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November 19, 2017
Archive of November 13, 2017

Pope prays for victims of massive earthquake on Iran-Iraq border

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - After an earthquake along the Iraq-Iran border left some 340 people dead and another 4,000 injured, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the loss of life and offered prayer for the dead and for rescue efforts.

In a telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and sent to leaders in both Iran and Iraq, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by news of the quake, and assured all those affected of his “prayerful solidarity.”

Voicing sorrow to the families of the victims, the Pope offered prayer for the deceased and entrusted them to God's mercy. He also prayed for the injured and the emergency personnel and civil authorities engaged in rescue efforts.

He closed the telegram asking God for the “divine blessings of consolation and strength.”

The Pope's telegram came one day after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iran and Iraq, with aftershocks felt in Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey.

According to CNN, most of the deaths were in Iran. The agency reports that so far 336 deaths have been confirmed in Iran, with another 3,950 injured, while in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq seven deaths have been reported along with 300 injuries.

Rescue operations are underway in both countries, and Iran has declared a 3-day period of mourning.

The quake is the strongest to hit the region in recent years, though not the most deadly. Iran, which sits along a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, has experienced a number of earthquakes, with the most deadly being a 6.6 quake in 2003 that struck the city of Bam and killed some 26,000 people.

A decade earlier, in June 1990, roughly 37,000 people were killed in a major quake that leveled the cities of Rudbar, Manjil and Lushan.

Join us in praying for Iran & Iraq after deadly earthquake. #PrayforIran #PrayforIraq

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) November 13, 2017

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Be missionary disciples of Christ, apostolic nuncio encourages US bishops

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - On the opening day of the US bishops' plenary assembly, Archbishop Christophe Pierre addressed the gathering, encouraging them to prioritize youth, the mission of evangelization, and Christ himself.

“I offer you the example of the patroness of your country, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as someone who went forth with a sense of urgency” to share the joy of Christ with her cousin, Elizabeth, the apostolic nuncio to the US said Nov. 13 in Baltimore, Md.

The archbishop noted that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and urged that in addition to remembering the past, they must look to the forward, avoiding “small-mindedness” and recommending three things about which to be passionate: the youth, the mission of evangelization, and the Lord himself.

“There is a goodness to the people of the Church in the United States.”-
Archbishop Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio. #USCCB17 @cnalive

— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) November 13, 2017

Archbishop Pierre mentioned the importance of the upcoming Synod of Bishops which will focus on young people, “to learn from them and to help them to discover the path the Lord has chosen for them.”

He addressed “the difficulties of transmitting the faith in our day,” especially in the face of the rise of the number of people not identifying with any religious tradition. The youth, he said, are faced “not only with existential questions” such as finding work, but above all with spiritual problems.

Turning to the importance of evangelization, Archbishop Pierre recommended four characteristics of a “new evangelist”: boldness, connectedness, urgency, and joy.

“The statistics alone should give us a sense of urgency; but is it an urgency motivated by fear of loss, or is it the joy of sharing the gospel?” he asked, offering the example of the Virgin Mary's Visitation: “having conceived of the Holy Spirit, she could not keep her joy to herself. Similarly, we cannot keep our joy to ourselves.”

An essential aspect of evangelization, he said, is “building a culture of encounter,” as Pope Francis is so fond of saying. He again pointed to Mary, who “was so passionate about bringing her Son to the world.”

It is critical to have a clear sense of mission, he stated, pointing out that many Americans, “including the young and those who do not know Christ … need to hear the basic kerygma,” the passion and resurrection of Christ “and the life he offers.”

The nuncio gave as examples the great evangelizers of the American past: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Junipero Serra, Bl. Stanley Rother, and Ven. Solanus Casey, who will be beatified next weekend. These were all exemplars of a “permanent state of mission,” he stated.

Being in a permanent state of mission is to be a faithful follower of Christ “who is in passionate love with his flock.” Returning to the youth, he said it is important to show them that “the Church is not self-referential but is there for them.”

Amid declining numbers, Archbishop Pierre told the bishops to “take courage,” for “there are signs of growth in the Church in the south and the west.” He recalled the recent dedication of a cathedral, attended by many Latinos, an experience which “confirmed for me the importance of the Fifth National Encuentro,” being held to assess and improve Hispanic ministry in the US. The Encuentro will be important for an “authentic renewal of the mission of evangelization,” he proclaimed.

The archbishop then turned to the prime importance of the person of Jesus, saying, “although we are pastors, we are first disciples.” As shepherds, the bishops are called to set an example of having a personal relationship with Christ based in prayer: “The time spent in prayer and adoration can renew us for the work of evangelization.”

In Christ “we find our true friend, who does not abandon us, so that we set out on mission with him and in him.”

“We are called first to be with Jesus,” he said, so that we can then go with him to his beloved flock, “to draw close to them, to be with them, to listen to them … and speak to them with the gentleness of Jesus.”

Going on mission without having spent time with Christ in prayer “would be going for a long drive without much fuel,” he reflected.

To enter into this life of prayer “we must empty ourselves of the many distractions of modern life,” he said, urging that each of the bishops “must ask himself: am I really passionate about Jesus? Do I convey that enthusiasm for the Lord?”

Archbishop Pierre concluded saying that despite demographic changes and the dictatorship of relativism, their ministry can bear fruit, recalling the missionary and apostolic zeal of the Spanish missionaries, the French Jesuits, and the early bishops of the United States, “who labored for the flock in the wilderness.”

This is a time of “opportunity for adventure, the adventure of faith,” a time “to be bold, trusting that the Lord will never abandon us.”

“For this reason, rather than to give into discouragement, we have every reason to be filled with hope and joy, because Jesus is in our midst … once more I repeat this can be a great moment for the Church in America.”

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Youth ministry must reflect young people’s diversity, US cardinal says

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Young people are not a singular mass, and ministry to them must reflect their diversity, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston told his fellow U.S. bishops Monday as they discussed the upcoming synod.

From a wide-ranging consultation process in the US, “what we learned and what was reinforced was that the 'youth', people ages 16-29, is comprised of several different groups, including high school youth, college students, and young adults” of diverse ethnic groups and cultures, and thus “ministry with these age groups is unique and should not be lumped together.”

Cardinal DiNardo, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, underscored that it is important to bring this message to Rome for the Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment next year, noting the importance of adapting the synod's findings to local circumstances.

He thanked the more than 100 dioceses and 25 Catholic organizations which helped respond to the consultation process, and in particular Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, who will attend the synod.

Archbishop Chaput and Cardinal Tobin will also be identifying and preparing three young adults who will travel to Rome to attend a pre-synod gathering meant to help the synod in its work.

The consultation process has helped the bishops in a “growing awareness of the challenges facing youth today,” Cardinal DiNardo said, enumerating economic struggles, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, isolation and anxiety, and societal pressures.

Young people “want to be listened to” amid their struggles, he said. They “want to be invited to lead” and are also seeking “mentorship and spiritual direction, looking for support in time of transition.”

Many youth reported that they “don't know where to go to mentorship and spiritual direction” and “for many, the Church is not there for them at critical moments of transition in their lives.”

Cardinal DiNardo also pointed to the Church's struggle to connect with the “nones,” those who do not identify with any religious tradition.

Mental health and challenging immigration laws are particular concerns for minority communities, he said, including Native American youth. There is an unfortunate lack of “intercultural competency” in accompanying young people in these challenges, he said.

There are “many positive and encouraging signs with primary and secondary youth considering priesthood and religious life,” the cardinal reported, but there are greater challenges in connecting with college students.

“More work needs to be done in promoting vocations to religious and holy life, and the universal call to holiness,” he emphasized.

There are great leaders in youth ministry who are “ doing incredible things for young people with few resources,” and he commended the “dedication and energy of so many faithful leaders.”

Nevertheless, there are “untapped opportunities that exist to connect people to a relationship with Christ” and to help them find their vocation.

He concluded saying that “we can be hopeful this synod will bear much fruit” and that the feedback from American youth will be of help to the Holy See. He also noted that the Vatican is continuing to solicit responses from young people through Nov. 30.

Following Cardinal DiNardo's address, Cardinal William Levada, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted that he observed a lacuna in the preparatory document issued by the synod secretariat: that the “nones” demonstrate an increasing level of ignorance of the faith.

“I see nothing in the preparatory document that suggests one of the issues might be considered is the ignorance of the faith and how to go about remedying that. I think that as teachers of the faith, we have responsibility for that. I consider it a major problem to have a synod of bishops on how the Church can help young people and ignore the ignorance of the faith.  I hope that in the conference's approach to the synod we can take that up as well – how to increase knowledge of the faith among our young people.”

Cardinal DiNardo responded that both young people and those who minister to them had noted this same problem in their responses to the consultation, and that their reports have been delivered to the synod.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit added that the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee agrees that sound teaching is key and that “we need to make a good case for the reasonableness of the Church's teaching.” The doctrine committee has taken up the issue and endorsed Cardinal Levada's concerns, he said.


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Cardinal DiNardo: Amid division, we must look to the God who unites

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Witnessing to the Gospel is the simple but fundamental call for people of faith who live in trying times, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in his keynote address to the U.S. bishops on Monday.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting Nov. 13-14 in Baltimore for their fall assembly. This year's assembly marks the centenary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was founded in 1917 as the National Catholic War Council.

Not unlike today, DiNardo noted, the U.S. bishops 100 years ago were dealing with trying times, including a massive overseas migrant crisis.

“The bishops back then knew that such challenges could only be met through a unified marshaling of all the Church’s resources,” said DiNardo, who is president of the conference.

“Not surprisingly, we are living in a time of similar challenge,” he said, and bishops today are leading “a diverse flock. People look, talk, and even think differently from each other.” Amidst such diversity, it can be easy to be tempted to division and fear, seeing strangers as a threat rather than as people to be welcomed, the cardinal said.

“But fear is not of God. God does not divide; God unites. And God, who is love, created us to love. Love is not naïve, but neither is it irritable, resentful, or rude,” he said.  

The Church in America is rich with people who have met the challenges of their time and witnessed to the love of the Gospel, Cardinal DiNardo said, pointing to the example of Blessed Father Stanley Rother, an Oklahoma priest and martyr who was beatified earlier this year.

Rather than abandon his people amidst a civil war in Guatemala, where he served, Fr. Rother  “offered his life for the people he had come to serve. In this way, he is a witness to the Love of God for all peoples, a truth that the Church must continually teach.”

The challenges of the present day are many, DiNardo noted, and the agenda of the bishop’s conference includes questions on “how best to care for the sick, the unborn, the poor, the immigrant and refugee, the unemployed and the underemployed in cities and towns across America.”

“But the question before us is straightforward: as a people of faith, what will our contribution be?” he said. “I would like to answer straightforwardly: our contribution is always to witness to the Gospel.”  

While the Gospel compels Christians to respond to the challenges of the times, it also calls them to respond in “civility and love,” he noted.  

“My friends, civility begins in the womb. If we cannot come to love and protect innocent life from the moment God creates it, how can we properly care for each other as we come of age? Or when we come to old age?” he said, to a round of applause from the bishops present.

Furthermore, the U.S. bishops must stand with the Holy Father in supporting comprehensive immigration reform in a system that is broken, promoting pro-life policies that respect human dignity and keep families together, he noted, to another round of applause from the bishops.  

Moral immigration reform has increasingly been an issue of concern for the U.S. bishops. Earlier this year, DiNardo and the U.S. bishops denounced the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, a program that benefited hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

“Providing for the common defense and the general welfare is a basic responsibility of government,” the cardinal said. “However, we have a moral responsibility to improve border security in a humane way.”

Racism is another divisive issue being considered by the U.S. bishops this year, made all the more urgent by recent violent demonstrations, such as the alt-right demonstration in Charlottesville in August, after which the bishops denounced “the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-nazism.”

In order to address the issues of both overt and systemic racism, the conference recently announced the creation of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which will be chaired by Bishop George Murry of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

“(T)hey are planning to meet with people across the country and to learn from them how the Church can best work with others in ending this evil,” DiNardo said. “Pray this conversation will lead to genuine conversion of hearts, including our own.”

The U.S. has suffered much as a country in recent times, DiNardo noted, including natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey which swept through his own Archdiocese of Houston, killing nearly 80 people and leaving thousands displaced.

But it is often great suffering that “has brought the Church in America together and has reminded me of how wonderful the gifts of faith, hope and love truly are,” he said.  

“We need to constantly put forward these virtues, especially in light of the violence from what is a long and growing list of mass shootings in our schools, offices, churches, and places of recreation. The time is long past due to end the madness of outrageous weapons – be they stockpiled on a continent or in a hotel room,” he said, to another round of applause.

While the challenges facing the Church in the United States today are many, the bishops today are not unlike the bishops who first met 100 years ago, faced with the challenges of their own times, Cardinal DiNardo said.

“(L)ike our predecessors, we know that the love of Christ is stronger than all the challenges ahead,” he said.

“My brothers, let us follow our Holy Father ever more closely, going forth to be with our people in every circumstance of pastoral life. Drawing strength and wisdom from these past hundred years, let us sound our hands and voices joyfully. And let us always remind our people, and ourselves, that with God, all things are possible.”

At the end of his speech, all the bishops in attendance applauded Cardinal DiNardo with a standing ovation.


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US bishops to issue statement on need for immigration reform

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - As the conclusion of a lengthy discussion on migration, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops decided Monday to draft a statement from their president expressing the need for humane and just immigration reform.

The Nov. 13 proposal was first floated by Archbishop Michael Sheehan, Archbishop Emeritus of Santa Fe. After debating how to go about preparing a statement, it was agreed by oral assent that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, would issue a statement with the assistance of the Committee on Migration, chaired by Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, assisted by Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.

The discussion followed brief presentations from Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Vasquez. The Los Angeles archbishop outlined the principles which guide the US bishops' work on migration, which come from Strangers No Longer, a 2003 pastoral letter issued jointly by the US and Mexican bishops' conferences.

“This is a time when newcomers [to the US] are fleeing violence or persecution or cannot find a livelihood in their own country,” he reflected, adding that the Trump administration has taken several steps on immigration that demand a response from the Church because they “have a direct impact on our pastoral care of immigrants, refugees, and DACA youth.”

The first of these is the decision to allow only 45,000 refugees in the coming fiscal year – the lowest level since the program's founding in 1980, and the second consecutive year in which the number of refugees admitted will be reduced.

This move, Archbishop Gomez said, “is simply inhumane, particularly when our great nation has the resources and ability to do more” for those “fleeing tyranny and persecution.”

He urged the preservation of DACA, which provides reprieve from the threat of deportation for undocumented persons who were brought to the US as minors, many of whom only know the US “and are by every social measure, American youth.”

Bishop Vasquez then spoke, saying the bishops are advocating for a solution for the DACA youth in the form of the DREAM Act, which would provide those young people with residency in the US.

He encouraged the bishops to contact their legislators to pass the DREAM Act or similar legislation as a prompt and humane solution, noting that 85 percent of Dreamers have lived in the US 10 years or longer, 89 percent have gainful employment, and 93 percent have a high school degree.

The Bishop of Austin also addressed temporary protected status, which has been extended to migrants from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti because of acute conditions of insecurity in their home countries.

“It is not the proper time to return 300,000 individuals” to their home countries when they remain insecure due to natural and manmade disasters, he said. These individuals have jobs and support their families, many have mortgages, and they have some 270,000 children who are US citizens.

“ A longer term legislative solution for these brothers and sisters” is necessary, he said.

The US bishops' “vigourous opposition” to many of the administration's actions on immigration has been taken because the Gospels “compel us to do so,” Bishop Vasquez stated.

“ Along with the right choices on refugee resettlement, DACA, and TPS, we also need comprehensive immigration reform,” he added, saying there is a need for a path to legalization and citizenship, acknowledging at the same time that “our country also has the right, and the responsibility, to secure its borders.”

Responding to the migration committee's presentation, Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento maintained that “the existence of the TPS population is in a certain sense a condemnation of the inability of Congress and administrations over the past 21 years to provide comprehensive immigration reform,” saying that having held them “in this holding pattern for decades is unconscionable.”

Archbishop Gomez stated that “all of us have to have a conversion, and that's why it's so important to talk about this, because people don't know what the Church teaches,” which echoed comments made by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago.

The Chicago archbishop had lamented the “the poisoning rhetoric that is degrading of immigrants, and even demonizing of them,” which “is having an effect on our own people, because they pick up that language … there's something wrong in our churches when the gospel is proclaimed but people leave parishes with that rhetoric still in their hearts.”

Archbishop Gomez commented that “it's important for us to call people to conversion, and explain to them what is it we teach; it's so essential for the future of our country.”

Bishop Vasquez reiterated the importance of conveying the Church's teaching, and also of fostering personal encounters with immigrants or refugees. “Once you do that you understand the situation of persons … just like us, therefore we empathize and are in solidarity with them; that's what brings conversion and change of mind.”

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces raised the question of how to counter charges that immigration policy is a matter of prudential judgement, and that the faithful may therefore in good conscience come to a judgement which differs from that of the bishops.

Bishop Thomas Wenski of Miami responded that “we're making our prudential judgement, too … in the light of Catholic teaching.” He emphasized that “immigrants are not problems, but brothers and sisters; strangers, but strangers who should be embraced as brothers and sisters. We're offering what we think is best, not only for the immigrants, but for our society as a whole. We can make America great, but you don't make America great by making America mean.”

Immigration reform, he maintained, must “include the common good of everyone: Americans and those who wish to be Americans.”

Bishop Soto responded that deportations do not fall under the category of prudential judgement, but rather were included by St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae among the sins which cry out to heaven, and so is not merely “consistent with Church teaching,” but “to discard it as a prudential judgement doesn't reflect our tradition.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco recommended the five principles from Strangers No Longer as a sine qua non, on which “there can be no disagreement” among Catholics. “While there's room for prudential judgement, it's not something that can be taken lightly” because it “involves such basic considerations of justice.”

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US bishops: Fighting racism is a long-term battle – but a critical one

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News) - Dialogue to foster conversion of hearts is the goal of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, said the group’s chairman in his first address to the bishops’ conference Monday.

“Our faith gives us confidence that Christ wishes to break down the walls created by the evils of racism. He wants us utilize us as his instruments in this great work,” said George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, Ohio.

This call is embedded in the Gospel message, he said, as we respond to those who even today continue to suffer from racism in the United States.

Bishop Murry spoke at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall general meeting, held Nov. 13-14 in Baltimore.

He gave an update on the conference’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which he leads.

The committee was established in late August, after white supremacists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, Va., and a 20 year-old man drove a car into the counter-protest, killing one and injuring 19.

The creation of the committee – the highest form of response that the conference can authorize – builds on other efforts by the bishops to fight racism in recent years, including a task force to explore the issue both inside and outside the Church, and a pastoral letter on racism, which is currently in the drafting process.

While racism is not unique to the United States, it is important to recognize the historical context that has led to this particular moment, Bishop Murry said, pointing the country’s history of slavery, the Civil War, and the progress made in the Civil Rights Movement.

“Even with that progress, one does not need to look very far to see that racism still exists and has found a troubling resurgence in recent years.”

For decades, the Catholic Church has been working to respond to the problem of racism, he said.

At times, some Catholic leaders have been part of the problem, failing to live up to Church teaching, and “this must be recognized and frankly acknowledged,” he said.

However, it is also important to recognize the contribution of many Catholics over the years fighting for racial equality and justice, he said.

So far, the ad hoc committee’s work has included a press conference last month at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the creation of resources for the Sept. 9 Feast Day of St. Peter Claver as an annual day of prayer for peace within communities.

The committee is also working on plans for a national convocation early next year, as well as a series of listening sessions and dialogues across the country, which Murry described as key to the group’s work.

These listening sessions, he said, will seek to “hear the voices of people suffering as a result of racism,” explore the causes and effects of racism in the United States.

Looking forward, the committee will also be working to promote education, resources, communications strategies, public policy advocacy and care for victims.

Bishop Murry emphasized the importance of the committee’s work.

“Some people think that there is no need to confront racism, or that we should confront it only in private,” he said.

However, he continued, “to confront racism is essential – in fact, necessary – because the Gospel calls us to work for justice, and racism denies just to people simply because of their race.”

And public displays of racism – such as those seen in Charlottesville in August – require a public response, from society and from the Church, he said.

In a discussion following Murry’s presentation, the bishops shared their observations and experiences of working to fight racism.

Several bishops noted the need for symbolic actions, which can be powerful in changing minds and hearts.

They observed the intersection of social class and racial divisions, as well as the need to understand how racist ideas are spread, particularly on social media and among young people.

Addressing the question of whether racist speech is constitutionally protected, Bishop Murry suggested that the question is ultimately one of people’s desires, rather than legality.

The goal is conversion, he said, changing hearts so that people do not want to say racist things, even if doing so would be protected under the Constitution.

Protecting free speech is critical, added Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile, Ala., because some people who object to the teachings of the Catholic Church accuse the bishops of “hate speech.”

While racism is a topic that many people find uncomfortable, the problem will only be overcome if opportunities are created for discussions to take place, the bishops observed.

Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Ala., stressed the importance of the personal involvement of the bishops in fighting the scourge of racism. He said that he has found great success in leading listening sessions in his diocese, and has found a strong level of receptivity from his people.

Bishop Baker also stressed that people are open to addressing the issue, and that this is the “prime time” to do so, in a way that would not have been possible 50 or even 20 years ago.

The next challenge, Archbishop Rodi suggested, is finding a way to reach more people, since those who are willing to attend listening sessions are likely already willing to dialogue on the issue.

Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory of Atlanta emphasized that the fight against racism must be viewed as a long-term battle.

Hearts and minds will not be changed overnight, he said. However, the ad hoc committee raises the issue to the level of attention it merits and allows the bishops to offer a more comprehensive response.

Throughout the decades, Gregory said, the U.S. bishops have issued statements at key moments, including the 1957 Little Rock School Desegregation, the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the 1979 pastoral letter Brothers and Sisters to Us.

While these statements have allowed the bishops to take an important stand in reaffirming Catholic teaching, the creation of the ad hoc committee will allow the conference to do more than just speak, he said.

He compared racism to abortion, saying that both issues require active involvement in efforts to evangelize, catechize, and educate in order to change minds and hearts.

“Racism is never going to be conquered by speech,” he said, “but only by actions.”


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