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Justice Alito warns of infringements to freedom of religion

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Catholic News Service

WYNNEWOOD, Pa. — The graduating class at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese received a special treat at the Concursus graduation ceremony held in the seminary chapel May 17.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. received an honorary doctorate of letters and delivered the formal address.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia applauds after awarding an honorary degree to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito May 17 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. (CNS /SarahWebb/CatholicPhilly.com)

The award to Alito was “in testimony to and recognition of his many outstanding contributions to society,” Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said in his introduction, “especially in protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life, the full responsibilities of the human person and promoting true justice and lasting peace.”

In his address Alito spoke of the freedom of religion as enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and encroachments on that freedom today.

A southern New Jersey native, he is well versed in the history of religious toleration as it developed in Philadelphia, and the important role that religion played in the development of the Constitution, including the visits by the Founding Fathers to the city’s various churches, among them Old St. Mary’s, tracing back to the Revolution.

Part of freedom of religion is “no one is forced to act in violation of his own beliefs,” Alito said. “Most of my life Americans were instilled in this,” he added, urging his audience to “keep the flame burning.”

In an interview for the seminarians’ blog, “Seminarian Casual,” Alito said that “our most foresighted Founders understood that our country could not hold together unless religious freedom was protected.”

Which is why, he said, George Washington, shortly after his election as the nation’s first president “made a point of writing to minority religious groups, to the United Baptist churches in Virginia, the annual meeting of Quakers, the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, and to the nation’s tiny Catholic population.”

“Washington and other founders also saw a vital connection between religion and the character needed for republican self-government,” Alito added. “What the founders understood more than 200 years ago is just as true today.”

Regarding threats to religious freedom, the justice said, “There is cause for concern at the present time.”

He noted that in his dissent in the Obergefell decision in which the Supreme Court held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, I anticipated that the decision would “be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.”

“I added, ‘I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.’”

After Alito’s talk, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior, rector of St. Charles Seminary, told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website, said the justice “was very inspiring.” “”He reminded us that of the rights imbedded in our Constitution, religious freedom is the most fundamental and it is not respected throughout the world today.”

Jim Godericci, who attended Concursus with his wife, Regina, who is a member of the seminary’s development committee of the seminary, found it encouraging that “there are still some people in the justice field who still have a God-fearing, God-respecting attitude.”

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg, who has seminarians at St. Charles and is himself a graduate, appreciated the topic of religious freedom, especially the local flavor and historical perspective.

“It’s extremely important; so many of our citizens have no clue of the history of these issues,” he said. “The contemporary feeling is not the same as at the roots.”

 

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Eric Banecker contributed to this story.

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Vandalism at Jewish cemeteries decried, called hateful actions

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Responding to the destruction of some 100 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput Feb. 27 deplored the “senseless acts of mass vandalism.”

The gravestones were discovered toppled over from their bases the previous morning at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Northeast Philadelphia.

National media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones Feb. 21 after a vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo. The incident at the cemetery near St. Louis was repeated in suburban Philadelphia Feb. 26 when gravestones were destroyed at a Jewish cemetery there. (CNS photo/Tom Gannam, Reuters)

National media report on more than 170 toppled Jewish headstones Feb. 21 after a vandalism attack on Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Mo. The incident at the cemetery near St. Louis was repeated in suburban Philadelphia Feb. 26 when gravestones were destroyed at a Jewish cemetery there. (CNS photo/Tom Gannam, Reuters)

The archbishop issued a statement in which he called on the clergy, religious and laypeople of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia “to join in prayerful solidarity with the families of those whose final resting places have been disturbed. Violence and hate against anyone, simply because of who they are, is inexcusable.”

The incident at Mount Carmel Cemetery mirrors gravestones destroyed at another Jewish cemetery near St. Louis about a week before.

In a statement Feb. 24, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, expressed solidarity and support for the Jewish community and also called for the rejection of such hateful actions.

“I want to express our deep sympathy, solidarity, and support to our Jewish brothers and sisters who have experienced once again a surge of anti-Semitic actions in the United States,” said Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, speaking on behalf of all the bishops and U.S. Catholics. “I wish to offer our deepest concern, as well as our unequivocal rejection of these hateful actions. The Catholic Church stands in love with the Jewish community in the current face of anti-Semitism.”

Two days earlier, the National Council of Churches in a statement said that “anti-Semitism has no place in our society. Eradicating it requires keeping constant vigil.”

In his statement, Archbishop Chaput said that “for Catholics, anti-Semitism is more than a human rights concern. It’s viewed as a form of sacrilege and blasphemy against God’s chosen people. In recent weeks, our country has seen a new wave of anti-Semitism on the rise. It’s wrong and it should deeply concern not only Jews and Catholics, but all people.”

Even as the archbishop issued his statement, a new wave of fear spread for Jewish people in the United States as about a dozen Jewish community centers across the country received anonymous threats of violence.

Several centers in the Philadelphia region, including the Kaiserman Jewish Community Center, which includes a preschool, in the Philadelphia suburb of Wynnewood, had been evacuated the morning of Feb. 27 because of bomb threats, local media reported. By the afternoon, the facility along with others in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware had reopened.

Scores of other such threats have been received by Jewish community centers in recent weeks across the country.

“As a community, we must speak out to condemn inflammatory messages and actions that serve only to divide, stigmatize and incite prejudice,” Archbishop Chaput said. “We must continually and loudly reject attempts to alienate and persecute the members of any religious tradition.

“Rather, as members of diverse faith and ethnic communities throughout the region, we must stand up for one another and improve the quality of life for everyone by building bridges of trust and understanding.”

The heads of the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia met the afternoon of Feb. 27 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to discuss the situation. Msgr. Daniel Kutys, moderator of the curia for the Philadelphia archdiocese, represented Archbishop Chaput at the meeting.

The archbishop, who is a co-convener of the more than 30-member religious leadership council, was unable to attend the meeting.

In the neighboring Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan called the desecration of the Pennsylvania cemetery “abhorrent behavior” that “has no place in contemporary culture (and) stands in opposition to everything the Catholic Church believes and teaches.””

Bishop Sullivan also noted that Jewish community centers in his diocese as well as in Pennsylvania and Delaware received bomb threats over the weekend and on Feb. 27, the day he issued his statement.

“As Catholics, we too are spiritual descendants of Abraham. We recognize that an attack or threat against our Jewish family members is an attack against all peoples of faith,” he said, adding that everyone in the Camden Diocese stands “in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers against these hateful and anti-Semitic incidents.”

“We pray that the perpetrators of these incidents will come to know God’s love, bringing them to the light of peace where they may recant these acts of hate and join with all people of goodwill in forging a community of compassion,” Bishop Sullivan said.

In St. Louis, an interfaith cleanup effort of the vandalized cemetery took place Feb 22 followed by an interfaith prayer service. Vandals toppled more than two-dozen gravestones and damaged an estimated 200 more at the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, which dates to 1893.

Represented by seminarians, priests, deacons, students and laity, Catholic St. Louisans stood with Jewish brethren at the cemetery in University City.

They were among about 1,000 people who helped with cleanup, including Vice President Mike Pence and Missouri Gov. Eric Greitans. When he came unannounced to help rake leaves, Pence was wearing work clothes, as he had come from another event.

“There is no place in America for hatred, prejudice, or acts of violence or anti-Semitism,” he said later. “I must tell you that the people of Missouri are inspiring the nation by your love and care for this place and the Jewish community. I want to thank you for that inspiration. For showing the world what America is all about.”

Greitens, who came ready to work in jeans, boots and a work shirt, described the vandalism as “a despicable act … anti-Semitic and painful. Moments like this are what a community is about. … We’re going to demonstrate that this is a moment of revolve. We’re coming together to share service.”

Seminarians were among those who answered St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s call Feb. 21 “to help our Jewish brothers and sisters.” About a dozen used their afternoon free time to help out.

“This is neat to see,” said seminarian Cole Bestgen, watching the workers fan out on a sunny and unseasonably warm 67-degree day armed with rakes, trash barrels and buckets. Though toppled headstones already had been replaced, the volunteers took care of general cleanup and maintenance.

The desecration sparked outrage from numerous ecumenical groups — Jewish, Catholic, Christian, Muslims and more — and dignitaries across the country, including President Donald J. Trump, who sent messages of thanks through Pence and Greitens.

 

Gambino is director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Contributing to this story was Dave Luecking in St. Louis.

 

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Bishops troubled: Trump retains policy banning bias based on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity

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WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two bishops’ committees expressed disappointment Feb. 1 over President Donald Trump’s decision to retain a 2014 executive order by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors.

Trump’s action is “troubling and disappointing” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump's action to retain a 2014 executive order  that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors. Trump’s “troubling and disappointing  (CNS filePaul Haring)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump’s action to retain a 2014 executive order that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors “troubling and disappointing.” (CNS filePaul Haring)

The executive order, they said in a joint statement, is “deeply flawed.” In a July 21, 2014, statement, Archbishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput’s predecessor as committee chair, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, labeled the executive order “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.”

In the 2014 statement, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone said the term “sexual orientation” was “undefined,” and that “gender identity” was “predicated on the false idea that gender is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.”

They added, “Even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”

The two prelates urged Obama to include a religious exemption. Fourteen other religious leaders also asked for such an exemption in a letter to Obama so that “protection for one group would not come at the expense of faith communities” who religious beliefs motivate them to serve.

Father Larry Snyder, then Catholic Charities USA president, was one of the 14 leaders who signed a letter to the president. He told Catholic News Service he was among religious leaders who then met with White House staff to discuss the executive order before it was issued. The priest said later the order upheld “already existing religious exemptions, that will allow us to maintain fidelity to our deeply held religious beliefs.”

In their Feb. 1 statement, Archbishops Chaput and Lori said, “The church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” but the Obama executive order “creates problems rather than solves them,” adding that it instead “creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith.”

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Philadelphia archdiocese to sell its seminary property, move operations

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The board of trustees of Philadelphia’s St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood has called for scrapping the planned consolidation of seminary operations on one 30-acre section of the campus and instead moving its operations off campus. Read more »

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San Bernardino bishop urges prayers for healing after shootings

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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — San Bernardino Bishop Gerald R. Barnes urged people to pray for unity and healing after the mass shooting in San Bernardino Dec. 2 that left 14 people dead and 21 others wounded.

“For those who lost their lives, we pray for their eternal rest and God’s strength to their loved ones left behind; for those who are wounded, we pray for their health and healing,” he said.

Rescue crews rush an injured victim to a waiting ambulance outside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., in this still image taken from video Dec. 2. At least 14 people were reported killed and more than 20 injured when gunmen opened fire that day during a function at a center for people with developmental disabilities, police said. (CNS photo/NBCLA.com/Handout via Reuters)

Rescue crews rush an injured victim to a waiting ambulance outside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., in this still image taken from video Dec. 2. At least 14 people were reported killed and more than 20 injured when gunmen opened fire that day during a function at a center for people with developmental disabilities, police said. (CNS photo/NBCLA.com/Handout via Reuters)

In a Dec. 2 statement, the bishop called on people to pray for “all of the victims of this horrific incident and their families” and also asked for prayers for law enforcement officers who at the time were still “pursuing the suspects in this case.”

“Our community of San Bernardino has faced great challenges through the years. Let us come together now in unity to bring light to the darkness of this day,” Bishop Barnes said.

The shooting took place at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities where county health officials were having an employee holiday party.

Two armed suspects — later identified as Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27 — were killed by police four hours later in a shootout about two miles from the social services center.

Farook, a county environmental inspector, had attended the holiday party and left, returning with Malik, wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, according to news reports.

Police and federal agents have not yet offered a motive for the couple’s shootings at the center, which provides housing and work programs, and therapy and social services to more than 30,000 people with developmental disabilities.

“Today, yet another American community is reeling from the horror of gun violence,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said in a Dec. 2 statement.

“As the families of the victims grieve and the survivors focus on healing, the entire American family mourns,” she added.

Pelosi noted that gun violence is “a crisis of epidemic proportions in our nation” and said Congress has a moral responsibility to vote on common sense measures to prevent the daily agony of gun violence in communities across America. Enough is enough.”

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said “each innocent life lost” in the shooting was precious. “Each was intimately connected through family and friendship to many others, who now survive them and bear a burden of unearned suffering.”

The archbishop, in a Dec. 3 statement, added: “Pursuing justice in this matter is in the hands of law enforcement. Our task as Christians is to pray for those persons whose lives were ended by the inexcusable cruelty of others.”

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Pope’s last stop in U.S. — World Meeting of Families kicks off in Philadelphia

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Known as the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia will be “the city of family love” and the “world capital of families” during the four-day World Meeting of Families, said Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The largest-ever World Meeting of Families opened in Philadelphia Sept. 22. More than 17,500 participants from more than 100 countries registered for the four-day congress, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. Read more »

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Pennsylvania governor puts off executions, says system ‘riddled with flaws’

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia praised the announcement by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Feb. 13 that he is granting a reprieve for death-row inmate Terrence Williams, who was scheduled to be executed March 4.

In a memo, Wolf said he would extend the reprieve to each of the 186 inmates on the state’s death row as their scheduled executions approach, all pending the outcome of a study of the use of the death penalty in Pennsylvania.

Archbishop Chaput said he was grateful to Wolf “for choosing to take a deeper look into these studies and I pray we can find a better way to punish those who are guilty of these crimes.”

“Turning away from capital punishment does not diminish our support for the families of murder victims. They bear a terrible burden of grief and they rightly demand justice,” said the archbishop. “But killing the guilty does not honor the dead nor does it ennoble the living. When we take a guilty person’s life we only add to the violence in an already violent culture and we demean our own dignity in the process.”

Wolf said there was no question Williams was guilty of the 1984 murder he committed at age 18 and for which he was convicted and sentenced to death in 1986. But the governor said he was granting the reprieve “because the capital punishment system has significant and widely recognized defects.”

The governor cited the “unending cycle of death warrants and appeals,” the cost to the judicial system for the appeals process and the surfacing of painful memories for victims’ families in each step of the process.

He also noted instances of miscarried justice due to flawed convictions and sentencing in several cases.

In the 40 years since Pennsylvania reinstated the death penalty, governors have signed 434 warrants, but only three executions were carried out.

“If the commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to take the irrevocable step of executing a human being, its capital sentencing system must be infallible,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania’s system is riddled with flaws, making it error prone, expensive and anything but infallible.”

The reprieves would remain in effect at least until Wolf has reviewed a forthcoming report of the Pennsylvania Task Force and Advisory Committee on Capital Punishment.

“I take this action only after significant consideration and reflection,” he said. “There is perhaps no more weighty a responsibility assigned to the governor than his or her role as the final check in the capital punishment process.”

In a statement, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference said the state’s Catholic bishops have long advocated for an end to the death penalty “because the modern penal system provides alternatives to taking the lives of the guilty. Punishment should reflect our belief in the inherent human dignity of each person, and taking a life to avenge the death of another does not create a culture of life,” the statement read.

“People convicted of capital offenses must be punished effectively and appropriately for their crimes. Family and friends of victims, and society as a whole, demand this. Just punishment, however, can be attained without resorting to execution. Even the most violent offenders who commit heinous crimes still have a dignity given by God,” said the conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s bishops.

“Society will not benefit from imposing the death penalty, nor will it be harmed by showing mercy. By turning away from the death penalty, we are embracing hope, not despair,” it continued, adding that Wolf’s announcement “breaks the cycle of violence that so plagues our society. We hope that this spirit of respect for human life is shown throughout all laws and policies of the commonwealth.”

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik praised Wolf for granting Williams a reprieve and “for effectively establishing a moratorium on the death penalty in Pennsylvania.”

“At the same time the church must remain committed to reaching out to victims of violent crimes and their families,” he said in a statement.

He added that research “has shown that it is not a deterrent to crime and that on occasion innocent people have been wrongly executed.”

“Catholic teaching affirms the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception until the last breath of natural life,” Bishop Zubik said. “No one is excluded, not even criminals who have committed a heinous act. God’s love and mercy is offered to all.”

 

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Many see Rev. King’s vision ‘still in process of coming true’ in United States

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For young Jaymee Dixon, the tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral “means a lot. It feels great to be a black person doing something.”

Dixon, 15, is a member of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir that performed at the eighth annual King tribute at the cathedral Jan. 11. The high school student said black history today is loaded with stories of young black people dying.

Aaron Brown of Houston and Arielle Phillips of Charlotte, N.C., pause to view a 30-foot sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington . (CNS r/Reuters file)

Aaron Brown of Houston and Arielle Phillips of Charlotte, N.C., pause to view a 30-foot sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington . (CNS r/Reuters file)

The cathedral event was held in observance of Rev. King’s birthday, Jan. 15. The federal holiday marking his birthday this year is Jan. 19.

Joyce F. Gillie Cruse, guest speaker at the tribute, addressed those deaths, some of which have become household names, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri.

Noting how Rev. King’s fight for all races and against a system that promotes racism and racial divide, Gillie Cruse said Rev. King’s “vision is still in the process of coming true” decades after the civil rights leader was slain in 1968.

Recalling the recent deaths of young black males, Gillie Cruse said, “There is something wrong in this country.”

While many in this country have blamed police actions for these deaths, Gillie Cruse said there are other issues to be addressed — issues that “make black males an endangered species.”

These issues, Gillie Cruse said, include a low percentage of black voters, black teen homelessness, failing school systems, high crime rates, and unemployment or jobs that do not pay a living wage. Also, she said, only 26 percent of African-Americans get married.

“We have some serious issues, and it’s not just the police,” Gillie Cruse said.

An adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University in New Orleans, Gillie Cruse previously served in the Diocese of Gary, working with Gary cluster parishes on adult faith formation and evangelization.

“We need to do something,” she said. “What are we going to do for our children, to help them see a good future? We must re-assess the balance of our society and think out of the box.”

Gillie Cruse suggested opening 24-hour community youth centers, keeping schools open at night, having leaders who address these issues, and church members allotting 10 percent of their tithe to promote children’s programming, including money for college.

In short, Gillie Cruse said, “Do more than hear a speaker.”

Gillie Cruse encouraged her audience to “meet somewhere” to discuss challenges in society. “Do what you can to address these issues.”

The annual King tribute included several selections performed by the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, comments from local representatives, and orator Troy Patterson Thomas’ rendition of Rev. King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech.

Father Mick Kopil, rector of Holy Angels Cathedral, recalled the words of Blessed Paul VI, who said there can be no peace without justice. The Sunday afternoon tribute, Father Kopil said, honors the memory of a man “who worked among us for peace and justice.”

Father Charles Mosley, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, noted a recent interview with civil rights leader Andrew Young, who said that Rev. King’s mission was not so much about changing the world as it was about changing a reality “of how African-Americans are seen.”

Citing low black voter turnout in the last election, Father Mosley said, “We need to change our reality, so we can move forward.” Instead of talking about racism or black lives lost at next year’s King tribute, the Hammond pastor said people should discuss their accomplishments and additional work to be done.

Father Mosley prayed for “new hope, new light” to help achieve Rev. King’s vision. “Bless us, guide us, help us become all you want us to be, so we can give glory to your name.”

In Jan. 16 statement released in Washington, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on communities to strive to live the words of Rev. King, who urged the nation to move “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

“Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky. “That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts.”

He expressed gratitude for Rev. King’s work and the efforts of so many others on behalf of justice and to advance “our country’s recognition of the dignity and equality of each person.”

“Continuing tensions and violence in our communities remind us that although significant progress has been made in erasing the stain of racism and the cycle of related violence, we still have much work to do,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

“As we consider the gains of the past and the challenges before us, I urge each of us to pray for healing and peace as we work for ever greater communion. Every human life has profound dignity, rooted in our creation in the image of God. We are one family,” he added.

In a Jan. 14 column, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote that the annual King observance is much more than a celebration of the civil rights leader’s service on behalf of the nation’s black community and other ethnic minorities. It’s also, he said, “a celebration of the power of religious faith working through believers who open themselves selflessly to that which God calls them to do in the world.”

“More than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. stepped into America’s racial divide of the 1950s and 1960s. Although that divide has eased in some important ways, recent events show that much remains to be done,” the archbishop said in his column, posted on CatholicPhilly.com, the Philadelphia archdiocesan news website.

This year’s King observance “comes at a key moment,” he continued. “We should take advantage of it by reflecting on why King’s efforts to fight racial injustice bore such good fruit, and what his witness means for the United States today.

“It’s a moment for those of us who are Christians to re-examine our own lives in light of the Gospel, and to ground ourselves again in the same word of God that gave Martin Luther King the courage and perseverance to seek healing where sin had wrought racial conflict.”

In today’s secular society, “people can too easily forget” that Rev. King’s pursuit of justice for minorities “was fundamentally Christian,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The inspiration for his activism came not from a devotion to any political party or even set of public policy solutions, but rather from his understanding of Christian discipleship.”

He urged that celebrating the King holiday not only pay tribute to Rev. King’s “great service” but also be a reminder of the power of religious faith and the selfless acts that God calls all to undertake, “even when it involves suffering, difficulty and sacrifice.”

By Steve Euvino

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‘Christian discipleship’ motivated Rev. Martin Luther King

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GARY, Ind. — For young Jaymee Dixon, the tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral “means a lot. It feels great to be a black person doing something.”

Dixon, 15, is a member of the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir that performed at the eighth annual King tribute at the cathedral Jan. 11. The high school student said black history today is loaded with stories of young black people dying.

The cathedral event was held in observance of Rev. King’s birthday, Jan. 15. The federal holiday marking his birthday this year is Jan. 19.

Joyce Gillie Cruse, an adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University New Orleans, gives the keynote address at the eighth annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Ind., Jan. 11. (CNS photo/Anthony D. Alonzo, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Joyce Gillie Cruse, an adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University New Orleans, gives the keynote address at the eighth annual tribute to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary, Ind., Jan. 11. (CNS photo/Anthony D. Alonzo, Northwest Indiana Catholic)

Joyce F. Gillie Cruse, guest speaker at the tribute, addressed those deaths, some of which have become household names, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Ferguson, Missouri.

Noting how Rev. King’s fight for all races and against a system that promotes racism and racial divide, Gillie Cruse said Rev. King’s “vision is still in the process of coming true” decades after the civil rights leader was slain in 1968.

Recalling the recent deaths of young black males, Gillie Cruse said, “There is something wrong in this country.”

While many in this country have blamed police actions for these deaths, Gillie Cruse said there are other issues to be addressed, issues that “make black males an endangered species.”

These issues, Gillie Cruse said, include a low percentage of black voters, black teen homelessness, failing school systems, high crime rates, and unemployment or jobs that do not pay a living wage. Also, she said, only 26 percent of African-Americans get married.

“We have some serious issues, and it’s not just the police,” Gillie Cruse said.

An adjunct professor at Xavier University and Loyola University in New Orleans, Gillie Cruse previously served in the Diocese of Gary, working with Gary cluster parishes on adult faith formation and evangelization.

“We need to do something,” she said. “What are we going to do for our children, to help them see a good future? We must re-assess the balance of our society and think out of the box.”

Gillie Cruse suggested opening 24-hour community youth centers, keeping schools open at night, having leaders who address these issues, and church members allotting 10 percent of their tithe to promote children’s programming, including money for college.

In short, Gillie Cruse said, “Do more than hear a speaker.”

Gillie Cruse encouraged her audience to “meet somewhere” to discuss challenges in society. “Do what you can to address these issues.”

The annual King tribute included several selections performed by the Wirt-Emerson Concert Choir, comments from local representatives, and orator Troy Patterson Thomas’ rendition of Rev. King’s iconic “I have a dream” speech.

Father Mick Kopil, rector of Holy Angels Cathedral, recalled the words of Blessed Paul VI, who said there could be no peace without justice. The Sunday afternoon tribute, Father Kopil said, honors the memory of a man “who worked among us for peace and justice.”

Father Charles Mosley, pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Hammond, noted a recent interview with civil rights leader Andrew Young, who said that Rev. King’s mission was not so much about changing the world as it was about changing a reality “of how African-Americans are seen.’

Citing low black voter turnout in the last election, Father Mosley said, “We need to change our reality, so we can move forward.” Instead of talking about racism or black lives lost at next year’s King tribute, the Hammond pastor said people should discuss their accomplishments and additional work to be done.

Father Mosley prayed for “new hope, new light” to help achieve Rev. King’s vision. “Bless us, guide us, help us become all you want us to be, so we can give glory to your name.”

In a Jan. 14 column, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput wrote that the annual King observance is much more than a celebration of the civil rights leader’s service on behalf of the nation’s black community and other ethnic minorities. It’s also, he said, “a celebration of the power of religious faith working through believers who open themselves selflessly to that which God calls them to do in the world.”

“More than 50 years have passed since Martin Luther King Jr. stepped into America’s racial divide of the 1950s and 1960s. Although that divide has eased in some important ways, recent events show that much remains to be done,” the archbishop said in his column, posted on CatholicPhilly.com, the Philadelphia archdiocesan news website.

This year’s King observance “comes at a key moment,” he continued. “We should take advantage of it by reflecting on why King’s efforts to fight racial injustice bore such good fruit, and what his witness means for the United States today.

“It’s a moment for those of us who are Christians to re-examine our own lives in light of the Gospel, and to ground ourselves again in the same word of God that gave Martin Luther King the courage and perseverance to seek healing where sin had wrought racial conflict.”

In today’s secular society, “people can too easily forget” that Rev. King’s pursuit of justice for minorities “was fundamentally Christian,” Archbishop Chaput said. “The inspiration for his activism came not from a devotion to any political party or even set of public policy solutions, but rather from his understanding of Christian discipleship.”

He urged that celebrating the King holiday not only pay tribute to Rev. King’s “great service” but also be a reminder of the power of religious faith and the selfless acts that God calls all to undertake, “even when it involves suffering, difficulty and sacrifice.”

— By Steve Euvino

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Philadelphia opens World Meeting of Families registration

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia formally opened its arms to the world as Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told the U.S. Catholic bishops Nov. 10 that registration has begun for the World Meeting of Families next year in the city.

The archbishop made the announcement on the first day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia speaks Nov. 10 during the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia speaks Nov. 10 during the annual fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

With up to 15,000 attendees expected for the gathering of families from around the country and the world Sept. 22-25, 2015, organizers are planning hotel and other accommodations plus a full slate of top speakers and activities for what will be the largest convention for Philadelphia next year.

“The World Meeting of Families will deal with a wide range of family issues where our faith is both needed and tested,” the archbishop said. “These are matters that affect families not only here in the United States but on a global scale.”

Addressing those matters in six keynote speeches and 67 breakout sessions, each allowing for 15-20 minutes of questions and answers with 700 to 1,000 people per session, will be speakers including Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, and other bishops, priests and religious sisters, plus Helen Alvare, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and author Scott Hahn.

Archbishop Chaput told the bishops in Baltimore that the meeting’s content will deal not only with “neuralgic sexual issues that seem to dominate the American media,” but also poverty, addiction, children with disabilities, the loss of a spouse, divorce and co-parenting, health and wellness and how these issues affect the family.

Other themes such as “creating real intimacy between husband and wife” and the roles of grandparents and the parish community to help deal with the challenges of raising children would also be examined, the archbishop said.

Mounting an event of this size could be daunting for the financially challenged archdiocese. “The good news is that we’ve already raised more than half of what we need,” Archbishop Chaput told the bishops. “We’ve also had wonderful cooperation from the city, state and federal authorities.”

He added, “We’ve made good progress, but we still have a long way to go.”

Registration and other information is available at www.worldmeeting2015.org. Registration actually opened in late October to get feedback on what was needed to strengthen the process.

“It’s so complex, and we wanted to make sure all the moving parts worked well together” before announcing the registration publicly, said Donna Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families.

One positive result of the feedback was the lowering of registration fees, which Farrell said was a key goal.

“Archbishop Chaput wanted to make sure this congress was accessible as possible,” she told CatholicPhilly.com, the archdiocesan news website.

Four pricing tiers are available, with separate pricing for the meeting’s two tracks: the Adult Congress and the Youth Congress, which is aimed at youth ages 6 to 17. There are full packages, modified and basic packages, and one-day registration.

For example, the full package for an adult will cost $325 and includes registration, a welcome kit, two lunch tickets, a $100 debit card for expenses and a mass transit pass valid for a week. The one-day registration will cost $95. The full package cost for youth is $199; one-day registration is $25. Full details are available on the website. Prices will go up between $25 and $50 as the event nears.

Already, 32 hotels in Philadelphia have reserved rooms ranging from $129 to $299 per night, with an average cost of $220.

Farrell’s team now is working with hotels elsewhere in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey and Delaware to expand the number of rooms available to attendees. She also has encouraged local households to open their homes to attendees if they have room to accommodate guests. The website www.homestay.com based in Dublin matches homes with travelers coming to the world meeting.

One of Farrell’s biggest challenges with registration has been coordinating the five-day meeting with the widely expected visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia. Hotel reservation for the World Meeting of Families ends Friday, Sept. 25, even though plans call for the pope to visit Friday evening and Saturday, with about 1 million people expected to attend a public Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 27.

But since the Vatican has not officially announced the papal visit, rooms are not being reserved for it at this time.

“We’re not likely to get an announcement until the turn of the year,” Archbishop Chaput told the bishops. “But we do have many hopeful signs that he does intend to come.”

“It is our hope and expectation that people registering for the congress would get the right of first refusal” for a room during the papal visit, Farrell said. But that portion of the registration remains unknown until Pope Francis’ visit is confirmed, which could be between four and eight months before September.

 

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