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Nuncio urges US bishops to unity in Christ

June 16, 2021 Catholic News Agency 3
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the US, addresses the USCCB’s 2020 Fall General Assembly.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

Following the Covid-19 pandemic the Church needs to dialogue with an aim of unity, and emphasize the importance of Christ, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said to the USCCB’s assembly on Wednesday. 

The assembly is taking place virtually via video conference. 

“I am firmly convinced that emerging from the pandemic, we need to be a Church that proclaims, with conviction, the basic kerygma and the person of Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Pierre said June 16.

“And we need to be a Church that follows the method of Jesus, which is one of accompaniment and dialogue, a dialogue directed toward salvation.”

Archbishop Pierre said there was a need for unity in the Church in America, noting that while this is a challenge, it is one that has been met before in other trying times. 

“In response to the abuse crisis, it answered with a unified and concerted effort that showed care and compassion for the plight of survivors; it provided for the needs of the immigrant community; it stood in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world by providing material and spiritual closeness; it came to the rescue of those affected by natural disasters; it spoke with one voice in defense of the dignity of all peoples and against the scourge of racial inequality,” said Archbishop Pierre. 

“These examples point to the undeniable truth that unity is possible and that the Church in the United States has numerous experiences of it.”

The bishops, he said, have a particularly important role to play in ensuring that this unity is achieved. He noted that the four dimensions of dialogue described by St. John Paul II in the 1995 encyclical Ut unum sint “can be helpful to illumine the path towards greater unity,” even though they were not written with this particular situation in mind. 

Those four dimensions–the dialogue of charity, of conversion, of truth, and of salvation–all play a role in helping to better unite the Christian people. 

Archbishop Pierre highlighted the need for the Church after the pandemic to center its evangelical efforts on the saving work of Christ, pointing out that “Christianity offers more than an NGO or a social service organization.” 

“The Church offers salvation in the person of Jesus Christ,” he said. 

“What is often lacking in the process of evangelization, and we certainly need to evangelize and catechize now more than ever, is ‘beginning again from Jesus Christ,’’’ said Archbishop Pierre. ’

“The starting point, therefore, cannot be to shame the weak, but to propose the One who can strengthen us to overcome our weaknesses, especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist,” he said. 

“With respect to the latter, Holy Communion is not merely a ‘thing’ to be received but Christ Himself, a Person to be encountered.”

Archbishop Pierre stressed the need to center the Church on Christ, saying that “a Catholicism that confuses itself with a mere cultural tradition or which cannot distinguish itself from other proposals, including political or ideological ones that are based on certain values, will never be convincing to this generation or to new ones.”

“Jesus Christ is a Person, not a concept,” he said.


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News Briefs

Archbishop Gomez opens USCCB meeting with passionate call for unity 

June 16, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Archbishop Gomez addresses his brother bishops after being elected to a three-year term as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during the USCCB’s fall meeting in Baltimore, Nov. 11, 2019 / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

In his opening address at the 2021 spring meeting of the U.S. bishops on Wednesday, conference president Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles made a passionate call for unity.

Archbishop Gomez reminded fellow bishops that “only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now.” 

“We have been living through some extraordinary times,” the archbishop said. “We’ve seen a pandemic shut down our civilization, including the Church, for more than a year. We’ve lived through riots in our major cities, rising social divisions and unrest, and maybe the most polarized election our country has ever seen.”

He also said that “the Church’s mission will be shaped for years to come by the troubles of these recent months.” 

“I was noticing, even before the pandemic, how often Pope Francis talks about the importance of unity — not only among peoples, but also unity within the Church,” Archbishop Gomez said, as he quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti in its call for unity among the human family. 

Gomez observed that it is “not realistic to expect the Church to stay immune from the pressures of division. Those pressures are all around us. The Church is divine, she is the Body of Christ. But we are all human in the Church, after all. And we are living in a secular society where politics is becoming the substitute religion for a lot of people.” 

“So, we need to guard against the temptation to think about the Church in simply political terms,” he said. 

He then quoted Pope Francis’ recent homily for Pentecost Sunday: “Today, if we listen to the Spirit, we will not be concerned with conservatives and progressives, traditionalists and innovators, right and left. … The Paraclete impels us to unity … the harmony of diversity. He makes us see ourselves as parts of the same body, brothers and sisters of one another.”

“Unity in the Church,” Archbishop Gomez continued, does not mean conformity of opinion or automatic agreement among bishops. “The apostles argued passionately. They disagreed over pastoral strategies and methods. But never about the truth of the Gospel.” 

“Only a Church that is united can heal the brokenness and challenge the injustices that we see more clearly now in the wake of this pandemic,” he added. 

According to the USCCB president, “the power of our Catholic vision flows from our profound awareness of the unity of life, from conception to natural death, and the unity of the human family, every person a child of God.” 

He acknowledged that “there are forces at work right now in our culture that threaten not only the unity of the human family, but also the very truth about God’s creation and human nature.” He quoted Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, saying, “This is the age of sin against God the Creator.” 

“My brothers,” Gomez stated, “we stand at a historic crossroads, as our Holy Father is telling us. It falls to the Church in this moment to defend the truth about God the Creator, and the truth about the sanctity of the human person and the unity of the human family in God’s plan for creation.”

“My prayer is that we all remain united in what is essential — our love for Jesus and our desire to proclaim him as the living God and the true path for humanity.”

In concluding, referring to his Mexican roots, Archbishop Gomez reminded his fellow bishops that “as you know, I have a deep devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When I was growing up my family went on pilgrimage to the shrine in Mexico City nearly every summer.”

“And I find myself turning to her a lot during these days,” he continued. “I was reflecting today how the Popes see her apparition as a sign of unity for the continent. St. John Paul II called her shrine ‘the Marian heart of America’.” 

May she help us to keep our hearts humble and united in the service of Jesus, as we seek to continue the evangelization of our country and our continent in this moment.

Archbishop Gomez addressed the spring meeting of the U.S. bishops, which is taking place virtually from June 16-18. The bishops will deliberate and vote on several agenda items, including approving of two causes of canonization, approving a pastoral statement on marriage ministry, and authorizing statements on Native American ministry and the Eucharist in the life of the Church.


The Dispatch

The USCCB meeting starts today: 5 items the bishops will consider

June 16, 2021 Catholic News Agency 13
A bishop’s pectoral cross. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, Jun 16, 2021 / 13:12 pm (CNA).

From June 16-18, 2021, the bishops of the United States will gather for their annual spring meeting, held virtually this year, to debate and vote on several action items. Here is an introduction to the five most important items on the agenda.

 1. Plans for a Eucharistic Revival

While the possibility of a document on the Eucharist has grabbed headlines for months, the most significant move of the bishops may be their bold plans for a national Eucharistic Revival. The multi-year plan involves partnership with ministries across the nation and culminates in a national Eucharistic Congress in 2024. Given its impact on the lives of everyday Catholics, this initiative may be the most important action item approved at the meeting.

2. Vote on whether to draft a document on the Eucharist

Likely to garner the most attention is the vote on whether to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist. The discussion about this document has received growing attention since the November election, though the bishops’ interest in questions related to eucharistic coherence and belief in the real presence date back to 2004.

Contrary to reports among activist groups and some media outlets, the vote is not a referendum on whether President Joe Biden, a Catholic whose public positions on abortion, euthanasia, transgenderism, and the death penalty contradict Church teaching, but on the creation of a document to catechize American Catholics.  

An outline of the document obtained by CNA shows that the three-part document will focus on the mystery of the real presence and its reality as a sacrifice that heals; the sacramental celebration of the Eucharist, its beauty and ability to unify and forge an identity among the faithful as a people of God; and the moral and missionary transformation that occurs after partaking in the Eucharist, with a subsection on Eucharistic consistency and the problem on serious sin.

That subsection has overshadowed the bishops’ evangelistic attempt to catechize the faithful on the central mystery of the faith—a mystery that Pew Research shows more than 2/3 of Catholics do not believe.

 3. Vote to advance the cause of two servants of God

The vote to advance the cause of canonization for a diocesan priest named Joseph Verbis Lafluer and Benedictine Brother Marinus LaRue may give greater recognition of two heroically virtuous men to the Church. Both men have military backgrounds and incredible stories.

Father Lafluer, a Louisiana native, was a military chaplain and prisoner of war who died sacrificing his life to help others out of the hull of a Japanese warship he and hundreds of other POWS were trapped in. When American forces unknowingly torpedoed the ship carrying their compatriots, Lafluer stayed behind to help his fellow men out of the hull. Prior to his death, he spent 2 ½ years under starving conditions in a camp in the Philippines where his generosity with rations and charity in such extreme conditions moved around 200 men to convert to Catholicism, including men who did nothing other than see his example.

Leonard LaRue, a Merchant Marine captain, was responsible for the execution of a courageous rescue operation during the Korean War. After traveling to Korea on a weapons transport ship whose capacity held 50-60 men, he saw thousands of Koreans on the shore attempting to flee communist powers. Grasping the eternal significance of the people before him, LaRue gave orders that nearly all weapons and cargo be dispatched and filled his ship with some 14,005 refugees. After winning accolades for his heroic and decisive action, LaRue decided to dedicate his life to God as a religious, joining the Benedictines as Brother Marinus and living the rest of his life in humility, obscurity, and penance.

 4. Votes on evangelization efforts for various groups and updates on cultural diversity

A vote to approve a “National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love;” a vote to develop a formal statement and comprehensive vision on Native American/Alaska Native ministry; and a vote to create a national pastoral framework on youth and young adults are action items at the spring meeting.

Friday afternoon will also see presentations on the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) study on pastoral care for migrants, refugees and travelers as well as an overview of the June 1-2, 2021 meeting on immigration matters held at Mundelein Seminary.

5. Approval of New Liturgical Texts

While the full new translation of the Breviary will most likely not be completed until 2024, the bishops will be voting on translations and insertions that will impact the prayers of Liturgy of the Hours. They will also be voting on a new book for the Order of Penance, and formally ratifying readings and prayers for the newly instituted feast of Mary, Mother of the Church.

The bishops conference meeting will begin with public remarks from the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, as well as a presidential address by Archbishop José Gomez, current USCCB president. The public sessions of the meetings will be livestreamed on the USCCB website.