Browsing News Entries

Blessed Sacrament stolen from Texas Catholic parish

El Paso, Texas, Nov 12, 2019 / 12:18 am (CNA).- The pastor of a Catholic parish in El Paso, Texas is calling for prayer and reparation after a tabernacle containing the Eucharist was stolen from the church.

On Oct. 28, Holy Spirit Parish in Horizon City was broken into by unknown individuals.

“It is with a very saddened heart that I write these words to you,” said Father Jose Morales, pastor of the parish, in a Nov. 1 letter. “Sunday night into Monday morning we had some intruders in the church that caused damages and stole items including the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament.”

The incident resulted in minor property damage and stolen items equal to a few thousand dollars, the priest said. He stressed that the worst aspect of the attack was the theft of the Eucharist, the value of which cannot be estimated. Catholic teaching holds that the consecrated Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.

“The desecration of the greatest gift possessed by the Church, the Most Blessed Sacrament, is a very serious matter,” he said.

He encouraged anyone with any information on the crime to contact the Horizon Police Department. He also asked parishioners to respond to the theft with acts of penance.

“Due to the desecration of the Blessed Sacrament I join our Bishop Mark Seitz in inviting you to make reparation for this violation by visiting the Blessed Sacrament and participating in any act of reparation,” he said.

“The indifference of the world towards God in the holiness Most Blessed Sacrament needs to be overcome with the devotion, love and the holiness of His children. Let us remain united and strong in the Lord and manifest that we are his faithful followers regardless of the violations that some express.”

Roberto Ceballos, a parishioner of 20 years, told KVIA that the theft made him feel unsafe in the neighborhood.

“When we heard the news about it, we felt bad...We couldn’t believe that it had happened here, of course, in the neighborhood and of course in a Catholic church,” said Ceballos.

“I don’t feel secure now... It's just a half-block away from my house,” he added.

Morales said it is difficult to understand the reasons behind the theft, but he urged the perpetrators to come forward and return the tabernacle.

“I don’t see the reason for something like this being done. We know God is merciful and if they would return what they took and repent it would be greatly appreciated, not just by us, but God will take that into account,” he told KVIA.

The priest encouraged his congregation to pray that the thieves repent and change their ways, and he asked Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede for the parish.

“May our Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who witnessed the acts of hatred and indifference towards her beloved Son, bring us consolation and guide us closer to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit protect us always,” he said in his letter to parishioners.

Archbishop Naumann: Know the pregnancy resources available in your community

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2019 / 03:28 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas announced Monday at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ fall meeting an initiative meant to help parishes assist pregnant women in need at the local level.

Everyone needs to know what pregnancy resources there are available in the community, Naumann said Nov. 11, adding that he hopes Catholics can move from “partisan divide into pastoral unity” on the topic of abortion and the Church’s response.

Naumann, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, announced that from March 25, 2020 to March 25, 2021 the bishops will support an initiative called “Walking With Moms in Need: A Year of Service.”

The program, Naumann said, will include resources for parish use, tools for creating an inventory of resources available to help women in the community, prayers for building a culture of life, reflections on encyclicals related to life, homily help, pulpit announcements, communications and outreach suggestions, and more.

He said all the resources related to the initiative will be online in English and Spanish, along with a timeline for putting them out.

Naumann noted that March 25, 2020 is the 25th anniversary of the encyclical Evangelium vitae, in which St. John Paul II expanded on the term “culture of life,” which he first used in the encyclical Centesimus annus four years earlier.

In Evangelium vitae, Naumann noted, St. John Paul II asked the faithful to assess the efforts in assisting pregnant mothers in need, especially at the local level.

“Pregnant and parenting moms in need are in our parishes and neighborhoods,” Naumann said, noting that there are 17,000 parishes in the United States and each parish is best equipped to help women at the local level.

“We have done little to help women in difficult situations,” when abortion seems like a quick solution to their problems, Naumann lamented.

Our parishes need to be, in the words of Pope Francis, “islands of mercy in the midst of a sea of indifference.”

Bishops reject funding hike for USCCB, for now

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2019 / 02:15 pm (CNA).- A proposed increase in diocesan payments to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has failed to attract sufficient support among the bishops on Monday, the first day of their annual general assembly in Baltimore.

Diocesan and eparchial bishops voted 111 to 55 on a measure that would have approve a requested three percent increase to the annual diocesan assessment that will be sent to the USCCB in 2021. The measure failed to receive the necessary two-thirds majority to pass, though its defeat is not yet definitive. 

The bishops, gathered for their four-day meeting Nov. 11-14, were told by conference treasurer Archbishop Dennis Schnurr that a number of economic factors in, and out of the Church had impacted the finances of the USCCB. Concerns over the cost of clergy sex abuse settlements in U.S. Catholic dioceses was particularly highlighted.

Although the proposed rate increase did not pass, the vote was declared inconclusive because 28 eligible bishops were not present on Monday. The conference hall was told that once their votes are counted, the final outcome will then be announced. The bishops from New York state are currently in Rome for their scheduled ad limina visit with Pope Francis but are reportedly following the proceedings in Baltimore and able to vote remotely.

“It caused me no surprise,” Schnurr of Cincinnati told CNA of the inconclusive vote. As a longtime staffer and member of the budget and finance committee, he said that “this is nothing new under the sun.”

The diocesan assessment goes to fund administrative, pastoral, and public policy programs at the USCCB, and a regular increase is necessary to maintain the reserves of the conference, Schnurr said.

The archbishop acknowledged the financial challenges of some dioceses facing a resurgence in clergy sex abuse claims from new openings in state statutes of limitations.

“There are a lot of dioceses in this country that are looking at bankruptcy,” Schnurr said.

The bishops voted on the first day their fall general assembly in Baltimore on Monday. In attendance were active and retired bishops from around the U.S. including Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., whose resignation was accepted by Pope Francis late in 2018 after persistent questions were raised over the extent of Wuerl’s knowledge of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick’s, history of sexual abuse of minors and adults.

The bishops will also consider a slate of other action items, including election of a new president and vice president of the conference, approval of a letter and short video presentation of the bishops’ document on voting, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and presentations on gun violence and evangelization.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, the outgoing president of the conference, delivered his final presidential address to brother bishops on Monday morning, emphasizing the need to overcome deepening divisions and polarization in society, to promote a renewed evangelization, and to practice solidarity with migrants and immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Archbishop Schnurr addressed the bishops on the proposed 2020 budget for the conference as well as a proposed three percent increase in the annual diocesan assessment to the USCCB.

The three percent increase was last approved by the bishops in November of 2017, for the 2019 diocesan assessment. However, in November of 2018, no increase was approved for the 2020 assessment, largely due to the costs dioceses were facing from a surge of new clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

Schnurr noted other problems facing the national conference’s budget including stricter federal immigration and refugee policies that have reduced the number of cases handled by Catholic organizations, and the trade war between the U.S. and China which could affect the overall U.S. economy and thus the amount of donations coming in to the conference.

The archbishop said that it is not “sustainable” to withhold increases to the annual assessment to meet the conference’s estimated $25 million budget.

“We’re just kicking the can down the road,” he said. “The expenses are there.”

However, while the proposal fell 18 votes short of passage, Schnurr said, he expected the votes of absent bishops to push it over the finish line.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia stated his opposition to the assessment increase, saying that his archdiocese’s assessment amounts to $257,000 per year which, when paired with a matching donation to the Holy See, totals more than half a million dollars annually.

“I don’t have this kind of money to keep increasing it [the assessment],” Chaput said. “We have huge expenses because of the sexual abuse issue and related circumstances.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia had to pay more than $32 million in settlements to abuse victims, WHYY reported, after a window for new abuse claims closed on Sept. 30 in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on abuse that was released in August of 2018.

Chaput said that the USCCB also has more savings and investments in reserve than the archdiocese does.

“I don’t think that some of the work of the USCCB is essential to the mission of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” he said.

Cardinal Blase Cupich noted that a three percent increase for 2021 would arrive three years since the last increase to the assessment had been made. The requested increases would not even keep up with the rate of inflation, he said.

On Monday morning, the bishops also voted on “revised strategic priorities” for the conference’s Strategic Plan for the years 2021 through 2024. The priorities included evangelization to “form a joyful band of missionary disciples of Jesus Christ,” promoting “life and dignity of the human person,” working to “protect and heal God’s children,” and promoting vocations to marriage, priesthood and the religious life.

The priorities are all coequal, “much like bishops in the episcopal conference,” Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, who gave the presentation on the priorities, said.

The bishops voted 214 to 4 to pass the revised strategic priorities, with two abstentions.

Cardinal DiNardo notes search for justice in last USCCB presidential address

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2019 / 11:35 am (CNA).- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, outgoing president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, highlighted Monday his experience leading the conference and detailing his personal growth over the last three years as his presidential term comes to an end.

“My service as president has been a continual reminder that, indeed, ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it,’” DiNardo said at the US bishops' autumn general assembly in Baltimore Nov. 11. While “our present culture can seem overtaken by various ideological or political divisions,” bishops and other followers of Christ need to be different, he affirmed.

“Follow a simple truth: ‘God is always courteous,’” said DiNardo. “Let us be courteous.”

DiNardo remarked that while his tenure was during the “difficult times within our own Church,” that the bishops must continue to seek justice and to work for “relationships that are ordered in the right way--that is, towards the salvation of souls, including our own.”

DiNardo presided over the USCCB after it came to light that former cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually abused minors and seminarians on many occasions, as well as during the release of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania. Other states have since begun grand jury investigations.

Properly ordered relationships, said the cardinal, exclude any trace of clericalism. An ordained man cannot act “as if he is a lord and master” over others, he said.

“The privilege of a cleric is to be a humble servant to all,” he said. “Justice demands that those who are shepherds should lead from in front, as courage requires, and from behind, as humility requires, going to those who are lost.”

The cardinal said that his experience meeting with victims of sexual abuse as president of the conference was one that “forever changed” his life.

“When too many within the Church sought to keep them in the darkness, they refused to be relegated to the shadows,” said DiNardo. “Their witness brought help to countless fellow survivors. It fueled the resolve of my brother bishops to respond with pastoral support and prevention programs.”

Sexual abuse victims empowered the bishops “with the knowledge needed to respond,” said DiNardo.

“We must never stop striving for justice and working unceasingly to prevent any future abuse from happening,” he said. “The measures we approved last June are a beginning of this renewed striving, but they are only a beginning – more needs to and will be done.”

“Traveling on your behalf these past three years, it was a privilege to learn from so many people along the way,” said DiNardo.

He spoke about his time visiting the border detention centers, and witnessing the faith of the children who were detained and separated from their parents, as well as his experience with other bishops visiting refugees and volunteers at respite centers.

“I met dozens of children who called upon their Catholic faith and the firm knowledge that Christ and His Church would be present with them. Along with my brother bishops, we went because Jesus was already there. We followed our shepherd,” said DiNardo. He extended an invitation to all present to “share our journey of solidarity with migrants and refugees.”

DiNardo said that workers at respite centers, who provided medical care and other needs for people at the border, were “doing God’s work,” as were people who worked at pregnancy centers. He praised the work of pregnancy centers, as well as public policy advocates seeking to change the country’s healthcare system.

“The continued fight to defend unborn children is one of the most significant things we do,” said DiNardo. “And it will remain so as long as the most innocent lives are left unprotected.”

The cardinal's successor as USCCB president will be elected Nov. 12. The bishops are almost certain to choose Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, who is currently vice president of the conference.

US nuncio: Francis' 'pastoral thrust' must reach Americans

Baltimore, Md., Nov 11, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- The apostolic nuncio to the United States told the nation’s bishops that their commitment to evangelization is the measure of their communion with Pope Francis.

Archbishop Christoph Pierre addressed the bishops during the opening session of the USCCB general assembly in Baltimore Monday morning.

Pierre told the bishops Nov. 11 that he would propose “some topics for reflection” which he hoped would inform the conference sessions. The central theme of his reflections was the commitment of the bishops to a state of constant missionary engagement.

“As often as we speak of the ‘new evangelization,’ serious reflection is necessary on the outcomes of our efforts,” Pierre said.

“Do you feel that we and our collaborators have been far-sighted and proactive in efforts at evangelization, anticipating cultural, philosophical, and political trends,” Pierre asked, “or do we find ourselves in the position of having been reactive?”

“Do pastoral priorities we have chosen truly touch the reality of the life of our people?”

The nuncio said that the extent to which the bishops themselves received and were able to transmit Pope Francis’ missionary and pastoral priorities, especially in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium, was the barometer of their own communion with the pope.

Pierre said that adopting the missionary impulse of the pope’s own writings “and being in a permanent state of mission might represent tangible signs of communion with the Holy Father, for it would show the reception and implementation of his teaching.”

“The pope has emphasized certain themes: mercy, closeness to the people, discernment, accompaniment, a spirit of hospitality towards migrants, and dialogue with those of other cultures and religions,” Pierre said, while asking bishops to consider if these themes were reflected in their clergy and people.

“It is an interesting question to ask,” Pierre said, “because while there has been a strong emphasis on mercy by the Holy Father, at times – paradoxically – people are becoming more and more judgemental and less willing to forgive, as witnessed by the polarization gripping this nation.”

“The pastoral thrust of this pontificate must reach the American people,” the nuncio insisted, “especially as families continue to demand of dioceses and parishes the accompaniment envisioned by Amoris laetitia.”

Amoris laetitia, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on love in the family, called for better pastoral provision and accompaniment for families and couples in irregular marriages. Whether the document can be interpreted as authorizing a change in Church teaching, or permitting the admittance of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried to Holy Communion, has been the subject of debate in dioceses and countries across the world.

The nuncio did point to some positive signs of life in American dioceses, specifically singling out the defense of human life and religious liberty and the generosity of Catholics in welcoming migrants to the country.

“The generosity and willingness of Catholics to sacrifice is witnessed in the charitable works during times of national disasters or through Catholic Relief Services,” he said, adding that signs of hope are present in the Church “even as many of us worry about the lasting impact of the sexual abuse crisis.”

The archbishop acknowledged that the Church in the U.S. faces “many challenges,” highlighting the demographic changes and the need to engage better with young people.

Pierre also highlighted a series of priorities and concerns about the welfare of the priesthood, acknowledging a shortage of clergy had led to strained circumstances in many dioceses. He urged to make “communion with the presbyterate” a key priority.

“Establishing communion within the presbyterate is becoming increasingly challenging, and not just because of differences in age, theology, or liturgical practices.” He noted the increasing numbers of priests from other countries serving in American dioceses.

“Although we are grateful for the sacramental and pastoral care provided by these priests, we must investigate how this has affected or is affecting the presbyterate within our respective dioceses.”

In answer to the shortage of clergy, Pierre said that there is “an urgent need the bishops to foster a “culture of vocation.”

“Building a culture of vocations also means providing adequate support for and accompaniment of families, where vocations are born and nurtured even at a young age.”

Pierre concluded by saying he hoped that the American bishops would find his “reflections” useful for the coming year.

“Knowing the richness of your spiritual and cultural heritage, as well as the depth of your faith and devotion and that of your people, I am confident that the Church in the United States will discover the right path for its spiritual renewal.”