My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Just a few days ago on October 3, we celebrated the feast day of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Affectionately known to many as the “Little Flower,” St. Thérèse is the patroness of the Missions. Perhaps the great paradox of her patronage is that Thérèse never left her cloister. Her entire religious life was lived out in her humble convent in Lisieux, France. Though she desired so deeply to be a missionary, she was compelled to live a life of relative obscurity, to become a missionary through her prayer, her sacrifice and the “little way” that defined her life and has inspired the lives of many.

Thérèse’s simple life reminds me of a quotation from another saintly missionary, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “do small things with great love.” Each of us has been compelled to encounter how to carry out the Christian way of life in our own “cloisters” as pandemic restrictions had us holed up in our homes in the early months of COVID-19. Somehow, our lives as people of faith and as disciples of Jesus Christ had to carry on. Admittedly, to do so we had to find creative ways to be faithful to our worship and acts of prayer as our public worship was curtailed. We found ways to reach out to family and neighbors even as we were limited in our physical contact with them and discovered opportunities to support the poor and vulnerable as so many religious and social service agencies found it challenging to meet their needs.

This is the crux of missionary discipleship. Certainly, many have and will continue to travel to places throughout the world to serve as missionaries. Indeed, in our own country, missionaries will continue to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized as they seek to alleviate their burdens. And, yes, many will continue to serve with a missionary zeal in a spirit of servant leadership from their homes. Not everyone—whether it’s because of illness, age, or other circumstances—can leave their homes to engage the mission entrusted to them. Much can be learned from the example of St. Thérèse who, despite never leaving her cloister, is among the most notable missionaries in our Church.

In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of “a temptation to disguise and justify indifference and apathy in the name of healthy social distancing…” However, he went on to highlight that there is an “urgent need for the mission of compassion, which can make that necessary distancing an opportunity for encounter, care and promotion.” Surely, even from a distance we can serve and can encounter. Let us endeavor to do so spurred on by the life of St. Thérèse and the Gospel mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Faithfully yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

Dear Friends,

This year, as we traditionally set aside the month of October to reflect upon the sublime treasure that is ours in the gift of human life, we are invited to focus upon Saint Joseph and his place within the Holy Family. As the great defender of the life of our Savior, Jesus, and of Mary, his mother, we implore his intercession as we seek to live as disciples of Jesus who treasure God’s gift of life.

In the gospel of Saint Matthew, Saint Joseph is described as a man of deep faith, who, despite his uncertainty about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, is willing to set aside his own judgments and instead place his trust unwaveringly in the power of God. For Saint Joseph, God was in control and that was all that mattered.

During the course of the past year and a half, our world has battled the coronavirus that has taken the lives of over 4.5 million people throughout the world, including over 650-thousand Americans. For all of the different perspectives that have been brought to bear upon this pandemic, one thing is clear. Despite our creativity, our ingenuity and our resolve to care for our world and to determine our future according to our own plan, we are not in control!

That power, as Saint Joseph reminds us, belongs to God.

Sadly, however, we haven’t yet learned this valuable lesson as we continually fail to fully appreciate the treasure that we have been given in the gift of life. It is rather paradoxical that in reflecting upon all of the efforts being engaged to confront a virus that has the potential to destroy life, we’re often conflicted in our perspective upon this unique and singular gift of God. In the midst of the current health crisis, we continually set aside convenience and personal comfort and go to great lengths to protect our children, our families and our neighbors. And so we should! Yet, at the same time, many of us fail to acknowledge or care that the very foundational building blocks of a just world for all forms of human life are being undermined at an alarming rate.

Threats to human life increasingly abound in our world today, most notably the taking of innocent life through the scourge of abortion.

Yet, we’re also confronted with proposals and policies that favor assisted suicide, euthanasia, infanticide and human cloning. These too are dire threats to our belief in the dignity and value of the human person – as are the death penalty, human trafficking, unjust immigration laws and the dire consequences of war.

Sadly, while many of us as Catholics and people of good will are deeply committed to the protection of life in its earliest moments at conception, we can often be somewhat arbitrary in our assessment of other lives and their value and worth.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters, such an approach towards the sanctity of human life has consequences. We’ve experienced the slippery slope that ensued following the legalization of abortion almost 50 years ago. When we rationalize why the taking of one life should be allowed, every life is in jeopardy.

Several months ago, in reflecting upon the growing lack of respect for our global environment, Pope Francis linked his concerns for our common home to an ever-diminishing sense of respect for the gift of human life.

Pope Francis stated, “Everything is connected. It is the same indifference, the same selfishness, the same greed, the same pride, the same claim to be the master and despot of the world that lead human beings, on the one hand, to destroy species and plunder natural resources, and on the other, to exploit misery, to abuse the work of women and children, to overturn the laws of the family cell, to no longer respect the right to human life from conception to natural end.”

Brothers and sisters, as Pope Francis has noted so well, we are all “connected” and we are all a part of one – and the same – human family. As such, may we be humble enough to set aside the divisions that separate us and to embrace the lessons that we have learned during the course of the global pandemic that continues to ravage our world.

Though well beyond our ability to determine or control, life, from the moment of conception to natural end, is a gift to treasure and respect. We do so, however, not solely through the words we speak or by our self-righteous criticisms of those whose beliefs may appear to be different from our own. We treasure and respect life best when we set aside our differences and, within the lived experiences that we’ve been given, begin to treat one another with reverence and dignity as children of one and the same God.

Saint Joseph, defender of life, pray for us!

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

“As we mark the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, we remember and pray for all those who lost their lives, as well as their family and friends, and those individuals who continue to carry the physical and emotional burdens of that terrible day.

“Over the last two decades, the people of our great nation have shared so many feelings – ranging from anger and shock – to loss and pain – to a determination to never forget. On this somber anniversary, we must continue to honor the selflessness of our first responders – including our brave firefighters, police, emergency workers and port authority personnel — as well as the heroism of ordinary citizens who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for others.

“In the immediate aftermath of that terrible day, our faith lifted us up and sustained us. Our nation turned to God in prayer and in faith with a new intensity. Let us continue to turn to God as our source of strength, comfort and peace in challenging times.

“In the words that Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI both used while visiting Ground Zero,

‘O Lord, comfort and console us, strengthen us in hope, and give us the wisdom and courage to work tirelessly for a world where true peace and love reign among nations and in the hearts of all.’”

 

On Friday, July 16, 2021, Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter, Traditionis Custodes, concerning the use of the Roman Liturgy prior to the reform of 1970. On the same day, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, encouraged the Bishops of our country to “work with care, patience, justice and charity” as the new norms are implemented.

Presently in the Diocese of Scranton, the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Scranton under the stewardship of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. That arrangement will continue until further study and guidance can inform the appropriate implementation of the motu proprio in accord with the directives of the Holy Father.  Diocesan priests who, in the past, have celebrated Mass according to the Missale Romanum of 1962 are to explicitly request from the diocesan Bishop authorization to continue to do so.

I ask all of you to join me in continuing to foster the unity among all Catholics throughout the world that Pope Francis desires in his latest teaching.

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

July 15, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

For more than a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unique challenges in our lives. It has brought hardship and struggle to some – separation, anxiety and isolation to others. We pray for those who have been directly affected by the virus, those that are still impacted by its effects and those who have lost loved ones.

Since March 2020, there has been a dispensation in the Diocese of Scranton from the obligation to participate at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. In light of the continued decline in cases and hospitalizations locally, that dispensation will end on Sunday, August 15, 2021, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This change will occur in each diocese in Pennsylvania on the same date.

The Sunday celebration of Mass is the center of the Church’s life. The importance – and necessity – to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days is rooted in our Baptism as Christians. Baptism compels us, as Christians, to unite ourselves with Christ at the altar in his saving Sacrifice of the Cross. Put simply, attending Mass is an encounter with Our Risen Lord.

This is a moment to thank God anew for the great gift of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus to us in His Holy Body and Blood as well as the joy of gathering together as people of faith.

As Pope Francis reminded us in his 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Long before we knew a pandemic was on the horizon, the Holy Father reminded us the Sunday encounter gives us the strength to experience the present with confidence and courage and to go forth with hope.

I invite and encourage all of the faithful in our community – including those who may have left the Church long before the pandemic – to return to the Table of the Lord – and be nourished by the Bread of Life! Our participation at Mass in-person is a gift for our own spiritual well-being, happiness and eternal salvation.  It is also our responsibility to our brothers and sisters with whom we journey in faith.

It is important to note that people who are seriously ill or have a serious health risk, as well as those who have significant fear or anxiety of being part of a large group will continue to be legitimately excused from participating in Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Those individuals are still encouraged to spend time in prayer, meditating on the Death and Resurrection of the Lord, reading Sacred Scripture and uniting themselves to Christ in his worship of the Father of us all.

Please continue to pray for all of our clergy and religious – who work tirelessly to make sure our parish communities remain safe and vibrant!

Faithfully yours in Christ,

†Joseph C. Bambera
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton


In a letter published May 27 in The Catholic Light, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera took the opportunity to personally welcome and invite the faithful of the Diocese of Scranton back to Mass if they have not already returned.

Pointing to the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith, the bishop encouraged the in-person celebration of Mass as we are “sustained with the life-giving nourishment of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

In his letter, and a video released to accompany it, Bishop Bambera encouraged those individuals and families who have resumed other activities to return to Mass, citing “no substitute for gathering together to celebrate the Eucharist and our faith.”

 

 

 

Dear Friends,

In the Gospel from Saint Mark that will be proclaimed during the great Vigil of Easter this year, we are told that women, who were followers of Jesus, went to his tomb to anoint his body in the early hours of that first Easter day. They had witnessed the torture and death of their friend and teacher whom they had come to know as their Lord and Master. Their grief was mixed with pain, uncertainty and fear for themselves, their families and friends. Yet, despite the obstacles that they faced, they made their way to the tomb of Jesus.

Pope Francis reflected on the faith of these first believers.

“In this situation, the women did not allow themselves to be paralyzed. They did not give in to the gloom of sorrow and regret, they did not morosely close in on themselves, or flee from reality. . . . They did not stop loving; in the darkness of their hearts, they lit a flame of mercy,” Pope Francis said. “They responded to sorrow with trust in the Lord. And then they met Jesus, the giver of all hope . . . who proclaimed: ‘Do not be afraid.’”

 Through their encounter with the risen Jesus, the lives of those who ventured to his tomb just days after his crucifixion were changed forever! Their lives were changed because God had redirected the course of human history through the resurrection of his Son. By embracing our humanity, Jesus not only gave us hope by identifying with us in his life, suffering and death. He also provided us a way forward amid the pain and struggles of our lives by defeating death through the power of the resurrection!

 A year ago at this time, it seemed as if our world had suddenly come to a crashing halt! Not unlike what was experienced by the first followers of Jesus, we were confronted with unexpected suffering and death. We were uncertain of how best to respond. We hid in our homes for fear of what we might experience, not only from unknown individuals but also from neighbors, co-workers and those whom we love the most. While our churches were closed, we prayed fervently that the wave of suffering enveloping our world might stop before it crashed into our lives.

Even though our days found us consumed with uncertainty, pain and confusion, we took great comfort in the example of healthcare workers, first responders, clergy, women and men religious, essential workers, volunteers and so many others. They consoled us and more importantly, they inspired us, didn’t they? Like the women who ventured to the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter day, these selfless souls would not allow themselves to be paralyzed, but instead, worked tirelessly to keep the flame of hope burning in our lives. And so did all of you! More than you might realize, you provided hope. In so many and different ways, you responded to the needs of your brothers and sisters and you served generously and selflessly.

In short, my friends, through your faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus and all that it means for our lives, you made as your own the teaching of Pope Francis in his most recent encyclical letter, Fratelli tutti, that reminds us, “No one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.” This reality, my friends, that you and so many have lived and experienced especially during this past year, was born in an empty tomb in the initial moments of the life of our Church on that first Easter morning.

On Palm Sunday, just a few days ago, Pope Francis reminded us of the power of the resurrection in the midst of the uncertainty and pain of these challenging days.

“God is at our side in every affliction, in every fear; no evil, no sin will ever have the final word. God triumphs . . . through the wood of the cross,” he said.

Therein, my friends, is what we believe as Christians and the real blessing and gift of Easter. The risen Jesus alone has the power to carry us through the darkest of days to discover consolation, joy and the true meaning and purpose of our lives as his people.

To over 85 catechumens and candidates who await baptism and full communion in the Catholic Church, please know of our prayers for you. Your openness to the Spirit of God is cause for great joy. Welcome to our Catholic family. In so many ways, you are witnessing the Church at its best as so many selflessly serve their brothers and sisters.

My friends, thankfully we are beginning to see glimmers of light and hope emerge throughout our world, even as we continue to confront that challenges that we have faced for well over a year. During this Holy Week, I pray that we will all come to appreciate more deeply than ever the fact that we are indeed blessed in more ways than we might believe or imagine. May we trust in God’s promise to sustain us and dispel our deepest fears. And may we open our hearts to the risen Jesus and allow him to fill them with his love and peace.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Faithfully yours in the Risen Christ,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the clergy, religious and faithful in the Diocese of Scranton, I take this opportunity to send heartfelt greetings to our Jewish neighbors who will begin the Passover holiday on Saturday evening.

In the Jewish liturgy, Passover is known as the season of freedom. At this sacred time of year, even in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, please be assured of my prayers for all of you during these Holy Days as I rely on your prayers for me.

I reaffirm the recent words sent by Pope Francis to the Jewish people of Rome: “May the Almighty, who has freed His beloved people from slavery and led them to the Promised Land, accompany you even today with the abundance of His blessings.”

Blessings and peace,

Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera
Bishop of Scranton

 

 

 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused tremendous grief and fear in our country and world over the last year, leaving more than 500,000 dead in the United States alone.

“I want to be clear and concise in my pastoral guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccines. Given the grave danger this virus poses, it is morally acceptable to receive any of the current COVID-19 vaccines that have been determined to be clinically safe and effective. This position is supported by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“People should not delay getting a vaccine. Receiving a vaccine not only protects an individual’s health but also serves the common good by protecting the community – including the weak and vulnerable.

“While fully recognizing the complex moral and ethical issues involved in vaccine development, at this time, most people are not being given a true choice of which vaccine they receive, and likely won’t be able to make such a choice without a lengthy delay.

“Given that risk to public health, the faithful can in good conscience receive any of the current vaccines.”

To view the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s December 2020 Note on the Morality of Using some anti-COVID vaccines, please click here.

 

PCC ISSUES STATEMENT ON VACCINE

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference today responded to questions that many people have asked about whether it is permissible to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

When people have no choice about which COVID vaccine to receive, it is morally acceptable to receive any vaccine they are offered. This is based on the December 2020 guidance from the Vatican, stating that “when ethically irreproachable Covid-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”

The position of some bishops in Pennsylvania has been inaccurately reported in some news media, resulting in confusion among Catholics and the public.

Our position has never changed, nor has that of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said, “While we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”

In essence, we recognize that at this time individuals are not given a choice of which vaccine to receive and that this should not prevent Catholics from getting vaccinated as soon as possible.  Catholics may in good conscience, receive any vaccine, in order to protect themselves.  Once again, being vaccinated safely against COVID-19 should be considered an act of love of our neighbor and part of our moral responsibility for the common good.

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is based in Harrisburg and is the public affairs arm of PA’s Catholic bishops.