodox and western Christians have usually celebrated on different dates for centuries. In fact, he said that the Catholic Church was “ready to renounce” its method of calculation of the date of Easter in order to reach an agreement with the Orthodox Church, so that all Christian churches can celebrate Easter on the same day. What’s going on here?

In the early church there was considerable confusion regarding the date of Easter and different areas were observing it on different days. Eventually a consensus developed that harkened back to discussions at the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325, that Easter should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is the classical formulation that has remained in place until the present day.

But as the centuries went by, things grew more complicated. Most importantly, the calculation of the date of Easter on the traditional “Julian” calendar became more and more inaccurate. Eventually there was a reform of the calendar in the West that was promulgated by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. The reform included skipping ten days in October (October 4 was followed by October 15 that year) and the introduction of leap years. In the West this new and much more accurate “Gregorian” calendar was subsequently used to calculate the date of Easter, but the Eastern Churches continued to use the Julian calendar. Another difference in calculation is that in the East, Easter may never coincide with Jewish Passover but must come after it; in the West the two can coincide.

As a result, for several centuries now the western and eastern churches have had different ways of calculating the date of Easter. Sometimes they still coincide, as they did in 2010, 2011, and 2014, and will again in 2017, but not after that until 2025. Often the two are just a week apart but can be much farther apart, as they were in 2013 (March 31 and May 5), and will be in 2016 (March 27 and May 1), and 2024 (March 31 and May 5). It should be noted, however, that the eastern and western calculations of the date of Easter are not absolutely identified with the western and eastern churches. Catholics in Greece, for example, celebrate Easter on the Orthodox calendar, and the Orthodox in Finland celebrate on the western calendar used by the majority of Christians in that country. Some Eastern Catholics also celebrate Easter on the Julian calendar.

It has often been observed that the inability of Christians to celebrate together the central mystery of their faith is nothing short of a scandal, and it diminishes the credibility of Christian witness to the Gospel in today’s world. With this in mind, the Vatican and the World Council of Churches sponsored a conference in Aleppo, Syria, in March 1997 to examine this question. At the end of the meeting, the conference issued an agreed statement entitled, “Towards a Common Date for Easter.”

The Aleppo document recommended that all the churches reaffirm their acceptance of the formula of the Council of Nicaea, but that the astronomical data (the vernal equinox and the full moon) be re-calculated by the most accurate possible scientific means, using the meridian of Jerusalem, the place of Christ's death and resurrection, as the basis for reckoning. The result of this re-calculation would produce a calendar different from both the eastern and western calendars as they exist today, although it would be closer to the western one. It would allow all Christians to celebrate the Resurrection together, while also being more faithful to the Council of Nicaea than any of the churches are today. The obvious advantages of this solution were spelled out in an agreed statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation in October 1998.

Nevertheless, it has become clear that the Orthodox are not able to support the proposals in the Aleppo document. The reasons for this are not primarily theological but pastoral. After World War I most of the Orthodox Churches (except Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, and Mount Athos) adopted the Gregorian calendar for fixed feasts, but not for Easter and the movable feasts dependent on it. There was a strong reaction to this among the faithful with a more traditionalist outlook, which led to schisms and the foundation of several “Old Calendar” churches in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria that still exist today. Also, in Russia in the early years of communism the Soviet government supported a “Living Church” movement within the Orthodox Church that advocated the use of the Gregorian calendar. That group was eventually suppressed in 1946, but in the minds of many faithful there was now a connection between the Gregorian calendar and communism. These fairly recent schisms within Orthodoxy explain why the Orthodox are extremely reluctant to tamper with their traditional reckoning of the date of Easter.

In view of this history, it is not easy to imagine an agreement on the date of Easter that all Christians would find acceptable. The Aleppo document proposed an eminently reasonable solution that the Orthodox have been unable to accept. A fixed date for Easter such as the third Sunday of April would be a departure from the tradition that few would find acceptable. It has often been observed that the only way that all Christians could agree on a date for Easter would be a universal adherence to the Orthodox calendar. This solution would have obvious disadvantages, but in the real world it may be the only one possible.

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.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 9

1. Pope Francis told Bolivians today about the importance of the Holy Eucharist to Catholics today.

2. All official news for Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. in September can be found at

3. July 14 is the Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint. Learn more about her life and service to the Catholic Church.

4. In case you missed it, Archbishop Wenski and Catholic Charities USA’s Sister Donna Markham urged support for the Second Chance Act. Read their letter to Congress.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 8

1. Congress should address challenges faced by the more than 650,000 men, women and juveniles who reenter society each year from prisons, jails and detention centers. This was the message of the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA in a July 8 letter supporting the Second Chance Act (S. 1513

2. In case you missed it, the USCCB's Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America approved funding for 228 projects, totaling more than $3.3 million. The funds will be disbursed as grants to aid the pastoral work of the Church in the Caribbean and Latin America.

3. Bishop Frank Caggiano spoke yesterday at the kickoff campaign for World Youth Day here in the U.S. Watch as he discussed his hopes for young people and the goal of his brother bishops next year in Poland.

4. Here's a reminder: the schedule for Pope Francis' apostolic visit to the U.S. has been released. See where and whom the pope will be encountering in September.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Five Things To Remember On July 7

1. Today at 2 p.m., Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, World Youth Day Liaison for the U.S. Bishops, will present the latest updates for World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland. The live event will feature testimonies from WYD alumni and live Q&A from audience members present in the crowd and online.

The event is open to all youth and young adults, ministry leaders, and World Youth Day alumni.
Can't make it in person? Social media conversation can be followed at #KrakowKickoff. Watch the event live streamed online via Twitter and Periscope and join the event on Facebook.

2. “Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights,” said Archbishop Wenski, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said at the closing Mass of the Fortnight for Freedom. “The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”

3. Father John Crossin looks at how the Joint Working Group 50 years after the Second Vatican Council is a collaboration of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican working on Christian unity.

4. Pope Francis is asking Catholic to pray for upcoming Synod on the Family.

5. God loves you.

The Joint Working Group at 50: The Collaboration of the World Councilof Churches and the Vatican

By Father John Crossin, OSFS

This past June, I was in Rome for the first meeting of the next round of dialogue with the Joint Working Group (JWG), a collaborative effort between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Church. I was appointed as a member of the JWG for a seven year term by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). This meeting also coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the JWG.

As I was standing in the room at the Centro Pro Unione where the Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican observers at the Second Vatican Council had their Thursday meetings with representatives of Cardinal Bea’s Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity, my mind wandered to the history contained in those walls:

How was God present then? Was God speaking through the comments based on what the observers had seen and heard? Was God speaking through their suggestions for improvement of texts?

It seems to me that God has been speaking in the ongoing conversations between the World Council of Churches and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity for the last 50 years.

The voice of God may be heard in the significant documents that that come forth from this collaboration. Whether it is in recent study documents on spiritual ecumenism and on church reception of ecumenical agreements or on Christian Witness in a Multi-religious World, God’s voice may be heard if only we can listen—after all there is always lots of noise and music coming from the Piazza Navona down below the meeting room in the Centro that can distract us from hearing!

It seems to me that God has been speaking to us in the healing of long fractured relationships. We have acknowledged the sins and mistakes of the past so that we can move into the future. Over these fifty years we have worked together extensively and developed a positive history of collaboration for the good of others.

Progress is such that Pope Francis, in his letter read at the Anniversary celebration on June 23rd, spoke of the Joint Working Group becoming a think tank looking at the realities of our relationships. The meetings of the observers long ago continues to bear fruit in the present moment. The Working Group, guided by the Spirit is pointing the way toward Christian unity.

Father John Crossin is an Oblate of St. Francis De Sales and executive director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.