June 26, 2020

WASHINGTON – Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education for the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has joined a coalition of more than 150 interfaith and civil society organizations calling on the U.S. Congress to provide immediate federal aid to benefit low-income students in non-public schools. In recent weeks, more than 100 Catholic schools have announced that they plan to close, with hundreds more facing an uncertain future, because of the economic losses associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

Bishop Barber noted that the emergency aid is vital because the mission of Catholic schools is at stake: “Catholic education has been an integral part of the American experience and a means to lift many from poverty. That mission is imperiled because of the economic devastation facing many families across the country; as families lose income, they are unable to make the tuition payments that sustain our schools.”

Contributing to the crisis is the fact that Catholic parishes have not had Sunday Mass collections. The parishes normally provide financial support to the schools, which are part of the educational ministry of the parishes, in order to keep the tuition rate within financial reach for all  families. This financial assistance from the parish makes it possible for many lower-middle income families to choose Catholic school for their children.

The letter asks for Congress to designate emergency funding for direct scholarship aid to low-middle income private school families, and to enact a new federal tax credit for donations to state scholarship granting organizations.

Total enrollment in Catholic schools nationally for the current academic year is 1,737,297, across 6,183 schools. Racial minorities comprise 21.8% of total enrollment, and 19.1% of all students are non-Catholic.

The full letter to Congress is available at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/public-policy/upload/Federal-COVID-Response-Coalition-Letter-6-25.pdf

 

June 12, 2020

WASHINGTON – The World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests will be celebrated by the universal Church on June 19, 2020. Occurring annually on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests was established by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002 and encourages priests to reflect upon the importance and dignity of their vocation.

In his Holy Thursday homily on April 9, 2020, Pope Francis reminded priests that in order to serve others, they must first allow themselves to be served by Christ. Just like Saint Peter, priests must be willing to be washed by Christ, forgiven by Christ, and loved by Christ so that they, in turn, may be dispensers of divine forgiveness and love to others. The Holy Father also remembered those courageous priests in hospital ministry who have died in service to their brothers and sisters suffering from coronavirus. He also commended those priests who serve prisoners and those ministering in remote parts of the world.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations echoed Pope Francis’ gratitude for priests during this time of pandemic. “We give thanks to priests who are continuing to serve the people of God in this challenging time. Priests are the face of Christ and allow people to encounter Jesus, especially through the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. On this World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, I encourage my brother priests to contemplate with gratitude the great gift Jesus has given us in our vocation. I ask the faithful to pray for all priests that they may be filled with joy and strength as they continue their important work of shepherding God’s people.”

More information on World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests and resources for healthy priestly life and ministry, may be found at: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/priesthood/priestly-life-and-ministry/index.cfm.

 

 

WASHINGTON – Seven U.S. bishop chairmen of committees within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued a statement in the wake of the death of Mr. George Floyd and the protests which have broken out in Minneapolis and in other cities in the United States.

Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism; Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church; Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, chairman of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development; and Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, chairman of the Subcommittee on African American Affairs have issued the following statement:

We are broken-hearted, sickened, and outraged to watch another video of an African American man being killed before our very eyes. What’s more astounding is that this is happening within mere weeks of several other such occurrences. This is the latest wake-up call that needs to be answered by each of us in a spirit of determined conversion.

Racism is not a thing of the past or simply a throwaway political issue to be bandied about when convenient. It is a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.

While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.

As we said eighteen months ago in our most recent pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, for people of color some interactions with police can be fraught with fear and even danger. People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option. “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.”

We join Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis in praying for the repose of the soul of Mr. George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives in a similar manner. We plead for an end to the violence in the wake of this tragedy and for the victims of the rioting. We pray for comfort for grieving families and friends. We pray for peace across the United States, particularly in Minnesota, while the legal process moves forward. We also anticipate a full investigation that results in rightful accountability and actual justice.

We join our brother bishops to challenge everyone to come together, particularly with those who are from different cultural backgrounds. In this encounter, let us all seek greater understanding amongst God’s people. So many people who historically have been disenfranchised continue to experience sadness and pain, yet they endeavor to persevere and remain people of great faith. We encourage our pastors to encounter and more authentically accompany them, listen to their stories, and learn from them, finding substantive ways to enact systemic change. Such encounters will start to bring about the needed transformation of our understanding of true life, charity, and justice in the United States. Hopefully, then there will be many voices speaking out and seeking healing against the evil of racism in our land.

As we anticipate the Solemnity of Pentecost this weekend, we call upon all Catholics to pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for a supernatural desire to rid ourselves of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. We call upon Catholics to pray to the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of Truth to touch the hearts of all in the United States and to come down upon our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Finally, let each and every Catholic, regardless of their ethnicity, beg God to heal our deeply broken view of each other, as well as our deeply broken society.

 

 

May 25, 2020

WASHINGTON – On the anniversary of the encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has issued the following statement:

“May 25, 2020, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the promulgation of Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical on the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint. This anniversary should serve as a reminder that the way of ecumenism is the way of the Church (7), and that all Catholics are called to espouse a strong commitment to building Christian unity.

“Pope St. John Paul II, who worked tirelessly to build ecumenical relationships, described the impulse of working for unity between Christians as ‘a duty of Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love’ (8). We rejoice that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued to advance this singular mission between the Catholic Church and other Christian communities. We celebrate numerous theological convergences that have been discovered in ecumenical dialogues over the course of the past twenty-five years as we seek to grow closer together.

“Pope St. John Paul II concluded this encyclical with a profound insight from St. Cyprian’s Commentary on the Lord’s Prayer: ‘God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. For God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ (102). In a time of pandemic, people seek refuge and unity in their faith community. May this anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s call for Christian unity serve as a unique pastoral opportunity to build bridges by continuing to reach out with love to all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. May He heal our wounds of division and help us grow closer in unity, especially in this moment, by witnessing together to the peace of Christ that our world needs so very much.”

 

 

May 18, 2020

WASHINGTON—The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is scheduled to take place on the weekend of May 23-24, coinciding with World Communications Day. This annual national appeal supports efforts in the United States and around the world to use the media, internet, and print publications to help people connect with Christ.

The COVID-19 virus has prompted life to change in dramatic ways for more than two months with an increased reliance on communication tools to stay connected. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are using online tools to work and attend school, and stay connected to their families, friends, and their faith. Although most people are unable to gather together in their parishes for Mass, some dioceses offer electronic offertory programs that include the Catholic Communication Campaign or other ways for parishioners to support scheduled appeals. “In these times, the support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is vital to help keep the faithful connected to our faith and for dioceses to communicate the Gospel through all available means,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). “The CCC has long recognized the need to reach people and help them connect with Christ. Thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the United States, millions of people throughout the world have been able to connect in new ways with the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially in recent months,” continued Archbishop Hartmayer.

Fifty percent of the funds collected through the campaign remain in each diocese to support local communication efforts. The other half is used to support national efforts in the United States and in developing countries around the world.

With support from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the USCCB developed a resource page in response to the COVID-19 virus, “Together in Christ” on its website with links for families, parishes, and dioceses to prayer resources, livestream of Masses, and catechetical materials.

Two documentaries supported by major CCC grants are now in national broadcast television circulation. Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story, about the Catholic Worker movement co-founder who is on the road to sainthood, was released to public television stations in March 2020 and has already exceeded 1,000 broadcasts nationwide. The film won the Religion Communicators Council 2020 Wilbur Award for best documentary. Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the intriguing life of a man born into pre-reservation America and immortalized in author John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks. The program brings to light Black Elk’s conversion to Catholicism and his dedication to bringing other Native Americans to the Catholic faith. In cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the program will be available on ABC-TV stations nationwide beginning May 17, 2020.

The Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign oversees the collection and an annual grants program under the direction of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications. Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign can be found at www.usccb.org/ccc. Still photos from the documentary films Revolution of the Heart and Walking the Good Red Road are available to the media upon request.

February 3, 2020

WASHINGTON — The President issued a proclamation Friday restricting the issuance of immigrant visas to people from Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria. People from Sudan and Tanzania will no longer be eligible for certain visas to come to the United States, commonly called “Diversity Visas.”

Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and chairman of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., along with Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA issued the following statement strongly disagreeing with the administration’s latest action:

“The proclamation restricting immigration further undermines family reunification efforts and will make ensuring support for forced migrants in the designated countries more difficult. This proclamation also serves as a painful reminder of the 2017 ban which threatened our country’s founding principle of religious freedom. Over the last three years, waivers to allow visas from current travel ban nations based on undue hardship (such as family illness) were supposed to be available but were almost never authorized. We note with particular sadness and have witnessed firsthand the trauma of family separation that occurs with travel bans, which will only increase with this new proclamation.

“We respect that there are challenges in assuring traveler documentation and information exchange between countries as a means to ensure the safety of citizens. However, we also believe that ill-conceived nation-based bans such as this injure innocent families. As the bishops’ conference president Archbishop José Gomez has stated, ‘Welcoming families has allowed our country to integrate successive immigrant generations into the fabric of American life, allowing them to contribute their faith, values and talents to make this country great.’

“We urge the administration to reverse this action and consider the human and strategic costs of these harmful bans.”

December 13, 2019

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, issued the following statement:

“The recent attack on a Kosher Market in Jersey City, alongside many other recent hateful and at times violent actions, have highlighted the importance of, once again, publicly condemning any and all forms of antisemitism whether in thought, word or action. The past has taught us silence and passivity can result in the advancement of the worst crimes humanity can commit.

“The Catholic Church has an irrevocable commitment to the Jewish community. This commitment is clear and straightforward: antisemitism is anti-Christian and should not be tolerated in any form. At the Second Vatican Council, in Nostra Aetate, the Catholic Church articulated, ‘Mindful of the inheritance she shares with the Jews, the Church decries hatreds, persecutions, and manifestations of antisemitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.’

“We offer our prayerful support for all victims of antisemitic violence and their families. It is our hope that through continued respectful collaboration and dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters Catholics will help build a culture that completely rejects antisemitism.”

 

September 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Vatican’s World Day for Migrants and Refugees will be held this Sunday, September 29, 2019. The theme for this year’s celebration is, “It is not just about migrants.” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, noted of the celebration:

“This year’s theme for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to look at the migration issue from the lens of humanity, of caring for and walking with our brothers and sisters. The World Day for Migrants and Refugees reminds us that it is not about where people come from but their unique God-given human dignity.” Vásquez noted. “It reflects our call as people of faith to welcome our brothers and sisters, promote their well-being, protect them from cruelty and human indifference, and assist in their integration into our community.”

Support for migrants and refugees is particularly vital in this moment as the world is in the midst of the greatest global forced displacement crisis on record. We must continue to embrace love for our neighbor to counter the growing throwaway culture which disregards the human dignity of migrants and refugees.”

Educational resources related to the upcoming World Day for Migrants and Refugees can be found by visiting the Justice for Immigrants website.

 

PENNSYLVANIA CATHOLIC CONFERENCE

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 29, 2019                                                                     Contact: Al Gnoza   717-585-1548

 

PA CATHOLIC BISHOPS  ASK PRESIDENT TO CONTINUE U.S. REFUGEE PROGRAM

(HARRISBURG)–Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops are asking the Trump Administration to maintain and even possibly expand the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Eric Failing– the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops across the state—sent a letter to President Trump today in response to reports that the President is considering curtailing or even eliminating the program. The letter asks that it be maintained at current levels, but Failing also says that the bishops believe that the resettlement program should be restored to previous historic norms of 95,000 refugees per year.

“Refugees fleeing persecution overseas go through extensive background checks and health screenings,” Failing wrote in his letter. “This lengthy process can take two years or more to complete. Research, such as that done by the CATO Institute, has consistently found that refugees are neither a security risk nor a financial burden to the US or to the local economies.”

A refugee is a person who has fled their country of origin and is afraid to return because of persecution on a variety of grounds that include race and religion. Many Catholic charities in Pennsylvania begin working with refugees as soon as they are scheduled to arrive in America. Failing cited a typical refugee service that operates out of Harrisburg. It finds the refugees a safe home priced within the family’s budget, then furnishes the home and puts food in the refrigerator. The service then helps the refugees get jobs and find child care.

“It is incumbent upon us who are blessed with countless gifts and opportunities in the United States to care for our least fortunate brothers and sisters elsewhere,” Failing said to conclude his letter. “Let us not forget the words of our Savior when he told us, ‘Whatever you did not do for one of these least brothers of mine, you did not do for me’ (Matthew 25:40).”

###

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.

 

Bishops gathered for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The Diocese of Scranton is committed to protecting its young people and ensuring that the local Church of Scranton continues to address issues of child sexual abuse with vigilance and fidelity.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera attended the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore from June 11-13, 2019 and voted in favor of the four new policies/procedures that were proposed during the meeting.

During that meeting, the USCCB overwhelming voted to approve proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. The bishops also re-committed themselves to involving and utilizing lay professional experts, which is already the practice of the Diocese of Scranton.

The bishops approved four important measures during their assembly. They include:

  • Voting to implement the document “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) which was issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.
  • Approving the document “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments,” in which bishops affirmed the commitments they made at ordination, including the commitment to respond directly and appropriately to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
  • Voting for a protocol regarding non-penal restrictions on bishops which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed “due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act.”
  • Establishing an independent third-party reporting system to accept abuse allegations confidentially, by phone or online. A more detailed proposal for the third-party reporting system, including financial and structural elements, is in the planning process. The reporting system would begin no later than May 31, 2020 but bishops are hoping it can be available sooner. It’s important to note that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse should not wait for the national reporting system to be in place. Survivors can contact local civil authorities to file a report as soon as possible and may also report to Church authorities by existing means, including contacting Victim Asisstance Coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska at (570) 862-7551 or Vicar General Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney at (570) 207-2269.

These efforts are the latest in a series of steps the Diocese of Scranton and the Church has taken to respond to the sin of sexual abuse.