Browsing News Entries

Religious leaders, scientists to convene at Vatican ahead of climate summit

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2021 / 08:00 am (CNA).

The Vatican is partnering in an event that will bring together scientists and leaders of the world’s religions ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) in November.

“Faith and Science: Towards COP26” will take place Oct. 4 at the Vatican. The event has been organized by the British and Italian Embassies to the Holy See.

At a press conference June 17, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, said it was “highly likely” that Pope Francis would participate in the October meeting given his commitment to the issue of climate change.

The conference will include more than 30 leaders from the world’s major religions and 10 leading scientists, Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, said.

She explained that faith leaders already played a key role in building momentum for COP21 in 2015, and she and the Italian ambassador Pietro Sebastiani wondered if the same thing could be done for COP26, which takes place Nov. 1-12.

Gallagher described the faith and science meeting as a “no-brainer.”

“The sense of urgency is rising,” he said, “more and more crises affect us: economic, social, food crises. Everything is coming together in a sort of perfect storm.”

“This is a great opportunity to work together. And I think in the preparation of this conference, the work that has been done -- mainly in a series of webinars -- has shown the value of working together: that working together is positive, that it does produce results.”

Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, said he thought that COP26 would be “a key moment in the history of humanity.”

“There will be difficult choices to be made and we hope, with God’s grace, that we will have the courage to make those choices and to move forward on these issues which will determine what life will be like on our planet in the coming decades and centuries,” he said.

In an interview with Vatican News last month, John Kerry, U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for climate, said that Pope Francis “intends to attend” COP26.

Kerry met with Pope Francis privately on May 15. In a video clip released by the Vatican, Kerry could be heard telling members of his staff, “first day he’ll be there with the heads of state.”

The Vatican has made no official announcement about the pope traveling to Glasgow and Gallagher declined to comment on the question Thursday.

Axworthy said that a full list of the religious and scientific leaders attending in October would be released at a later date, but they were chosen to represent all world religions and to come from around the globe.

“It was key to have representatives of most major faiths and denominations from every corner of the world,” she said.

The ambassador explained that in online meetings held in advance of COP26, the organizers asked the faith leaders to do three things: “set out their own theology on the environment; explain the action they had taken so far to protect the environment; and articulate what they wanted for the future, including what they wanted to say to political leaders at COP26.”

“We asked the scientists to bring us up to date on the science,” she said.

In her presentation, Axworthy outlined some of the potential consequences to the environment should the global temperature rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

“People in the least developed countries will be most affected by rising temperatures,” she said. “We have a moral obligation to protect the planet and those most affected by the climate crisis, in particular indigenous peoples, small-island developing states, and the least developed countries.”

The science and faith conference takes inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2013 encyclical Laudato si’ and from the Document on Human Fraternity, signed in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

Gallagher said that “the magnitude of these challenges... mean that you’ve got to draw on all of your resources if we’re going to rise to these challenges; and that certainly is faith, is religion, is the spiritual dimension of humanity.”

“If we ignore that and think the only solution is good politics or good science or good something like that I think that we’re going to find that we’re not going to be successful,” he said.

Cardinal: International Eucharistic Congress hymn helped Catholics survive war and communism

Cardinal Péter Erdő. / Screenshot from 52nd International Eucharistic Congress YouTube channel.

Budapest, Hungary, Jun 17, 2021 / 07:05 am (CNA).

A cardinal has said that the lyrics of the official hymn of this year’s International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest helped Hungary’s Catholics survive war and communism.

In a video welcoming the adoption of the hymn for the Sept. 5-12 meeting, Cardinal Péter Erdő noted that the lyrics date back to the last time that the Hungarian capital hosted an International Eucharistic Congress in 1938.

“These days, the hymn of the Eucharistic Congress will sound again. The lyrics of this song served in 1938 already as the hymn of the International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest,” he said.

“Its closing lines and chorus are unforgettable, for we ask Christ: ‘Bless this earth with peace and honor, bring us to Thy holy tryst.’”

Commenting on the hymn’s historical context, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest said: “This was very topical at the time, on the eve of World War II. And this gave us, devout Catholics, Hungarians, strength during the war, as well as later in the decades of communism and oppression.”

Hungary has a population of 9.8 million, 62% of whom are Catholic. The country, which borders Austria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Slovakia, was occupied by the Nazis in 1944-1945. After World War II, communists took power, ruling until 1989.

Erdő recalled that the hymn was also sung during the papal visit to Romania in 2019, when Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Marian Shrine of Șumuleu-Ciuc in Transylvania in the presence of Hungarian pilgrims.

“But this beautiful song still lives on today not only in the memory of Hungarians, I think, since we sang this anthem together as a crowd of 100,000 in 2019 in Csíksomlyó at the Holy Mass celebrated by Pope Francis,” the 68-year-old cardinal said.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress was originally due to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope Francis is scheduled to be the principal celebrant of the closing Mass in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

The official anthem has been recorded in both English and Hungarian, performed by the three young singers Bogi Nagy, Máté Czinke, and Gergő Dánielfy. The hymn’s title is “Győzelemről énekeljen” (“Sing the Triumph”).

Erdő said: “The message of this hymn is still relevant today as Christ wants to unite and embrace all nations in brotherly love.”

“This is the melody that is now resounding, but in a new orchestration. In a way that I think it must be able to touch even the youngest, the most distant, and capture their hearts.”

“And the message is essential: Christ as a brother brings together all nations in love; he wants to unite all mankind in love and happiness.”

Girls’ choir to join 1,000-year boys’ choir at German Catholic cathedral

The Regensburger Domspatzen, a choir based at Regensburg Cathedral in Bavaria, Germany. / Bistum Regensburg.

Regensburg, Germany, Jun 17, 2021 / 06:15 am (CNA).

A German Catholic diocese announced Tuesday that a cathedral school whose pupils sing in a 1,000-year-old boys’ choir will admit girls.

The Diocese of Regensburg said June 15 that the cathedral school associated with the Regensburger Domspatzen choir will be open to girls from 2022.

The school in the southern German city of Regensburg will form its own girls’ choir, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

The diocese explained that the step was intended to “make the high-quality musical training of this institution accessible to girls in the future.”

“With their singing abilities, they should form a new pillar of their own in Regensburg Cathedral music,” it said.

The Regensburger Domspatzen’s board of trustees decided unanimously that the cathedral choir would remain “as a pure boys’ and men’s choir with its unmistakable sound in its previous form.”

The Domspatzen -- which means “Cathedral Sparrows” in English -- are believed to be one of the world’s oldest boys’ choirs.

The choir traces its roots back to 975, when Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg founded a cathedral school that emphasized musical training. The pupils sang in the cathedral’s liturgies.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI’s older brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, led the choir from 1964 to 1994.

The cathedral school is known today as the Domspatzen Gymnasium.

Cathedral dean Fr. Franz Frühmorgen noted that both the cathedral chapter and Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg supported the new project.

He said: “In recent years, especially in connection with the hiring of important key positions at the Domspatzen, there has been repeated talk about offering girls the opportunity to come to the Domspatzen Gymnasium in order to promote their singing and musical skills at the highest level and to put them at the service of cathedral music.”

He added: “We consider this opening to be meaningful and we warmly welcome the girls at the Gymnasium and as a choir in our cathedral.”

Vatican diplomat: We must ensure that the internet promotes human dignity

Computer. / UnSplash.

Rome Newsroom, Jun 17, 2021 / 05:00 am (CNA).

The internet enabled human trafficking and sexual exploitation to increase during the pandemic, according to one Vatican official, who has urged that steps be taken to protect human dignity online.

Msgr. Janusz Urbańczyk told the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) that the internet must “not become a medium that fuels the violation of human rights.”

“Action must be taken to ensure that the internet and social media will promote the dignity of the human person,” he said June 16.

Urbańczyk serves as the Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Vienna, Austria. He spoke during three panels of the 21st Conference of the Alliance against Trafficking in Persons.

The Holy See official said that economic regulations need to be enforced to combat human trafficking, which continued to increase during the pandemic.

“As Pope Francis also recently pointed out: ‘Human trafficking finds fertile ground in the approach of neoliberal capitalism, in the deregulation of markets aimed at maximizing profits without ethical limits, without social limits, without environmental limits,’” he said.

“‘An economy without human trafficking is an economy with market rules that promote justice, and not exclusive special interests,’” he added, quoting the pope’s video message for the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action against Trafficking in Persons in February.

Urbańczyk cited the Council of Europe’s report on human trafficking in 2020, which predicted that the coronavirus pandemic’s “long-term socioeconomic effects are likely to aggravate the root causes of human trafficking.”

The World Bank estimated that COVID-19 could push as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty in 2021, depending on the severity of the economic contraction, which is one of the key factors that underlies the lives of trafficking victims, he explained.

“As Pope Francis said: ‘In many parts of the world, the crisis has predominantly affected those working informally, who were the first to see their livelihood vanish,’” he noted.

“Living outside of the formal economy, they lack access to social safety nets, including unemployment insurance and health care provision. Driven by desperation, many have sought other forms of income and risk being exploited through illegal or forced labor, prostitution, and various criminal activities, including human trafficking.”

Urbańczyk highlighted the work of Catholic communities around the world to assist victims with shelter and rehabilitation.

“The Catholic Church, through its various institutions, has for a long time been dedicated to the protection of victims of sexual exploitation,” he told the OSCE.

“These projects are frequently carried out with local institutions and associations. Obviously, they are small drops in an ocean, but they can produce examples that can be multiplied with the goodwill of institutions and civil society in order to make the fight against the demand that fuels human trafficking more effective.”

Churches vandalized in Vancouver archdiocese

A prolife memorial at St. Joseph's church in Port Moody, Canada, that was vandalized June 13, 2021. Credit: St. Joseph's Catholic Church.

Vancouver, Canada, Jun 16, 2021 / 18:29 pm (CNA).

Two parishes in the Archdiocese of Vancouver were vandalized last weekend.

The incidents come shortly after the discovery of the remains of 215 indigenous children in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

At St. Augustine's parish in Vancouver on June 12, vandals wrote ‘release the records’ and ‘killers’ on the front door of the church.

A parishioner at St. Augustine’s told Global News in an interview that the incident was sad. “We had nothing to do with what happened with those poor kids,” the parishioner said. 

St. Joseph’s Church in Port Moody, about 10 miles east of Vancouver, was also found vandalized the morning of June 13. A pro-life memorial gravestone was knocked to the ground, while the stone on which it was standing has been broken.

Fr. Mark McGuckin, pastor of St. Joseph’s, told CNA around the same time the memorial was knocked over, new building developments next to the parish had been burning down in what likely was an incident of arson. 

McGuckin considered himself and his church community “very fortunate and blessed” because of the damp weather conditions. “The fire was so hot that flying embers landed on our church roof,” he told CNA, “and had it been three weeks of real dry season that could have really caught on fire.”

“I think it's unrelated,” Fr. McGuckin said, doubting the connection between the vandalism at St. Augustine’s and the vandalism at his church. “We would have had clearer messaging around the residential school if that was someone who wanted to express themselves that way.”

The pro-life gravestone has been temporarily fixed but lays at a 45 degree angle, while it awaits full refurbishment.

Fr. McGuckin told CNA that over the weekend, there had been peaceful protests at Catholic churches in the area.

On the weekend of May 22, the remains of 215 indigenous children were found in unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. The discovery was made with ground-penetrating radar. It is unclear how the children died.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kamloops was vandalized following the discovery. Graffiti reading ‘banished’, ‘evicted’, and ‘crime scene’ was found spray painted on the walls of St. Joseph’s May 31. An ‘X’ was on the front doors.

The chief of the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc, or Kamloops Indian Band, has condemned the vandalism of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kamloops shortly after the discovery of indigenous children’s graves at a nearby Church-run residential school.

“We are deeply disturbed to learn that the Saint Joseph’s church was vandalized. The church was built from the ground up by Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc members. We understand the many emotions connected to a Roman Catholic run residential school. At the same time, we respect the choices that Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc ancestors made, over a 100 years ago, to erect this church,” read a May 31 statement from Rosanne Casimir, the band’s chief.

Kentucky attorney general argues he can defend pro-life law in court

Daniel Cameron, Attorney General of Kentucky. Credit: Kentucky Office of the Attorney General.

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

Kentucky’s Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a brief on Monday in support of his ability to defend his state’s law banning dilation and evacuation abortions, as the issue heads to the Supreme Court. 

Cameron filed the brief June 14 for the case Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center. Unlike other cases relating to abortion, this does not concern the legality of the Kentucky law. Rather, it concerns who is permitted to defend the law in court. 

The US Supreme Court agreed in March to consider the case.

Cameron is a Republican. Kentucky’s current governor, Andy Beshear, is a Democrat who does not support the law. 

In 2018, Kentucky’s then-governor Matt Bevin, a Republican, signed into law a bill which banned the use of dilation and evacuation abortions. The bill was quickly challenged by an abortion clinic, EMW Women’s Surgical Center, and a federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also found the bill to be unconstitutional. 

In 2019, Bevin lost in his re-election bid to Beshear. Beshear and the state’s health secretary declined to challenge the Sixth Circuit’s decision, but the newly-elected attorney general, Cameron, moved to intervene to defend the law. 

The Sixth Circuit denied Cameron’s request to reconsider the law, and he then appealed to the Supreme Court saying that as the attorney general he had the right to defend the law, even when other state officials did not wish to do so. 

Susan B. Anthony List expressed their happiness with Cameron’s brief.

“We are proud to stand with Attorney General Cameron as he fights for the right to defend Kentucky’s pro-life laws and values, all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List. 

“Time and time again, science reveals the humanity of unborn children – including their capacity to feel pain, with pain receptors beginning to develop at seven and a half weeks. Kentucky lawmakers acted on the will of the people in banning the barbaric live dismemberment of tiny babies at a stage when they already possess fully formed arms, legs, fingers and toes, passing this legislation by overwhelming bipartisan majorities.”

Dannenfelser noted that the efforts to pass pro-life laws is not unique to Kentucky, saying, “Across the nation, momentum to humanize our extreme abortion laws is on the rise, with state legislators enacting 89 new pro-life laws and counting this year alone.”

Spanish youth launch prayer campaign ahead of euthanasia law taking effect

Credit: sfam_photo/Shutterstock.

Madrid, Spain, Jun 16, 2021 / 16:29 pm (CNA).

A group of young Catholics have launched "1 Week for Life", a campaign of prayer and fasting for the end of euthanasia in Spain and the world, the conversion of all souls, and the promotion of a culture of life.

"1 Week for Life" will begin June 18 and end June 25, the day when a euthanasia and assisted suicide law goes into effect in Spain.

A group of young people from a parish in Madrid attended a talk about the euthanasia law called “the Value of Life” given by nurses, and realized that while there are prayer campaigns to end abortion, there was nothing for euthanasia.

The group explained in a statement that during that week 30 minute prayer slots will be organized so each person can pick a time and pray from wherever they may be.

The group pointed out that the euthanasia law in Spain "was passed without any input from healthcare professionals and it goes against the right to life, contained in Article 15 of the Constitution."

"Not only will euthanasia be decriminalized with this law, but it will become a right, a healthcare service.” 

“Euthanasia is criminal and unacceptable and our duty as Christians is to accompany those who suffer, as Mary did with Jesus on the Cross. In addition, today there are alternatives such as palliative care that help alleviate pain without ending the life of the patient ”.

The “1 Week for Life” group also recalled the words of Saint John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae: “How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person, when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practiced: Some individuals are held to be deserving of defense and others are denied that dignity?”

Spain’s legislature passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide in March.

Patients who can request euthanasia must be adult Spanish nationals or legal residents who suffer from "a serious and incurable disease or a serious, chronic and incapacitating condition.”

The law defines such condition as a having “limitations that directly affect physical autonomy and the activities of daily life, such that the patient can’t fend for himself, as well as the ability to communicate with and relate to others, and that are associated with constant and intolerable physical or mental suffering for the patient with the certitude or great probability that such limitations will persist over time without the possibility of a cure or appreciable improvement. On occasion, it can mean absolute dependence on technological life support.”

A serious and incurable disease is defined as  "one that by its nature causes constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering without the possibility of relief that the person considers tolerable, with a limited life prognosis, in a context of progressive frailty.”

The law requires the National Health System to provide euthanasia, and while individual doctors can claim conscientious objection, medical facilities, even private, cannot object as institutions. Conscientious objectors will be listed on a registry.

It requires that before requesting euthanasia, the patient must be informed in writing of his medical condition, and of alternative courses of action and palliative care.

A request for euthanasia must be approved by two doctors and an oversight board.

The law also states that "the death resulting from providing aid in dying shall be considered a natural death for all purposes.”

Bishop Luis Javier Argüello Garcia, auxiliary bishop of Valladolid and secretary general of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, has urged doctors who don’t want to participate in euthanasia to exercise conscientious objection.

He also cautioned against a defeatist attitude, seeing the new law as an opportunity “to promote a culture of life and to take concrete steps to promote a living will or advance declarations that make it possible for Spanish citizens to express in a clear and determined way their desire to receive palliative care,” instead of assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Bishop Argüello urged doctors “not to induce death to alleviate suffering,” but instead to treat the patient with “tenderness, closeness, mercy, encouragement, and hope for those people who are in the final stage of their existence, perhaps in moments of suffering that need comfort, care and hope.”

The bishops’ conference also issued a guide for patients to create a living will that "specifies that appropriate treatments be administered to alleviate suffering,” but excluding euthanasia.

Those opposed to the law have pointed out that what the country needs instead of euthanasia is access to palliative care. Out of an estimated 120,000 patients in need of palliative care, 50% do not have access.

Euthanasia is also legal in Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the Australian state of Victoria.

Nuncio urges US bishops to unity in Christ

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.

US bishops vote to keep time limits on discussion of Eucharistic document

USCCB fall 2019 meeting, Baltimore, Maryland / Christine Rousselle/CNA

Washington D.C., Jun 16, 2021 / 14:57 pm (CNA).

While some U.S. bishops on Wednesday pushed for no time limits in debating a motion to draft a teaching document on the Eucharist, during their meeting this week, a majority opposed that push, allowing for a vote to proceed under the normal limits of debate. 

As the bishops began their annual spring meeting on Wednesday afternoon – held virtually this year due to the pandemic – they voted in a parliamentary move to approve their meeting agenda. Included in the meeting’s agenda for Thursday is a vote on whether to begin drafting a teaching document on the Eucharist.

Before the vote on the document on Thursday afternoon, there will be a period of debate governed by rules and time limits as part of the conference’s parliamentary procedures. Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski of St. Louis, however, moved to change the agenda to allow for unlimited debate.

At the end of the discussion, 59% of bishops voted against Archbishop Rozanski’s motion. The bishops then voted to approve the meeting agenda, which 86% of those present moved to do.

Rozanski said that due to the virtual nature of the assembly, there should be no time limits on debate among the bishops. “We owe this to our people,” he said. Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark seconded the motion.

The topic of Communion has been a topic of extensive discussion recently, with individual bishops speaking out on worthiness to receive Communion, especially with regard to Catholic politicians who support permissive legislation on grave evils such as abortion and euthanasia.

The prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, wrote to Archbishop Jose Gomez – the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference – on May 7, instructing that if the bishops were to issue any “national policy” on Communion, they would first need “extensive and serene” dialogue among themselves.

Some bishops, citing Ladaria’s call, wrote to Archbishop Gomez in May, asking for a delay in consideration of the Eucharistic document until the bishops can again meet in-person. Gomez, in turn, responded in a May 22 memo to all bishops that the discussion would take place as planned.

Bishops on Wednesday cited Ladaria’s words in calling for no time limits in the discussion on Eucharistic consistency.

Bishop John Stowe of Lexington emphasized the need to “discuss, and take our time” about such a document on the Eucharist. “It seems that some of the brother bishops want to rush this discussion,” he said, advocating the need to “take our time with something that is so important and so delicate.”

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City expressed concern about the “yoking of too many important decisions” in one Eucharistic document, without the discussion that needs to take place. 

Every bishop who wants to speak should be given the opportunity, he said. “I do not think that Ladaria’s letter” is about asking conference committees to talk to each other, he said, adding that individual bishops must be able to debate among themselves on the document.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe said that the two issues of the “beauty” of the Eucharist and who may receive Communion should be discussed separately.

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago expressed concern about a proposed outline of the document, saying that it is  “very clear, however, that the language within the draft does cause concern.” He called for a “full discussion” without time limits.

Proper discussion among the bishops “has not taken place,” he said, and discussion with Catholic politicians who support policies contrary to Church teaching has not taken place, either.

“And we should also have a discussion with Catholic politicians who have positions that are in conflict with the teachings of the Church to find out why they have those positions. That, too, has not taken place,” he said, arguing for no time limits on the discussion of the proposed Eucharistic document.

In 2019, Cupich told CNA he had ongoing “conversations” with Catholic leaders in the Illinois state legislature who championed an abortion coverage mandate. He told CNA that he thought it would be “counterproductive” to deny Holy Communion in his archdiocese to the legislators who championed the law.

“I have conversations with them, and those continue to take place. They have to,” he said in an interview with CNA on Communion for pro-abortion Catholic politicians, that took place on the side of the bishops’ June 2019 meeting.

Other bishops, however, said that Thursday’s planned vote is merely to begin drafting a document on the Eucharist - not approving any final text of such a document.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas said that a “full discussion” among the bishops “will really best be accomplished when we have a draft of the document” – which could be accomplished by the bishops’ fall meeting in November, if they vote to move ahead with the drafting of it this week.

He called efforts to change debate rules a “delaying tactic” that could hinder the timely manner of approving the document.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland in Oregon agreed, saying that in his 15 years in the conference he knew that time limits are necessary for discussion of issues. The full discussion among bishops, “which is certain to be very lively, I’m sure,” can happen when the text of the document is ready, he said.

Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend – chair of the doctrine committee which proposed the document – explained that the document “is broader” than just discussing admission to Communion.

“I think what we plan to do is completely in accord with what Cardinal Ladaria communicated in his letter,” he said. “We are no longer proposing a national policy” on Communion, he said, an idea that “was in the original proposal to the administrative committee, but we never meant it as it’s been interpreted in many media sources.”

The proposed outline of a document on the Eucharist does include a section on “Eucharistic consistency,” or general worthiness to receive Communion. The doctrine committee also noted the particular responsibility of Catholic public officials to uphold Church teaching. However, the entire proposed outline includes many other aspects of the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist, including the real presence of Jesus, the importance of Sunday, and recovering a sense of the Eucharist as a sacrifice.

Archbishop Gomez opens USCCB meeting with passionate call for unity 

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.