September 20, 2021

WASHINGTON— National Migration Week 2021 starts today and will conclude on September 26 in solidarity with the Holy See’s observation of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees (WDMR) on September 26.

The theme for this year’s WDMR is “Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’,” which Pope Francis drew from his encyclical Fratelli tutti. He emphasized in his annual WDMR message that such a focus calls on us to ensure that “we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us’” (Fratelli tutti, no. 35) and this universal “us” must become a reality first of all within the Church, which is called to cultivate communion in diversity. In general, National Migration Week is meant to emphasize the ways in which the migration question is important for the Catholic Church in the United States.

“The migration story is one of compassion, welcome, and unity,” said Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration. “It is about opening our hearts to others, and at this critical juncture, we do not have to look far to see its practical application or find those with a need to migrate. The Holy Father calls us to embrace and express the Church’s catholicity—her universality—‘according to the will and grace of the Lord who promised to be with us always, until the end of the age.’ Let us, the Catholics of the United States, join together to answer his call and be especially mindful of it during this upcoming week.”

In previous years, National Migration Week was observed in January, but it was changed recently by the USCCB to align with the Vatican’s observation of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Educational materials and other resources for National Migration Week are available for download on the Justice for Immigrants website.

 

An election worker in San Diego, Calif., places mail-in ballots into a voting box at a drive-through drop off location at the Registrar of Voters for San Diego County Oct. 19, 2020. Polarization in politics, the church and across society has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch an initiative that looks to bring people together to serve the common good through “charity, clarity and creativity.” (CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters)

CLEVELAND (CNS) – Polarization across society has prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to launch an initiative that looks to bring people together to serve the common good.

Called “Civilize It: A Better Kind of Politics,” the initiative is designed to “move forward the kind of conversations that we need to be having to overcome our divisions,” said Jill Rauh, director of education and outreach in the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, which is coordinating the effort.

The USCCB introduced the initiative Sept. 7.

The effort draws heavily from the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his call in the third encyclical of his papacy, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

“We are in a situation where both in society and the church we are experiencing a lot of division and polarization,” Rauh told Catholic News Service. “In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis specifically is calling Catholics and all people of goodwill to build a better kind of politics, one at the service of the common good.”

The Civilize It initiative is meant not just for political leaders, but for all people, Rauh added.

A special webpage for the initiative, CivilizeIt.org, has links to a tool kit with resources to help parishes, small groups and individuals address polarization of any kind.

“Pope Francis is very clear in ‘Fratelli Tutti’ and the bishops have been clear in ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship’ that we are called to engage in the public sphere and to do so year-round, to be working together and to try to identify ways to work for the common good,” Rauh said.

“Forming Consciences” is the bishops’ quadrennial document on election participation.

Other USCCB offices also are promoting the initiative, Rauh said. In addition, leaders in at least 45 dioceses are planning to incorporate the initiative in diocesan programs and more are expected to also take part.

Tool kit resources range from a Prayer for Civility that draws from the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to a reflection titled “Loving our Neighbor through Dialogue.” Other materials include a study guide and parish bulletin inserts.

Website visitors are invited to sign a pledge saying they will rely on “charity, clarity and creativity” to promote understanding and dialogue over division.

Signers pledge to affirm each person’s dignity, even when they disagree with someone and respectfully listen to others “to understand experiences different from my own.”

The pledge also invites signers to engage in “critical examination to ensure that my perspectives are rooted in truth, that my sources of information are unbiased and that I not open myself to manipulation by partisan interests.”

Other actions listed with the pledge include becoming a “bridgebuilder who participates in constructive dialogue based in shared values” and to see differences in perspectives as “opportunities for creative tension which can yield solutions for the common good.”

The initiative builds on a program with a similar name introduced by the Department of Justice Peace and Human Development for the 2020 election cycle. That effort sought to remind people that civility in political discussions, not rancor, is a virtue.

The idea for “Civilize It” originated in the Social Action Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2016. Its success in Ohio caught the attention of the USCCB, which decided that the model, with a few tweaks, could be introduced nationwide in 2019.

 

 

Afghans make their way to a bus taking them to a refugee processing center upon arrival at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Va., Aug. 24, 2021. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

August 17, 2021

WASHINGTON—A widespread humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Afghanistan, with the Taliban swiftly seizing control of the capital on August 15. Thousands of people who have worked as interpreters, translators, and in other capacities alongside the United States military over the past twenty years, including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants, find themselves and their families in danger. The United States is in the process of evacuating diplomats and other U.S. government employees. However, all commercial flights to and from Kabul’s airport have been suspended for the time being. Yesterday, the President authorized use of up to $500 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for meeting the urgent needs of Afghan refugees and SIV applicants.

In response to these events, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued the following statement:

“We have known that the withdrawal of American forces and evacuation of vulnerable Afghans, including those who supported our military or worked with NGOs and other organizations, would be a complicated process that had the potential for instability in Afghanistan. The images and videos coming out of the country are difficult to view, as people make life or death decisions in desperation. We are particularly concerned for all those requiring evacuation, as well as Afghan women and girls, who risk losing opportunities gained over the last two decades and now face potential mistreatment.

“For the past few weeks, staff from the USCCB, Catholic Charities, and other partners have been at Fort Lee in Virginia, assisting the U.S. government in the welcoming and resettlement of SIV applicants and their families. We will continue that work as long as necessary until those who are in harm’s way are brought to safety.

“The government’s goal to relocate as many as 30,000 SIV applicants to the United States remains a monumental task that hangs in the balance. We know that time is of the essence to help our brothers and sisters in need, and we call on our government to act with the utmost urgency, considering all available avenues to preserve life. We also join the Holy Father in praying for peace in Afghanistan—‘that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.’”

 

August 4, 2021

WASHINGTON- Catholics across the United States offer hope and help to their sisters and brothers in Africa through contributions to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa. Each year, many dioceses in the United States support the Solidarity Fund during July and August with special collections at Sunday Mass and through their online and e-giving platforms. Other dioceses take a collection at different times throughout the year or make a direct contribution in lieu of a collection.

“Gifts to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa support the Church’s mission to bring hope, foster understanding and healing among diverse peoples and help to spread the Good News of God’s love and mercy through Jesus Christ,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Newark, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Church in Africa. “The generosity of U.S. Catholics makes a tangible, lasting impact in the lives of our Catholic brothers and sisters.”

From an economic and political standpoint, Africa is the poorest and most marginalized area of the world. Endemic poverty, ecological damage, poor governance, persistent conflict, and major population displacements plague much of the continent.

“Yet, Africa is also a continent of enormous spiritual vitality, where the People of God – ordained and laity alike – share the Gospel with a joy that should inspire all of us to do likewise,” said Cardinal Tobin. “Donations from U.S. Catholics to the Solidarity Fund provide the basic resources that the Church in Africa needs in its pastoral mission to deepen the faith of its people, evangelize its neighbors, strengthen its leadership and promote peace and justice. Every dollar that is received in the basket or sent online through e-giving platforms goes a long way to make a real difference in the faith lives of individuals, families, and communities across Africa.”

In 2020, giving to the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa declined dramatically due to the long stretch without in-person masses because of the COVID pandemic – at the very time that the need in Africa escalated due to the same pandemic. Nevertheless, in 2020 the Fund was able to support these other critical ministries:

  • In war-torn Cameroon, 65 catechists received training in trauma counseling and human rights education, enabling them to offer pastoral support to masses of displaced persons who fled fighting that destroyed their homes and communities.
  • In Burundi, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference is expanding its programs to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sexual violence and abuse, establishing an outreach program in every diocese to raise awareness and end sexual abuse in the Church and in society.
  • In the Republic of Congo, a four-day national teachers’ workshop will revitalize the teaching of religion and impact thousands of students nationwide.
  • In Zambia, a country with so few priests that villagers often go months without access to the sacraments, lay leaders at two national Bible conferences received intensive instruction in understanding and properly interpreting the Word of God.

Learn more about the Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa and how donations make a difference at www.usccb.org/africa.

 

People in Washington demonstrate near the White House July 19, 2021, following July 11 protests in Cuba against the government and a deteriorating economy. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the USCCB’s international policy committee expressed their solidarity and that of all the U.S. bishops “with our brothers in the Cuban episcopate, and with all men and women of goodwill in Cuba.”

Released late July 19, the statement acknowledged “the ongoing protests in Cuba and among the diaspora in the United States.”

It was jointly issued by Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“As the Cuban bishops declared in their July 12 statement, ‘A favorable solution will not be reached by impositions, nor by calling for confrontation, but through mutual listening, where common agreements are sought and concrete and tangible steps are taken that contribute, with the contribution of all Cubans without exception, to the building-up of the Fatherland,'” the two U.S. prelates said.

“In the same spirit as the Cuban bishops, we urge the United States to seek the peace that comes from reconciliation and concord between our countries,” Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said.

Thousands of Cubans in Havana and in 14 other Cuban cities took to the streets July 11 to protest economic hardships, lack of basic freedoms and the Cuban government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, making for what some have described as the most significant unrest in decades.

They were mirrored by a vocal street protest in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood late afternoon July 11. Protests are ongoing in Cuba and in the U.S.

Since July 11, the Cuban government reportedly has responded by arresting people, including clergy, not only on the streets but also in their homes. There was at least one confirmed death after police shot a man taking part in the anti-government protest. The government also has restricted internet and phone services.

Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said that for decades the USCCB, “in conjunction with the Holy See and the Cuban bishops, has called for robust cultural and commercial engagement between the United States and Cuba as the means to assist the island in achieving greater prosperity and social transformation.”

“We pray that Our Lady of Charity, our mother, watches over her children in Cuba, and that, together, our countries can grow in friendship in the interests of justice and peace,” they said.

On July 20, The Wall Street Journal reported: “The whereabouts of hundreds of arrested demonstrators is unknown and others are being held incommunicado without charges nine days after nationwide demonstrations rocked the Caribbean nation.”

“More than a week after the unprecedented demonstrations, hundreds of people are lining up outside police stations across the island asking about missing relatives,” the newspaper said.

 

Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, a priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., is pictured at the USCCB headquarters in Washington Nov. 17, 2020, during the bishops’ virtual fall meeting. Msgr. Burrill resigned as USCCB general secretary July 20, 2021, amid “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior.” In announcing the resignation, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, said the claim “did not include allegations of misconduct with minors.” (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Msgr. Jeffrey D. Burrill, the general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since November, has resigned from the post after the USCCB “became aware of impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior by Msgr. Burrill,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president.

In a July 20 memo to bishops, Archbishop Gomez said he had accepted Msgr. Burrill’s resignation, effective immediately.

“What was shared with us did not include allegations of misconduct with minors. However, in order to avoid becoming a distraction to the operations and ongoing work of the conference, Monsignor has resigned,” the archbishop said.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” he said.

In a lengthy story posted midday, The Pillar, an online outlet that covers the Catholic Church and provides news and analysis, said Archbishop Gomez’s memo came after it had contacted the USCCB and Msgr. Burrill regarding evidence the news outlet claimed to have “of a pattern of sexual misconduct on Burrill’s part.”

The Pillar claimed it had “found evidence the priest engaged in serial sexual misconduct, while he held a critical oversight role in the Catholic Church’s response to the recent spate of sexual abuse and misconduct scandals.”

“An analysis of app data signals correlated to Burrill’s mobile device shows the priest also visited gay bars and private residences while using a location-based hookup app in numerous cities from 2018 to 2020, even while traveling on assignment for the U.S. bishops’ conference,” it reported.

Commercially available app signal data, The Pillar said, “does not identify the names of app users, but instead correlates a unique numerical identifier to each mobile device using particular apps.”

“Signal data, collected by apps after users consent to data collection, is aggregated and sold by data vendors. It can be analyzed to provide timestamped location data and usage information for each numbered device,” The Pillar added.

In a brief statement released later in the day by its Office of Public Affairs, the USCCB, like Archbishop Gomez in his memo, said it had received “impending media reports alleging possible improper behavior” by Msgr. Burrill and that the priest had resigned, effective immediately, “to avoid becoming a distraction” to the conference’s operations and ongoing work.

“The conference takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will pursue all appropriate steps to address them,” the statement said.

Archbishop Gomez said in his memo that in consultation with the bishops’ Executive Committee, he was appointing Father Michael J.K. Fuller, associate general secretary, to serve as interim general secretary “until the election of a new general secretary by the body of bishops.”

Father Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois, was named to the associate post Nov. 19. The priest had worked as the executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs since August 2016.

“I ask for your prayers for Monsignor, and for the conference staff during this difficult time,” Archbishop Gomez said. “We also pray that all those affected might find strength and comfort in our merciful Lord.”

A priest of the Diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill was named general secretary after the result of voting by the bishops that was announced Nov. 16, the first day of the USCCB’s annual fall general assembly. He had been the conference’s associate general secretary since March 1, 2016.

The Diocese of La Crosse issued a statement saying Bishop William P. Callahan and diocesan representatives “are saddened to hear the media reports related to Msgr. Burrill. The Diocese of La Crosse pledges its full cooperation with the conference of Catholic bishops to pursue all appropriate steps in investigating and addressing the situation.”

“Please remember Msgr. Burrill and all affected in your prayers so they may find refuge and strength in God’s unfailing love,” it added.

Prior to his USCCB appointment, Msgr. Burrill was pastor of St. Bronislava Church in Plover in central Wisconsin for three years. He was at the Pontifical North American College in Rome from 2009 to 2013, serving originally as director of apostolic formation and subsequently as the Carl J. Peter chair of homiletics, formation adviser and director of media relations.

He was ordained in 1998 for the Diocese of La Crosse. He was pastor of the parishes of St. Mary, in Duran, Holy Rosary in Lima, and Sacred of Jesus in Mondovi, Wisconsin, from 2001 to 2009. He also taught and was chaplain at Regis High School and Middle School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for two years prior to his parish assignments.

In addition, he was a regional vicar for six years, served two terms on the diocesan priests’ council and also was the diocese’s ecumenical officer and a member of the seminary admissions board.

A native of Marshfield, Wisconsin, Msgr. Burrill has a bachelor of arts degree from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, adjacent to the campus of St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, in Winona, and a bachelor of sacred theology from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. In 1999, he earned a licentiate in ecumenical theology from the Angelicum, or Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, which also is in Rome.

 

June 29, 2021

Since the conclusion of the Spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), there has been significant attention (and in some cases misinformation) on the vote taken to draft a document on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

A great deal of media coverage has focused on the question of whether to deny an individual or groups of people Holy Communion. In reality, this question was not up for a vote or debate at the meeting. Bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion.

The vote taken by the full body of bishops tasked the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine to begin the drafting of a teaching document on the Eucharist. For the last several years, helping all people understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist has been an important goal for bishops – especially after a 2019 Pew Study found that many Catholics do not understand or believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

As indicated to all bishops at the recent USCCB meeting, the document would include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate – but the document would not be disciplinary in nature.

The Eucharist is an amazing gift from the Lord that He has given to us as nourishment for our souls. Each Catholic is called to continual conversion and Bishop Joseph C. Bambera, along with his brother bishops, have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

In addition to the proposed document, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis has detailed plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which would aim to share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with the world. This revival has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact – as it would be designed to affect every level of the church, from the home and parish to the national stage.

To learn more about the proposed document on the Eucharist, the Bishops’ vote to approve the drafting of the document or the planned “Eucharistic Revival,” please click here.

 

A priest prepares to distribute Communion during Mass in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the nation’s Catholics to pray for him and his brother bishops “as we continue our dialogues and reflections” in the process of drafting a document on the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.”

“I pray that this will be a time for all of us in the church to reflect on our own faith and readiness to receive our Lord in the holy Eucharist,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez said in a statement released late June 21.

During their virtual spring general assembly June 16-18, the bishops approved in a 168-55 vote, with six abstentions, the drafting of this document. The vote followed a lengthy debate June 17 and the results were announced the following day.

The USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine will draft it and present the document for discussion when the bishops reconvene in person in November for their fall general assembly.

“My brother bishops and I voted overwhelmingly to issue a teaching document on the beauty and power of the Eucharist,” Archbishop Gomez said.

As the committee begins drafting it, “in the months ahead the bishops will continue our prayer and discernment through a series of regional meetings and consultations,” he said, noting they’ll discuss the draft at their fall meeting.

“The Eucharist is the heart of the church and the heart of our lives as Catholics,” he said. “In the holy Eucharist, Jesus Christ himself draws near to each one of us personally and gathers us together as one family of God and one body of Christ.”

“As bishops, our desire is to deepen our people’s awareness of this great mystery of faith, and to awaken their amazement at this divine gift, in which we have communion with the living God,” Archbishop Gomez added. “That is our pastoral purpose in writing this document.”

Before they voted, debate lasted for over two hours, and 43 bishops expressed differing views about drafting such a document. Some stressed the document was necessary to provide clarity about the significance of the Eucharist, while others questioned its timing and if it could be perceived as fracturing the unity of a church already faced with numerous challenges.

Although the bishops reached no consensus during the discussion, most of those who spoke during the comments’ session welcomed the idea of strengthening teaching about the Eucharist.

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the doctrine committee, presented a proposed outline to the bishops June 17 in a prerecorded message. It would include three parts, subtitled “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed,” “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated” and “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived.”

As proposed, each part includes three topics that would be addressed including, respectively, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion; unity, beauty and identity as the “fount and apex of the whole Christian life”; and moral transformation, eucharistic consistency and missionary discipleship.

Bishop Rhoades said this was developed in light of the decline in Catholics’ belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist as well as the long absences from regular Mass attendance, which may have led to people placing less significance on the Eucharist in their lives.

He also said the document was never intended to present national norms for the reception of the Eucharist, but to serve as a teaching tool for Catholics about the reception of holy Communion as a grace-filled gift.

 

June 18, 2021

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) concluded its Spring General Assembly on Friday, June 18, 2021.

During the three-day virtual meeting, there was an emphasis on the Eucharist in several areas.

First, the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis detailed plans for a three-year National Eucharistic Revival, which would aim to share the love of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with the world.

This revival has the opportunity to have a tremendous impact – as it would be designed to affect every level of the church, from the home and parish to the national stage.

In addition, the full body of bishops voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Significant attention has been on this document and the possibility of whether public officials who support abortion will be prevented from receiving Holy Communion.

As discussed in the USCCB meeting, the document, which has yet to be written in draft form, would be much broader, focusing on the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in Communion and the beauty of the Eucharist. Of particular note, Bishop Kevin Rhodes, Chairman of the Doctrine Committee, indicated that the draft would not include a national policy regarding limiting access to Holy Communion for certain individuals. The document would consist of three parts:

  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Celebrated”
  • “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Lived”

During the virtual meeting, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera addressed his brother bishops saying in light of the USCCB’s current strategic plan, it would be opportune for the conference to consider the development of a document on the Eucharist – but highlighting several concerns regarding process.

The bishop noted significant concerns regarding how the development of the proposed document would adhere to the parameters established by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, outlined in a May 7, 2021, letter sent from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Bishop Bambera stressed the need to follow the guidance of the Cardinal prior to the creation of a draft document. As the Bishop expressed in his remarks, that guidance would include the need for two-stage dialogue (dialogue among the bishops themselves and dialogue between the bishops and politicians within their own jurisdiction), the assurance that the document would not target only one category of Catholics and the need to consult with other episcopal conferences.

Questions and Answers on the U.S. Bishops’ Vote to Draft a
Document on the Meaning of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church

 

U.S. Catholic bishops attend a Nov. 11, 2019, session during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The bishops’ 2021 spring assembly June 16-18 will take place virtually due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – When they gather virtually for their annual spring assembly June 16-18, the U.S. bishops will be asked to approve the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Catholic Church.

They also will be asked to approve three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy for use in U.S. dioceses of the United States, to endorse the sainthood causes of two military chaplains revered for their heroism in World War II and the Korean War, and approve drafting of a national pastoral framework for youth and young adults.

Also on the agenda will be an update from the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis on the Eucharistic Revival initiative; an update from the Subcommittee for Pastoral Care for Immigrants, Refugees and Travelers on a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate; and an update on the work of the Subcommittee on the Catechism.

Earlier this year, the bishops voted to approve convening this June meeting in a virtual format given the challenges of meeting in person with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The “Action Item” asking the bishops to approve the drafting of a teaching document on the reception of Communion is likely to draw the most debate — and media attention — starting with a vote to formally approve the meeting agenda shortly after the assembly is called to order.

In early May, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, president of the USCCB, received an unprecedented letter from 67 bishops appealing for a delay in a discussion during the bishops’ upcoming spring general assembly on whether to prepare a teaching document about the Eucharist.

The signers wrote that “we respectfully urge that all conference-wide discussion and committee work on the topic of eucharistic worthiness and other issues raised by the Holy See be postponed until the full body of bishops is able to meet in person.”

Among those signing the letter were Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago, Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.

In a May 22 memo to fellow bishops, Archbishop Gomez explained that USCCB rules require that the body of bishops first be asked whether to issue a document on a particular topic.

The bishops’ letter and Archbishop Gomez’s memo follow an increasingly public debate among the bishops about Catholic politicians who support keeping abortion legal and whether they should be denied access to the Eucharist.

Archbishop Gomez in his memo said the USCCB Administrative Committee approved a request from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, that time be included on the spring assembly agenda for discussion on drafting a teaching document on Communion.

The process, the archbishop said, involves the creation of an “Action Item” for the bishops to consider. “Importantly, the Action Item does not ask the body to approve a final statement, but only whether drafting of a text may begin,” he said.

The bishops’ meeting agenda also includes a report from the National Review Board, which advises the USCCB and the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People about matters of child and youth protection, specifically on policies and practices.

There also will be a vote to approve a “National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love” and a vote to authorize the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American/Alaska Native Ministry.

The assembly will begin with an address by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, papal nuncio to the United States, followed by an address by Archbishop Gomez as USCCB president.

The sainthood candidates whose causes the bishops will be asked to approve are Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur and Capt. Leonard LaRue, who became Benedictine Brother Marinus of St. Paul’s Abbey in Newton, New Jersey. Both have the title “Servant of God.”

Father Lafleur, a priest of the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana, was a World War II chaplain who gave his life while saving others on a Japanese prison ship.

Survivors recall the priest’s heroic efforts helping his fellow POWs escape the hull of the ship under Japanese gunfire by pushing them up to the deck at the cost of his own life. He died Sept. 7, 1944.

In October 2017, Father LaFleur was honored posthumously with the Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart.

LaRue and the crew of the S.S. Meredith Victory piloted 14,005 refugees to safety during the Korean War from the port of Hungnam, now part of North Korea. The mission has been called a “Christmas Miracle.”

In early December 1950, the S.S. Meredith Victory’s duties involved delivering supplies to anti-communist forces in Korea, which included a stop in Hungnam. In the midst of the heavy fighting on land, LaRue, who also was a World War II veteran, volunteered the Merchant Marine cargo ship to participate in the rescue operation — the refugees’ last hope of escape. The captain entered religious life after the Korean War.

The public sessions of the bishops’ spring assembly are scheduled for: June 16 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); June 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (EDT); and June 18 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. (EDT). They will be livestreamed on the USCCB website — www.usccb.org/meetings.

The vote tallies on the action items, news updates, texts of addresses and presentations and other materials will be available on the USCCB website.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media should use the hashtag #USCCB21 and follow on Twitter (@USCCB) as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb).