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N.C. priest at Phila. seminary named auxiliary bishop for Atlanta

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has appointed Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, to be an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently the director of spiritual formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., speaks during a May 15 news conference after Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently director of spiritual formation in the theology division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. (CNS/Micael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

Father Bernard E. Shlesinger III, a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, N.C., speaks during a May 15 news conference after Pope Francis appointed him as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Bishop-designate Shlesinger, 56, is currently director of spiritual formation in the theology division at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. (CNS/Micael Alexander, Georgia Bulletin)

The appointment was announced in Washington May 15 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-designate Shlesinger’s episcopal ordination will take place at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta, but the date has not yet been announced.

“I warmly welcome him to the Archdiocese of Atlanta and I look forward to working with him in service to this local church,” Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory said in a statement about the newly named bishop.

As a Raleigh diocesan priest, Bishop-designate Shlesinger “comes to us from a diocese within the ecclesiastical province of Atlanta where he has longed enjoyed the endorsement of the bishops of our province and the well-deserved respect, admiration, and affection of the clergy, religious and faithful of the Diocese of Raleigh,” the archbishop said.

“Ned is a man of prayer, prudence, and apostolic zeal,” added Archbishop Gregory, who has headed the archdiocese since 2005. “He is eminently qualified to assume these new responsibilities as auxiliary bishop in Atlanta, and I welcome him with an enthusiastic and jubilant heart. I am certain that we all will come to know and love him and discover how truly fortunate we are to have been sent this man of faith and pastoral skill.”

Since 2013, Bishop-designate Shlesinger has been director of spiritual formation in the theology division of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Before that he served in many different capacities in the Diocese of Raleigh including as a pastor, a member of the priests’ council, and director of vocations and seminary formation, 2007-2013.

“We have been blessed to have him with us for the last four years as director of spiritual formation,” said the seminary’s rector, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior. “We were expecting him to return home for a new assignment in the Diocese of Raleigh. (He) will surely be a shepherd after the heart of Jesus, and the church will be blessed by his generous service as a successor to the apostles.”

Father Shlesinger is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, serving from 1983 to 1990, when he retired with the rank of captain. He flew the C-130E Hercules while stationed at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Born Dec. 17, 1960, Bernard E. “Ned” Shlesinger was raised in Northern Virginia. He is the youngest of six children of Bernard E. Shlesinger Jr. and Rita Belmont Shlesinger.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg in 1983. He went on to attend Theological College in Washington, where he studied pre-theology and philosophy. He attended Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, earning a bachelor of arts degree in sacred theology in 1995. That same year he then began studies for a licentiate of sacred theology Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also in Rome.

He was ordained a priest June 22, 1996.

The Archdiocese of Atlanta currently has one active auxiliary bishop, Bishop Luis R. Zarama. It encompasses just over 21,000 square miles across 69 counties in north and central Georgia and is home to 1.1 million Catholics, out of a total population of about 7 million.

 

Contributing to this story was Matthew Gambino in Philadelphia.

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Bishop Malooly condemns acts of anti-Semitic vandalism and threats

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Bishop Malooly issued the following statement Feb. 28 regarding recent anti-Semitic activities around the country and in our community:

“Recent shocking acts of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries and the spate of bomb threats made against Jewish community centers across the nation, including the Siegel Jewish Community Center in Wilmington, reveal an ugly anti-Semitism that I condemn with all people of the Diocese of Wilmington and religious leaders of all faiths in our community.

Men work to right 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)

Men work to right 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)

“I express my sympathy to members of the Jewish community in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland for the hate crimes being committed. The Catholic Church rejects this wave of anti-Semitism and, in the words of Pope Francis, sees these kinds of unconscionable acts as ‘completely contrary to Christian principles and every vision worthy of the human person.’

“As Christians begin the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday, March 1, I call on parishioners of the diocese to share God’s love with all their neighbors and speak out clearly against all forms of prejudice and hate directed toward any of God’s people.”

New Castle County Police reported on Feb. 27 that a third bomb threat in a month was made against the Siegel Jewish Community Center in north Wilmington that morning. The building was swept by police and cleared as safe. The threat was made a day after more than 100 headstones were discovered vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Similar headstone-toppling vandalism was discovered Feb. 21 at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri.

 

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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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High bidder can drive home a new Fiat, slightly used by 78-year-old man on one weekend

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is auctioning off one low-mileage car, in mint condition, used slightly by one owner.

Two of the dark gray, four-door Fiat 500 L sedans used to shuttle Pope Francis around the Philadelphia area during his visit to the city last September will be available for public viewing and at least one of them will be auctioned off during the Philadelphia Auto Show, running Jan. 30 to Feb. 7 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

The Fiat 500 L "urban utility vehicle" used by Pope Francis sits outside St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Sept. 27 in Wynnewood, Pa. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is auctioning off two of the same model cars used to shuttle Pope Francis around the Philadelphia area during his visit to the city last September. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

The Fiat 500 L “urban utility vehicle” used by Pope Francis sits outside St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Sept. 27 in Wynnewood, Pa. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is auctioning off two of the same model cars used to shuttle Pope Francis around the Philadelphia area during his visit to the city last September. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

Proceeds from the auction will benefit ministries of the archdiocese, with 50 percent directed toward the annual Catholic Charities Appeal, and one-third each to Casa del Carmen social service agency in North Philadelphia, Mercy Hospice for homeless women and children in the city and the archdiocese’s schools of special education.

Speakers at a news conference at the convention center Jan. 20 hoped the symbolism of the simple car used by the humble pope may make it an attractive item for a car collector.

Millions saw the pope through the windows of the car as he was driven to and from Philadelphia International Airport, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and center city during his Sept. 26-27 visit.

Chrysler Fiat provided two of the cars for the Philadelphia leg of his U.S. visit, and the company recently reached out to the Philadelphia archdiocese to donate them back, said Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Calling the cars “an icon of the papal visit,” Farrell recounted what for her was still an emotional moment, even four months later. After Pope Francis’ plane landed in Philadelphia and he was about to depart for center city and a Saturday morning Mass, he ordered his Fiat to stop, and stepping out on the tarmac, he walked over to kiss and bless a boy with cerebral palsy.

As the car auction will raise “much-needed funds for ministries to the most marginalized people,” Farrell said, the gesture is “exactly what Pope Francis would have wanted us to do.”

Car buffs will have the chance to bid at a public auction for one of the cars the night before the car show opens with 700 vehicles on display.

The other car may be auctioned later.

The auction starts at 8:45 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Black Tie Tailgate event at the convention center. The auction will accept bids from visitors to the event and online as video will be streamed live on the Internet, according to Max Spann Jr., president of the firm running the auction. The firm’s website is www.maxspann.com.

The Black Tie Tailgate is a fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, raising $6.3 million since it began in 1986. Tickets start at $225.

The Philadelphia Auto Show, now in its 115th year, also benefits Philadelphia charities by donating $2 from each $14 per adult ticket sale.

None of the officials involved with the auction speculated on how much money they hoped to raise from the sale of the Fiat used by Pope Francis.

But it’s a safe bet that the final bid will well exceed the car’s $19,345 manufacturer’s suggested retail price once the gavel comes down with the word “Sold.”

 

Gambino is director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Philadelphia archdiocese.

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Black Catholics mark King holiday with rallying cry for justice

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Catholic News Service

CHESTER, Pa. — The Rev. Cean James, founding pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship Church in Philadelphia, sees little change in society since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain and feels the King holiday should be celebrated by fighting injustice.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured in an undated file photo. The nation honors the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate with a national holiday, observed Jan. 18 this year. (CNS file photo)

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured in an undated file photo. The nation honors the legacy of the slain civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate with a national holiday, observed Jan. 18 this year. (CNS file photo)

“It’s not about service, we should be out on the streets protesting,” he said Jan. 18. “Given the lack of change in society since the death of Dr. King, a true revolution of values is needed. It should be a day of protest against injustice. We have been silent for a long time.”

He was the featured speaker at the Philadelphia archdiocese’s 33rd annual prayer service honoring the legacy of Rev. King. It was held at St. Katharine Drexel Church in Chester.

The joy-filled exuberant singing of the Philadelphia Catholic Mass Choir, an archdiocesan-wide African-American choir under the direction of Kenny Arrington, filled the church the evening of the service.

Rev. James began his talk by revealing past family experience with the Catholic Church. His grandmother was Catholic and when his father was an infant he was deathly sick and sent home by the doctors probably to die the same night. Instead his mother took him to the rectory of Chicago’s St. Ignatius Church, where the pastor and the nuns prayed over him through the night. Rev. James’ father recovered and in gratitude his mother named him for the pastor.

The rest of his talk was pure fire. It could well have been Rev. King himself.

Rev. James had special scorn for those politicians who might go to a school and paint a wall on Rev. King’s birthday and then vote against funding for schools the next day.

In their remarks, Deacon Bill Bradley, director of the Office for Black Catholics, and Father Thomas Whittingham, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel, stressed the theme of charity, as expressed by the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, which the congregation was urged to study, ponder and practice throughout the year.

Also in the spirit of forgiveness was this quote from Rev. King in the program book: “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us.”

Both messages were absorbed by the congregants.

“I thought he (Rev. James) had a lot of good points,” said Dawn Chism, a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish in University City who also sang in the choir. “It is not just a day of service, it should be a day of protest and bringing the issues up.”

Ted Travis, a member of St. Athanasius Parish in West Oak Lane, thought Rev. James’ message was powerful. “Why should we have to wait? We should be living that freedom now,” he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said. “We have to live our Christian calling by not just doing the acts of mercy one night, it is year-round.”

For Allison Walker, a member of St. Barbara Parish in West Philadelphia, the evening was an example of the good work being done by Deacon Bradley and the Office for Black Catholics.

“It was phenomenal having us all come together praising the Lord and giving praise to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” she said.

Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

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Retired Archbishop Schulte of New Orleans dies at 89

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. He was 89.

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa.  (CNS files)

Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 at age 89 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa. (CNS files)

Funeral arrangements were pending, but the funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Archbishop Schulte will be buried in a crypt near the main altar of the cathedral.

“I think he brought a real fidelity to church teaching,” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said of Archbishop Schulte, who was leading the New Orleans Archdiocese when Pope John Paul II named then-Msgr. Aymond as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 1996.

“He also brought a sense of pastoral care,” Archbishop Aymond added. “He was very committed to Catholic education since he had been a superintendent in Philadelphia and knew a lot about it. He also helped to stabilize the finances in our archdiocese. He redid the structure of our administrative offices. That was something that was needed, and I thought he did it very well.”

Francis Bible Schulte was born Dec. 23, 1926, in Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood May 10, 1952, and from 1960 to 1970 was assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia and then as superintendent 1970 to 1980.

He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 1981 and was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, in 1985. He was named to succeed New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Dec. 13, 1988, and was installed Feb. 14, 1989.

A year after Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes was appointed coadjutor archbishop of New Orleans in 2001, Archbishop Schulte officially retired Jan. 3, 2002. Archbishop Hughes immediately succeeded him.

“I don’t think there was a time in my life before ordination that I was not thinking of the priesthood,” Archbishop Schulte said in a 2002 interview with the Clarion Herald upon his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and retirement as archbishop. “From a young age, it was always there,” he told the New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper.

Archbishop Schulte grew up in Philadelphia as an only child. His father, who ran the family pharmacy, died when Frank was only 11. His mother, Katharine Bible Schulte, named for Philadelphia heiress St. Katharine Drexel, who founded Xavier University of Louisiana, imbued in him a love for the church.

Archbishop Schulte said one of the highlights of his tenure was proclaiming to Pope John Paul II the virtues of Redemptorist Father Francis Xavier Seelos, a Civil War-era preacher and confessor who was beatified in St. Peter’s Square in 2000. Blessed Seelos died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1867 while ministering to the German Catholic immigrants.

Archbishop Hughes said Archbishop Schulte’s biggest contribution to the Archdiocese of New Orleans was “to bring an organizational structure to the archdiocese. He was very consultative, and he introduced consultative bodies as genuine consultative bodies. He developed the cabinet structure. That basic structure I inherited and did very little tweaking of it.”

 

 

 

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St. Ann School’s choir to sing at Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving parade

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Dialog reporter

WILMINGTON – While many of their friends will be sleeping in, watching football and sitting down to a big meal with family, 21 students from St. Ann’s School have other plans on Thanksgiving. Those members of the children’s choir are spending much of the day in Philadelphia as part of the 6abc Dunkin’ Donuts Thanksgiving Day Parade. Read more »

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Archbishop Chaput says bishops at synod lobby in search of truth

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When a big group of people gathers to discuss something important, people start lobbying, even if that group is the world Synod of Bishops, said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia.

Pope Francis told participants Oct. 6 “we should avoid thinking of each other as conspiring against one another, but to work for unity among the bishops,” Archbishop Chaput told reporters at a synod press briefing at the Vatican Oct. 7.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput concelebrates Mass with Pope Francis during the closing of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. When a large group of people gathers to discuss something important, people start lobbying, even if that group is the world Synod of Bishops, said Archbishop Chaput. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput concelebrates Mass with Pope Francis during the closing of the World Meeting of Families on Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia Sept. 27. When a large group of people gathers to discuss something important, people start lobbying, even if that group is the world Synod of Bishops, said Archbishop Chaput. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“I have never been at a church meeting where there aren’t groups that get together and lobby for a particular direction and that’s going on, I assure you,” the archbishop said. “That’s what happens when human beings get together. We shouldn’t be surprised or scandalized by that as long as it’s done up front and honestly and not in a way that tries to win rather than to arrive at the truth.”

French Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille told reporters he heard Pope Francis’ admonition as an encouragement “to safeguard serenity in our discussions.”

“And the pope told us last year, didn’t he, that we should speak with all freedom and listen to each other with all humility,” added Peruvian Archbishop Salvador Pineiro Garcia-Calderon of Ayacucho.

A journalist asked the bishops about the possibility that national or regional bishops’ conferences would be given more responsibility for some matters, including pastoral approaches to marriage, given the diversity issues impacting families around the world.

The reporter cited Pope Francis’ exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” which said: “A juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the church’s life and her missionary outreach.”

Archbishop Chaput responded, “The Catholic Church is described as ‘catholic’ if it reaches everywhere and reaches out to everyone in welcome, but also it believes the same thing everywhere about our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Some of that can be handled better universally and some of that can be handled better locally.”

“At the same time, diversity is always in the service of unity in the Catholic Church,” so “I don’t think we would say it is appropriate for bishops’ conferences to decide matters of doctrine and things like that.”

Belgian Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp had told the synod Oct. 6, “In their local churches bishops encounter a great variety of questions and needs to which they must provide a pastoral answer today.”

Responses to the questionnaire set out by the Vatican before the synod and the consultations bishops carried out in preparation for the synod showed that many of the most important questions raised “clearly differ between countries and continents,” Bishop Bonny said.

“There is, however, a common theme in those questions, namely the desire that the church will stand in ‘the great river of mercy.’ It is important that the synod give space and responsibility to the local bishops to formulate suitable answers to the pastoral questions of that part of the people of God, which is entrusted to their pastoral care. The individual bishops’ conferences have a special role in this.

“The synod not only deals with ‘the family as church,’ but also with ‘the church as family,’” he said. “Every family knows what it means to work on unity in diversity, with patience and creativity.”

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All have wounds of heart only Jesus, his church can heal, says Cardinal Tagle at World Meeting of Families

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — All people carry wounds of the heart that only Jesus can heal and his body of Christ, the church, can be agents of that healing. Read more »

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Synod of Bishops on the family begins Sunday in Rome — Lesson for synod seen in joy evident at World Meeting of Families

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Catholic News Service

PHILADELPHIA — It’s difficult to forget Pope Francis’ passionate Sept. 26 speech, his gestures and the tone of his voice when he addressed the value of the family in Philadelphia.

A “society grows strong, grows in goodness, grows in beauty and truly grows if it is built on the foundation of the family,” said the pope, addressing the Festival of Families on the city’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway that Saturday evening. Read more »

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