Local and national media in University City, Mo., report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones Feb. 21, 2017, after a weekend vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery near St. Louis. (CNS photo/Tom Gannam, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Saying they are outraged by growing “antisemitic rhetoric” across the country, members of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs urged Christians to decry hate-filled statements and violence aimed at Jewish individuals, homes and institutions.

Committee members also denounced “any rhetoric which seeks to demonize or dehumanize the Jewish people or Judaism as a religious tradition,” in a statement released Nov. 28 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“In unequivocal terms, we condemn any and all violence directed at the Jewish people, whether motivated by religious, racial, or political grievances,” said the committee, chaired by Bishop David P. Talley of Memphis, Tennessee, and has eight other members.

“The rising trend of antisemitic incidents has become even more painful in light of the church’s relationship to the Jewish tradition and our connections to the Jewish people in dialogue and friendship,” the committee said.

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks incidents of antisemitism, reported 2,717 cases of harassment, vandalism and assault in 2021, an increase of 34% from a year earlier. The number of incidents is the highest on record since the group began tracking them in 1979.

Two rabbis involved in ecumenical dialogue with the committee praised the statement for the resilient solidarity it signifies to the Jewish community.

“The main emotion with the statement is gratitude,” said Rabbi Allyson Zacharoff, representative of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association in the National Council of Synagogues.

“Knowing that the bishops, that the church, is so willing to speak in such a strong way against antisemitism is incredibly fulfilling, incredibly gratifying,” Rabbi Zacharoff told Catholic News Service.

Rabbi Noam Marans, director of interreligious and intergroup relations at the American Jewish Committee, wrote in an email that the statement “reminds the Jewish community that we are not alone, that U.S. Catholic leadership understands resurgent antisemitism as a threat to Jews.”

He also said that antisemitism must be addressed by “all peoples, including, perhaps especially, the faith community.”

The bishops’ statement draws its inspiration from “Nostra Aetate” (“In Our Time”), the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 declaration on the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic faiths. It explains that over six decades the committee has built partnerships with the National Council of Synagogues, the Orthodox Union and the newly established Modern Orthodox group.

“In each of these exchanges, leaders in the Catholic and Jewish faiths have learned to encounter each other in a spirit of good will and a sincere desire to encourage our respective faithful to live together in a society increasingly diverse in its racial, ethnic, religious and political makeup,” the committee said.

However, the statement continued, such lessons “are being challenged by the re-emergence of antisemitism in new forms” in online and in-person settings.

Quoting Pope Francis’s 2013 address to the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, where he said, “a true Christian cannot be an antisemite,” the nine bishops cautioned that Christians “must be ever vigilant of the various ways” in which hatred and violence arise.

The committee members said that Jewish and Christian religious traditions have a “shared spiritual patrimony” that provides the foundation for the strong relations existing among the two communities.

Again Citing “Nostra Aetate”, the committee explained that the Catholic Church always must work to protect the root from which the two religions grew and from which the church “continues to draw sustenance as all await in varied ways the coming of the Messiah.'”

Further, the committee said: “We affirm that the Jewish people cannot be held responsible for the death of Christ or be depicted as rejected or accursed in theological discourse. It must always be remembered that Jesus, Mary, and the apostles were all Jewish,” the committee said.

In addition, the panel reiterated its long-held stance of supporting a “just political solution” that recognizes “Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestine.”

The committee added that it continues to seek ways to “foster bonds of friendship between members of the Body of Christ and the Jewish people” and remains recommitted to broadening the implementation and teaching found within “Nostra Aetate.”

Rabbi Marans credited the years of effort among Catholics to live out the values expressed in “Nostra Aetate” for leading to the committee’s “powerful call” against antisemitism.

“Without this half century of Catholic-Jewish progress post ‘Nostra Aetate,’ we would be stuck in millennia-long enmity,” Rabbi Marans wrote.

Rabbi Zacharoff agreed, telling CNS that she viewed the Vatican Council document as the foundation to continue bolstering Jewish-Catholic relations.

Both rabbis also called for continued efforts to share the message of “Nostra Aetate” in churches and synagogues as well as in political, educational and corporate settings.

“We have a tremendous ally in Pope Francis, who has been consistently and forcefully outspoken in the battle against antisemitism,” Rabbi Marans said. “Pope Francis’ example in this is emulated by the USCCB in their new statement and beyond.”

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has suspended the secretary-general and other top officers of Caritas Internationalis, appointing a temporary administrator to oversee improved management policies and to prepare for the election of new officers in May.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, whose second term as Caritas president was to end in May, also loses his position, although he is to assist the temporary administrator in preparing for the future by taking “special care of relations with the local churches and the member organizations,” said the papal decree published Nov. 22.

Caritas Internationalis is the umbrella organization for 162 official Catholic charities working in more than 200 countries; it includes the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA, the Canadian bishops’ Development and Peace and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Pope Francis appointed Pier Francesco Pinelli, a business management consultant, to oversee the Vatican-based offices of the general secretariat.

In a statement also released Nov. 22, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which has some oversight responsibility for Caritas Internationalis, said the suspension of the officers “has no impact on the functioning of member organizations and the services of charity and solidarity they provide around the world; on the contrary, it will serve to strengthen such service.”

Earlier this year, the statement said, the dicastery “commissioned a review of the workplace environment of the CI General Secretariat and its alignment with Catholic values of human dignity and respect for each person.”

Pinelli and two psychologists conducted the review, which included interviewing current and past employees, the dicastery said.

“No evidence emerged of financial mismanagement or sexual impropriety, but other important themes and areas for urgent attention emerged from the panel’s work,” the statement said. “Real deficiencies were noted in management and procedures, seriously prejudicing team-spirit and staff morale.”

The announcement of the pope’s provisions came while some 100 Caritas representatives from around the world were having a two-day meeting in Rome “to reflect on how to strengthen local leadership within the confederation and enhance fraternal cooperation among member organizations.”

According to Vatican News, Cardinal Tagle read the papal decree to the assembly and, while acknowledging the news could upset or confuse some people, he said they should be reassured knowing that it came after “a careful and independent study of the working environment of the secretariat and the governance exercised by the people and bodies in charge.”

The papal decree, he said, is “a call to walk humbly with God” and be open to a process of discernment, which includes acknowledging shortcomings.

Aloysius John, the secretary-general since 2019, was not present at the meeting, Vatican News said. John, a French citizen who was born in India, had been head of the organization’s section for institutional development and capacity building before his election as secretary-general.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Pinelli, the new administrator, also were present at the meeting, Vatican News reported.

Pope Francis, in his decree, said that Caritas Internationalis assists him and the bishops “in the exercise of their ministry to the poorest and most needy, participating in the management of humanitarian emergencies and collaborating in the spread of charity and justice in the world in the light of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

“To improve the fulfillment of this mission,” the pope said, “it seems necessary to revise” the current regulations governing Caritas Internationalis, a task that Pinelli will guide.

Pinelli told Vatican News that his hope was “to initiate processes of reconciliation and improvement that can bear fruit in the long run for this association.”

People in Colorado Springs, Colo., attend a vigil Nov. 20, 2022, after a mass shooting at Club Q, a LGBTQ nightclub. At least five people were killed and 25 others injured by a 22-year-old gunman who entered the nightclub just before midnight Nov. 19 and immediately opened fire. The shooting lasted just minutes before patrons confronted and stopped the suspected shooter, identified as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich. (CNS photo/Kevin Mohatt, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Catholic leaders have condemned the Nov. 19 attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that killed at least five people and injured at least 25.

Seven of those wounded were in critical condition.

The church leaders – the archbishop of Denver, leaders of religious orders and congregations, and a Catholic outreach group to members of the LGBTQ community – also prayed for those impacted by the attack and urged for an end to hate crimes and use of language that condemns those in the LGBTQ community.

The suspected gunman, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, faced murder and hate crime charges Nov. 21, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, adding that the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in the attack at Club Q before he was subdued by people at the club.

On its Facebook page, the club thanked the “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack” within minutes of the alleged gunman opening fire after entering the club shortly before midnight Nov. 19.

It also noted that a drop-in center was set up at a nearby hotel with counseling services available all week. Outside the club, a makeshift memorial was filled with flowers and stuffed animals.

Police have identified the deceased victims as Daniel Aston, Raymond Green Vance, Kelly Loving, Ashley Paugh and Derrick Rump.

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said he was “saddened by this tragic and senseless act.”

In a Nov. 20 statement, he said that “while the motives remain unclear, what is clear is that evil incidents like this have become far too common in our society. The random acts of killing innocent human beings must be condemned by a civil society.”

Similarly, Bishop James R. Golka of Colorado Springs, issued a Nov. 21 statement calling the nightclub shooting “especially troubling” since the shooter “appeared to target members of the LGBTQ community.” He said anytime “specific members of the population are targeted for violence, we should all be concerned.”

The bishop also spoke against gun violence and mentioned the anxiety and pressure many are feeling since the pandemic and urged anyone struggling to contact a priest or minister from their church or Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops retweeted the bishop’s message and said they joined him and “the community of Colorado Springs in lamenting this violent act and praying for all those impacted.”

Mark Joseph Williams, a clergy abuse survivor, responded to the Colorado bishop’s tweet by pointing out that when he addressed the U.S. bishops Nov. 15 during their fall general assembly in Baltimore, he had asked them to walk with all the abused.

He said he now asks Bishop Golka “and his brother prelates to walk w/ our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It is our faith. God loves all.”

Outreach, a new initiative of Jesuit-run America Media that provides resources for LGBTQ Catholics, similarly issued a statement on its website Nov. 20 praying for those who died, those who were wounded and for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs.

It said the “motive for this terrible attack on LGBTQ people remains unclear” but also pointed out that it took place “the day before Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we commemorate transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of violence.”

The night of the attack, Club Q was planning to host a drag show to mark the day of remembrance.

The Outreach statement stressed that while a motive remained unclear, what is clear, it said, is “the effect that stigmatizing language has on the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people.”

“Language that seeks to reject, condemn, isolate, blame or target LGBTQ people should be rejected, especially by religious leaders,” it said, adding that such language “leads only to further harassment, beatings and violence.”

“Churches and other religious institutions are called to stand on the side of all who are in any way persecuted, including LGBTQ people,” the Nov. 20 statement said.

Paulist Father René Constanza, president of the Paulist Fathers, also condemned not only the attack but harmful rhetoric toward those in the LGBTQ community.

“Violence targeting our LGBTQ sisters and brothers must stop,” he said.

In a Nov. 21 statement, he said “rhetoric that dehumanizes and disrespects the inherent dignity of those who identify as LGBTQ is unacceptable, including that espoused by members of our own Catholic Church and other faith communities.”

He also said gun violence “needs to be more seriously dealt with by our civil leaders.”

The priest said it was time for society “to address the anger, contempt, and indifference that fuel violence against all people because of their sexual orientation, skin color, race or religion.”

The general council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters based in Adrian, Michigan, similarly responded to the shooting saying their “hearts ache” for those who were killed and those injured and offered “deep condolences to family and friends who are mourning the loss of their loved ones.”

“There is no place for hate crimes in our nation nor for the angry and venomous language that often precedes such evil acts — whether committed against members of the LGBTQ+ community or people who are Black, Indigenous, Latino or Asian American, or because of a person’s religious faith,” the sisters said.

Likewise, the Redemptorists of the Denver province grieved the loss of life and injuries inflicted and said they extended their prayers “for the well-being of the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs as it faces the trauma of this attack and the pain it incurred.”

The order’s members, based in Chicago, said in a Nov. 21 statement that they recognized that “LGBTQ people are especially vulnerable to an inordinate and unwarranted amount of violence in the world,” and pledged to work against such violence and discrimination and help those who suffer from it.

The Redemptorists said the shooting was reminiscent of when 49 people were killed and 53 more were injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.

At the time, they said, bishops and Catholic leaders spoke out against the tragedy but when they did “very few mentioned the victims as members of the LGBTQ community.”

New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based Catholic advocacy outreach group for LGBTQ people, said in a statement that it joined “millions of Catholics in the U.S. and worldwide who mournfully pray over the tragic loss of five lives in the recent shooting at Club Q.”

The group also called on “every bishop to condemn such violence in all its forms. Such a message can deter future perpetrators, and it also expresses pastoral support to LGBTQ people in their communities.”

New Ways Ministry also urged bishops and Catholic leaders “to join in the many demonstrations and vigils in support of LGBTQ people, which will emerge over the coming weeks.” It stressed that all Catholics “should redouble their efforts to end discrimination against LGBTQ people by supporting equality initiatives and laws.

This view was echoed by Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, who called on Catholic leaders in U.S. dioceses, parishes, universities and schools “to make clear both their condemnation of violence against members of the LGBTQ community and their efforts to end discrimination against LGBTQ people.”

Security personnel in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, stands guard next to the COP27 sign Nov. 20, 2022, during the closing plenary at the COP27 climate summit. (CNS photo/Mohamed Abd El Ghany, Reuters)

A historic, late-hour deal reached at the U.N. climate change summit to establish a “loss and damage” fund for countries vulnerable to the devastating impacts of a warming world represented “a real breakthrough,” said representatives of Catholic and other religious groups.

Saying the establishment of the fund was an answer to their prayers, the faith-based voices recognized the step as a sign of progress in response to global warming, despite negotiations falling short in other areas.

They cautioned, however, that the new fund will fail to aid communities already suffering from extreme heat and storms if the plan follows the path of past pledges that have not yet been delivered, including the elimination of heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions and financing climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

“If governments stick to paving the way for a future with good intentions and aspirational declarations while widening the gap with the implementation and follow-up needed, they will indeed lock us up on pathways to disaster,” CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America, said in a statement.

In addition, only about 30 countries delivered on promises made at COP26 in 2021; they had pledged more aggressive national climate plans in line with meeting the Paris Agreement’s ambitious temperature limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The inability to reach a decision on ending fossil fuel usage made COP27 “a lost opportunity,” Comboni Missionary Sister Paola Moggi said during a debriefing webinar Nov. 22 hosted by the International Union of Superiors General. She attended the summit on behalf of the faith-based NGO VIVAT International.

“We can cure the symptoms but not address the causes. And this was for me the failure of this COP,” she said.

Still, the establishment of a loss and damage fund Nov. 20 — two days after the summit officially closed — resonated with religious leaders, civil society groups and climate activists. The groups for years have pushed wealthy countries to take concrete actions to reduce their emissions and provide financing for climate-related destruction, especially in the global south.

Jesuit Father Leonard Chiti of southern Africa called the deal “a huge achievement.”

He noted that before COP27 it wasn’t clear if loss and damage would be on the agenda or if developed nations, including the U.S., would reconsider their past resistance to such a fund over fears of limitless liability claims.

Days before the conference began, delegates backing loss and damage successfully added the issue to the discussions. As negotiations continued, developing nations were later joined by the European Union in pressing for the fund to be inserted into the final text summarizing the outcome.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan calls for the fund to assist developing countries particularly vulnerable to adverse climate impacts, although it does not define which countries can access it, which ones will contribute to it or how much. Those details are expected to be negotiated over the next year.

Adrian Dominican Sister Durstyne Farnan said the agreement revived the spirits of climate activists, who had given up on government representatives for failing to commit to fighting climate change.

“The final outcome document is hopeful. Many were doubting that COP27 would come out with statements and commitments to fund loss and damage, just transition and climate mitigation,” she said.

David Munene, programs manager of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa, said loss-and-damage financing is “a step toward what we have been fighting for years. This has been on the agenda for the last 27 years, yet no action has been taken. So it’s the right time.”

Father Vitalis Anaehobi, secretary general of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa, said the agreement brought hope to the world that one day it would be able to eradicate the effects of climate change by preserving the environment.

“This is a great success for all people of goodwill who wanted COP27 not to end in words without concrete actions. With this decision, I can rightly say that COP27 has achieved what many others failed to do,” he said.

COP27 was the first conference at which the Vatican was a formal party to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and to the Paris Agreement. The new status meant the Holy See delegation had a seat at the negotiating tables and a vote on the final outcomes, which under U.N. rules require unanimity.

The Vatican delegation, led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, met with fellow Catholics to discuss priorities and strategies several times. On the conference’s final scheduled day, Nov. 18, 13 Catholic institutions attending the summit issued a statement to the delegation expressing their concerns with the global response to climate change.

“We emphasize that any implementation of climate solutions must be anchored on the following three pillars: justice, equity, and solidarity,” the statement said.

Rodne Galicha, executive director of Living Laudato Si’ Philippines, said he hopes the lessons the Catholic Church learns from the Synod of Bishops on synodality can be incorporated into how it engages in future climate conferences, especially including the voices and stories from the peripheries where climate change is often felt the fiercest.

“Being officially part of the (U.N.) process, we will be assured as a synodal and inclusive church that our ecological and social concerns are articulated and acted upon,” he said.

Even with the breakthrough on loss and damage, the summit’s final text did not include a call or a timeline for a phaseout of fossil fuels, and instead repeated language reached in 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland, for “the phasedown of unabated coal power and phaseout of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.”

Nations did agree to a program to rapidly scale up mitigation efforts, with twice-annual meetings through 2030, and reiterated that countries that haven’t aligned their climate plans with the 1.5-degree Celsius goal should do so before the end of 2023.

“Incremental progress is defeat. We can’t negotiate w/ physics. It’s a #ClimateEMERGENCY,” tweeted Tomás Insua, executive director of Laudato Si’ Movement, which was present throughout the conference.

COP27 also did not see developed countries deliver on their pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually to the Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries and has pushed that timeline back to 2025.

A Global Shield fund was launched to help countries facing climate disasters. In addition, negotiators called on multilateral development banks and international financial institutions to mobilize private financing toward “significantly increasing climate ambition” and to reform their practices and priorities to simplify access to climate finance.

By the end of the summit, 150 countries had joined the Global Methane Pledge to slash emissions of methane — a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide but with a much shorter lifespan — by 30% by 2030.

With COP27 concluded, many religious leaders and Catholic actors are now urging world leaders to implement the issues that they agreed to in Egypt to save lives and livelihoods.

“My worry is that many things have been agreed on before but have never been implemented,” Munene said.

“My prayer now,” he said, “is that they stick to what they agreed to and implement it because people have lost many things, including lives, livelihoods, shelter and properties, due to the effect of climate change.”

Kara Gnall, Catholic Social Services Carbondale Office Supervisor, places stuffing in food bags that were distributed outside Carbondale Area High School on Nov. 20, 2022. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

CARBONDALE – On the Sunday before Thanksgiving – when the temperature didn’t climb much higher than 20 degrees – staff and volunteers from Catholic Social Services were bundled up outdoors serving the community.

In just three hours on Nov. 20, 2022, they distributed 450 turkeys, along with all the trimmings, to people in need in the community of Carbondale. This year, staff went through 150 more turkeys at its food distribution than in 2021.

“There is a great need right now in our area for food,” Kara Gnall, Catholic Social Services Carbondale Office Supervisor, said. “We service about 700 families a month in our food pantry alone.”

Special food distributions, like the one Nov. 20 outside Carbondale Area High School, help to give a ‘hand up’ to those needing assistance.

“In October, we had about ten new families that have never utilized our pantry before and I have a feeling that number will only grow over the next few months with the winter coming. People are very grateful when they come into our pantry,” Gnall added.

Rooted in the Gospel, the mission of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton is to serve individuals and families in poverty and hardship and advocate for individual dignity and self-sufficiency.

“This is a very busy time for us,” Jolette Lyons, Catholic Social Services Director of Lackawanna County Offices, explained.

Jolette Lyons, Catholic Social Services Director of Lackawanna County Offices, and her husband, Harry, pack food bags during a special Thanksgiving Food Distribution in Carbondale on Nov. 20, 2022. (Photo/Eric Deabill)

With the price of groceries, gas and rent continuing to skyrocket, more people are looking for assistance at all of the agencies’ offices, whether they are in Hazleton, Scranton or Wilkes-Barre.

“In October, we had 75 people contact our office (Lackawanna) for help with rental assistance,” Lyons said. “That doesn’t even include those calls that have been coming in for November. We’re working through that list as quickly as we can.”

Because of the generous support of the community, Catholic Social Services is able to continue assisting individuals facing financial hardship.

“We all live in this area. We want to make sure the communities that we live in are supported,” Gnall said.

“Our family belief, and the belief of Catholic Social Services, is you have to take care of your brothers and sisters. You’ve got to take care of somebody else, that is our duty as humans, it’s our duty as Christians, to help other people when we can,” Lyons added.


It is deeply concerning that 62 senators recently voted to advance the misnamed “Respect for Marriage Act.”  As a result of this vote, the bill is likely to become law.  If it does, the Act will further undermine the truth of marriage and put people of faith at greater risk of discrimination. 

Cardinal Timothy Dolan responded to the vote this week, saying: “The bill is a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today. The Act does not strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty.”

A final vote in the Senate is expected after Thanksgiving, and senators need to hear from you about their vote.  Please contact your Senators to either thank them for their “No” vote or to urge them to reverse course.

Send a message to your U.S. Senator regarding the “Respect for Marriage Act” through the USCCB by clicking https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/Campaigns/98786/Respond

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s full statement is available here.
A recent article by Cardinal Dolan on the harms of the bill is here
You may also see the USCCB’s letter to the Senate on this legislation here

A bride in New York City stands in a park across the street from the Manhattan Marriage Bureau Nov. 18, 2021. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – A bill on same-sex marriage advancing in the Senate is “a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

“It is deeply concerning that the U.S. Senate has voted to proceed toward potential passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would essentially codify the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell (in 2015) that found a constitutional right to same-sex civil marriages,” the cardinal said Nov. 17.

The Respect for Marriage Act “does not strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty,” said the cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty.

The Senate advanced the measure with a 62-37 vote Nov. 16. A final vote will take place after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Every Democrat supported it and they were joined by 12 Republicans after they worked out an amendment they said would protect religious freedom.

These senators “have claimed that their amended bill ‘respects and protects American’s religious liberties,’ but the provisions of the act that relate to religious liberty are insufficient,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Obergefell “created countless religious liberty conflicts, but the act offers only limited protections,” he said.

“Those protections,” he continued, “fail to resolve the main problem with the (Respect for Marriage) Act: In any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages.”

“Wedding cake bakers, faith-based adoption and foster care providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their faith identity, faith-based housing agencies — are all at greater risk of discrimination under this legislation,” he added.

The U.S. House passed the bill July 19 with a large, bipartisan vote of 267-157.

Ahead of the House vote, the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life and marriage and family committees wrote a joint letter to House members urging they reject the measure.

In mid-September, the Senate decided to hold off voting on the measure until after the Nov. 8 midterms.

A bipartisan group of negotiators — headed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Susan Collins, R-Maine — also wanted more time to consider “an amendment designed to respond to the concerns of GOP lawmakers who feared the legislation could put churches and other religious institutions at legal risk if Congress voted to codify same-sex marriage rights.”

The group agreed on an amendment to the bill that “protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or federal law, including but not limited to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from being used to diminish or repeal any such protection.”

The amendment also “confirms that nonprofit religious organizations will not be required to provide any services, facilities, or goods for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

Two of the Republican senators opposed to the bill, Mike Lee of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the measure’s protections for religious liberty are not adequate.

Lee tweeted Nov. 16: “I offered to support the bill if the sponsors would include my amendment to prohibit the government from removing tax-exempt status based on religious beliefs about same-sex marriage (for or against). The sponsors adamantly refused even to consider that. Why?”

Graham said that “nothing in the bill adds new protections for gay marriage, but it does, in my view, create great uncertainty about religious liberty and institutions who oppose gay marriage.”

He added that Lee’s amendment would have protected religious institutions “from reprisals.”

The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, signed into Law by President Bill Clinton. It barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional in 2013.

The push in Congress to codify a right to same-sex marriage in federal law followed an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in the Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Thomas voted with the 6-3 majority that struck down Roe, but in a concurring opinion, he said the court should reconsider other rulings, including Obergefell and its 1965 Griswold decision that said a state’s ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.

But the majority opinion in Dobbs said the ruling only concerned a constitutional right to abortion.

In arguing for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act Nov. 16, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said it would be one of the “highlights of the year for this body.”

If the Senate passes the measure, the House would have to vote on it again because it has been amended.

Cardinal Dolan urged senators who back the measure to “reverse course and consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans” who believe traditional marriage is “both true and foundational to the common good.”

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” he added.

“In doing so, we are joined by millions of what the Obergefell court called ‘reasonable and sincere’ Americans — both religious and secular — who share this time-honored understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage,” the cardinal said.

SCRANTON – The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, Bishop of Scranton, will ordain eight men as permanent deacons for the Diocese of Scranton at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

The newly ordained deacons will join the ranks of clergy who minister to the faithful in parishes and other settings throughout the Diocese.

During the Mass of Ordination, Bishop Bambera will ordain the following men to serve permanently in the Order of Deacon: John F. Bankus, John F. Bubb, Martin J. Castaldi, Matthew R. Eisley, Thomas A. Kostic, Steven J. Miller, Nicholas M. Rocco, and Frank H. Zeranski.

“It was not something I had ever anticipated,” Eisley said. “By God’s grace and the path that he’s led me on over the years, I’ve found myself in this position.”

These men will complete a five-year formation program and become members of the three-fold ordained ministry that consists of bishops, priests and deacons.

All of the candidates said the diaconate program helped them discern their vocation to ministry, deepen their relationship with the Lord and model their lives after Jesus.

“There is so much to learn about the faith. It’s incredibly deep but very approachable. The teachers here have been wonderful. The priests have been wonderful. I couldn’t ask for a better experience,” Bankus stated.

“The instructors were phenomenal,” Kostic, who has a theological background and has been in the education field for 33 years, said. “I learned more than I ever thought I could.”

“I used to read Scripture on my own and the more I would read, the more I would realize what I didn’t know but I wanted to know more,” Castaldi added. “This put everything together for me.”

Over that time, the eight men have grown not only in faith, but also in friendship.

“The men that I have been on this journey with have been absolutely incredible. They are just a testament to the faith. I have grown so much by just watching them and admire them,” Rocco said.

The deacon’s service has three aspects: word, worship and charity. He can perform certain ministerial functions such as administering baptism; serving as the deacon at the Mass, including proclaiming the Gospel, preaching the homily and distributing Holy Communion; bringing viaticum to the sick; presiding at wake services, funeral liturgies and burial rites and with permission by the pastor, may celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Deacons also minister to the needs of families, single parents, students, the aged and infirmed, the imprisoned and those who suffer from poverty or addictions.

When asked what drew him to the diaconate, Zeranski said it is that ability to serve others.

“I like helping people, I like working with people, I like talking to people and listening to people,” he explained.

Miller, who already regularly visits two homebound parishioners at his parish, Our Lady of Victory in Tannersville, is looking to expand those opportunities.

“In one case, I’m the only person that she sees other than her son. She really doesn’t have any other visitors,” Miller stated.

Bubb, who will celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary on the same week of his ordination, feels a calling to help young families.

“I have seven kids and can relate to couples that are getting married or couples that are struggling, if they need somebody to talk to,” he explained.

All are welcome to attend the Ordination Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Peter. For those unable to attend in person, CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton will provide a live broadcast of the Mass.

A livestream will also be available on the Diocese of Scranton website, YouTube channel and across all Diocesan social media platforms.

The following are brief biographies of the Permanent Deacon Class of 2022:

John F. Bankus

John F. Bankus, 62, of Wyoming, is a member of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Swoyersville. He is married to his wife, Judith, for 32 years and the couple has one child.

Following graduation from E.L. Meyers High School, Wilkes-Barre, in 1978, Bankus earned his bachelor’s degree in forestry from Penn State University at University Park.

He subsequently received an Associate of Science degree in electrical engineering from Penn State University, Wilkes-Barre, and his bachelor’s in economics from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre.

The deacon-candidate currently is an asset integrity specialist with Williams Company.

John F. Bubb

Montoursville resident John F. Bubb, 58, and his wife, Donna, are celebrating their 25th anniversary of marriage this year and are the parents of seven children.

A 1982 graduate of Williamsport Area High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Penn State University in State College in 1986 and completed studies for a Master of Business Administration degree from Northern Alabama University in 2010.

Bubb is currently vice president & CFO of Hope Enterprises, Inc. He also previously held accounting and accounting managerial positions at UPMC, Susquehanna/Susquehanna Health.

Martin J. Castaldi

Martin J. Castaldi, 59, and his wife of 33 years, Renée, reside in Scranton, where they are members of Divine Mercy Parish.The couple has four children.

The deacon-candidate is a 1981 graduate of Scranton Central High School and received his baccalaureate degree from Penn State University. He subsequently received his master’s in business administration from Marywood University in Scranton.

Castaldi is 32-year veteran of the United States Postal Service. Following his retirement as postmaster of the Carbondale Post Office he has been serving as head sacristan/maintenance supervisor at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Scranton.

Matthew R. Eisley

Jersey Shore resident Matthew R. Eisley, 44, has been married to his wife, Molly, for 20 years and are parishioners of Saint Luke Parish. They are the parents of three children.

After graduating from Montoursville Area High School in 1996, he obtained his bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and secondary education in chemistry from Lock Haven University.

The ordinand for the diaconate later received his Master of Science degree in instructional technology from Bloomsburg University in 2006.

Eisley currently serves on the faculty for the South Williamsport Area School District as a chemistry teacher. He previously taught at the Pennsylvania College of Technology as an adjunct instructor.

Thomas A. Kostic

Deacon-candidate Thomas A. Kostic, 67, serves the Diocese of Scranton as principal of Holy Family Academy elementary school in Hazleton.

Members of Saints Cyril & Methodius Parish, Hazleton, he and his wife of 35 years, Patricia, reside in Hazleton and have one child.

Kostic graduated from Bishop Hafey High School in 1973, after which he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work, with a minor in criminal justice, from King’s College, Wilkes-Barre.

For the following five years, the future deacon attended Officer Training School for the United States Air Force, attaining the rank of captain. During that time he also received his master’s degree in public administration from Troy State University in Alabama.

Kostic has pursued further graduate studies in philosophy and theology at Catholic University and the Washington Theological Union, both in Washington, D.C., and in theology at Marywood University, Scranton.

Steven J. Miller

A member of Our Lady Victory Parish in Tannersville, Steven J. Miller, 60, resides in Tannersville with his wife, Karen. The couple has been married for 37 years and are the parents of two children.

Deacon-candidate Miller is a 1980 graduate of Mount Olive High School in Mount Olive, N.J.

Following graduation, he attended Lock Haven University and began studies in computer science and mathematics. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1984.

Miller is employed as senior project manager for DXC Technology.

Nicholas M. Rocco

Nicholas M. Rocco, 49, and his wife of 17 years, Adeline, reside in Jefferson Township and are parishioners of Saint Eulalia Parish, Roaring Brook Township. They have four children.

Having graduated from Mid Valley High School, Throop, in 1991, Rocco received both his associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in nursing from Penn State University. In 2006, he earned a Master of Science in nurse anesthesia from The University of Scranton.

Rocco graduated from the Anesthesia Business Group Executive Management program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, in 2019 and plans to receive his master’s degree in pastoral studies next year from the Pontifical College Josephinum.

Rocco currently serves as a nurse anesthetist for Geisinger at the Northeast Surgery Center.

Frank H. Zeranski

Deacon-candidate Frank H. Zeranski, 63, has been married to his wife, Jayne, for 39 years. The Jefferson Township residents are members of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Moscow.

Zeranski is a 1977 graduate of North Pocono High School and earned his certificate in electronics technology from Lackawanna County Vocational Technical School in Scranton.

He subsequently received his associate’s degree in computer science and bachelor’s degree in business administration from Keystone College in La Plume.

He is employed by RS Integrated Supply in Radnor as an application support representative in the Information Systems Department. He also serves as a site coordinator, instructor and rider coach for the PA Motorcycle Safety Program.

Judy Wagner, left, and Cindy Hayes, parishioners of Saint Boniface Parish in Williamsport and Saint Lawrence Parish in South Williamsport, volunteer at Sojourner Truth Ministries in Williamsport on a recent Friday. The parishes received a social justice grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal this year for their ministry efforts.

WILLIAMSPORT – For the last four years, the faithful from Saint Boniface Parish in Williamsport and Saint Lawrence Parish in South Williamsport have joined forces to serve their community in many ways.

Every Friday, parishioners from the linked parishes fill the kitchen at Sojourner Truth Ministries on High Street in Williamsport to prepare and serve food to those in need.

“It is such a gratifying experience to be here,” parishioner Barbara Coolidge said. “You learn a lot and you chat with people if they’re willing to have a conversation.”

Sojourner Truth Ministries serves lunch six days a week to people in the community who are hungry, food insecure, homeless or might simply be in need of fellowship. On average, the agency serves approximately 20,000 meals each year.

Saint Boniface and Saint Lawrence Parishes have roughly 35 people who regularly volunteer at the facility, dishing up hope to the community one plate at a time.

“Sometimes it’s the only meal that they have for the day, the homeless people who come and now we’re able to give them take-out food to take home with them so they have something for an evening meal if they want,” parishioner Susan Lingg explained.

This year, Saint Boniface and Saint Lawrence Parishes received a social justice grant from the Diocesan Annual Appeal to support their volunteer efforts.

That money, which is made possible by generous gifts to the 2022 Diocesan Annual Appeal, will have a direct impact in helping our brothers and sisters in need in the greater Williamsport area and beyond.

“This is the first time that we’ve applied and been awarded a grant so we were very excited to hear about it. It is going to mean a lot to us. We have a lot of ideas,” Lingg said.

Through social justice grants, parishes like Saint Boniface and Saint Lawrence are able to carry the Gospel message of service beyond church walls.

“It is good to have our name out there and to let people know that our churches are involved in mission throughout our community,” Lingg added.

For those who benefit from the meals at Sojourner Truth Ministries, they couldn’t be more appreciative of the volunteer efforts.

“There are people out there that care, care about giving to others,” Shawn Bower of Williamsport said.

“They’re (volunteers) here out of the kindness of their own heart, whether they’re preparing the food or helping to serve it,” Shawn Watkins of Williamsport added. “There’s nothing more important than the heart of a volunteer.”

Gifts of all sizes to the 2022 Diocesan Annual Appeal are welcomed and appreciated. If you wish to make a gift, kindly donate online at

AnnualAppeal.org, call the Diocesan Development Office at (570) 207-2250, or visit annualappealorg.



All Saints Parish, Plymouth $4,600
Homelessness/Emergency Assistance/Pro-Life Ministries

Christ the King Parish, Archbald $5,000
Parish Food Pantry/Emergency Assistance/Grief Ministry

Church of the Resurrection, Muncy $3,000
Parish Food Pantry/Pro-Life Ministries/Care of the Earth

Church of Saint John the Apostle, East Stroudsburg $5,000
Hispanic and Cultural Diversity

Corpus Christi Parish, West Pittston $5,000
Parish Food Pantry/Counseling Programs

Epiphany Parish, Sayre $5,000
Care for the Elderly

Gate of Heaven Parish, Dallas $4,145
Pro-Life Ministries

Holy Child Parish, Mansfield $3,140
Parish Health Ministry Programs

Mary, Mother of God Parish, Scranton $2,745
Social Justice Education/Pro-Life Ministries

Most Holy Trinity Parish, Susquehanna $4,800
Parish Food Pantry/Hispanic Outreach

Nativity of the BVM Parish, Tunkhannock $2,000
Hunger & Food Insecurity

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Wyalusing $5,000
Parish Food Pantry/Emergency Assistance

Our Lady of Victory Parish, Harveys Lake $3,500

Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish, Jermyn $3,000
Prison Ministry/Hispanic Ministry

Saint Ann Basilica Parish, Scranton $3,655
Parish Food Pantry/Care for the Elderly

Saint Ann Parish, Shohola $2,500
Care for the Elderly

St. Boniface/St. Lawrence Parishes, Williamsport $5,000
Hunger & Food Insecurity/Emergency Assistance/Grief Ministry

Saint Eulalia Parish, Roaring Brook Township $750
Youth Helping Youth Summer Food Program

Saint Joachim Church, Meshoppen $2,500
Hispanic Ministry Outreach

Saint John Bosco Parish, Conyngham $5,000
Pro-Life Ministries/Food Pantry/Emergency Assistance

Saint John Neumann Parish, Lords Valley $2,500
Care for the Elderly

Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Pittston $3,500

Grief Ministry/Social Justice Education

Saint Joseph Marello Parish, Pittston $3,500
Community Meals

Saint Joseph Parish, Matamoras $5,000
Emergency Assistance/Prison Ministry/Parish Nurse Ministry

Saint Mary of the Lake Parish, Lake Winola $3,000
Hunger & Food Insecurity

Saint Matthew Parish, East Stroudsburg $5,000
Hispanic Ministry/Homelessness

Saint Nicholas Parish, Wilkes-Barre $5,000
Social Concerns and Hunger Programs

Saint Patrick Parish, Milford $5,000
Emergency Assistance/Prison Ministry/Parish Nurse Ministry

Saint Paul Parish, Scranton $5,000
Parish Food Pantry

Saint Peter Parish, Wellsboro $3,000
Food Pantry/Prison Ministry

Saint Thomas More Parish, Lake Ariel $3,500
Care for the Elderly

Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Milford $400
Grief Ministry

Donate Now at AnnualAppeal.org











“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pt 4:10)

In the coming days, we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time when many of us will gather with family and friends to enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

For many people, Thanksgiving Day is hectic – so hectic in fact – that they forget what is at the heart of day itself, offering our thanks to God for the many gifts that have been bestowed upon us.

The month of November, and especially the time around Thanksgiving, are the perfect opportunity to reflect on stewardship.

When we hear the word “stewardship,” many of us automatically think of money.

While that is partially correct, the true definition is about so much more.

Stewardship is rooted in scripture, recognizing we, as individuals, are not owners of our lives but rather are stewards or managers.

Stewardship, quite simply, is recognizing that everything we have and everything we are is a gift from God and being grateful and generous with those gifts.

The life of a Christian steward models the life of Jesus. It is challenging and even difficult, in many respects, yet intense joy comes to those who take the risk to live as Christian stewards.

So what identifies a steward?

Safeguarding material and human resources and using them responsibly are one answer; so is generous giving of time, talent and treasure.

But being a Christian steward means more.

In “The Theology of Stewardship: A Summary of the United States Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Stewardship,” the bishops defined a Christian steward as someone who “receives God’s gifts gratefully, cultivates them responsibly, shares them lovingly in justice with others, and returns them with increase to the Lord.”

In short, we must all consider stewardship as a way of life.

We must be collaborators and cooperators in continuing the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, which is the Church’s essential mission. This mission – proclaiming, teaching, serving and sanctifying – is our task. It is the personal responsibility of each one of us as stewards of the Church.

All members of the Church have their own roles to play in carrying out this mission:

• Parents, who nurture their children in the light of faith;

• Parishioners, who work in concrete ways to make their parishes true communities of faith and vibrant sources of service to the larger community;

• All Catholics, who give generous support – time, money, prayers, and personal service according to their circumstances – to parish and diocesan programs.

In these final days of November, spend a few minutes each day thinking about all that God has given you and say “thank you.”

Together in our journey of faith, may God bless us and may we respond as faithful disciples – faithful stewards!

Through the intercession of “Virgen de Guadalupe,” plans for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December are proceeding in many different parishes.

Particularly in the areas of large Latino populations in the Diocese of Scranton, the annual observance commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to a Mexican Indian peasant — now venerated as Saint Juan Diego — in December 1531 in Tepeyac, near present-day Mexico City.

The Blessed Mother’s appearance is believed to have resulted in millions of conversions to Catholicism, and her message of hope continues to inspire those of Hispanic descent.

In 1946, Pope Pius XII declared Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of the Americas.

The Our Lady of Guadalupe feast on Dec. 12 will culminate a host of celebrations being planned throughout the Diocese, especially in those parishes made up of significant Hispanic/Latino communities.

Everyone is welcome to join in the following celebrations:

East Stroudsburg
Saint Matthew Parish

December 1 to December 11
7:00 p.m. Rosary in the Church
(Except December 4 and 5)

December 4
Welcoming of Guadalupana Torch
12:30 p.m. Meeting location: Rite Aid Pharmacy parking lot

2:00 p.m. Solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera

December 5
Departure of Guadalupana Torch
12:00 p.m. The Torch is taken to the town of Suffern, N.Y.
Free bus transportation will be provided for those who would like to join. You must reserve your space in advance. Call (570) 236-2012 or (917) 930-1390

December 11
7:30 p.m. Traditional Mañanitas and vigil in honor to Our Lady of Guadalupe

December 12
7:00 p.m. Mass in honor to Our Lady of Guadalupe

Annunciation Parish

December 2 to December 10
6:30 p.m. Novena
7:00 p.m. Mass

December 11
12:00 p.m. Mass

December 12
5:00 a.m. Mañanitas

Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Parish

December 11
12:00 p.m. Mass; Reception After

Saint Joachim Church

December 10
4:00 p.m. Mass at Saint Joachim
6:00 p.m. Reception in the Hall of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 99 E. Tioga Street, Tunkhannock

December 12
5:00 a.m. Traditional Mañanitas at Saint Joachim Church


December 2 to December 10
6:30 p.m. Novena
Saint Paul of the Cross Church

December 11
Cathedral of Saint Peter
12:15 p.m. Solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera. Reception after at Diocesan Pastoral Center across the street

December 12
3:00 a.m. Street procession begins at the Cathedral of St. Peter and will conclude at St. Paul of the Cross.
4:30 a.m. Mañanitas at St. Paul of the Cross Church
6:30 a.m. Morning Mass.
7:00 p.m. Mass at St. Paul of the Cross

Saint Nicholas Parish

December 11
6 p.m. – 9 p.m. Vigil

December 12
5:00 a.m. Mañanitas

4:00 p.m. Street procession starting at 607 N. Franklin St. Wilkes Barre, (Fortoso Family)
Accompanied by Chinelos, Moras and Dance of the Tacuates.

6:00 p.m. Solemn Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph C. Bambera

7:00 p.m. Reception in the school cafeteria immediately after mass