Monday, September 15, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 15

1. U.S. Bishops continue their Peace Pilgrimage, which you can track on social media, thanks to our storify and Facebook page.

2. "This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man," Pope Francis said Sunday. "Here we see the reciprocity of differences."

3. New resources are now available for marking the annual observance of October as Respect Life Month with the theme "Each of us is a masterpiece of God's creation. "

4. The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is convening in October to discuss pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization. See a video we did on Pope Francis' letter to families on the synod.

5. God loves you.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Sept. 8

1. Do you have plans the week of September 11-18? How about following 18 U.S. bishops on a pilgrimage to pray for peace in the Holy Land?

2. Father John Crossin said recent popes have been clear in their desire for continued dialogue with Muslims.

3. Today is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Pope Francis wants people to wish her a "Happy Birthday" and to say a "Hail Mary from the heart."

4. Pope Francis also said war is senseless slaughter and can always be avoided.

5. God loves you.

As Bishops Go to the Holy Land to Pray for Peace, Follow Their Pilgrim Experience

Do you have plans the week of September 11-18? How about following 18 U.S. bishops on a pilgrimage to pray for peace in the Holy Land? You can do it from the comfort of your home or anywhere you might have access to a device with an Internet connection -- which is to say, practically anywhere.

Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, is leading the pilgrimage. “Our pilgrimage could not come at a more critical moment,” Bishop Pates said. “The conflict between Israel and Hamas, the latest of far too many cycles of violence, has seriously eroded hope for peace in the Holy Land. Prayer for peace is needed now more than ever.”

The need for the power of prayer has prompted the bishops to open their pilgrimage experience up to virtually everyone through social media. The bishops will visit Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the sites of the Jesus' birth, upbringing, ministry, suffering and death, and as they do so, they will blog, tweet, post on Facebook and share stories with media.

For many Catholics in the United States, particularly those in Iowa, New York, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, California, Georgia, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and in the military, this might just mean your bishop (or retired bishop, or auxiliary bishop, or a neighboring bishop) is making this journey and needs your prayers.

Here are the bishops going on pilgrimage and, where applicable, how you can follow them:

Archbishop Eusebius Beltran, (retired) Oklahoma City
Bishop Tod Brown, (retired) Orange, California
Bishop Oscar Cantú, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Bishop Robert Coyle, (auxiliary) Archdiocese for Military Services
Bishop Bernard Harrington, (emeritus), Winona, Minnesota
Bishop Richard Higgins, (auxiliary) Archdiocese for Military Services
Bishop Howard Hubbard, (retired) Albany, New York
Bishop William Medley, Owensboro, Kentucky
Bishop Dale Melczek, Gary, Indiana
Bishop William Murphy, Rockville Centre, New York
Bishop Michael Pfeifer, (retired) San Angelo, Texas
Bishop Edward Weisenburger, Salina, Kansas (also Twitter)

You can also look for updates from USCCB on Facebook and Twitter, as well as Catholic Relief Services (Facebook, Twitter).

These bishops will follow in the footsteps of Jesus by 2,000 years, follow in the footsteps of Pope Francis by just over three months, and follow the devastation of war by only days. People everywhere are encouraged to follow them, both on social media and with prayers.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Listen to the Popes on the Value of Muslim-Catholic Dialogue

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)
By Father John Crossin, OSFS

When the pope says an issue is vital to the stability of the human family, that carries a lot of weight. When the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs wrote their recent statement reaffirming the Church’s commitment to dialogue with Muslims, they found that not only one pope had stressed this idea, but three. In fact, there was such an abundance of verbiage affirming Muslim-Catholic dialogue, from the Second Vatican Council down to Pope Francis, that the bishops dedicated an entire section of their statement to Vatican and papal quotes.

These statements have a clarity that demands our attention. At a time when some encourage violence, the popes speak of friendship and peace. In their combined teaching, themes emerge. We can start with the importance of engagement and friendship, build into common concerns like human dignity and peace, and finally cast a hopeful eye to the future.

Let’s listen attentively for just a few moments…

“Christians and Muslims can work together, bearing witness before modern civilization to the divine presence and loving Providence which guide our steps. Together we can proclaim that he who has made us has called us to live in harmony and justice,” said John Paul II to a delegation of Muslims in 1990. In 2006, Benedict XVI expressed his wish “wish to continue establishing bridges of friendship with the adherents of all religions, showing particular appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.”

In dialoguing and bearing witness together, we discover what we have in common. “I believe that we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them,” said John Paul II in 1985. And having this in common, he argued, would contribute to peace.

(CNS photo/Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

“No matter how difficult, no matter how long, the process of seeking peace must continue,” John Paul II said on a visit to Jordan in 2000. “Building a future of peace requires an ever more mature understanding and ever more practical cooperation among the peoples who acknowledge the one true, indivisible God, the Creator of all that exists. The three historical monotheistic religions count peace, goodness and respect for the human person among the highest values.”

Pope Francis reaffirmed this a mere nine days after his election in 2013, stating, “It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions.”

While these papal quotes are scattered across the Church’s recent history, it’s quickly apparent that the real focus is on the future and the people who will inhabit it.

“It is crucial for the young to be taught the ways of respect and understanding, so that they will not be led to misuse religion itself to promote or justify hatred and violence. Violence destroys the image of the Creator in his creatures and should never be considered as the fruit of religious conviction,” John Paul II said, visiting the Umayyad Great Mosque in 2001.“I am convinced that the future of the world depends on the various cultures and on interreligious dialogue,” he said in Cairo the year before.

In 2005, in an address to Muslim communities in Cologne, Benedict XVI put everything in perspective, declaring, “Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is, in fact, a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.”

Let’s meditate on these most important values — and seek to live them.

Father Crossin is executive director of the Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Five Things to Remember on Sept. 2

1. It's September, and this month, Pope Francis is praying especially that "the mentally disabled may receive the love and help they need for a dignified life" and that "Christians, inspired by the Word of God, may serve the poor and suffering."

2. Bishop Denis Madden blogs about the importance of dialogue, especially in the face of horrific world events. Bishop Madden chairs the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He notes that Pope Francis has called dialogue "the only way to peace."

3. Pope Francis is far from the first pope to pursue world peace. Catholic News Service has a profile of Pope Benedict XV, who was elected 100 years ago tomorrow, just after the outbreak of World War I. As a result, Benedict (whom Benedict XVI later called a "prophet of peace") dedicated much of his pontificate to peacemaking and humanitarian efforts.

4. A little hiatus — Five Things will be taking the rest of the week off, but will return September 8.

5. God loves you.

Dialogue: a Catholic Response to Violence and Fear

By Bishop Denis Madden

This summer saw heartbreaking acts of violence throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, with the near eradication of Iraq’s ancient Christian communities by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the execution of American journalist James Foley. Atrocities can shock us into silence and feelings of helplessness, but, as Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl recently insisted, these events intensify our duty to speak out. Last month, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue spoke out with a statement reaffirming our commitment to dialogue with Muslims.

For many, this might seem counterintuitive. Dialogue in the face of savage, unreasoning violence? Engagement with the religion many people automatically (and wrongly) blame for this violence? But the bishops insist that “the most efficient way to work toward ending or at least curtailing such violence and prejudice is through building networks of dialogue that can overcome ignorance, extremism, and discrimination and so lead to friendship and trust with Muslims.”

This is not only about countering the violent extremism of a group like ISIS, but building a future in which the seeds of such extremism wither and die rather than take root. Pope Francis has repeatedly urged dialogue among all people as a way of leading to understanding and friendship and as “the only way to peace.”

The quest for understanding, friendship and peace must also take place in our communities and in our parishes. In July, Newsweek reported that Islamophobia in America is on the rise. This is tragic, especially since one lesson we should take from these recent horrors is the danger posed to the whole human family whenever any minority, religious or otherwise, is perceived as an evil or a threat. It’s crucial that Catholics understand and espouse what was articulated at the Second Vatican Council and reiterated by popes ever since, our respect and affection for our Muslim brothers and sisters.

The official dialogues the U.S. bishops have pursued over the years with Muslim organizations in the United States have reinforced this bond. And Muslim leaders in the United States, including the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, have been resolute in their condemnation of the violence in Iraq and Syria. For them, the violence in these countries carries the added twinge of pain that Christians should feel when we see people, in this country or elsewhere, using our religion as an excuse for slander, bigotry or other inhospitable acts.

Unjust aggressors must be stopped, as Pope Francis has recently asserted. And especially in these moments of global turmoil and trauma, the bishops are convinced that dialogue with people different than ourselves “offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.” On a large scale, Pope Francis calls this process building a culture of encounter. Our response to evil and violence cannot be fear of others. Fear destroys everything it touches. By continually strengthening relationships with those of differing cultural, social and religious heritage, fear is overcome.

Bishop Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, is chairman of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Aug. 29

1. Cardinal Donald Wuerl told students from The Catholic University of America that his conscience led him to ask, "Where are the voices?" to advocate for those persecuted in the Middle East. This is a must-watch:

2. Archbishop Wilton Gregory, of Atlanta, took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Check it out:

3. Just launched this week: Get the daily readings sent to your email every morning. Sign up at the bottom of the page:

4. Catholic News Service that Pope Francis will preside over a wedding in September, his first since becoming pope.

5. God loves you.