Fri., Nov. 18, 2011 Bishops discuss religious liberty, marriage, finances at annual meeting

MEETING HIGHLIGHTS--Highlights of the 2011 US Conference of Catholic Bishops fall general meeting in Baltimore included a report on threats to religious liberty in the US. (CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)

During their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the US bishops’ discussed threats to religious liberty, efforts to support traditional marriage and the need to keep a close eye on health care issues.

They also were updated on the Roman Missal translation and the new US ordinariate to bring former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

During the Nov. 14-16 meeting, they also voted on several items, ranging from approving the annual budget of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to adding new optional memorials for Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Marianne Cope to the US liturgical calendar.

New Orleans Abp. Gregory M. Aymond, chairman of the Committee on Divine Worship, gave a brief report Nov. 15 on the adoption of the new Roman Missal, addressing questions related to its implementation this Advent.

When asked if it were possible to still use the old missal translation in certain circumstances such as when eucharistic ministers visit the elderly for Communion services, the archbishop said: “The guidelines say to use the new one. But the pastoral practice should allow for some flexibility.”

In votes cast during the first two days of the meeting, the bishops elected Abp. J. Peter Sartain of Seattle as USCCB secretary-elect and Bp. Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, as chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

They also approved a $217.4 million budget for 2012 and a 3 percent increase in diocesan assessments for 2013. They also overwhelmingly approved a five-year extension of a resolution calling bishops to adhere to sound financial reporting within their dioceses and OK’d priorities and plans for 2012 for the USCCB with a 219-6 vote.

The bishops overwhelmingly approved a new set of guidelines for how dioceses and parishes will administer national collections. The document a combination of history, rationale and how-to guide.

On the first day of the gathering, the bishops voted to establish a permanent Subcommittee on Health Care Issues under the Committee on Doctrine’s jurisdiction.

Prior to the 214-15 vote, Abp. Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, Conn., said he was “strongly in favor” of the new subcommittee because health care is part of “the Gospel mission of the church” and involves “billions and billions of dollars in funding.”

The new subcommittee will address such issues as guidance in implementing the bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” and in addressing non-Catholic hospitals in Catholic health systems, for-profit Catholic health care, canonical status of Catholic health facilities, conscience protection and health care reform.

The bishops approved Oct. 22 as an optional memorial for Blessed John Paul II in the US liturgical calendar. They also approved an optional memorial for Blessed Marianne Cope, with the date to be determined.

Washington Card. Donald W. Wuerl announced Nov. 15 that a new ordinariate–functionally similar to a diocese–will be created Jan. 1 to bring Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

The cardinal said that 67 Anglican priests have submitted their dossiers seeking ordination in the Catholic Church, and 35 of those have received the initial approval from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. That means they can move to the second stage of approval, which includes a criminal background check, psychological evaluation and a recommendation from the Catholic bishop where he lives and from his Anglican ecclesiastical authority.

The actions followed the November 2009 issuance of an apostolic constitution authorizing the creation of an ordinariate to bring in Anglicans, or Episcopalians as they are more commonly known in the US, who seek to leave their tradition and join the Catholic Church.

The cardinal later told reporters that Anglican parishes with a total of about 2,000 members have asked to become part of the Catholic Church through the process established in 2009. Card. Wuerl was named by the Vatican to head an ad hoc committee for the constitution’s implementation.

On the first day of the meeting, Bp. William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., and chairman of a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, outlined threats to religious liberty issues, saying there seems to be a pattern in culture and law to treat religion “as merely a private matter between an individual and one’s own God.”

Regarding efforts to support traditional marriage, the chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth reported to the bishops Nov. 14 that their campaign to strengthen marriage has reached a large audience and has been honored by professional advertising organizations.

In a presentation on the work of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Bp. Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said public service announcements with the theme of “a good marriage goes a long way” were released in September to 1,600 television stations and 7,000 radio stations.

He also announced the launch of a new Web site–www.marriageuniqueforareason.org–aimed at educating Catholics on the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Web site corresponds with a new DVD, guide, and booklet.

In a related report, Bp. Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., chairman of the defense of marriage subcommittee, said there are a great many challenges on the legal front to traditional marriage, ranging from various states legalizing same-sex marriage to the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military.

He said one thread of the subcommittee’s efforts is to work on persuading the Obama administration to “press the reset button on the trajectory of undermining marriage.”

The bishops also heard from Card. Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Card. Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Card. Donald Wuerl of Washington about the church’s efforts to expand and strengthen the church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.

Women who have had abortions, as well as the men and parents who might have encouraged it, “need to know that God forgives them and that all is not lost,” said Card. O’Malley, who described Project Rachel as “one of our best pastoral initiatives.”

In another report, two bishops who recently visited Iraq said the US and American Catholics must do their part to help keep Iraq from sliding into chaos once US troops leave the country at the end of the year.

“The US withdrawal of combat troops does not reduce the obligation to help,” principally to protect Iraqis and provide assistance, said Bp. Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services, during a Nov. 15 press briefing at the bishops’ meeting.

“It would be extremely important for our government to participate in an orderly transition. … The great fear right now is if the troops leave, the violence will intensify,” Bp. Kicanas said, adding the US must “make sure people’s lives are protected and violence doesn’t erupt.”

In his opening address Nov. 14, Abp. Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said the church needs to restore its luster, credibility and beauty in the hearts of its members.

He called on his fellow bishops to communicate to the world that the sinfulness of the church’s members is not “a reason to dismiss the church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more.”

The archbishop said the church still has plenty to say to the modern world.

In later remarks, he said he was encouraged by a Nov. 8 private meeting he had with President Barack Obama at the White House. He found the president to be “very open to the sensitivities” of the US Catholic Church on issues related to religious freedom that the two discussed.

At a Nov. 14 news conference, Abp. Dolan spoke about Penn State University’s sex abuse scandal, which he said “shows that the scourge (of sex abuse) is not limited to any one faith and certainly not limited to priests,” he said.

During the first day’s session, the bishops also met Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano, the new apostolic nuncio to the US.

Contributing to this report were Nancy Frazier O’Brien, Mark Pattison and Patricia Zapor in Baltimore and Carol Zimmermann in Washington.

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Pope appoints Abp. Viganò as new US nuncio

NEW APOSTOLIC NUNCIO TO US--Italian Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano, the new apostolic nuncio to the US, is pictured at his residence at the Vatican Oct. 20. He succeeds the late Abp. Pietro Sambi. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, 70, was appointed Oct. 19 by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as his official representative to the US.

Abp. Timothy M. Dolan, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called the appointment “yet another sign” of the great care the pope has for the US and its Catholic community.

“As the personal representative of our Holy Father, you will serve as a continuing sign to us of that source of renewal and hope that Pope Benedict brought to our country,” said Abp. Dolan in an Oct. 19 letter welcoming the new nuncio.

Abp. Viganò will succeed Abp. Pietro Sambi, who died in July from complications that developed after he underwent lung surgery.

As papal nuncio, he will serve as the pope’s personal representative to the Church in the US. He will carry out diplomatic duties and will also play an important role in selecting new bishops in the US

The position of papal nuncio to the US is viewed as a key diplomatic position for the Vatican.

Born in the northern Italian town of Varese, Abp. Viganò was ordained a priest in 1968 and entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1973. He has served in diplomatic missions to Iraq, Great Britain and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France.

The archbishop has also served as the nuncio to Nigeria, and he has worked for more than a decade in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Most recently, he has served for two years as secretary-general of the commission governing the Vatican city-state.

In his Oct. 19 letter, Abp. Dolan recalled Pope Benedict’s comments during his 2008 visit to the US. The Holy Father noted the “excellent contribution” of American Catholics to their country and expressed hope that his visit might bring “renewal and hope for the Church in the United States.”

ABP. VIGANO APPOINTED NEW APOSTOLIC NUNCIO TO US--Italian Abp. Carlo Maria Vigano, the new apostolic nuncio to the US, is pictured at his residence at the Vatican Oct. 20. He succeeds the late Abp. Pietro Sambi. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The archbishop pledged the “prayerful support” of the US bishops as Abp. Viganò begins his mission of continuing that renewal of the American Church.

With nearly four decades of diplomatic service for the Holy See, the new papal nuncio possesses “a depth of understanding of the role of the Church in a pluralistic society,” said Abp. Dolan.

He added that the Church in the US will benefit from Abp. Viganò’s “training in both canon law and civil law.”

“They will enable you to see the intricacies involved in representing the Holy Father in both the Church and diplomatic worlds, especially now as they are lived out in America’s democratic society,” he said.

Abp. Dolan also invited the new nuncio to attend the fall plenary session of the USCCB in Baltimore this November.

“The meeting is a moment of prayer, business, and fellowship and we look forward to welcoming you on this occasion,” he said.

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On Bl. John Paul’s first feast, sister begins spreading his charism

FEAST DAY OF BLESSED JOHN PAUL II--People watched a video about Blessed John Paul II during a vigil marking his feast day outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Oct. 22, the first observance of the Polish pope's feast. The date marks the anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

On Oct. 22, the first “John Paul II sister” launched a year-long series of talks on the life, charism, and spirituality of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

“Over a number of years, I’ve been preparing a lot of material that relates to John Paul II’s charism and his spirituality and his writings in different areas,” Sr. Bernadette Pike, MG, said.

Her series of talks, entitled “Living the Legacy,” is intended to present this information to lay people who are interested in living after the example of the late pontiff.

As a John Paul II sister, Sr. Bernadette is a member of the broader group, the Missionaries of the Gospel. The community is still in its very early stages, with its first members still receiving their own formation.

The Oct. 22 launch date for her talks was chosen to correspond with the first official celebration of Bl. John Paul II’s feast day in some dioceses.

The possibility of adding the feast day of Bl. John Paul II to the Church calendar for the US will be discussed at the upcoming November meeting of the US bishops.

Until then, it is up to each bishop to decide if the feast day will be celebrated in their diocese. Several dioceses, including Rome, Krakow, and Washington, DC, will celebrate Oct. 22, 2011 as the first official memorial of Bl. John Paul II.

Sr. Bernadette hopes that her talks will offer listeners “a deeper insight into where the Holy Father was coming from and what the Holy Spirit was trying to do through him in order to renew the Church.”

The international talks, which will be given bi-weekly for a year, will not yet be broadcast publicly but will instead be held through a video conference. Sr. Bernadette said that she has sent a link to the conference to people across the world who have expressed interest in participating in it.

Originally from Australia, Sr. Bernadette said the idea of the John Paul II sisters was initially proposed in 2004.

Abp. Barry James Hickey of Perth, Australia, was supportive of the idea, but over the course of several months of discussion and prayer, it was determined that the community should include more than just the sisters. Lay men and women had expressed interest in living after the example of John Paul II, and a discussion of establishing the John Paul II priests and brothers had also arisen.

The decision was made that a larger community should be established to encompass the various groups wishing to live the charism of John Paul II. With the guidance of Abp. Hickey, the Missionaries of the Gospel were officially established on June 23, 2007.

Sr. Bernadette made her final vows as the first John Paul II sister on Oct. 16, 2008. Two other women who had been in formation with her became ill and had to leave the community.

Although Sr. Bernadette is now the only John Paul II sister, she said that she is in contact with several other women who are interested in joining the community.

FEAST DAY OF BLESSED JOHN PAUL II--People gathered for a vigil marking the feast day of Blessed John Paul II outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome Oct. 22, the first observance of the Polish pope's feast. The date marks the anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Currently, Sr. Bernadette is living in Washington, DC, where she has been sent to study at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences for two years. She explained that she is in a program that integrates psychology, philosophy, and theology with the intent of gaining a fuller understanding of the human person in order to better evangelize and form people in the way that John Paul II did.

Sr. Bernadette said her own initial encounters with John Paul II took place through other people. She said that she was particularly struck by the stories and pictures of her friends who had gone to Rome for World Youth Day in 2000.

She was impressed by the pope’s way of “personally relating to people and being present with them and bringing Christ to them in such a relevant, tangible way.”

At the time, Sr. Bernadette was returning to her faith. She said that her encounters with the pope through her friends helped her to “experience Christ” and grow deeper in her faith.

As she learned more about John Paul II, she realized that she was drawn toward his “thought and his way of doing things” and wanted to spend her whole life shaping and forming people in the way that he did.

When Sr. Bernadette met John Paul II in 2004, her appreciation for him was already strong.

She spoke of the incredible experience of simply seeing “his way of being with others and with God.”

At the pope’s beatification on May 1, 2011, Sr. Bernadette read the second reading.

She believes that the legacy of Pope John Paul II will reach far into the future of the Church.

“I think it will completely revolutionize the way the Church does everything,” she said.

“I know that’s a really bold statement,” she added, explaining that she believes that people have only begun to understand “the gift that the Church received through John Paul II.”

More information about the Missionaries of the Gospel can be found at: http://www.mg.org.au.

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