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Pope Francis' 2015 speech to US Congress: still a challenge

(Vatican Radio) Two years ago this Sunday (September 24th), Pope Francis made history by delivering the first-ever address by a reigning Pope to the U.S. Congress.

In his wide-ranging address, the Holy Father touched on issues ranging from the need for politics to serve the common good and the importance of cooperation and solidarity, to the dangers of fundamentalism, the refugee crisis, abolition of the death penalty, the need for courageous acts to avert environmental deterioration, the evils of the arms trade, and threats to the family from within and without.

Pope Francis focused especially on four great figures from US history: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton, saying that each of them helped build a better future for the people of the U.S.

Veteran Vatican reporter Cindy Wooden, who covered the historic event for Catholic News Service, told Vatican Radio that, two years on, the speech remains a challenge to lawmakers and citizens in the United States.

Click below to hear the extended conversation

“I wouldn’t say that his points were completely accepted and acted on,” Wooden told Vatican Radio, “but I think they are as much a challenge today – maybe even more so – than they were two years ago.”

Wooden also said the Pope’s speech continues to be important in the current climate of discourse in the United States.

“It’s an important reminder of the vocation of the politician,” she said. “The Pope use[d] in this speech, the same kind of vocational language that he would use for [the] priesthood or religious life: politics as a calling of service – and I think that, if politicians paid a little more attention to that right now, perhaps we’d be in a better spot.”

Click below to hear Ciny Wooden’s extended conversation with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis at Angelus: embrace the logic of God's Kingdom

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday – the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – focusing his remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion on the Parable of the Landowner and the Wage-earners, proclaimed as the Gospel reading of the day (Mt. 20:1-16).

The Gospel at a glance

In that story, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a landowner, who hires day-labourers in the early morning, and again at successive hours of the day, at the end of which he instructs his paymaster to give the full day’s wage to all the workers, beginning with those hired at the 11th hour.

The labourers of the first hour complain of this treatment, to which the Landowner replies, “I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?”

Jesus then explains the lesson, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Pope Francis reflects

Reflecting on the passage, Pope Francis said, “In reality, the ‘injustice’ of the Landowner serves to provoke, in those who hear the parable, an increase in understanding (It. salto di livello), because Jesus does not want to speak of the problem of labour and of just wages, but of the Kingdom of God.”

The Holy Father went on to say, “The message is this: in the Kingdom of God there are no idle hands, all are called to do their part; and for all, at the end, the recompense shall be what comes from divine justice – not human justice, happily – i.e. the salvation that Jesus Christ has acquired with His death and resurrection. This is a salvation that is not merited, but given, for which, ‘The last shall be first, and the first shall be last’.”

Click below to hear our report

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Bl Stanley Rother model of heroic witness

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis praised the virtue and example of Blessed Stanley Francis Rother on Sunday, one day after the secular missionary priest originally of Oklahoma in the United States was beatified as a martyr.

Bl. Stanley was killed on July 28th, 1981, after returning to Guatemala to minister to his flock, despite several death threats and warnings his life would be in danger. “Well, a shepherd cannot run from his flock,” he is quoted as saying in explanation of his decision to return in the face of such danger.

Click below to hear our report

In remarks to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square following the traditional Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “[Saturday], in Oklahoma City, the missionary priest, Stanley Francis Rother, killed in hatred of the faith for his work of evangelization and work to promote the human dignity of the poorest people in Guatemala, was proclaimed Blessed. May his heroic example help us to be courageous witnesses to the Gospel, committed to working in behalf of the dignity of man.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to Trappists: courageous witness to charism

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the General Chapter of the Order of Cistertians of the Strict Observance – the Trappists – which is taking place in Assisi from the 6th to the 27th of September.

Click below to hear our report

The OCSO at a glance

Part of the larger Cistercian family, which traces its origin to 1098, the OCSO follow the Rule of St. Benedict, dedicating their lives to the search for union with God through Jesus Christ, in a community of sisters or brothers.

All Cistercian monasteries are dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, and the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother is the Order’s patronal feast.

The OCSO General Chapter is the supreme authority in the Order, and is prepared by a Central Commission elected by the previous Chapter and whose members are chosen by the various regions of the Order.

There are formally two separate Chapters: one for monks and one for nuns – though they meet together every three years, “to foster peace and charity among themselves and to make appropriate decisions for maintaining the patrimony and unity of the Order.”

Pope to Trappists: courageous witness to permanent truths

In remarks prepared for the occasion of the special audience with participants in the current General Chapter, and delivered Saturday morning in the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “From the outset, the Cistercians of Strict Observance have made themselves known for their great sobriety of life, convinced that to concentrate on the essence and [thus] to reach more easily the joy of the spousal encounter with Christ, should be a valid help.”

The Holy Father went on to say, “This element of spiritual and existential simplicity preserves all its value as a [mode of] witness in today’s cultural context, which too often leads to the desire for ephemeral goods and illusory artificial paradises.”

“Throughout its history,” said Pope Francis, “your Order has known times of grace and moments of difficulty; but it has always persevered in fidelity to the sequela Christi, having as its purpose the glory of God and the good of the people.” He went on to say, “Continuing in the way of your spiritual tradition, may your read the present state of the Order in its shadows and lights, and in the novelty of the Spirit, identify with courage new possibilities and occasions to witness your charism in the present of the Church and of Society.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis makes surprise visit to Rome neuro rehab centre

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday made a surprise visit to a Rome rehabilitation centre for patients with neurological diseases.

A statement from the Holy See press office said the afternoon visit was a continuation of the ‘Fridays of Mercy’ initiative that he inaugurated during the recent Jubilee Year to encourage practical gestures of solidarity with those most in need.

The Santa Lucia Foundation, located to the south of Rome’s city centre, is well known for its quality care of patients affected by physical or mental disabilities resulting from strokes, bone marrow diseases, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Pope Francis was welcomed by the director and staff of the centre, as well as by the patients and their family members. The Holy Father spent time talking and laughing with many of the young children, watching with particular interest as he was shown some of the exercises which help them to regain their mobility.

He also met with older patients, aged between 15 and 25, many of whom suffer from severe disabilities as a result of car accidents. Before leaving the centre, the pope visited a gym providing rehabilitation for the elderly and then spent a few minutes in prayer in a chapel located on the premises.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican to set up joint committee with Muslim World League

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has held talks with Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, accompanied by a delegation.

The meeting came during an informal encounter on Wednesday between the World Muslim League delegation and the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

Combat fundamentalism

A statement from the Pontifical Council said that the two sides reaffirmed the following points: that religion and violence are incompatible; that religions have moral resources capable of contributing to fraternity and peace; that the phenomenon of fundamentalism, in particular when violent, is troubling and joint efforts are required to counter it.

Protect religious freedom

In addition, the statement said, situations exist where freedom of conscience and of religion are not entirely respected and protected, so there is an urgent need to remedy this, renewing “religious discourse” and reviewing school books.

In conclusion, the statement said both sides agreed to establish a joint permanent committee in the near future.

(from Vatican Radio)

U.S. Bishops Welcome Bipartisan Bill that Seeks Climate Solutions

WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú voiced their support for the Climate Solutions Commission Act of 2017, a bill that would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission.

"This bill has the potential to inspire positive and concrete solutions towards protecting our common home," said Bishops Dewane and Cantú. They urged legislators to support H.R. 2326, a bill introduced by Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) who is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.

Bishop Dewane is the Bishop of Venice, Florida and chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop Cantú is the Bishop of Las Cruces, and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.

The chairmen, in a joint letter of support to each of the sponsors, noted that this would be "an important bipartisan step for protecting the environment and mitigating the harmful effects of climate change." There is a need, said the bishops, for "courageous actions and strategies aimed at promoting an integral ecology that considers together the protection of nature, the need for equitable economic development and the promotion of human dignity, especially that of the poor."

The full letter can be found at: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/environment/letter-to-congress-on-climate-solutions-commission-act-2017-09-15.cfm.

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Keywords:  Bishop Oscar Cantú, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Bishop Frank Dewane, Venice, Florida, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Pope Francis, USCCB, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, climate change, creation, environment, Laudato Si'.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

President of U.S. Bishops Conference Statement on Hurricane Maria

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement on the impact of Hurricane Maria. The storm has devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica. Now downgraded to Category-3 winds, the storm is expected to bring more heavy rain and flash floods as it makes landfall later today in the Turks and Caicos.

Full statement follows:

"Just as we begin to assess the material and emotional damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the devastation of yet another storm, Hurricane Maria, has struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica, and has battered Puerto Rico with catastrophic effects unprecedented in the island's modern history. I exhort the faithful to solidarity in this time of great need for our brothers and sisters in harm's way—many of whom have been hit repeatedly by the successive hurricanes.

"Casting aside any temptation to despair, and full of hope in the loving Providence of God, we pray that our Father may receive unto his loving presence those who have lost their lives, may he comfort the grieving, and may he fortify the courage and resilience of those whose lives have been uprooted by these disasters. May he extend the might of his right hand and bid the sea be 'quiet' and 'still' (Mark 4:39)."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Turks and Caicos Islands, solidarity.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Recognize Harm to Poor and Amend “Graham-Cassidy” Bill Say U.S. Bishop Chairmen

WASHINGTON—On September 21, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin called on the U.S. Senate to "think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people" by provisions contained in the "Graham-Cassidy" health care legislation. They urged Senators to "amend the legislation while retaining its positive features."

"The Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid 'per capita cap' that was part of previous bills which have been rejected," said the Bishops. "The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people," the chairmen cautioned. "Our nation must not attempt to address its fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of the poor."

The Bishop-chairmen called on the Senate to keep protections found in Graham-Cassidy that ensure that no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it. "This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions which would finally address grave moral problems in our current health care system," they said. "We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion."

Cardinal Dolan is chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Lori chairs the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Dewane heads the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Vásquez is the USCCB chairman of the Committee on Migration.

The Bishops urged the Senate to work together to address looming health care problems for the good of all. "Decisions about the health of our citizens—a concern fundamental to each of us—should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms. The far-reaching implications of Congress' actions are too significant for that kind of governance," they said. "Instead, the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist."

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/health-care/upload/Senate-Cassidy-Graham-Letter-multiple-chairman-2017-09-21.pdf



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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Graham-Cassidy, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop William E. Lori, Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, USCCB Committee on Migration, Affordable Care Act, respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration, conscience.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Statement from President of U.S. Bishops Conference - Mexico Earthquake

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement to the people of Mexico following yesterday's powerful earthquake that struck southeast of Mexico City. The death toll has now surpassed 200. As the desperate search for survivors continues, Cardinal DiNardo calls for prayers for those suffering from the catastrophic earthquake.

Full statement follows: 

"Once again, our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Mexico, who yesterday suffered yet another catastrophic earthquake, on the anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that claimed the lives of thousands of people. The states principally affected were Morelos, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Mexico State, and the capital, Mexico City.  

"Today Pope Francis at his General Audience expressed his solidarity with the Mexican people, and implored 'Almighty God to welcome all those who lost their lives.' The Mexican bishops expressed their condolences to all those affected, and highlighted the generous fraternal affection the nation is witnessing in the response and rescue efforts: 'Once again, we are witnessing the solidarity of the Mexican people, who sees a brother and sister in those who are suffering.'

"We join them in prayer and solidarity, and together invoke the maternal protection of our Lady of Guadalupe, Comforter of the Afflicted and Mother Most Merciful."

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Mexico City, earthquake, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Mexico State, Pope Francis, solidarity, condolences, suffering, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Comforter of the Afflicted, Mother Most Merciful. 

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Media Contact:

Judy Keane

202-541-3200