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Christianity

News Round-up from the American Catholic Bishops
By American Catholic Bishops
Dec 14, 2013 - 12:57:08 AM

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Bishop Pates Welcomes Pope Francis' First World Day of Peace Message

WASHINGTON--Pope Francis' first message for World Day of Peace offers a profound challenge to all people to see each other's humanity and pursue dialogue and peace over war and conflict, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, welcomed the release of "Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace," December 12.

"Pope Francis offers a message both simple and profound: when we fail to recognize other people as our brothers and sisters, we destroy each other and ourselves," Bishop Pates said. "This challenges everyone from governments and corporations to individuals and families in the course of our daily lives."

"In God's family, where all are sons and daughters of the same Father," Pope Francis wrote, "there are no 'disposable lives.'" The pope drew on the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis to illustrate that "we have an inherent calling to fraternity, but also the tragic capacity to betray that calling."

The pope listed war, globalization, threats to religious freedom, human trafficking, economic disparity and abuses of the financial system as examples of fraternity breaking down and leading to violence against people.

"In disagreements, which are an unavoidable part of life, we should always remember that we are brothers and sisters, and therefore teach others and teach ourselves not to consider our neighbor as an enemy or as an adversary to be eliminated," the pope wrote. "Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!"

The Vatican has posted the message, dated January 1, 2014, the celebration of World Day of Peace, online:

USCCB Committee on Migration Designates February 8 as a Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Human Trafficking

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration designated February 8 as an annual day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking.

February 8 is the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, who was kidnapped as a child and sold into slavery in Sudan and Italy. Once Josephine was freed, she dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering.

"On that day, we will lift our voices loudly in prayer, hope, and love for trafficking victims and survivors," said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the Committee. "If just one person realizes from this day that they or someone they know is being trafficked, we will have made a difference."

The USCCB's Anti-Trafficking program is encouraging Catholics to host or attend prayer services, to reflect on the experiences of those who have suffered through human trafficking and exploitation. Catholics are invited to pray for the emotional, physical, and spiritual healing, and make a personal commitment to work against human trafficking. Catholics are also encouraged to host awareness-raising events educating their parishes and communities about human trafficking in whichever way they choose, be it a Mass, a film screening, or an information session.

In early 2014, USCCB will work to educate parishes throughout the country on human trafficking, with release of educational materials during National Migration Week (January 5-11) and the Day of Prayer for Survivors and Victims of Human Trafficking.

USCCB's Anti-Trafficking Program advocates for better protection for victims of human trafficking, provides training and technical assistance to service providers, and educates the public on the prevalence of human trafficking. In 2013, USCCB launched the Amistad Movement to empower immigrants and local leaders to prevent human trafficking in their communities.

USCCB is a founding member of the Coalition of Catholic Organizations against Human Trafficking, whose main goals are to educate Catholics about human trafficking, to promote responsible consumer practices, and to support national legislation that combats human trafficking.

More information on the work of USCCB's Anti-Trafficking Program is available at: www.usccb.org/about/anti-trafficking-program/

Bishop Wester Urges Senate to Support Community Access Cable Channels

WASHINGTON--The U.S. Senate should support local cable channels and the programming they carry by supporting a bill that preserves them, said the chairman of the Committee on Communications of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City urged support for the Community Access Preservation Act (S. 1789), which would provide "reliable funding" to Public, Educational and Government (PEG) channels, in a December 11 letter.

"In a time when religious programming faces increasing challenges to its voice being given an equal platform, PEG channels offer a venue for these programs to be accessed," wrote Bishop Wester. "This is of particular importance for the elderly, disabled or homebound who long to remain connected to their religious communities but are unable to take part in their religious or community activities."

Bishop Wester noted the disappearance of PEG channels as a result of new state cable laws that failed to include funding.

The full text of Bishop Wester's letter is available online: www.usccb.org/news/2013/upload/S1789_CAP_Act_USCCB_Wester.pdf

Meeting Jesus Christ' is Focus of Book by USCCB Associate General Secretary

WASHINGTON--The associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has authored a book, "Meeting Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Word," a book on prayer and a series of meditations on the Gospels.

"Whenever we approach Jesus, he always does more than we do; however much we are searching for him, he searches for us all the more," wrote Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield in the book's preface. The book reflects on God at work in numerous scenes from the life of Jesus in Scripture, from the Annunciation to the earliest days of the Church.

In the book's foreword, Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, of Chicago, wrote that the book "invites self-involvement by moving behind the text of Scripture to common elements of human experience that appear in novel ways: silence, speaking, listening, judging, journeying, darkness and light, and the joy that permeates a life shaped by faith and prayer. Prayer reflects and brings to full consciousness what God is doing in our lives."

"Meeting Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Word" is available through Pauline Books and Media.

Msgr. Bransfield is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He currently serves as the associate general secretary of the USCCB. Msgr. Bransfield holds a doctorate in moral theology from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington. He is also the author of "The Human Person: According to John Paul II" and "Living the Beatitudes: a Journey to Life in Christ."

New Bishops' Liaison to Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States

WASHINGTON--Bishop John O. Barres of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been appointed episcopal liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. He succeeds Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, of Chicago, who has served as liaison between the U.S. bishops and the Pontifical Mission Societies since 2011.

The appointment is effective January 1. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the appointment.

"I am deeply honored to be asked to serve as the episcopal liaison to the Pontifical Mission Societies," said Bishop Barres. "My late father, Oliver Barres, worked in the Propagation of the Faith's national office under the direction of Bishop Sheen. From my earliest years I have had a deep appreciation for their work in support of the missions."

National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Oblate Father Andrew Small, welcomed Bishop Barres as the new episcopal liaison. "Our 'one family in mission' looks forward to collaborating with Bishop Barres, who already has such a personal connection to our work, baptized into the Church's mission by the great Fulton Sheen," said Father Small. "We thank Cardinal George for his leadership and his efforts on our behalf, and above all for his missionary heart."

The Pontifical Mission Societies are the pope's principal agency for pastoral and social outreach in 1,150 mission dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Europe and Latin America. In addition to World Mission Sunday, celebrated on the next-to-last Sunday each October, diocesan mission offices work with the National Office to coordinate education and animation efforts, as well as to gather prayerful and financial support. The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. More information is available online: www.OneFamilyInMission.org.

Bishop Barres was born September 20, 1960, in Larchmont, New York, and was baptized by Bishop Fulton Sheen, then-head of the Propagation of the Faith in New York. He holds a bachelor's degree in English from Princeton University and a master's degree from the New York University Graduate School of Business Administration. He holds degrees in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America and a licentiate in Canon Law and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington on October 21, 1989, and went on to serve as vice-chancellor and then chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware. Pope John Paul II named him a "Chaplain to His Holiness" in July 2000 with the title of "Monsignor." Pope Benedict XVI named him a "Prelate of Honor" in 2005. He was ordained a bishop and installed as fourth bishop of Allentown on July 30, 2009. He was the first priest ordained a bishop within the Diocese of Allentown.

Florida Priest Named Head of USCCB Divine Worship Secretariat

WASHINGTON--Father Michael J. Flynn, 57, a priest of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, and associate professor of theology at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, has been named executive director of the Secretariat for Divine Worship of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

He succeeds Msgr. Richard Hilgartner, who joined the USCCB in September 2007, and is returning to the Archdiocese of Baltimore in June 2014. Father Flynn's appointment becomes effective June 30.

Father Flynn holds a licentiate in theology from The Catholic University of America; a master of divinity degree from Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans; and a bachelor's degree in music from Florida State University. He also completed an intensive German language immersion program at Goethe-Institut, Murnau, Bavaria, Germany. He was ordained a priest in 1994.

Father Flynn also has served on the faculty of St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary in Boynton Beach, Florida. In the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee he was pastor at Resurrection Catholic Church in Miramar Beach, 2003-2007. He had previous assignments as parochial vicar in Pensacola and Tallahassee, where he also worked in campus ministry at Florida State University and the University of West Florida. He is a native of Birmingham, Alabama.

Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB general secretary, named Father Flynn to the position and thanked Bishop Gregory Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee for allowing Father Flynn to work at the USCCB. He also thanked Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans and Father James Wehner, president-rector of Notre Dame Seminary, for giving up a valued faculty member.

"The Divine Worship secretariat carries serious responsibility in assisting both the bishops' conference and also ultimately the more than 17,000 parishes nationwide," Msgr. Jenkins said. "The executive director of the office oversees liturgical celebrations of the bishops at national meetings, publication of liturgical books used in parishes all across the country, and statements addressed by the bishops on liturgical matters."

Msgr. Jenkins thanked Msgr. Hilgartner for his competent service, especially in overseeing implementation of the recent translation of the Roman Missal. "Leading a nationwide educational and implementation effort on this sensitive, international matter called for skills in everything from negotiation across an ocean to instructional workshops nationwide. Msgr. Hilgartner accomplished the task with clarity, graciousness and humor," he said.

Urging Congress to Protect Poor and Vulnerable People

WASHINGTON--The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development commends Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray for embracing civil dialogue and setting aside partisanship in crafting a modest replacement to sequestration. The House of Representatives recently approved the measure, and the Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.

"Millions of working families across the country and around the world struggle to survive and achieve stability. While this agreement is an important first step to accomplishing that, more needs to be done," said Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. "Congress and the Administration still face serious and consequential decisions regarding appropriations for fiscal year 2014."

"I continue to urge wise bipartisan leadership in targeting this limited sequestration relief by drawing a circle of protection around programs that protect poor and vulnerable people at home and abroad, advance the common good, and promote human life and dignity. Targeted properly, this funding can also provide some certainty to charitable and social service organizations planning their budgets, and hopefully create more jobs with decent wages."

The bishops have also called on Congress to pass a negotiated Farm Bill package that would, combined with a budget agreement, allow Congress to address issues such as comprehensive immigration reform, poverty and the lack of decent work.

Archbishop Wenski added, "The recent welcome decline in unemployment levels hides the reality that millions of long-term unemployed workers continue to suffer from an economy that does not produce enough decent work. For most of these families, jobless benefits are the only source of support. I am disappointed that vital unemployment support for this population was not extended, and I hope Congress will do the just and decent thing by protecting these jobless workers as they search for new work."


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