Catholic News Agency

ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
  1. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- During the second day of the USCCB Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, divisions among the bishops bubbled briefly to the surface, with bishops exchanging sharp interventions on the “preeminence’ of abortion as a social concern.

     
    The exchanges highlighted simmering tensions among the bishops, which have less to do with the centrality of abortion to the Church’s political engagement, and more to do with bishops contending to appear closer to the pope than their colleagues.

    Cracks in the conference appeared as the bishops discussed amendments to a letter meant to accompany a series of videos aimed at helping Catholics engage with the American political process when Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago asked for a separate consideration of one of the amendments.
     
    The cardinal suggested the insertion of a long paragraph into the text which would contextualize the Church’s position on life issues, and especially the teaching of Pope Francis.
     
    The committee considering the amendments, led by the USCCB president-elect Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, agreed to include an abbreviated version of Cupich’s paragraph, including language insisting that the “firm and passionate” defense of the unborn should be matched with support for the “equally sacred” lives of the poor, inform, elderly, and marginalized.
     
    Cupich argued that his proposed wording was necessary, even if it was longer, in order properly to represent the full concerns of the pope.
     
    Speaking in support of Cupich, Bishop Robert McElroy told the assembly that he was specifically opposed to the letter’s retention of language calling abortion the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself.”
     
    McElroy told the conference this language was “discordant with the pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,” and implied that a failure to accept Cupich’s proposed language was tantamount to a breach with the Holy Father’s magisterium.
     
    “It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face as a world in Catholic social teaching. It is not.”
     
    McElroy’s intervention triggered murmurs on the conference floor, with several bishops visibly distressed.
     
    Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia responded to McElroy, saying that calling abortion the “preeminent priority” was not just correct but necessary, pointing out that in the current American political context it was the most pressing concern. Chaput went on firmly to reject McElroy’s implication that recognizing this reality was in any way a breach with the pope, or a failure to present or value his own magisterium.
     
    “I’m certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s full statement [as Cupich proposed],” Chaput said, “I think it’s a beautiful statement and I believe it.”
     
    “But I am against anyone saying that our stating that [abortion] is preeminent is contrary to the teaching of the pope, because that isn’t true. It sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father which isn’t true.”
     
    “I don’t like the argument Bishop McElroy used, because it isn’t true.”
     
    In a rare break with etiquette, the bishops in the hall broke into applause in support of Chaput.

    Pope Francis himself has repeatedly spoken out against abortion in the strongest possible terms, likening abortionists to “hitmen,” and comparing the practice to genocide “with white gloves.”
     
    McElroy’s pointed suggestion that the U.S. bishops are out of step, even resistant, to the pope’s own teaching comes one week after the publication of a book which accused the American bishops of resisting the pope’s leadership in their efforts to pass stricter measures for bishops’ accountability last year. That book, Wounded Shepherd, drew a strong response from the USCCB, which last week said it “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. bishops’ conference.”
     
    As the bishops of the United States have been at pains to emphasize their closeness to the pope, many in Rome have noted the rise of a narrative in which Americans are cast as totems of opposition to Francis.
     
    During a September trip to Africa, the pope casually remarked that “it is an honor that Americans are attacking me,” in response to a book which suggested that so-called conservative opposition to his teaching was organized by U.S. Catholics.
     
    In his address at the opening of the USCCB assembly on Monday, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. emphasized the importance of the pope’s priorities being reflected in American dioceses, and many U.S. bishops, including the USCCB leadership, are deeply sensitive to the impression that they are anything less than supportive of the pope and reject any suggestion of disloyalty. Many also saw McElroy’s intervention as harmful to the conference and even disingenuous.
     
    “He wants us to think that to disagree with him – or [Cardinal] Cupich – is to disagree with the pope. It’s not true, but it works to undermine the conference leadership,” another bishop told CNA immediately following the vote. “It doesn’t serve communion among us, or with the pope. It’s about personalities and power.”
     
    The final vote on the amendment declined to include Cupich’s longer text, with applause again breaking out when the result was announced, but several bishops approached CNA after the session concluded to express their concerns that the actual substance of the amendment had been obscured by McElroy’s pointed intervention.
     
    “I had no problem with either [Cupich’s] longer version or [Gomez’s] preferred formulation,” one bishop told CNA. “But Bishop McElroy suggesting that by calling abortion what it is in our society we are against the pope is absurd.”
     
    The bishop suggested to CNA that McElroy’s intervention “needlessly weaponized” the debate about the language of the letter.
     
    During a press conference after the morning session, several bishops sought to smooth over the exchange between McElroy and Chaput, insisting that there was no contradiction between the bishops holding abortion to be the “preeminent” concern for the conscience of Catholics and the teachings of Pope Francis.
     
    Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in 2016, said that “The short answer is that yes, abortion is the preeminent [concern] and the vote makes that obvious.”
     
    Asked about McElroy’s characterization of his view, and that of the conference, that calling abortion the preeminent concern was either opposed to or discordant with the pope’s teaching, the cardinal suggested the McElroy was perhaps trying to make a different point.
     
    “I think Bishop McElroy was warning against exclusive choices – either/or – or highlighting something to the point that other issues disappear. And I think, if I have understood his intention correctly, he was right.”
     
    It is likely that McElroy’s intervention will be raised behind closed doors, when the bishops will gavel themselves into executive session. Behind closed doors, efforts to insist that the conference speaks and thinks with one mind are unlikely to continue long.
     
    The increasingly serious challenge facing the large majority of U.S. bishops is how to deal with a small minority of their number who seem to be attempting to position themselves between the conference leadership and Rome, and appearing to drive a wedge between them and the pope at the same time.

  2. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 04:32 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference on Tuesday passed several action items, including an update of seminary formation and an effort to catalyze the evangelization of Hispanic Catholics in the U.S.

    Approval of the measures came as the bishops met for the second day of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, held from November 11-14.

    The bishops approved a new edition of the Program of Priestly Formation, as well as a new translation of the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults and a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

    The Program of Priestly Formation is the blueprint for the formation of seminarians in the U.S.; the sixth edition, which was approved on Tuesday, incorporated the Vatican’s 2016 document “The Gift of Priestly Vocation.”

    Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said in a presentation on Monday that the updated program provides flexibility for dioceses, provinces and regions to adapt to individual circumstances of seminarians.

    It focuses on benchmarks of priestly identity rather than “chronological time” in the advancement of a diocesan seminarian toward the priesthood, he said, by drawing from the concept of a “propaedeutic stage” of priestly formation that was called for in the 2016 Vatican document. This is a beginning stage with an emphasis on the study of philosophy, prayer, and discipleship.

    Bishop Felipe de Jesus Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, in floor discussions preceding the vote, said that in the last two years both he and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, had been working as part of a larger group on a “deepening” of understanding of priestly celibacy in seminary formation.

    This understanding of clerical celibacy, he said, is “based on an effective maturity” that is “both spousal and paternal.” Estevez said that he and Bishop Cozzens would be working to publish a book on this called “Spiritual Husbands, Spiritual Fathers.”

    The bishops approved the new edition of the priestly formation program by a vote of 226-4 with three bishops abstaining.

    Also on the agenda was a new, reportedly more user-friendly, translation of the Latin edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), under a more accurate title of “Order of Christian Initiation of Adults” (OCIA).

    The bishops first voted to approve a translation of the Latin edition of the rite, followed by a second vote on the book in its final form, to be sent to Rome for approval.

    A text for RCIA had been in use in the U.S. since 1988. The new translation was approved on Tuesday, by a vote of 217-3, with three abstaining.

    The bishops also voted on a new translation of Latin hymns for the Liturgy of the Hours.

    To provide a sample of the new hymns, a choir with members from The Catholic University of America and the Fellow of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) performed two of the new hymns for bishops at the fall meeting.

    The bishops voted to approve the translation 205-5, with two abstaining.

    The votes were followed by a discussion of the V Encuentro meeting of 2018, a national gathering of more than 3,000 Hispanic Catholic leaders in the U.S. The bishops discussed some of the results of the Encuentro as providing a blueprint for the future of the Church in the U.S., and how the conference needs to incorporate those results at the parish level.

    More than a year after the close of the V Encuentro, the bishops voted on Tuesday to start the process of incorporating the meeting’s conclusions and findings into its strategic plan for 2021-2024.

    Recently, a Pew Research report on religious identity in the U.S. found that Catholics no longer make up a majority among Hispanics. The percentage of Catholics among Hispanics fell by 10% over the last decade.

    Bishop Nelson Perez of Cleveland, Ohio, said a statement from the conference in response to the V Encuentro should emphasize leadership development among Hispanic Catholics, as well as vocations to the priesthood or religious life, successful models of ministry, and a vision of the Church as a defender of social justice and human dignity.

    Regarding the upcoming statement of the conference, Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, expressed his hope that the vision outlined in it would be “very practical” and not full of “platitudes and too generic.”

    Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont said that bishops should produce a pastoral plan of evangelization rather than a statement that would simply be a “large document that just disappears on a shelf.”

    Catholic education was a key topic for much of the discussion, as the cost of education was cited as a significant obstacle to the Church’s efforts to provide a nurturing environment for Hispanic Catholics at the parish level.

    Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston emphasized a push for tax credits and school vouchers for Catholic schools, as well as more youth centers, after-school programs and weekend programs for Hispanic Catholic children to involve families in local parish life.

  3. Melbourne, Australia, Nov 12, 2019 / 03:51 pm (CNA).- The Australian High Court announced Tuesday that Cardinal George Pell has been granted leave to appeal an August decision by the Court of Appeal in Victoria to uphold his conviction for child sexual abuse.

    Pell’s appeal to the High Court in Canberra, Australia’s supreme court, was his last legal avenue to overturn a conviction which has divided opinion in the country and internationally.

    The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choir boys after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

    He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

    The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned. He has been held in solitary confinement and has not been permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

    Pell was convicted of exposing himself and forcing two choir boys to commit sex acts while fully vested in his Sunday Mass garb, almost immediately after Mass in the priests’ sacristy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. Pell was at that time Archbishop of Melbourne. He was also convicted of fondling one of the boys in a corridor in 1997.

    The prosecution rested on the testimony of one of the alleged victims— the one reported to have suffered two instances of abuse by Pell. The other victim died in 2014 and was unable to testify, but in 2001 had denied to his mother that any abuse occurred while he was a member of the choir.

    Pell has maintained his innocence, with his defense making central the argument that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, “simply impossible.”

    The cardinal’s defenders have contended that the sacristy abuse allegations are not possible given the high traffic after Mass and the obstructing nature of the Mass vestments.

    Pell had appealed to the Court of Appeal in Victoria. Three judges considered his case and dismissed his procedural appeal. The judges were divided on Pell’s primary ground of appeal, that the decision of the jury was “unreasonable.”

    At particular issue was the question of whether the jury which convicted Pell had properly weighed all of the evidence presented in his defense, or reached the determination of guilt despite the demonstration of clear “reasonable doubt” that he committed the crimes with which he was charged.

    Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court President Chris Maxwell formed the majority in favor of rejecting Pell’s appeal that the jury verdict was unreasonable on the evidence presented, finding that it was open to the jury to find beyond “reasonable doubt about the truth of the complainant's account.”

    In an extensive dissent from the majority finding, Justice Mark Weinberg noted that the entirety of the evidence against Pell consisted of the testimony of a single accuser, whereas more than 20 witnesses were produced to testify against his narrative.

    “Even the ‘reasonable possibility’ that what the witnesses who testified to these matters may have been true must inevitably have led to an acquittal,” Weinberg wrote, concluding that Pell had, in effect, been improperly asked to establish the “impossibility” of his guilt and not merely reasonable doubt.

    All three judges granted further leave to appeal on the ground of the unreasonableness of the jury’s conviction.

    Media commentators and members of the Australian legal community have voiced concerns about the reasoning of the two-judge majority opinion and the wider implications its argumentation could have for standards of evidence in criminal trials.

    Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni responded to the Court of Appeal decision by saying that “the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal,” while reiterating its “respect for the Australian judicial system.”

    “As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court,” Bruni said at the time.
     

  4. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 03:01 pm (CNA).- The Latin rite bishops of the US voted overwhelmingly Tuesday morning to approve the International Commission on English in the Liturgy gray book translation of the hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours.

    The Nov. 12 vote was 204 in favor, and five against.

    Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted that "the translation of the Latin hymnody in the editio typica of the Liturgy of the Hours is a tremendous contribution to the liturgical heritage. The theological insight and aesthetic of the Latin hymns will have an English voice into the future; a work of theological transmission."

    Before the vote, the Fall General Assembly was treated to a concert performance in which the hymn translations were sung for the bishops.

    The choir, which was directed by Adam Bartlett of Denver, consisted of Fellowship of Catholic University Students missionaries who live in the Baltimore area, as well as music students from the Catholic University of America. The choir sang the opening verse of the hymns, and were then joined by the bishops.

    Bartlett told CNA that the choir had only just met up and rehearsed Tuesday morning before performing before the bishops. He knew some of the singers through his work with FOCUS, and he has directed the choir that performed at the organization’s national conference for the past four years.

    Before ICEL did this translation, the vast majority the hymns that were printed in the English edition of the Liturgy of the Hours were translations of those found in the editio typica.

    "What's unique about this translation is that the hymns of the Latin typical edition are actually being translated, which didn't happen the first time around,” said Bartlett.

    “So we have hymns from St. Ambrose, Gregory the Great, you know, all of the great hymn writers … that are being translated and also paired with chant tunes that come from our rich tradition. In addition, of course, to modern melodies that they can be sung with,” he added. He said these translations created “great utility” as they could be sung with different tunes.

    Bartlett said he found the updated hymns to be “absolutely gorgeous” and “so rich with theological imagery.” He thinks that these hymns are going to “make a really remarkable contribution to the musical life of the Church.”

    “These are our hymns as Catholics,” he said. “These are the ones that come from the liturgy itself, and are put in the place where they ought to be sung, which is the Liturgy of the Hours. But I think that's probably going to have an impact on the hymns that we sing at Mass as well."

    Valeria Lamarra, a chorister who sang on Tuesday, got involved with the ICEL hymn project through her school’s campus ministry. She had never met anyone she performed with before Tuesday morning.

    “We had half an hour to practice, before getting up in front of 200 bishops,” said Lamarra. “It feels like a huge victory that the changes passed.”

  5. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 02:38 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the US bishop' committee on evangelization on Monday outlining five paths Church leaders should take to re-energize the religiously unaffiliated.

    Barron’s Nov. 11 presentation was on the opening day of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly, held in Baltimore. His presentation opened with a trailer for a new video that fully expands on how better to reach the religiously unaffiliated.

    To better engage people who are not affiliated with any religion or who may be fallen-away Catholics, Barron said that the transcendentals – truth, goodness, and beauty – must be communicated to young people in order to pique their interest in religion. Barron presented five strategies and techniques that can be deployed in order to communicate these concepts to young people and the religiously unaffiliated.

    These strategies highlight the Church’s teachings on justice, her beauty, her intellectualism, her missionary mission, as well as encouraging “creative use of the new media.”

    Young people, said Barron, do not respond well to some of Catholicism’s teachings – particularly those on sex. What they do seem to appreciate, however, is the Church’s teachings on social justice. Barron suggested that it could be effective to lead with the Church’s teachings on social justice, referring to this as the “path of justice.”

    “We have a very powerful tradition around doing the works of justice. And young people like that. They get it,” said Barron. He cited figures such as Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and St. Teresa of Calcutta as figures who have lived out Church teachings of social justice who should be held up as examples to the young people of today.

    “We know this tradition. We should propagate it,” he said.

    Barron said it was important to flex the beauty of the Church to young people, in what he called “Via Pulchritudinis,” or “The Way of Beauty.”

    This beauty, said Barron, extends to more than just physical church buildings. There must also be beauty present in liturgies, as well as in things such as websites – where young people may first encounter their local parish. Barron stressed the importance of having a parish having a solid online presence, as well as engaging Catholic artists and writers and promoting their work.

    “Beauty,” said Barron “is a great path to follow.”

    Shifting gears to what he called the “intellectual path,” Barron was critical in how he believes the faith was currently being pitched to young people.

    “We have to stop dumbing down the faith,” he said. He said there has been two generations of a “pastoral disaster” of bad formation, where key tenets of the faith were not effectively taught to young people.

    This failure, said Barron, has led to people being unable to properly answer the tough questions that may be asked. When these questions go unanswered, said Barron, people may abandon faith altogether.

    Despite what Barron called a “smart tradition” of Catholicism, he said it has not been properly articulated to young people through catechesis. He stressed the need for Catholic schools to better prepare their students so they are fully equipped to enter the next stage of life being able to properly defend the faith and answer those tough questions.

    Next, Barron detailed his belief that it would be beneficial to “turn every parish into a missionary society,” to seek to better evangelize with young people and the religiously unaffiliated.

    Barron said there must be “a dialogue with our priests and our people” regarding evangelization. He called for a change in mindset, and said that all parishes should be reaching out to the community with evangelization and mission work in mind. Parishes should “knock down the walls,” said Barron, and interact with the surrounding area.

    “The young people aren’t going to come to us,” said Barron. “We have to go out to them.”

    To properly execute these various techniques and strategies, Barron said priests, bishops, and parishes must embrace a “creative use of new media,” namely, social media platforms such as Reddit, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

    Social media is the “prime tool” to reach the young people, said Barron. He noted that young people are easily reached through social media, which are platforms that did not exist even a decade ago. The Church needs to embrace social media, which are platforms that can easily and simply reach large amounts of people, in order to reach into the world of young people, said Barron.

    “It’s a tool that we can and should use to reach out to this world,” said Barron. He said that social media has a “sticky” quality about it that can draw in a user to continue to consume content. He cited an example of someone who came to embrace Catholicism after finding Barron’s videos regarding Bob Dylan and religion, which led to the person watching more and more videos on the Church.

    The Church, said Barron, must invest in this, as well as hire “really good people” to work on social media.

    After all, said the bishop, “young people live” online, and they must be reached where they can be found.

    “Now we want to get them to parishes,” he said, “but as a first step, I think that’s one way to do it.”

  6. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- The U.S. Catholic bishops approved a letter to supplement their voting document on Tuesday—but not without controversy during debate on the “preeminent priority” of abortion.

    During discussion at the bishops’ annual fall meeting in Baltimore on a letter to accompany the bishops’ document on voting, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the bishops considered whether to include an entire paragraph from Pope Francis’ 2018 apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et Exsultate.

    Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego said that paragraph should be included to make clear that Pope Francis prioritizes other issues at the same level as abortion.

    The U.S. bishops’ inclusion of the word “preeminent” before mention of abortion in another part of the letter, he said, “is a statement that I believe is at least discordant with the Pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,” and one that “will be used to, in fact, undermine the point Pope Francis is making.”

    “It is not Catholic teaching that abortion is the preeminent issue that we face in the world of Catholic social teaching. It is not,” McElroy said, adding that to teach otherwise would provide “a grave disservice” to the faithful.

    After McElroy spoke, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas said, “I absolutely think ‘preeminent’ needs to stay.”

    Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia rose to say that he did not oppose the inclusion of the full statement of Pope Francis, but added that teaching that abortion is a “preeminent” issue is not contrary to the magisterium of Pope Francis.

    “I am certainly not against quoting the Holy Father’s full statement, I think it’s a beautiful statement, I believe it,” he said.

    “But I am against anyone stating that our stating it [abortion] is ‘preeminent’ is contrary to the teaching of the pope. That isn’t true. That sets up an artificial battle between the bishops’ conference of the United States and the Holy Father, which isn’t true,” Chaput said.

    “I think it’s been a very clearly articulated opinion of the bishops’ conference for many years that pro-life is still the pre-eminent issue. It doesn’t mean the others aren’t equal in dignity,” he said.

    Many bishops in the audience applauded after Chaput finished his statement.

    The U.S. bishops on Tuesday met for the second day of their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, held from November 11-14. The meeting agenda included the elections of a new conference president and vice president and six committee chairs.

    On Tuesday morning, the bishops elected standing vice president Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as the conference’s first Hispanic president. Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit was elected as the vice president on the third ballot.

    Later on Tuesday, the bishops voted to approve both a script for a short video on their voting document “Faithful Citizenship,” as well as a short letter to accompany the document, amendments to which were considered by the U.S. bishops’ Working Group on “Forming Consciences on Faithful Citizenship.”

    Cardinal Blase Cupich had proposed an amendment to add the whole paragraph 101 from “Gaudete et Exsultate” into the letter.

    The amendment had been accepted by the working committee with the changes that some, but not all, of the language of the paragraph would be included.

    The reason the entire paragraph was not included was the need for brevity in the letter, Archbishop Gomez—the incoming president of the conference—later said, in the discussions on the language.

    A footnote to the exhortation was included to draw attention to the Holy Father’s message, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco later said.

    While the original discussion centered upon the inclusion of Cupich’s amendment, it triggered a debate over the inclusion of the word “preeminent” in mentioning abortion among other issues. Archbishop Joseph Naumann, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee, had successfully included an amendment inserting the word “preeminent” before the mention of the abortion in the letter, to recognize its special gravity when considered with other issues voters are considering.

    Cupich said that Pope Francis, in his exhortation on holiness, “makes sure that we do not make one issue that a political party or a group puts forward to the point where we’re going to ignore all the rest.”

    The pope’s warning against the coexistence of consumerism with poverty, for instance, was not included in the voting letter, Cupich said, and the entire paragraph should be included for that reason.

    Bishop Frank Dewane, who led the working group on “Faithful Citizenship,” proposed a compromise to include more language recognizing those issues Pope Francis mentioned in his exhortation, but Cupich said that he wanted the entire paragraph included.

    “This is the magisterial teaching of Pope Francis put in a very succinct way, and I think we can all benefit from it as we speak to our people about the issues,” Cupich said.

    Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego then made his intervention, with Strickland and Chaput responding.

    The bishops then voted to keep the letter as is—without Cupich’s amendment to insert the entire paragraph into the text—with 143 members of the conference in support. Sixty-nine members voted in favor of Cupich’s motion, with four abstentions.

    After that vote, the bishops voted on the final text of the letter, with 207 conference members voting in favor, 24 voting against, and five abstaining.

  7. Qamishli, Syria, Nov 12, 2019 / 12:59 pm (CNA).- The Islamic State (ISIS) militant group on Monday claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Armenian Catholic priest and his father in northeastern Syria.

    Father Hovsep Bedoyan was the head of the Armenian Catholic community in the the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli, near the border with Turkey.

    He and his father, Abraham Bedoyan, were traveling south to the province of Deir Al-Zor when unidentified gunmen ambushed their vehicle Nov. 11, Vatican News reported.

    Fati Sano, a deacon from the region, was also in the car, and was badly wounded and reported to be in critical condition.

    The priest and his father were traveling to Deir ez-Zor to inspect an Armenian Catholic Church which had suffered damage in the Syrian civil war, according to International Christian Concern (ICC).

    Pope Francis said Tuesday he was praying for the priest, his father and his relatives. Father Bedoyan, a married priest, reportedly is survived by a wife and children.

    Dozens of mourners attended the funeral today in Qamishli for the victims.

    The area that the victims were traveling from is largely controlled by Kurdish forces, against whom Turkey launched an incursion last month after the US decision to move troops from the area.

    The same day as the shooting, two bombings in Qamishli, one of them close to a Chaldean Catholic church, reportedly killed at least five people and wounded 26 others.

    ISIS was declared officially declared militarily defeated in Syria this past March, ICC reports. President Donald Trump announced in October the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.

    Kurdish leaders have warned of the threat Islamic State sleeper cells still pose in the area and warn that the Turkish offensive at the border would allow a jihadist resurgence in the area, Reuters reports. At least 1,000 ISIS supporters have escaped from detention during the conflict so far, according to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

    Bishops in Syria and Iraq have called for worldwide prayer as the fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces further destabilizes northern Syria. Aid groups working in northeastern Syria are pulling out of the area, saying that it is becoming too dangerous.

    The Armenian Catholic Church is a church sui iuris and in full communion with Rome, and constitutes approximately 600,000 members.

  8. Baghdad, Iraq, Nov 12, 2019 / 10:50 am (CNA).- The Chaldean patriarch has called for three days of fasting and prayer “for an end to the chaos and violence that are bloodying” Iraq.

    For more than six weeks, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been protesting government corruption. More than 300 have been killed by security forces.

    Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, the Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, has asked that Chaldeans observe Nov. 11-13 as days of fasting and prayer.

    The protests, which began Oct. 1, are largely in response to government corruption and a lack of economic growth and proper public services. Protesters are calling for electoral reform and for early elections.

    At least 319 people have been killed in the protests. Government forces have used tear gas and bullets against protesters.

    Nearly 15,000 people have been injured in the protests, according to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq.

    “These young people went out to the streets demanding their rights because they found themselves heading to ‘no through road’, expressing their pain. Where there is a shortage in services, in electricity and water etc. The same thing applies to health and educational institutions, streets, and employability,” Sako said at an ecumenical prayer for peace in Baghdad Nov. 5, according to AsiaNews.

    "What we need is a careful understanding of Iraq after the 2003 US invasion,” Sako told AsiaNews Nov. 11.

    The cardinal said that the protests are “a spontaneous reaction” to the sufferings of past years. He added that the Iraqi government will need to “win the trust” of young people and be open to economic reform.

    Pope Francis prayed for the people of Iraq following the deaths and injuries of many protesters, and called upon the Iraqi authorities “to listen to the cry of the population that asks for a dignified and peaceful life.”

    “I urge all Iraqis, with the support of the international community, to pursue the path of dialogue and reconciliation and to seek the right solutions to the challenges and problems of the country,” Pope Francis said Oct. 31.

    Christians in northern Iraq have been rebuilding their homes and churches following the Islamic State genocide that devasted their communities.

    “My thoughts turn to beloved Iraq … I pray that those battered people will find peace and stability after so many years of war and violence, where they have suffered so much,” Pope Francis said Oct. 31.

  9. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 09:50 am (CNA).- Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) elected six new chairmen on Nov. 12 at their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore. The Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services was also elected.

    Bishop George Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, Ohio was elected chairman of the Committee on Religious Liberty after a tied vote against Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami. Per USCCB bylaws, in the event of a tie, the position goes to the older bishop. At nearly 71, Murry is nearly two years older than Wenski, who recently turned 69. Murry was thus declared the victor.

    Unlike the other five chairs, Murry will immediately take the helm of the committee, as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville had resigned from the position in July due to illness.

    On Nov. 11, the first day of the assembly, Kurtz underwent surgery for bladder cancer. The following day, immediately before the elections, outgoing USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo informed the bishops that he had spoken to Kurtz and that he was out of surgery.

    Prior to the election for the chairman of the religious liberty committee, the bishops agreed by a voice vote to limit the term of the incoming chairman to just one year, to finish Kurtz’s original term. This was done to avoid an imbalance of committee elections.

    Murry is eligible to be elected to a full three-year term at next year’s Fall General Assembly.

    Five other committees elected a new leader, who will assume the role of chairman at next year’s Fall General Assembly. Until then, they will be known as the chairman-elect of the committee.

    Bishop James Johnston, Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young people, with a vote of 167 to 77. He defeated Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

    Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Canonical Affairs, defeating Bishop Mark Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown by a vote of 144 to 97.

    Next, Bishop David Talley of Memphis was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Ecumenism, besting Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter by a vote of 123 to 114.

    Bishop Andrew Cozzens, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis. He defeated Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane by a vote of 151 to 88.

    Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, Ill., was elected as chairman-elect of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, garnering 140 votes to Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento’s 101.

    Following the election of USCCB committee leadership, three members of the Board of Directors for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) were elected from a slate of seven candidates. Bishop Gregory Mansour, a Maronite bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and outgoing chairman of the CRS, told the bishops that the board of directors should be diverse in both makeup and episcopal location of clergy.

    Bishops who serve on the CRS board are requested to be open to traveling to countries served by CRS programs, said Mansour, and to develop relationships with clergy overseas.

    Bishops Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, and Anthony B. Taylor of Little Rock received the most votes and were elected to the board of directors.

     

  10. Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2019 / 09:13 am (CNA).- The bishops of the US have elected a new president and vice president to lead the USCCB for the next three years. On Tuesday morning, the second day of their fall general session, the bishops elected Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles as president and Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit as vice president of the conference.
     
    As the votes were cast Nov. 12, Archbishop Gomez was serving as the USCCB vice president, and the bishops customarily elected the vice president to the presidency. From a slate of 10 candidates, Gomez was elected with 176 votes, more than double the number of the second-place candidate.
     
    If Gomez’s election was a formality, the election of the vice president was more evenly contested. The bishops needed three rounds of voting to winnow down the nine remaining candidates.
     
    Archbishop Vigneron led after the first ballot, with 77 votes but short of a majority. On the second round, that number rose to 106, with Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services the next placed candidate with 52 votes. The two archbishops were put forward in a run-off third ballot, in which Vigneron was elected, winning 151 out of 241 votes cast.
     
    Gomez, 67, born in Monterrey, Mexico, and ordained a priest of Opus Dei in Spain, is the first Latino to lead the bishops’ conference. He is also the first immigrant at the conference helm.
     
    Vigneron, a Michigan native, has led the Detroit archdiocese since 2009. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese in 1975 and made an auxiliary bishop for Detroit in 1996. In 2003 he was named co-adjutor and later ordinary of the Diocese of Oakland.
     
    Vigneron is widely considered to have provided steady leadership in Detroit during the recent sexual abuse crisis, even as the dioceses of the state face an ongoing Attorney General investigation. In April, he gave a speech in which he explained the importance of lay collaboration in the ministry of bishops as they govern their dioceses.
     
    “In order to act well, I recognize that I am in need of what I might call ‘co-agents’--others who help me by thinking and acting along with me,” he said during a speech at the Catholic University of America.
     
    "All the laity can continue to be engaged at the spiritual level, to realize that if there's going to be change in the Church, part of it has to be that we all pray for that to happen,” he said.
    “The other thing is to continue to hold the pastors accountable, to urge us to do what we need to do to advance the purification of the Church and to support us as we're engaged in those challenges."
    Seen as a moderate conservative, earlier this year he announced that archdiocesan sporting events and leagues would no longer play on Sundays to help encourage families to observe the day of rest.
     
    Vigneron had been serving as the bishops’ conference secretary, and was elected to the vice presidency from a crowded field of candidates. Despite the long list of names on the ballot, the election was marked by the absence of any notably theologically progressive candidates.
     
    One of the more thorny issues facing the newly elected leadership team will be how to deal with bishops, both active and retired, who face accusations of either negligence or abuse of office.
     
    In June, the conference adopted a set of protocols on how diocesan bishops could limit the ministry of their retired or removed predecessors in the event that allegations came to light. Among those provisions was the option to “disinvite” emeritus bishops from attending future USCCB meetings.
     
    Shortly before the November meeting, Bishop Mark Brennan of Wheeling-Charleston wrote to the outgoing conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, asking him to disinvite former Wheeling Bishop Michael Bransfield, who faces numerous allegations of misconduct, both financial and sexual.
     
    During a Nov. 11 press conference, CNA asked Cardinal DiNardo if similar requests to bar retired bishops from attending conference meetings would be made public.
     
    “Bishop Bransfield was the first [such case] that we had, and I did a consultation with the administrative board,” DiNardo told CNA. “Not a vote taking, but a good consultation, but [the president] is the one who makes the decision.”
     
    With investigations open in several dioceses, including into serving diocesan bishops in the dioceses of Crookston and Buffalo, Archbishop Gomez is likely to face several similarly sensitive decisions in the coming year.
     
    Gomez and Vigneron also take the helm of the conference ahead of the release of the Vatican’s widely anticipated report on former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. On Monday, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston updated the conference on the Vatican Secretariat of State’s progress on the investigation into McCarrick’s career rise through ecclesiastical ranks despite decades of alleged abuse.
     
    O’Malley told the U.S. bishops that the Vatican process had uncovered “a much larger corpus of information than had been expected,” and that this had delayed the publication of a report.
     
    A draft was now complete, O’Malley said, and was in the process of being translated and would be presented to Pope Francis in the near future. “The intention is to publish the Holy See’s response soon, if not before Christmas, soon in the New Year,” O’Malley said.
     
    How that report is presented to and received by the faithful in the United States will likely be the most important part of the first year of the Gomez-Vigneron leadership.