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Nuns welcome opponents of gas pipeline to pray at ‘chapel’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON —As chapels go, the simple structure on property owned by the Adorers of the Blood of Christ congregation in Columbia, Pa., is not much.

It’s more of an arbor, really: four posts and several cross boards built near a cornfield on farmland the sisters lease. Several pew-like benches are arranged around it.

People sit at an outdoor chapel on the property of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Columbia, Pa,. in early July. The chapel was built by Lancaster Against Pipelines in cooperation with the congregation as a symbol to block the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline, which opponents say would desecrate God's creation. (CNS photo/Mark Clatterbuck, courtesy Lancaster Against Pipeline)

People sit at an outdoor chapel on the property of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in Columbia, Pa,. in early July. The chapel was built by Lancaster Against Pipelines in cooperation with the congregation as a symbol to block the Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline, which opponents say would desecrate God’s creation. (CNS photo/Mark Clatterbuck, courtesy Lancaster Against Pipeline)

Still, said the sisters, it stands as a symbol of resistance by people of faith to a planned natural gas pipeline called Atlantic Sunrise that developers want to build through miles of farmland and small towns of picturesque Lancaster County.

The pipeline’s path takes it through a strip of land the congregation owns in the Harrisburg diocese that includes farmland and the sisters contend that construction poses a danger to God’s creation. They have declined repeated offers of compensation from Transco, the project’s developer, to allow an easement for it to be built.

“This is something that we felt as a matter of conscience,” said Sister Sara Dwyer, coordinator of the congregation’s justice, peace and integrity of creation ministry. “We had to look at it more deeply and take a stronger stand.”

Allowing the pipeline through the property would run contrary to the congregation’s Land Ethic, she explained. Adopted in 2005, the document upholds the sacredness of creation, reverences the earth as a “sanctuary where all life is protected” and treasures the earth’s beauty and sustenance that must be protected for future generations.

Further backing its claim, the congregation filed a civil rights lawsuit July 14 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania challenging the pipeline. The complaint argues that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Feb. 3 order authorizing construction and operation of the pipeline violates the sisters’ right to practice their faith under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

“FERC’s decision to force the Adorers to use land they own to accommodate a fossil fuel pipeline is antithetical to the deeply help religious beliefs and convictions of the Adorers. It places a substantial burden on the Adorers’ exercise of religion by taking land owned by the Adorers that they seek to protect and preserve as part of their faith and, instead, using it in a manner and for a purpose that actually places the earth at serious risk,” the complaint reads in part.

Attorneys for the sisters argue in the filing that allowing the pipeline through the property “would harm God’s creation, violate the sacred nature of their property and interfere with their right to freely exercise and practice their religious beliefs in the use of their own land.”

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s action and have the pipeline rerouted from the Adorers’ 24-acre plot eyed by Transco.

The Adorers’ stance has inspired others who have opposed the entire 183-mile pipeline since it was proposed three years ago by Transco, which is owned by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based pipeline company Williams. The pipeline will carry natural gas from hydraulic fracturing wells in northeastern Pennsylvania to existing pipelines that run 10,200 miles from New York to Texas.

Sister Sara said on July 12 the congregation was pleased to allow construction of the chapel after it was proposed earlier this year by Lancaster Against Pipelines, a community group working to stop the project.

The chapel was dedicated July 9 with about 300 people attending. People prayed for guidance in their effort to oppose the project, listened to the Land Ethic being read, and heard from a group of Sisters of Loretto from Kentucky, who joined religious and community groups in a 2013 campaign to oppose another pipeline project by Williams in the state. Williams pulled out of the venture in 2014 citing market forces.

Mark Clatterbuck, Lancaster Against Pipelines co-founder, said the Adorers have inspired the effort to stop the pipeline.

“Having the sisters publicly involved reinforced the moral and religious anchor that has guided this movement,” he said.

“Lancaster Against Pipelines has never been a religious organization,” Clatterbuck added, “but for a lot of the leadership and core folks doing the work, it’s always been a spiritual and religious battle for us. This is care of creation, stewardship of the earth.”

News of the chapel caught the company’s attention, said Chris Stockton, a Williams spokesman. Company lawyers filed an emergency motion in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to take immediate control of the land through eminent domain, which allows the government to appropriate land for the public good.

A federal judge, however, denied the emergency request July 7. The judge said that although the project had been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an already-scheduled court hearing set for July 17 in cases filed against all landowners who have turned down Transco’s monetary offers for easements would be the appropriate venue to hear arguments.

Stockton said the company was concerned that the chapel was going to be a more involved “permanent structure” and it responded to head off any effort that would delay pipeline construction, which is set to begin this fall.

He said the easement being sought from the Adorers involves about an acre.

“The reality also is (the property) is a cornfield and farmed by a tenant farmer. Once (the pipeline is) constructed, it can still be farmed and still be utilized for the same purpose if they want to put the arbor up again. Or they can put it up in any other location,” Stockton said.

Taking such a public stance is new to the Adorers, said Sister Janet McCann, a member of the congregation’s leadership team in St. Louis. She offered a reflection at the chapel dedication. She said if energy companies wanted to invest in sustainable or renewable energy projects on their property, the order would listen.

“We want the energy companies to invest all this time and money and resources into finding sustainable energy sources,” she said. “That’s how this is going to happen. The system has got to change. That’s why we’re standing up to this.

“And we are extremely encouraged by the amount of support we’re getting from all sorts of people, from all sorts of faith tradition and people from no faith tradition who have a love for the earth.”

Lancaster Against Pipelines planned a picnic and prayer service at the chapel July 14 in advance of the court hearing. Some of the Adorers planned to be there.

The sisters realize the courts could clear the way for construction, which would force the chapel to be removed.

“From a congregational point of view,” Sister Sara said, “we’re just taking it one step at a time and seeing what happens next.”

 

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ’s Land Ethic can be read in full at http://adorers.org/asc-land-ethic.

 

 

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House committee approves measure to repeal D.C. assisted suicide law

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The House Appropriations Committee voted July 13 in favor of an amendment to repeal the District of Columbia’s assisted suicide law. The measure still faces a vote by the full House and Senate before being sent to President Trump.

The day before the vote, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan sent a letter to members of the committee urging them to “nullify the D.C. City Council’s deceptively named ‘Death with Dignity Act’ that legalizes the dangerous and unethical practice of doctor-assisted suicide.”

he House Appropriations Committee voted July 13 in favor of an amendment to repeal the District of Columbia's assisted suicide law. (CNS photo/Lawrence Looi, EPA)

The House Appropriations Committee voted July 13 in favor of an amendment to repeal the District of Columbia’s assisted suicide law. (CNS photo/Lawrence Looi, EPA)

The amendment to the fiscal year 2018 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill looks to repeal the assisted suicide law, which went into effect this past February. It was introduced by Rep. Andy Harris, R-Maryland, who told the committee there is “nothing dignified about suicide” in his opinion.

Harris represents the First District of Maryland, which includes the entire Eastern Shore.

Harris also called the act “bad policy” and said that “physicians were playing God” by prescribing lethal medications to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives.

The legislation permits physicians in the District of Columbia to legally prescribe lethal drugs to patients who have been deemed mentally competent and who have received a terminal diagnosis of six months or less.

In his July 12 letter to House Appropriations Committee members, Cardinal Dolan said the law was “seriously flawed” and said it “poses the greatest risks of abuse and coercion to those who are poor, elderly, disabled, members of a minority group, or without access to good medical care.”

The cardinal, who is chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also told committee members that the law could cause the deaths of many people who are not terminally ill and it also “reflects a bias against persons with disabilities and serious illness.”

He went on to say the legislation “undermines the very heart of medicine. Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the ultimate abandonment of their patients. Seriously ill patients, who are often depressed, need our authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain management as they enter their final days.”

The National Right to Life Committee similarly sent a July 12 letter urging House committee members to vote for the amendment to repeal the assisted-suicide measure.

In a statement, the group said the pro-life movement is as “concerned with protecting the lives of older people and people with disabilities as it has been dedicated to protecting unborn children from abortion.”

J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Actions Funds, praised the committee’s vote to repeal the assisted -suicide measure, saying: “We welcome any efforts at the congressional level to halt assisted suicide policy which will only put vulnerable D.C. residents — the terminally ill, the disabled and the poor — at risk.”

The D.C. Catholic Conference, which represents the public policy interests of the Catholic Church in the District of Columbia, joined a broad-based coalition of other groups in opposing the assisted-suicide measure when it came up for a vote.

After the City Council approved it, the Catholic conference issued a statement saying the bill “imperils residents particularly those who are sick, elderly, disabled, and uninsured in our communities. It allows for coercion and abuse including third-parties administering the lethal drugs to patients who may or may not be incapacitated and or even requesting assisted suicide.”

The District is the nation’s seventh jurisdiction to allow doctors to assist the terminally ill to kill themselves. Six states — Vermont, Oregon, Washington state, Montana, California and Colorado — also have legalized allowed assisted suicide.

Similar physician-assisted suicide laws have been introduced and have failed in 22 states.

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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U.S. bishops’ committee chair sees little improvement in Senate’s revised health bill

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Republicans’ latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is “unacceptable” and shows little improvement over the lawmakers’ first attempt to reform the federal health care law, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

“On an initial read, we do not see enough improvement to change our assessment that the proposal is unacceptable,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington. The Senate Republicans’ latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is “unacceptable” and shows little improvement over the lawmakers’ first attempt to reform the federal health care law, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

The U.S. Capitol in Washington. The Senate Republicans’ latest effort to overhaul the Affordable Care Act is “unacceptable” and shows little improvement over the lawmakers’ first attempt to reform the federal health care law, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“We recognize the incremental improvement in funding the fight against opioid addiction, for instance, but more is needed to honor our moral obligation to our brothers and sisters living in poverty and to ensure that essential protections for the unborn remain in the bill,” he said July 13.

Bishop Dewane said the USCCB “is reviewing carefully the health care bill introduced by Senate leadership earlier today.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, introduced the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. The measure needs 50 votes to pass.

In his July 13 statement, Bishop Dewane referred back to his June 27 letter to senators that said any health care reform bill must uphold several moral principles: affordability; access for all; respect for life; and protection of conscience rights. The bishops also have stressed the need for U.S. health care policy “to improve real access” to health care for immigrants.

The U.S. Senate must reject any health care reform bill that will “fundamentally alter the social safety net for millions of people,” he said in the June letter. “Removing vital coverage for those most in need is not the answer to our nation’s health care problems, and doing so will not help us build toward the common good.”

Bishop Dewane also said in that letter the U.S. bishops valued the language in the earlier Senate bill that recognizes “abortion is not health care,” and that it at least partially succeeded on conscience rights. But he said it had to be strengthened to fully apply “the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

The June 27 letter reiterated points the U.S. bishops made in reaction to a June 22 draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Bishop Dewane had warned that the bill’s “restructuring of Medicaid will adversely impact those already in deep health poverty. At a time when tax cuts that would seem to benefit the wealthy and increases in other areas of federal spending, such as defense, are being contemplated, placing a ‘per capita cap’ on medical coverage for the poor is unconscionable.”

The revised GOP bill introduced July 13 retains big cuts in Medicaid funding and in subsidies for low- and moderate-income people. It also scales back the federal portion that covers the cost of Medicaid, leaving states to pay more and find new funding and/or reduce benefits and limit who can enroll in the program.

The measure provides for $45 billion in grants to help states combat abuse of opioids and other drugs; the first version allowed $2 billion. It also would let people use money from their tax-exempt health savings accounts to pay for insurance premiums.

In addition, people would be allowed to buy just a catastrophic health insurance policy to cover serious accidents and diseases, like cancer. Insurance companies also would be allowed to sell policies that do not include all the coverage mandated by the ACA, such as preventive care and mental and substance abuse treatment, as long as they sell one policy that includes those requirements.

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Archbishop asks prayers for 16 killed in Marine plane crash

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WASHINGTON — Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services asked for prayers for the 15 Marines and one Navy corpsman who died July 10 when a Marine refueling and cargo plane crashed in a soybean field in rural Mississippi near the town of Itta Bena.

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services speaks Nov. 16 during the opening of the 2015 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services . (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“I express my heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this terrible accident. My heart also goes out to their colleagues and others who worked with them. They also suffer the loss and ask questions,” Archbishop Broglio said in a July 11 statement. “I ask the faithful to join me in prayer for the repose of those who died and the consolation of their families.”

He added, “Tragically, this is the second multi-fatal accident involving the Armed Forces in less than a month, coming so soon after the USS Fitzgerald collision with a cargo ship off the coast of Japan on June 17. Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to defend our great nation and the freedoms we cherish. We should keep them in our prayers always, and never take their sacrifice for granted.”

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant used Twitter July 11 to warn people not to remove debris from the area where the Marine Corps KC-130 crashed. Law enforcement authorities had received reports that items were being taken from the site, with debris scattered for miles.

The Marines said July 11 the air tanker was based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York, and headed to California. Seven of the dead were special operations forces based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where the plane had stopped en route to California.

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Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — United by the words of the prophet of social justice, Catholic Church leaders urged black Catholics to become active, just disciples of Christ.

More than 2,000 converged on Orlando July 6-9 for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress where speakers — clergy, lay and religious — addressed a variety of topics and concerns facing black communities and families, while urging those present to take an active, enthusiastic role in living out the Gospel as just disciples of Christ.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

During his homily at the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Father Patrick Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, spoke about the “ridiculous power of the Christ on the cross” and how our own suffering can be offered up to God as a source of healing for others.

It is important the community does talk about its struggles, the priest said, but it also must talk about the redemptive power of God on the cross. He added while “racism ultimately leads to death … a spiritual suicide in our souls,” the truths of the Gospel sets lives free.

“That is our anger, but also our source of hope,” he said. “You and I cannot appreciate the good news unless we first face and acknowledge the bad news.”

The roots of the Black Catholic Congress stem from 1889 with layman and journalist Daniel Rudd, who brought together 100 black Catholic men to exchange and discuss questions affecting their race for not just Catholic blacks, but blacks across the country, and unite for a course of action while standing behind the Catholic Church and its values.

The group met with President Grover Cleveland during its first congress. In meeting and uniting, Father Smith said the Catholic Church demonstrated and voiced how “black Catholic lives mattered,” just as other groups have done as they convened when a group has suffered, such as with the pro-life groups who proclaim unborn lives matter.

“Black Catholics are born from the same womb of the baptismal font,” Father Smith said, adding that those gathered for the congress did not convene to achieve higher status, but rather to insist on “inclusion” because black Catholics are equal members of the body of Christ.

“And also, more importantly, (we gather) to extort and challenge ourselves to do our part and accept the responsibility in our role in the Church that God has given us. … We gather to see how to effectively evangelize because eternal life is way too important.”

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered the opening keynote address that focused directly on the theme of the congress taken from the prophet Micah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

His first point reaffirmed the united community of disciples of Christ and the need of inclusion of all “children of God.”

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes; he speaks to humanity invited to be disciples of Jesus. And we respond first and foremost to this,” Cardinal Turkson said. “For there is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us created in the image and likeness of God we seek to respond to. … God’s children all belong together. None are set aside, none should live on the periphery and none are excluded.”

To demonstrate the power of being a disciple of Christ, Cardinal Turkson spoke about the story from Exodus of the Israelites following Moses in the desert. He asked those gathered to envision facing the Red Sea with the waters of parted and a path sandwiched between two walls of water.

The cardinal joked “water is never concrete” and some might have questioned what would happen if there was a really big wind. But the example of the Israelites who choose to follow Moses and trust God to hold up the walls of water demonstrates the courage and attitude that modern-day Christians must hold to be baptized in Christ and become just disciples of Christ.

“That is what baptism is. It is not a nominal celebration. It is a decision to live dependent on making Jesus your everything,” Cardinal Turkson said, borrowing the words of St. Paul who said after his conversion, “The life I live now is no longer mine.” “Anyone baptized lives that life. … It is not until you surrender your life to Jesus that you will live as a just disciple of Christ.”

Justice, reconciliation and peace are tantamount to unite the church family of God. While Cardinal Turkson said challenges such as tribalism in Africa and racism and discrimination in America present struggles, the Catholic Church family is invited to live beyond divisions and live in communion as children of God.

“In this family of God we need to live justly,” he said. “When we respect the demands of our relationships, we are just.”

By Jean Gonzales, who is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.

 

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Pope names bishops for Cleveland and Juneau — updated

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, to head the Diocese of Cleveland.

The pope also has named Vincentian Father Andrew Bellisario, currently serving in the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, to head the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska.

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, N.Y., to head the Diocese of Cleveland.(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, N.Y., to head the Diocese of Cleveland.(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

The appointments were announced in Washington July 11 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop Perez, 56, succeeds Bishop Richard G. Lennon, who resigned in December at age 70 citing health reasons. Bishop Perez has been an auxiliary bishop of Rockville Centre since 2012. He is vicar for the diocese’s Hispanic Apostolate.

Bishop-designate Bellisario, 60, succeeds Bishop Edward J. Burns, now head of the Diocese of Dallas. Since 2015, the Vincentian priest has served Hispanic Catholics in the Anchorage archdiocese. He is a former provincial of his religious congregation’s Western U.S. province.

During his introduction to the diocese and the media at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist July 11, Bishop Perez said he was absolutely thrilled to come to Cleveland to lead a church with many rich ethnic cultures.

“I’ve been getting texts and calls and emails since 6 o’clock this morning. Thank God I got up early,” he said. “And they all had this theme: ‘Congratulations and Cleveland rocks!’”

Bishop Perez said that the 677,000 Catholics in the eight counties of the diocese show that the church in Northeast Ohio remains vibrant and alive. He said he looked forward to working alongside the faithful as missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls the faithful to be.

“I hope that these 670,000 missionary disciples will go out, each one of them, and call more people to get to know Jesus Christ and love the church,” Bishop Perez said. “Those 670,000 people that make up this local church, our church, my church, is all potential. And we have to be joyful and excited and enthusiastic about that.”

Bishop Perez was welcomed by Bishop Daniel E. Thomas of Toledo, Ohio, who has served as apostolic administrator of the Cleveland diocese since Bishop Lennon’s retirement. Both share a connection with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, where they served as priests in the past.

The new bishop also expressed gratitude to the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s leaders, retired Bishop William F. Murphy, and the diocese’s current bishop, Bishop John O. Barres, for guiding him during his five years as an auxiliary bishop in the diocese. “Both have helped me to learn how I can imitate their love for the church,” he said.

In his opening remarks, he addressed offered a few words in Spanish to Cleveland’s Latino Catholics. He recapped his background including his work in evangelization and ministry to Hispanics throughout his priesthood.

Bishop Perez will be installed as the 11th bishop of Cleveland Sept. 5.

He was born in Miami in 1961, the son of Cuban parents. He briefly described how his parents fled their homeland in 1960 because of restrictions on their freedom under the regime of Fidel Castro. The Perez family moved to New Jersey a few years later when the bishop was a child.

Bishop Perez graduated from Montclair State University in New Jersey with a bachelor degree in psychology. He taught for a year at Colegio la Piedad, a Catholic elementary school in Puerto Rico, before entering St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia to study for the priesthood.

Ordained in 1989 as a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Bishop Perez served as a parochial vicar in one parish and pastor of two others. He also was the founding director of the Catholic Institute for Evangelization, an archdiocesan office for adult faith formation development and lay ministry training. In addition, he served as assistant director of the Office for Hispanic Catholics of the archdiocese.

In 2012, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Rockville Centre diocese. There, he was a member of the Corporate Board of Directors for Catholic Health Services, vice chair of Catholic Charities, and served on the Priests Personnel Board, Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Advisory Committee for Hispanic Ministry.

He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs and is a former member of the bishops’ subcommittee overseeing the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

At a mid-morning introduction at St. Ann’s Hall at the diocesan Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Juneau, Bishop-designate Bellisario said he was surprised to learn Pope Francis wanted to appoint him to the Southeast Alaska diocese the last week of June by Archbishop Pierre.

“Totally stunned and floored was I to the point that I was having trouble breathing,” he told diocesan staff. “Yet the grace of God was in the exchange, the Holy Spirit I believe because once I was able to catch my breath, I was able to say emphatically and completely ‘Yes.’”

Bishop-designate Bellisario said he wrote a letter of acceptance to Pope Francis and shared the words of St. Vincent de Paul, who founded the religious order to which he belongs: “St. Vincent told the members of what he called his little company … ‘Let us love God, my brothers. Let us love God but let it be with the sweat of our brows.’

“I now declare that it is with the strength of my arms and the sweat of my brow that I completely dedicate myself to serving you,” the newly named bishop said.

He also recalled his upbringing in southern California by Depression-era parents, who came to the U.S. from Italy. He said his parents, Rocky and Mildred, stressed the importance of helping others who were less fortunate.

“My dad always told me, ‘You have to look out for the little guy. There is no one to care for the little guy.’ I always suspect the reason he always said that was because he himself was a little guy,” Bishop-designate Bellisario said.

As immigrants, his parents faced “were treated unfortunately the way that immigrants are treated today,” he said, adding that their devotion to the Catholic faith helped inspire his vocation to the priesthood as a Vincentian.

A native of Los Angeles, the bishop-designate was ordained in 1984. After ordination he served on the staff of St. Vincent’s Seminary in Montebello, California, first as assistant dean of students and then dean of students.

He served in parish ministry in California from 1986 through 1998 before becoming director of the De Paul Evangelization Center in Montebello. In 2002, he began an eight-year period as superior of the Vincentians’ Province of the West.

Beginning in 2003, he also took on added responsibilities as director of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Province of Los Altos Hills, California. In 2015, Bishop-designate Bellisario headed north to Alaska to serve as superior of the International Mission of the Vincentians and parochial vicar of St. Anthony Parish in Anchorage. After a year he became pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral in Anchorage.

His episcopal ordination was set for Oct. 10.

 

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Amid political polarization, stay calm and reclaim civility

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others.

In a time where such polarization threatens civility in public discourse, Catholic leaders in interviews with Catholic News Service called for respect and trust in dialogue and awareness of the opinions of those with whom one disagrees.

Protesters show their opposition to supporters of conservative author Anne Coulter and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/John G. Mabanglo, EPA)

Protesters show their opposition to supporters of conservative author Anne Coulter and U.S. President Donald Trump at the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley, Calif. Political polarization in America has recently peaked, according to surveys conducted by Pew Research Center and Gallup, among others. (CNS photo/John G. Mabanglo, EPA)

“There’s been a coarsening of the culture,” Gerard Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told CNS in a phone interview. “Civility requires a commitment to common social mores and social norms that undergird the culture. It’s not something you can legislate.”

Powers, who also is coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network based at the university, explained the importance of listening to opinions that may contradict one’s own.

“In most cases, violent conflicts end through negotiation and dialogue,” Powers said. “That’s why the Catholic Church has always placed such a high premium on faith and dialogue.”

Sister Patricia Chappell, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, who is executive director of Pax Christi USA, agreed that civility has declined in society today.

“I think that the media also plays into it,” said Sister Patricia. “But there’s a sense that we’re no longer responsible for each other as being our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. There’s a sense that it’s OK to abuse, injure, destroy, damage other people.”

Pax Christi USA, Sister Patricia said, consistently facilitates dialogues between people who differ in their views.

“What we try to do is to actually try to really listen and hear what the individual is saying, and to do that in a way, in a manner that’s also with integrity and with respect,” Sister Patricia said.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, also argued that civility is about respect, adding that one must respect both differing viewpoints and the motives behind them.

“I think civility is about respect,” Carr said. “It’s about giving people the benefit of the doubt. It’s about not challenging people’s motives. It’s about trying to understand what people are saying before you go after them, and that should be the basics, but unfortunately we’ve lost that. We’ve certainly lost that in political debates of this country, and frankly some of that polarization in the country is spilling over into the community of faith, and that’s bad for all of us.”

Raised in a bipartisan household with a Republican mother and a Democratic father, Carr explained that through this upbringing he learned that those with differing political ideologies can find a great deal of common ground.

“I learned at an early age that we can express our convictions and act on our faith in different ways and different parties, and I guess I learned from there that no one side, no one party, no one perspective, is always right, and a little humility plus a little conviction, and we’d all be better off,” Carr said.

At times, however, it is more difficult to find common ground. If people are at odds, Sister Patricia explained, it is possible for them to disagree in a civil manner without moving toward personal attacks.

“I think there is such a thing as civil dialogue,” Sister Patricia said. “I believe in mediation, I believe in the ability we have to agree to disagree, but never should we denigrate or dehumanize another individual or a community or a nation of people.”

This tendency to dehumanize the other is not lost on Jesuit Father Michael Sheeran, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. Though disagreement may be inevitable, he explained, one can disagree without belittling the other. To facilitate this civil disagreement, Father Sheeran explained the importance of viewing an opposing party as another human.

“Sometimes the dialogue needs to be even on a confidential level so that you can come to believe the other party is not made up of ogres,” Father Sheeran said.

For civil dialogue to be successful, Sister Patricia advocates for active listening informed by respect and integrity and being free of “fear of the other,” such as other races or religious beliefs.

This fear, Powers argues, often becomes exacerbated in times of national crises.

“Now when there are national security threats, it’s mostly a cause not for people to rally around the flag, but it’s an opportunity for polarization,” Powers said.

Though the nation is polarized, Sister Patricia retains hope for a future of civil discourse grounded upon the premise that more unites us as humans than divides us.

“I honestly believe that as human beings, we have more in common than we do differences,” Sister Patricia said.

The Catholic Church itself, Carr said, has unique assets to bring to the realm of civil public discourse, political or otherwise.

“First of all, we have a set of ideas,” Carr said. “We’ve been thinking about human life and dignity, about solidarity, about care for the poor, care for creation since Genesis.”

“We also have a lot of experience,” Carr said. “Think about it. Who feeds the hungry? Who shelters the homeless? Who educates young people? Who cares for the sick? We do.

“So we ought to bring our experience and our ideas in the public debate,” he continued, “and I think in an open forum we have a great chance to prevail because of who we are, because of what we believe, because we’re credible and consistent. And so we ought to welcome an open discussion. We ought to be against shutting down speech. We ought to be for a civil, principled, pluralistic discussion of who we are and what we believe, because we have a lot to bring to that discussion.”

— By Carolyn Mackenzie

 

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Virginia execution follows pleas inmate was mentally ill

July 7th, 2017 Posted in National News

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia officials executed a man convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy despite the pleas of advocates who said the crimes resulted from severe mental illness.

William Morva, 35, was pronounced dead at 9:15 p.m. July 6 after a lethal injection at Greensville correctional center.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced hours before the execution that he would not block the death sentence of William Morva from being carried out.  (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced hours before the execution that he would not block the death sentence of William Morva from being carried out. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Lisa Kinney, director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections, said the execution was carried out without complications.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced hours before the execution that he would not block the death sentence from being carried out despite appeals from attorneys, mental health advocates and state lawmakers that Morva’s mental illness made it impossible for him to distinguish between delusions and reality.

As the execution neared, the Virginia Catholic Conference reissued its statement explaining the Catholic Church’s stance against the death penalty.

Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Michael F. Burbidge or Arlington, representing the conference, said people of God “are led to a profound respect for every human, from its very beginning until its natural end.”

“Knowing that the state can protect itself in ways other than through the death penalty, we have repeatedly asked that the practice be abandoned Our broken world cries out for justice, not the additional violence of vengeance the death penalty will exact,” the statement said.

Jeff Caruso, executive director of the Virginia Catholic Conference, told Catholic News Service the release was timed for Morva’s execution.

“In light of the execution, we wanted to reaffirm the church’s teaching on the death penalty and continue to deepen that awareness of the church’s teaching on the death penalty,” he said.

The bishops’ statement expressed “profound sorrow” and offered prayers for “all victims of violence, whose lives have been brutally cut short, and their loved ones, whose grief continues.”

“We pray for a change of heart and a spirit of remorse and conversion on the part of the perpetrators of this violence and ask God to give all of us the grace to work for peace and respect for all life in our communities and our commonwealth,” the statement added.

Morva was convicted of killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy after escaping from custody in 2006. His execution was the first in the state under a new protocol that makes more of the lethal injection procedure secret, The Associated Press reported.

The execution also was the second in Virginia this year. A third person set to be executed in April had his sentence commuted by McAuliffe and is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Since 1976 when states began rewriting laws to allow the use of the death penalty Virginia has executed 113 people, the second most of any state. Only Texas has executed more people, 542, in the same period, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

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As partial travel ban nears, agencies worry about refugees in limbo

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Agencies and organizations that help refugees start new lives in the U.S. worry about the fate that awaits migrants in transit as well as those who will not be allowed into the country as the partial ban that the U.S. Supreme Court set in motion with its late June ruling goes into effect in early July.

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

“The immediate priority is the safety of those refugees who are en route, ensuring they reach their destination,” said Ashley Feasley, policy director for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. “We are also very concerned about the individuals who have assured cases that are scheduled for travel after July 6 who may not be able to arrive now due to the interpretation of the Supreme Court decision and the executive order.”

The Supreme Court announced June 26 it would temporarily allow the Trump administration’s plan to ban of refugees from six majority-Muslim countries, unless those refugees had “bona fide” relationships with parties in the United States, meaning certain family members, employees or universities.

In an executive order that underwent one revision and was blocked by lower courts, the administration has said it needs the time to review the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures for allowing refugees into the country, and also said it was necessary to limit the number of the refugees allowed into the U.S. to 50,000 for 2017. That number is expected to be reached July 6 in the evening.

“These people have travel documents, they are ready to go,” said Feasley. “They have relationships with the resettlement offices in the cities they were to be resettled in. It would be heartbreaking and administratively inefficient if they are not able to complete their journey of seeking refuge.”

But heartbreak and uncertainty is exactly what many of them, as well as the resettlement agencies and communities that already have a connection to the refugees may face, say officials from agencies pleading with the administration to involve them in the developments that are about to unfold.

“We urge the administration to issue more clarity on its interpretation of the executive order and the decision and work with the resettlement agencies to ensure as smooth and humane implementation as possible at this time,” said Feasley.

On June 30, representatives from Refugee Council USA, which included some faith groups that resettle refugees, cried out for involvement in the process.

Hans Van de Weerd, chairman of the Washington-based Refugee Council USA, said in a telephone briefing that targeting “vulnerable” populations, such as refugees, was “morally wrong” and it also was bad policy.

Some criticized the high court as well, which said it would review the constitutionality of the executive order in October. During the refugee council briefing, officials from refugee resettlement agencies said the court’s decision to allow a partial ban to be put in place amounts to slamming the door on the face of the vulnerable “for no good reason.” Though the partial ban will keep some refugees out, the court said that those with “bona fide” relationships in the U.S. could still enter, even if the 50,000 cap had been reached.

In a statement, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, said the administration, with its actions, was preventing the reunification of family, particularly the special relationship of grandparents and grandchildren, which along with aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, nephews, cousins and some in-laws, the State Department said does not count as being close enough to qualify as a bona fide familial relationships.

“As a result, many refugees, including the elderly, unaccompanied children, and those in need of medical treatment will be delayed in receiving U.S. protection for at least several additional months,” said the organization in the statement.

Some like Jordan Denari Duffner, of Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative research project that provides information about Islamophobia, said the danger of the ban extends beyond preventing people from entering the country. It’s also caused damage within the U.S. because it’s an extension of what the president promised when, during his campaign, he called for a “Muslim ban,” and promotes views seeking to paint Muslims as dangerous.

“Even if the travel ban seems more watered down today, it’s been the product of an administration that has played off of and promoted Islamophobia,” she said.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Atlanta auxiliary named new bishop of Raleigh

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Pope Francis has named Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama to head the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina.

He succeeds Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who last October was named to head the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where he was installed Dec. 6.

Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Atlanta is seen in Nogales, Mexico, in this 2014 file photo. Pope Francis named the Atlanta auxiliary bishop to head the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama of Atlanta is seen in Nogales, Mexico, in this 2014 file photo. Pope Francis named the Atlanta auxiliary bishop to head the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Bishop Zarama, 58, has been an Atlanta auxiliary bishop since 2009. A native of Colombia, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Atlanta in 1993.

Bishop Zarama will be installed as Raleigh’s sixth bishop Aug. 29 at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.

“Pope Francis in today’s appointment has honored the Archdiocese of Atlanta with the gift of Bishop Luis R. Zarama to become the new bishop of Raleigh,” Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has chosen well even though his decision takes a deeply beloved brother and friend from our midst,” he added.

Archbishop Gregory said he joined with Bishop-designate Bernard E. Shlesinger, named an auxiliary bishop for Atlanta in May, and all the clergy, religious and laypeople of the archdiocese “in assuring Bishop Zarama of our prayers and warmest best wishes.” Bishop-designate Shlesinger is a Raleigh diocesan priest.

“I am proud to call him a brother bishop and good friend,” Bishop Burbidge said of Bishop Zarama, whom he described as “a holy, faithful and joyful bishop.”

Bishop Zarama is “known and respected for his pastoral skills, administrative abilities, zeal and kindness,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I have assured Bishop Zarama that he will be truly blessed with the support of such good priests, consecrated religious, deacons, seminarians, colleagues and lay faithful in the Diocese of Raleigh.”

Luis Rafael Zarama was born in Pasto, Colombia, Nov. 28, 1958. He attended the Conciliar Seminary in Pasto, where he graduated from high school. He attended Marian University, also in Pasto, earning a degree in philosophy and theology. He studied at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, Colombia, where he earned a degree in canon law. He was a philosophy and theology professor at the Carmelites School, the Learning School and the Colombia Military School for 11 years.

He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Atlanta Nov. 27, 1993. Then-Father Zarama’s first assignment was as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Atlanta. He also was a member of the Vocations Committee.

He was the first Hispanic priest in the archdiocese to be named pastor of St. Mark Catholic Church in Clarksville, Georgia, and St. Helena Mission in Clayton, Georgia.

He became an American citizen July 4, 2000. He was named vicar general of the archdiocese in April 2006. A year later Pope Benedict XVI named him a monsignor.

In 2008 he was appointed to serve as the judicial vicar for the Atlanta archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal. In July 2009, Pope Benedict named him an auxiliary bishop of Atlanta. His episcopal ordination was Sept. 29, 2009.

The Diocese of Raleigh covers 32,000 square miles. Out of a total population of over 4.8 million, there are just over 231,000 Catholics.

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