Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn, will be Celebrated Around the Country December 12, as Day of Solidarity with Immigrants

WASHINGTON - On Tuesday, December 12, the Catholic Church will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the Unborn. Celebrations in dioceses across the nation will be held throughout the month of December to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. These events seek to honor the accomplishments, hopes, fears, and needs of all families who have come to the U.S. seeking a better life.

"As we enter the Advent season and Christmas approaches, we are reminded of the unique role and importance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a unifier and peacebuilder for communities. We honor her role as protectress of families, including those families separated and far from home," stated Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin, Texas, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

Over 55 prayer services, Masses, processions and other events will be held in dioceses across the country as the Catholic Church continues to accompany migrants and refugees seeking opportunity to provide for their families. On December 12, 2017, a Mass honoring our Lady of Guadalupe will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Mario Dorsonville, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, at St. Peter’s Church in Washington, DC at 12:10 PM. All are welcome to attend.

For more information, please visit the Justice for Immigrants (JFI) website at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/lady-guadalupe-resource-page/ which has background material and scriptural information on Our Lady of Guadalupe in English and Spanish, a nationwide map of events, and community celebration ideas.

Pope Francis urges world leaders to respect UN position on Jerusalem

by Elise Harris

Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - With debate on the status of Jerusalem heating up in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis has urged international leaders to proceed with prudence and respect for current U.N. resolutions.

“My thought now goes to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot ignore my deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days,” the Pope said Dec. 6.

He issued a “heartfelt appeal” to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”

The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during his weekly general audience, during which he recounted the phases of his recent Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip to Burma, also called Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

 

His appeal for Jerusalem comes shortly after news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.

As part of the plan, the Trump administration is expected to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and while Israel welcomes the changes, both Palestinians and Arab leaders have voiced concern that the move could jeopardize the peace process in the Middle East, according to BBC.

Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, however, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.

Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.

According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem will be discussed in the late stages of the talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries have embassies in Tel Aviv.

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, then, is likely to increase tension on the issue, particularly in regards to the 200,000-some settlements Israel has built in East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this stance.

In his general audience, Pope Francis noted how Jerusalem is a “unique city” that is considered holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Because of this, he said the city has “a special vocation for peace.”

“I ask the Lord that this identity be preserved and reinforced for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a global panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts,” he said.

Prior to his general audience, the Pope met with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders for a scheduled audience, urging dialogue that is respectful of everyone's rights in the Holy Land. He also voiced his hope that “peace and prosperity” would prevail for the Palestinian people.

 

On his trip to Burma and Bangladesh, Francis said it was “a great gift from God,” and thanked the civil authorities and bishops of each country for their welcome and for everything they did to prepare for the trip.

He noted how his Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a Pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.  

“I wanted, also in this case, to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflict and repression, and which now is slowly walking toward a new condition of freedom and peace,” he said.

Burma, a majority Buddhist country where minorities, including Christians, often face stigma and discrimination, is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule, while also facing harsh criticism from the international community over what the United Nations has called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims from the country's Rakhine State.

In this context, Christians there are the “leaven of God,” he said, and called the Church in Burma a “living and fervent” community that he had the joy of meeting and affirming in faith and communion.   

Similarly, he said his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh was equally important, and focused largely on the need for “respect and dialogue” between Christianity and Islam, as the country is a majority Muslim nation with a small Catholic community.

Religious freedom was a major theme, and was reflected in each of his meetings, he said, and underlined the importance of “openness of the heart as the basis for the culture of encounter, harmony and peace.”

USCCB Offers Advent and Christmas Online Resources for Prayerful Preparation

November 29, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering online resources for prayerful preparation for Advent and Christmas. The daily suggestions for reading, reflection, and prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons are now available online. In addition to a clickable online Advent calendar, with each click opening "doors" to a page of suggested reading, the online page also offers daily reflections, prayers, suggested activities and bilingual calendars that can be printed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides the online Advent and Christmas resources at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/index.cfm and http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/index.cfm.

This year, in addition to the traditional bilingual calendar for Advent that can be printed out, the USCCB is also offering a second bilingual Advent calendar specifically for families, with daily suggestions for prayers and activities to do as a family in preparation for Christmas. Suggestions include creating a Jesse Tree, blessing the family Nativity, and taking time to learn about Advent traditions around the world.

Other Advent resources on the website include liturgical notes on the season, a commentary on the proper prayers of the Advent season from the Roman Missal, and prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Also included are lectio divinas for the four Sundays of Advent.

For Christmas, in addition to the clickable calendar and the bilingual calendar that can be printed, there are lectio divinas for four feast days during the Christmas season—the Solemnity of Christmas; the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God; and the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The lectio divinas are also available in English and Spanish.

Advent begins on December 3 and continues until the evening of December 24 when the Christmas season begins. The Christmas season will conclude with the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2018.

Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

How Christians are continuing to help hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nov 14, 2017  (CNA/EWTN News) - Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, the majority of the island is still without power, and many residents are without clean water as well.

While the rebuilding process is slow, Catholic aid groups are working to provide supplies to those who desperately need them.

On Nov. 10, Catholic Charities USA presented $2 million in additional aid to Caritas de Puerto Rico, the Catholic Charities agency on the island. 

This money follows the $1.5 million in funds given by Catholic Charities USA shortly after the hurricane struck the island.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm. Up to 155 mile per hour winds and heavy rains destroyed buildings, caused massive flooding, and wiped out electricity to the entire island of 3.5 million people.  

The storm has killed at least 51 people, and Puerto Rican authorities have estimated the cost of damages at up to $95 billion.

Many residents are still in need of food and clean drinking water. The lack of communication has also been a serious issue, said one Catholic Charities worker.

“We have been trying to get ahold of the folks here in Utuado for almost a week and have been unable to do so…just packing up the jeep and bringing the supplies here is the only way we are able to communicate,” Kim Burgo told NBC.

More than half the population of Puerto Rico is Catholic, and about a third are Protestant. The island has a strong Christian presence that relies on the support of Christian churches.

While some churches were destroyed by the hurricane, many of those that survived have become safe havens for the Puerto Rican people. Caritas de Puerto Rico has set up locations in Catholic churches across the country to hand out food, water, and hygiene supplies.

Other Christian groups are also working to serve those in need. The Wall Street Journal reported on a Christian church housing more than 500 homeless people and a Southern Baptist group planning to send 200-300 volunteers to open kitchens serving food.

Looking forward, Caritas de Puerto Rico has identified four main objectives as initial steps to long-term restoration: improve distribution of supplies, develop disaster case management teams, provide mental health counselors, and establish a new health clinic on the island.

 

USCCB Chairmen Urge Congress to Provide International Funding for Climate Change

November 10, 2017

WASHINGTON -  In a letter to members of Congress today, Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú urge the United States to support international climate assistance during the year-end appropriations process. The bishops request that Congress dedicate $10 million to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the international body that guides climate policy.

The letter appeals to the responsibility to care for the common good and affirms that the “blessings of God’s creation and the duty to care for the common good overflow beyond our borders, especially when it comes to the air and climate shared with all peoples and creatures living on the planet.”

The UNFCCC facilitates international cooperation on climate change through initiatives such as the annual U.N. Climate Change Conference, which is currently taking place in Bonn, Germany. Two years ago, this conference resulted in the Paris Climate Agreement, from which the United States intends to withdraw. The U.S. bishops have expressed disappointment about the decision to not uphold this agreement that is based on unified global action against climate change.

“Restricting funding to the UNFCCC will only weaken the ability of the United States to dialogue in the international arena using a common language based on the best science available,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

“By supporting the UNFCCC, the United States can direct attention and resources towards adaptation measures that help all people, especially the poor, adapt to the effects of climate change globally,” continued the bishops. “By doing so, our nation can better pursue the national interest, support credible climate research and promote the common good within and beyond our borders.”

Bishop Dewane of Venice, Florida, is chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. Bishop Cantú of Las Cruces is chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB. 

The full text of the letter can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/upload/UNFCCC-letter-2017-11-10.pdf.

 

House Tax Reform Bill “Unacceptable” as Written, Say U.S. Bishops Chairmen

November 9, 2017

 

WASHINGTON—In a letter of November 9, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio called for amendments to the current draft of the House of Representatives tax reform bill “for the sake of families” and “for those struggling on the peripheries of society who have a claim on our national conscience.”

“Doubling the standard deduction will help some of those in poverty to avoid tax liability, and this is a positive good contained in the bill,” wrote the Bishops of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.  “However, as written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy.  This is simply unconscionable.”

Bishop Dewane is the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Cantú chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Bishop Murry heads the Committee on Catholic Education.

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), households with income of $20,000 and $40,000 per year will see their taxes raised in 2023, 2025, and again in 2027.  Taxes will also increase on average taxpayers earning between $10,000 and $20,000 in 2025.  At the same time, significant tax breaks to the very wealthy—including millionaires and billionaires—are projected for each year.

The bishop-chairmen highlighted positive provisions in the areas of education and modest increases to child tax credits, but stressed that the bill places “new and unreasonable burdens on families,” and must be changed.  Included among them are the elimination of:  the adoption tax credit and adoption assistance program exclusion, the personal exemption (which will harm many larger families), the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction, and incentives to employees and employers dependent care assistance or child care, among others.

The letter also cautioned that the deficit could “be used as an argument to further restrict or end programs that help those in need, programs which are investments to help pull struggling families out of poverty.”  Finally, the Bishops called for fixes to disincentives for charitable giving and affordable housing and community revitalization development projects that will result from the legislation.

The full letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-11-9-2017.pdf.

 

President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Responds to Mass Shooting in Texas

November 5, 2017

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has issued the following statement in response to today’s mass shooting during a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas. 

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs.  We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy -- as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.   

We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, His loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families.   

This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at Churches while people were worshipping and at prayer.  We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society.  A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all.”

500 years of Reformation brings together some 800 people in Willmar

The Rev. Steve Verhelst, center, leads a service at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar Sunday to mark 500 years of Reformation. A number of pastors from area churches also participated in leading the service, which drew a crowd of more than 800 people from the area.  Photo by Rand Middleton  

The Rev. Steve Verhelst, center, leads a service at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar Sunday to mark 500 years of Reformation. A number of pastors from area churches also participated in leading the service, which drew a crowd of more than 800 people from the area.  Photo by Rand Middleton

 

By West Central Tribune

WILLMAR - A bold act 500 years ago by a German monk named Martin Luther that split the Roman Catholic Church and gave birth to Protestant religions was commemorated Sunday afternoon in an ecumenical service at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar The service, designed to focus on unity, drew a crowd of more than 800 from the area coming together to celebrate their likenesses rather than their differences.

Father Steve Verhelst of the Church of St. Mary and Jesus Our Living Water Area Faith Community, said even though the Reformation was an event between Catholics and Lutherans, the invitation to "lift our voices together" was open to all Christian faith traditions.

While the Rev Verhelst spearheaded the event, it was organized along with Lutheran pastors from a number of churches in Willmar, including, Calvary, Bethel and Vinje. 

Verhelst said the Protestant Reformation — spurred by Martin Luther nailing on the door of a church on Oct. 31, 1517, his 95 Theses that questioned practices of the Catholic Church — was a significant and historical event that had an impact on the whole world and continues to impact churches and individuals today. 

"We need to celebrate that," said Verhelst.

Click here for a video of the Oct. 29 event.

 

Statement Regarding Reverend James Devorak’s Return to Ministry

NEW ULM - Fr. James Devorak is returning to active priestly ministry after police cleared him of wrongdoing and following a thorough review by both the Diocese of New Ulm and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Fr. Devorak is a retired priest of the Diocese of New Ulm who has served in parishes in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis since 2015.

On August 31, 2017, the Glencoe Police Department completed its investigation into a sexual misconduct allegation against Fr. Devorak. The police investigators found the allegation to be “unfounded” and “without merit.”

On October 6, the Diocese of New Ulm review board recommended to Bishop John LeVoir that Fr. Devorak be reinstated to public ministry in the Diocese of New Ulm and the bishop approved that recommendation. On October 19, the archdiocesan ministerial review board recommended that Fr. Devorak be permitted to return to public ministry in the archdiocese. Archbishop Bernard Hebda accepted their recommendation on October 20.

Attorney Jeff Anderson informed the Diocese of New Ulm that his office will not pursue further representation of the individual who made the claim against Fr. Devorak. Mr. Anderson stated he did not want a cloud over Fr. Devorak because of this claim.

It is standard procedure for the Diocese of New Ulm to remove a member of the clergy from ministry if an allegation has been made against him. The Diocese of New Ulm takes all allegations against clergy very seriously and continues to ask that anyone with information about sexual misconduct by clergy report it to law enforcement. In addition, anyone who has suffered sexual abuse by clergy is encouraged to contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 507-233-5313 for counseling or other assistance in healing.

Bishop LeVoir asks that we join in prayer for hope, healing and peace for both Fr. Devorak and the individual who made the unsubstantiated claim against him. Let us put our faith in the Lord, who is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

Letter from Glencoe Police Chief James R. Raiter regarding allegation against Rev. James Devorak

The government's new religious freedom guidance: What does it mean? Catholic bishops weigh-in with statement

By Michelle Bauman

Washington D.C., Oct 6, 2017(CNA) - All eyes were on the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday, as the Trump administration announced a major broadening of exemptions to the federal contraception mandate, prompting cheers from religious freedom proponents nationwide.

Less noticed was another critical development in the U.S. religious liberty landscape: Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued government-wide legal guidance outlining 20 principles of religious liberty that, the Department of Justice says, should govern all administrative agencies and executive departments in their work.

Sessions had been instructed to “issue guidance interpreting religious liberty protections in federal law” by an executive order signed by President Trump in May.

The 25-page document released by the attorney general will please many religious liberty advocates. Its bold language highlights the crucial role of religious freedom in American life. It could also have an impact on pending legal disputes across the country.

Early in the memo, the guidance asserts, “Religious liberty is not merely a right to personal religious beliefs or even to worship in a sacred place. It also encompasses religious observance and practice.” Religious freedom proponents have argued for this definition avidly in recent years, amid fears that the idea was being eroded, especially as the phrase “freedom of worship” often replaced “freedom of religion” in the Obama administration.

The document goes on to state that religious liberty extends not only to persons, but to organizations, and that religious freedom is not surrendered when an individual participates in the marketplace or interacts with government – two key points argued in the HHS mandate debate over the last six years.

This second point – that individuals do not have to remove themselves from civil society in order to retain their right to religious freedom – could also have implications in several high-profile lawsuits, largely revolving around the freedom of service providers such as florists, cake bakers, and photographers to decline same-sex weddings, based on their religious beliefs about marriage.

Six of the 20 religious liberty principles in Sessions’ document are dedicated to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA.

Enacted in 1993, RFRA is one of the primary legislative pillars upon which religious freedom arguments have rested in the last two decades. It says that the federal government may not substantially burden the free exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling state interest in doing so, and it is carried out in the least-restrictive manner possible.

RFRA applies only to the federal government, although in recent years, similar laws have increasingly been proposed or passed in state legislatures.

The guidance explains that RFRA “applies to all sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and the government does not have the authority to second-guess the reasonableness of a religious conviction. It affirms that in evaluating RFRA claims, courts must use what is known as “strict scrutiny” – the highest level of judicial review, under which only the most serious of government interests are permitted to infringe upon a fundamental constitutional right.

It also says that the law “applies even where a religious adherent seeks an exemption from a legal obligation requiring the adherent to confer benefits on third parties,” making it clear that RFRA applies in cases such as the HHS mandate.

The document takes a firm stand in insisting that RFRA be taken seriously and interpreted robustly. It’s worth noting that this is a return to ideas widely held just 25 years ago: when RFRA was enacted in 1993, it has nearly unanimous support from both parties and was signed into law by Bill Clinton.

Also significant, the guidance explicitly affirms the right of religious organizations to “employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts.” This is a victory for faith-based employers, among them Catholic schools who have faced opposition for asking employees to sign codes of conduct agreeing to abide by Catholic teaching on issues such as sexuality.    

Today’s guidance also confirms that government cannot interfere with the autonomy of religious organizations. This idea was reinforced by the Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC – a rare unanimous ruling in 2012 in which the court upheld the “ministerial exception” that allows religious organizations to hire and fire ministers without interference from the government.

Finally, the document released by Sessions said that religious organizations must have equal footing in applying for federal aid or grant programs – they may not be denied participation in these programs when the money is going toward activities that are not explicitly religious in nature.

This has been an important issue in the weeks after Hurricane Harvey with a group of Houston churches suing the Federal Emergency Management Agency, claiming they had been denied disaster relief grants due to their religious status.

The principle was also at play earlier this year, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Lutheran church that was seeking to make safety improvements on its playground through a state reimbursement program. The church had initially been turned away because of its religious affiliation.

Now that the attorney general has issued the guidance, it is up to each agency and department to implement the principles as they make employment decisions, develop regulations, administer programs and write up contracts and grants.

The fight over the proper role of religious liberty in the nation is far from over, however. The document has already been criticized by its opponents as oppressive to women and the LGBT community.

The broad effect of the guidance will continue to unfold in the coming months. Challenges to it will undoubtedly arise as well. The ultimate outcome remains to be seen. But in the meantime, religious liberty proponents can find encouragement in some of the strongest language on the issue coming from a presidential administration in decades.

United States Catholic Bishops: "HHS Mandate Decision Represents Return to Common Sense"

WASHINGTON - The decision on Oct. 6, 2017, to expand the HHS mandate exemption is a "return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state," according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the USCCB, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, are hailing the Trump Administration's announcement to provide a broad religious and moral exemption from the mandate requiring health insurance coverage of sterilization, contraception, and drugs and devices that may cause abortions.

Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Lori offered the following joint statement in response:

"The Administration's decision to provide a broad religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that the full range of faith-based and mission-driven organizations, as well as the people who run them, have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect. Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state. It corrects an anomalous failure by federal regulators that should never have occurred and should never be repeated.

"These regulations are good news for the Little Sisters of the Poor and others who are challenging the HHS mandate in court.  We urge the government to take the next logical step and promptly resolve the litigation that the Supreme Court has urged the parties to settle.

"The regulations are also good news for all Americans. A government mandate that coerces people to make an impossible choice between obeying their consciences and obeying the call to serve the poor is harmful not only to Catholics but to the common good. Religious freedom is a fundamental right for all, so when it is threatened for some, it is threatened for all. We welcome the news that this particular threat to religious freedom has been lifted, and with the encouragement of Pope Francis, we will remain 'vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.'"

Cardinal Dolan Launches 2017-18 Program with Respect Life Month Statement

WASHINGTON - In a statement to mark Respect Life Month, October 2017, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York reiterated the need to build a culture of life throughout the year. Cardinal Dolan chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Cardinal’s statement launches the year-long 2017-18 Respect Life Program (www.usccb.org/respectlife), which provides materials exploring the theme, “Be Not Afraid.”

“Looking back over the last year, there’s been a lot of uncertainty, suffering, and heartache. Between tragedies that occur in the public eye and trials that take place in our personal lives, there’s no shortage of reasons we cry out to God,” Cardinal Dolan said. “At such times, we may feel alone and unequipped... But we have an anchor of hope to cling to. ...God says to us, ‘Do not fear: I am with you’ (Isaiah 41:10).”

“There are times we may doubt the value of our own lives or falter at the thought of welcoming and embracing the life of another. But…He makes all things beautiful. He makes all things new. He is the God of redemption,” the Cardinal said. “That’s powerful. That’s something to hold onto.”

“As followers of Jesus Christ, …we are called to be missionary disciples…commissioned to reach out to one another, especially to the weak and vulnerable,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Begun in 1972, the Respect Life Program highlights the value and dignity of human life throughout the year. Materials are intended for use across the spectrum of Catholic life, work, ministry, and education.

The 2017-18 Respect Life Program features six articles on a range of issues. They address practical steps to build a culture of life, compelling reasons to oppose assisted suicide, principles to consider at the end of life, an overview of the role of conscience, offering genuine support to a friend who’s considering abortion, and a Catholic Q & A on the death penalty. Many digital and print resources are offered, including toolkits for priests and deacons, parishes, Catholic education, Respect Life ministry, youth ministry, young adult ministry, faith formation, and communications.

The full text of Cardinal Dolan's statement is available along with many other resources at www.usccb.org/respectlife.

Bishops Conference President Calls for Prayers, Care for Others After Tragic Shooting in Las Vegas

WASHINGTON - On October 2, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed “deep grief” after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. 

The full text of the statement follows:

“We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas.  At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering.  In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.  May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

USCCB Pro Life Chairman Urges Passage of Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

WASHINGTON - Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 36). It is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.

In a September 29 letter to the House, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in clinics…that abort children after 20 weeks.”

“Planned Parenthood’s callous and disturbing practices of harvesting fetal body parts from late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and the deplorable actions of late-term abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell…, have shocked our nation and led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures,” Cardinal Dolan said, calling the 20-week ban a “common-sense reform.”

The Cardinal offered reasons why “the proposed ban on abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and as ‘pro-choice’.” The first centers on the expanding range of fetal ‘viability’. “The Supreme Court’s past insistence that unborn children must be ‘viable’ to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable…[M]edical technology is moving the point of viability earlier in the pregnancy putting Roe on a collision course with itself.” Second, there are life-threatening dangers to women undergoing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Finally, addressing the proposal to perform late-term abortions in “mainstream” clinics, he notes that those clinics generally refuse to perform the risky procedures. “What does it say about us as a nation, if we will not act against abortions that even full-time abortionists find abhorrent?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Cardinal Dolan reaffirmed the right to life of humans at every stage of development, and clarified that the Church remains committed to advocating for the full legal protection of all unborn children: “[E]very child, from conception onward, deserves love and the protection of the law…. [T]he real problems that lead women to consider abortion should be addressed with solutions that support both mother and child.”

For the full text of Cardinal Dolan’s letter to the House of Representatives, visit: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/CdlDolan-HR36-House-Ltr-09-29-2017.pdf.

 

US Catholics Join with Pope Francis in Campaign to “Share the Journey” of Migrants and Refugees

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPTEMBER 27, 2017 – Today, several dozen bishops across the United States are joining Pope Francis as he launched the two-year “Share the Journey” campaign, holding events and reaching out to support migrants and refugees in their own dioceses as the campaign aims to raise awareness about their plight worldwide.

Kicked off around the world by the global Caritas network, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) are sponsoring the campaign in the United States. Both CRS, working in more than 100 countries around the world, and CCUSA, the Catholic Church’s domestic agency, are members of Caritas Internationalis, the Church’s worldwide charity organization that is the overall sponsor of the campaign.

“This campaign is both spiritual and practical,” says Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the USCCB. “The Pope is asking us to pray and reflect and to use the awareness we build to take action, both personally and publically. To our Church, this campaign is an embodiment of the Biblical command to love our neighbor.”

Pope Francis kicked off “Share the Journey” at the Vatican today with a symbolic gesture of reaching out to those displaced from their homes, who now number some 65 million around the world, the biggest such crisis since World War II. That will be followed by a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees in Catholic churches and parishes around the world from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14.

“The Holy Father wants us to feel this personally,” says Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. “Each of us must work to encounter the migrants and refugees who are all around us. All too often, they seem invisible to us. We need to hear their stories, literally share their journeys, and see them as our brothers and sisters.”

From Seattle to Miami, bishops are holding masses, prayer vigils and events with local migrants and refugees. Two dioceses in Florida, for example, illustrate the support the Catholic Church is lending to the campaign. The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Jacksonville, part of the St. Augustine diocese, is working through its local Catholic Charities to invite refugees and migrants to a special 7 p.m. mass where they will be welcomed to share their stories.

In Venice, the diocese is launching a photo exhibition and slideshow focused on the issue, along with a video about a young woman, the adult child of migrant workers, who is now Program Director for Catholic Charities Guadalupe Social Services in Immokalee, FL. The campaign also calls for governments and international organizations to take responsibility for caring for forced migrants, most of whom are fleeing disasters – war, famine, violence – beyond their control.

“At CRS, we work with both the internally displaced and refugees around the world,” CRS President Sean Callahan says. “We know firsthand that these are innocent victims, that they should be treated with respect and dignity, that they are the people the Bible calls us to love. By heeding Pope Francis’ call to share their journey, we can all come to understand that.”

More information about “Share the Journey” is available on sharejourney.org.

Faithful martyr and missionary Father Stanley Rother beatified in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Okla.,  (CNA/EWTN News) -  Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala, was beatified Saturday during a Mass in Oklahoma City attended by over 20,000 people.

Pope Francis named him blessed in a letter that cited his “deeply rooted faith,” his “profound union with God,” and his “arduous duty to spread the word of God in missionary lands, faithfully living his priestly and missionary service until his martyrdom.”

His feast day is set for the anniversary of his death, July 28, 1981, which the papal letter described as “the day of his heavenly birth.”

Blessed Stanley Rother served indigenous people of his Guatemala parish at a time of civil war. He returned to his home state of Oklahoma after a death threat, then returned knowing the dangers.

Before his last Christmas, the priest wrote to a parish in Oklahoma about the dangers in Guatemala:

“The shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger,” he said.

Armed men broke into his rectory, intending to abduct him. He resisted and struggled, but did not call for help, so others at the mission would not be endangered.

He was shot twice and killed.

At a time of great social and political turbulence, the priest lived as a disciple of Christ, “doing good and spreading peace and reconciliation among the people,” Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect for the Congregation of Saints, said in his homily.

“Unfortunately, this immediate recompense on this earth was persecution and a bloody death, in accord with the Words of Jesus: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit,” said the cardinal, citing the words of the Gospel.

Celebrating the Mass with Cardinal Amato were Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley, dozens of bishops, scores of priests and thousands of laity, including some from Guatemala. The Mass took place at Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center.

Family of Fr. Rother were also in attendance. Sister Marita Rother read the first reading, from the Book of Sirach.

Though Blessed Stanley faced difficulties in his seminary studies, he showed great dedication to the manual labor he was familiar with from his youth on his family farm near Okarche, Okla.

After volunteering for the Guatemala mission Santiago Atitlan, the priest learned Spanish. He even the local language of the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians so well that he could use it in his preaching.

He would spend 13 years of his life there, diligent in visiting newlyweds and baptizing and catechizing their children. He was vigorous in both religious and social formation, drawing on his experience to work the fields and repair broken trucks while also building a farmer’s co-op, a school, a hospital and the area’s first Catholic radio station.

Blessed Stanley even took action after a major earthquake in 1976.

“With courage he climbed the ravines in order to help the very poor, pulling the wounded out of the ruins and carrying them to safety on his shoulders,” Cardinal Amato said.

Cardinal Amato recounted the civil conflict in Guatemala. From 1971 to 1981, there were numerous killings of journalists, farmers, catechists and priests, all accused falsely of communism.

“This was a real and true time of bloody persecution of the Church,” the cardinal said. “Fr. Rother, aware of the imminent danger to his life, prepared himself for martyrdom, asking the Lord for the strength to face it without fear.”

“He continued, however, to preach the gospel of love and non-violence.”

Both the priest’s mission and the aid he gave to the victims of violence were seen as subversive, explained the cardinal, who added: “a good shepherd cannot abandon his flock.”

“In the face of kidnappings and violence Fr. Rother felt helpless because he did not succeed in changing the situation of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Cardinal Amato continued. “He often cried in silence to a Carmelite nun who asked what to do if he were killed.”

“Fr. Rother responded: ‘Raise the standard of Christ Risen’.”

Others spoke about Blessed Stanley. Oklahoma City Archbishop emeritus Eusebius Beltran voiced gratitude to God for the beatification of the first native-born priest and martyr of the United States.

“His death was a tragedy for Oklahoma and for Guatemala. However, through his death, his saintly life has become known well beyond the boundaries of Guatemala and Oklahoma and the faith of all those who are now familiar with his life is greatly strengthened, and the Church continues to flourish,” Archbishop Beltran said.

Archbishop Coakley said that the priest “chose to remain with his people” and “gave his lifein solidarity.”

“Pray that Church will experience a new Pentecost and abundant vocations, aided by the intercession of Bl. Stanley Rother,” he said.

The Mass was multi-lingual, incorporating Spanish, Comanche and the Mayan language of the indigenous people Fr. Rother served.

The offertory was dedicated to the Guatemalan parishes where Blessed Stanley Rother served, in order to help meet their needs and sustain the faith there. The Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma is managing donations through the webpage http://stanleyrother.org/mass

Event with Saint Gianna Molla’s daughter October 28; Topic is end-of-life care

SAINT PAUL - A number of organizations, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, (the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota), are giving Minnesota Catholics a graced opportunity: the chance to hear from the daughter of a canonized saint, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, on an issue of critical importance.


Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna, will be the keynote at the "Take My Hand, Not My Life" symposium, a discussion concerning end-of-life care.

Dr. Molla, who practiced as a geriatrician in her local Italy before giving up her career to take care of her aging father, will share from her professional and personal experience on the unexpected joy to be found in caring for another.

She and a number of local speakers will offer a positive Catholic response to the ongoing end-of-life care conversation -- especially timely in Minnesota, as legislation to legalize assisted suicide has been introduced here. 

DATE: Sunday, October 28, 2017
SCHEDULE: 

  • 8:00 AM - Mass at St. Mary's Chapel (Saint Paul Seminary)

  • 8:45 AM - 12:30 PM - Continental Breakfast and Symposium in Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center (Anderson Student Center)

LOCATION: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
COST: $25 per person. Learn more and register.

Healthcare in Minnesota A Symposium Considering Contemporary Challenges

Healthcare reform. The opioid crisis. Gender theory.

These are just some of the emerging challenges on the healthcare landscape in Minnesota about which Catholics should be aware.

Join Minnesota's bishops, expert speakers, and Catholic healthcare professionals from across Minnesota for this timely and edifying conversation on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, 9 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the University of St. Thomas, Anderson Student Center - Woulfe Alumni Hall, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul.

Speakers include:

  • Sr. Renee Mirkes, OSF - Pope Paul VI Institute
  • Sally Satel - American Enterprise Institute
  • Meghan Goodwin - U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
  • Fr. John Stabeno - Catholic Charities (Diocese of Camden, NJ)
  • State legislators and local experts

There is no cost to attend (although free-will donations are gratefully accepted). Registration is required, as seating is limited. TO REGISTER click here.

Co-sponsored by the Minnesota Catholic Conference and theCatholic Health Association of Minnesota .

‘They killed a man, but they created a saint’ - Archbishop Flynn, others describe Father Rother’s life, legacy and Minnesota ties ahead of Sept. 23 beatification

Editor's Note: On Dec. 2, 2016, Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma.This month, on Sept. 23 in Oklahoma City, the Beatification of Fr. Rother will take place. This is a tremendous blessing for Oklahoma and for the United States. Fr. Rother is the first U.S.-born priest to receive this recognition and it will be only the second beatification ever held in the United States.
 

By Maria Wiering (Sept. 13, 2017 - The Catholic Spirit)

Archbishop Harry Flynn was rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, when he got a call in 1979 from an old friend from seminary, asking if he could visit for a week. That friend was Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and a missionary in a rural part of Guatemala.

He picked up Father Rother from Dulles airport and was appalled by the horrific situation the priest described in Guatemala. Members of his congregation had “disappeared” and were presumed dead, victims of a civil war between the government and guerilla groups.

“If they asked for a few more cents for picking coffee beans, they were considered communists, and a truck would come into the village that night, stop at the home of the man or woman who asked for a few more cents, take them out to the country, torture them, kill them, and then throw their bodies into a well to poison that well,” Archbishop Flynn said.

Father Rother described the situation “with a passion,” Archbishop Flynn recalled. “It was haunting him. He said, ‘If I speak, they’ll kill me, but if keep silent, what kind of a shepherd would I be?’”

The friends shared meals together that week, but Father Rother spent his days praying at the seminary’s historic Lourdes grotto, a place he had loved while he and Archbishop Flynn were seminarians at “the Mount.” At the end of the week, he told then-Father Flynn, “I know what I must do. I must go back and speak.”

“But,” Archbishop Flynn recalled, “he also said this: ‘They’re not going to take me out and kill me somewhere in the country and then throw my body into a well.’ He said, ‘I’ll put up a fight like they’ve never seen before.’”

Archbishop Flynn took Father Rother to the airport and said goodbye. He knew it would be the last time he would see him alive. Two years later, Archbishop Flynn opened a newspaper to read that an American priest had been killed in Guatemala. He didn’t have to read further to know it was Father Rother.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

 

 

Council of Cardinals says more youth, women needed in Roman Curia

by Elise Harris

Vatican City, (EWTN News/CNA) – One of the key talking points in the latest round of meetings for the Pope's Council of Cardinals was the selection of personnel in the Roman Curia, with an emphasis on making it more international, and with a higher number of young people and women.

The cardinals gathered for the 21st time in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace from Sept. 11-13 to discuss the ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Commonly referred to as the “C9,” the group was established by Pope Francis after his election as Bishop of Rome in 2013 to advise him in matters of Church governance and reform.

Absent from this week's meetings were Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa and Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

In comments to journalists during a Sept. 13 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that as of now, no one is stepping in for Cardinal Pell during his leave of absence while facing charges for abuse in Australia.

Pope Francis himself was absent for the first day of meetings due to his recent trip to Colombia, but was present for the rest of the sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he was at the weekly general audience.

In addition to reviewing the status of previous proposals given to the Pope regarding the reform of the Curia, members also took time for a special reflection on past speeches Francis has given on the topic.

Texts examined in the previous round of meetings, which took place in June, included proposals for the dicasteries for Interreligious Dialogue, Eastern Churches, Legislative Texts, and the three courts of the Roman Curia: the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Apostolic Signatura, and the Roman Rota.

Led by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, the reflection focused primarily on the speeches given by the Pope during his annual Christmas audiences with the Roman Curia, the consistories of February and October 2015, and his speech for the 50th anniversary of the Synod of Bishops in 2015.

In his comments to the press, Burke said specific themes discussed by the cardinals were the role of the Curia as “an instrument of evangelization and service for the Pope and the local Churches,” decentralization, the role of apostolic nunciatures, and the “selection and competence” of curial personnel.

Specifically, Burke said four points were brought up in regards to Curia personnel -- that the Curia be “less clerical, more international” and that there is “an increase in young people and women” among their ranks.

The role of young people, laity, and women is something Pope Francis has emphasized strongly throughout his pontificate, as is the need for a more international Church that is less “Euro-centric.”

In fact, the laity, youth, and women were key groups Francis brought up to the bishops of Latin America in his audience with CELAM during his visit to Colombia, in which he said they are the faces of hope on the continent.

In his speech to the Curia Dec. 22, 2016, which is among the texts reflected on by the C9, Pope Francis said that when it comes to curial officials, “in addition to priests and consecrated persons, the catholicity of the Church must be reflected in the hiring of personnel from throughout the world.”

This “catholicity” must also be reflected in the presence of “permanent deacons and lay faithful carefully selected on the basis of their unexceptionable spiritual and moral life and their professional competence,” he said.

In this view, “it is fitting to provide for the hiring of greater numbers of the lay faithful, especially in those dicasteries where they can be more competent than clerics or consecrated persons.”

He also stressed that “of great importance is an enhanced role for women and lay people in the life of the Church and their integration into roles of leadership in the dicasteries, with particular attention to multiculturalism.”

In addition to curial personnel, the cardinals also discussed Pope Francis' recent motu proprio Magnum principium, which gave more power to local bishops in the translation and approval of liturgical texts, and its implications for the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, also addressed the group, speaking about updates in his dicastery.

Later this afternoon, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, will address the group on the latest work of the dicastery, which was a focus of June's meetings.

The cardinals also re-read the statutes of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, which was established in 2016, and is headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell.

Cardinal Farrell also made an appearance at the C9 meetings, and gave his fellow prelates an update on the dicastery's work. Cardinal Sean O'Malley also briefed the group on the most recent work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which he was tapped to lead in 2014.

Cardinal O'Malley is slated to meet with the Pope individually later this afternoon. In response to journalists, Burke said the meeting would naturally involve the commission's work, but would also touch on other topics.

The Council of Cardinals' next round of meetings is set to take place Dec. 11-13.