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U.S. bishops say Syria peace can only come through ‘dialogue, reconciliation’

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WASHINGTON — Officials of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops April 7 urged renewed peace efforts for Syria, echoing Pope Francis’ call for “dialogue and reconciliation” as the only way to attain peace in a country rocked by an ongoing civil war.

The USS Porter, in the Mediterranean Sea, fires a Tomahawk missile April 7. The U.S. Defense Department said it was a part of missile strike against Syria. (CNS photo/Ford Williams, U.S. Navyvia Reuters)

The USS Porter, in the Mediterranean Sea, fires a Tomahawk missile April 7. The U.S. Defense Department said it was a part of missile strike against Syria. (CNS photo/Ford Williams, U.S. Navyvia Reuters)

“The long-standing position of our conference of bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution,” said a joint statement from Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a cease-fire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities,” they said.

The U.S. launched 59 missiles from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean early April 7 local time. U.S. officials said they targeted Shayrat Air Base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas.

The United States was criticized for carrying out the missile strikes against Syria before investigations into the origins of chemical attacks reported April 4.

But U.S. President Donald Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians” and “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said April 6, announcing that he had ordered the strike against the air base from which he said the chemical weapons attack was launched.

“The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible,” said Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Cantu, reiterating an April 5 statement that like Pope Francis, the U.S. bishops condemned the use of such weapons. “At the same time, our conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.’”

They said that again they make the pope’s call their own, that the international community “make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.”

Quoting the pope, they added: “May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.”

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Trump’s banning of refugees called chaotic and cruel by church leaders – update

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This update to a story posted earlier adds comments from the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,” “chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders, lawful permanent U.S. residents, be allowed into the country.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops late Jan. 30 praised fellow prelates for “their witness” in speaking out against Trump’s actions and “in defense of God’s people,” and called on “all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, in a joint statement.

“The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

“The refugees fleeing from ISIS (Islamic State) and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they said. “Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith.”

Like all families, refugees “are seeking safety and security for their children,” they said. The U.S. “should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil” and also “must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm.” But the country “must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends,” the prelates said.

“Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present,” Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez said.

In Chicago, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement that the past weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history.”

“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” he said. “Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States,” Cardinal Cupich said. “They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the Muslim ban that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded.”

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination,” he said.

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U.S. bishops’ group to monitor needs of immigrants, refugees

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is establishing a working group charged with developing spiritual, pastoral and policy advocacy support for immigrants and refugees.

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

People in Tijuana, Mexico, stand next to a wall separating Mexico and the United States Dec. 10. (CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, has named members of the working group, with the mandate of closely following developments related to immigrants and refugees in the United States. The USCCB Public Affairs Office announced formation of the group Dec. 16.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, will chair the group. Members include the chairman of USCCB committees and subcommittees involved in immigration concerns: Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, Committee on Migration; Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez of Rockville Centre, New York, Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Social Development; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The groundwork for the working group was set during the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore when several bishops suggested the conference closely monitor actions by the federal government that affect immigrants and refugees.

In announcing the working group, the Public Affairs Office said the bishops and USCCB staff will be ready to respond to any executive orders and legislation that the new Congress and President-elect Donald J. Trump may introduce.

The working group will inform the efforts of individual bishops in their pastoral responses to immigrants and refugees and recommend appropriate additional efforts as needed, such as the recent day of prayer on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago outlined some of the responsibilities of the working group in a column in the Dec. 11 issue of Catholic New World, archdiocesan newspaper.

He said the group will look at what is being done pastorally in U.S. dioceses and will share best practices with bishops.

“Particular attention will be given to addressing the economic struggles, alienation, fear and exclusion many feel, along with the resistance to the church’s message regarding migrants and refugees,” Cardinal Cupich wrote. “Emphasis will be given to ways we can build bridges between various segments of society.”

The working group will also spearhead advocacy, building on existing USCCB efforts and to engage constructively with the incoming administration and Congress, the cardinal said.

The formation of the new entity, which Archbishop Gomez planned to convene weekly, “will send a message to those who live in fear that the Catholic bishops of the United States stand with them, pray with them, offer pastoral support and speak prophetically in defense of their human dignity,” Cardinal Cupich wrote.

He added that the Chicago archdiocese will continue to “walk with all who, given our broken immigration system, live in the shadows. We will advocate for them as well as for refugees seeking a better life for the families.”

On Nov. 30, at the end of Mass at St. Agatha of Bohemia Parish in Chicago, Cardinal Cupich told the congregation he had been invite to meet with President Barack Obama Nov. 29 “and the only issue I discussed with him was the executive order granting temporary protection for a large number of undocumented persons.”

He told Obama the U.S. Catholic bishops “favor this action but see if only as a first step” to comprehensive immigration reform. The cardinal said he and Obama discussed the need to have some confidentiality provision the church” for if they register for protection, that information would not be used against them.

“I wanted to tell you today about my discussion with the president,” Cardinal Cupich told the congregation, “so that you will know that you can count on me as a good friend of the immigrant community.”

National Migration Week is Jan. 8-14.

 

More information about the U.S. bishops’ observance of National Migration Week in January and links to various resources can be found at http://bit.ly/1cWdELM.

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Cardinal DiNardo, new USCCB president, says bishops ‘intend to be attentive’

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — The newly elected president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said he is not planning on “creating a new vision” but hopes to continue the bishops’ priorities particularly focusing on dialogue and listening to Catholics.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addresses a news conference Nov. 15 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The cardinal was elected USCCB president that morning. Seated to his left is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who was elected USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston addresses a news conference Nov. 15 at the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore. The cardinal was elected USCCB president that morning. Seated to his left is Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, who was elected USCCB vice president. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

The bishops “intend to be attentive,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston hours after his Nov. 15 election to a three-year term that begins at the close of the bishops’ fall assembly in Baltimore.

For the past three years, he has served as USCCB vice president, a role that typically leads to election as president. He succeeds Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky.

The cardinal said he plans to focus on the needs and concerns of Catholics, particularly members of the immigrant community who fear deportation with the recent election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. But he also said he remained hopeful about working with the new administration, saying its newness “offers options and possibilities.”

“We hope for a whole lot. This is brand new,” he told Catholic News Service.

The cardinal said he would listen to the voices of the immigrants and would work to ensure government leaders treat them with dignity, adding that the church in the U.S. has always stood with immigrants.

“We make our voices heard,” he said, “not by screaming in the streets but rather our voices are heard in the streets by our care and concern and our clarity, what we think is essential.”

Cardinal DiNardo, 67, said the key part of his role remains as a church leader, which is “where we show our shepherd’s heart.”

His Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston includes 1.3 million Catholics, 440 priests in 146 parishes and 60 schools spread over 8,880 square miles.

The cardinal, who was born in Steubenville, Ohio, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1977 and named a bishop 20 years later. He is a former bishop of Sioux City, Iowa. He has been archbishop of Galveston-Houston since 2006. He was named a cardinal in 2007 and participated in the 2013 conclave that elected Pope Francis.

This summer, after the shooting of police officers in Dallas in response to shootings by police officers, Cardinal DiNardo said: “These tragedies call for our prayer for healing and for change. It seems as though at times our hearts are stony and paralyzed. We need God’s spirit of mercy to melt them and reopen our hearts to the beauty of human life and to rebuilding human communities.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter @carolmaczim.

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U.S. bishops elect Texas cardinal president of their conference

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston was elected president of the U.S. bishops’ conference Nov. 15 for a three-year term to begin at the conclusion of the bishops’ annual fall general assembly in Baltimore.

Cardinal DiNardo collected a majority of votes on the first ballot of voting during the second day of the bishops’ public session. Based on the number of bishops voting, 104 votes were needed for election, and Cardinal DiNardo, the current vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, received 113.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston,  Nov. 15 at the annual fall general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore, was elected president of the conference, succeeding Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., (at right). (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Nov. 15 at the annual fall general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore, was elected president of the conference, succeeding Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., (at right). (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

He will succeed Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, whose three-year term as president concludes at the end of the meeting.

Elected vice president was Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. By virtue of his election, Archbishop Gomez will not take over as chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Migration. He was elected last year as chairman-elect of the committee and was to succeed the current outgoing chairman, Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo of Seattle, at the end of this year’s general assembly.

A lunchtime meeting was scheduled for the committee to advance two names for chairman to be voted on by the full body of bishops.

Archbishop Gomez was elected vice president on the third ballot.

Under rules established by the USCCB, the names of 10 bishops who are willing to be nominated for the USCCB presidency are presented for voting. After a president is elected, the remaining nine are then considered for the vice presidency.

If no candidate of the nine has received a simple majority after two ballots, the third ballot features only the two top vote-getters in the second round. Archbishop Gomez was elected over Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans.

The other nominees were, in alphabetical order, Archbishops Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City; Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, the only non-archbishop among the original 10; and Archbishops William E. Lori of Baltimore, Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit, Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, and John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The bishops also voted for chairmen-elect of five standing committees and three representatives for the board of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.

The standing committees include Canonical Affairs and Church Governance; Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; Evangelization and Catechesis; International Justice and Peace; and Protection of Children and Young People.

The chairmen-elect each will begin a three-year term as chairmen at the end of the bishops’ fall general assembly in 2017:

— Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance: Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, elected over Bishop David M. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, 111 to 89.

— Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs: Bishop Joseph C. Bambera of Scranton, Pennsylvania, elected over Bishop Michael C. Barber of Oakland, California, 115 to 90.

— Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis: Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles elected over Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, 122 to 90.

– Committee on International Justice and Peace: Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services elected over Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, 127 to 88.

— Committee on Protection of Children and Young People: Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana, elected over Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima, Washington, 128 to 86.

Also several chairmen-elect chosen last year will become committee chairmen at the end of this year’s assembly and will serve three-year terms:

— Divine Worship: Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta.

— Domestic Justice and Human Development: Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida.

— Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations: Cardinal-elect Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who recently was appointed archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

— Catholic Education: Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio.

— Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth: Archbishop Chaput.

A vote also was taken for three seats on the board of Catholic Relief Services. Elected were Archbishop Coakley, who ends his term as president of the board but remained eligible to continue serving; Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; and Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida.

 

Contributing to this story was Dennis Sadowski. Follow Pattison and Sadowski on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison and @DennisSadowski.

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Cardinal links religious liberty fight with abortion struggle

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Participants at the annual March for Life were urged in advance of the march not to let themselves be compromised in their beliefs as the federal government pursues regulations that Catholic leaders say constitute an attack on conscience and religious liberty.

“I beg and pray for the young people present and all youth and young adults not to be compromised in your dedication to the protection of life of each human person, born and unborn,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. “Keep it before your eyes and in your hearts immediately. Threats against life and against the consciences of those who say ‘yes’ to life must be met with timely and unwavering action, in our families and institutions, and yes, in the public square.” Read more »

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Cardinals back post-abortion healing project

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Signaling the importance they gave to the topic, three U.S. cardinals offered a briefing Nov. 14 on efforts to expand and strengthen the church’s post-abortion healing ministry, Project Rachel.

Cardinals Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Donald W. Wuerl of Washington reported on the work of Project Rachel during the first day of the Nov. 14-16 fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore.

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Cardinal: Federal rule won’t protect conscience rights of health workers

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Witnesses clashed at a House subcommittee hearing Nov. 2 over whether the Department of Health and Human Services’ interim final rule requiring no-cost coverage of contraception and sterilization in most health plans violates conscience rights and threatens access to care.

Three of the five witnesses before the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce argued in the affirmative, while two others said it did not.

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