June 20, 2023 // National

News Briefs: June 25, 2023

U.S. Bishops Advance Pastoral Initiatives to Strengthen Church Amid Discussions on Eucharist, Priesthood, Synodality

ORLANDO, Florida (OSV News) — Meeting in Orlando for their spring assembly, the U.S. bishops moved ahead on some efforts to advance the Church’s mission in the U.S., including new pastoral initiatives aimed at activating Catholics as missionary disciples. The gathering’s June 15-16 plenary sessions proved relatively smooth, but featured moments of vigorous discussion at a few points, particularly around the formation of priests. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, gave his first address as U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President presiding over the bishops’ plenary assembly. He covered a variety of issues of concern to Catholics, such as the need for Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform and for an end to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. “We cannot fail to see the face of Christ in all of those who need our assistance, especially the poor and the vulnerable,” he said. They also heard updates on World Youth Day, the global Synod on Synodality, and the Eucharistic Revival. The U.S. bishops also approved moving ahead on drafting a new pastoral statement for persons with disabilities. At the conclusion of their assembly, which took place on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the bishops prayed together the Litany of the Sacred Heart, invoking Jesus’ heart repeatedly to “have mercy on us.”

U.S. Bishops Overwhelmingly Approve 10-year Plan to Address Pastoral Needs of Hispanic Catholics

ORLANDO, Florida (OSV News) — The U.S. bishops approved a new National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry to multiply pastoral responses addressing the realities of close to 30 million Catholics. On Friday, June 16, with 167 supporting votes out of 171, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops resoundingly approved a comprehensive 10-year plan aimed at responding to the needs of Hispanic/Latino Catholics in the U.S. and strengthening Hispanic/Latino ministries across the country at the national, local, and parish level. The last time the U.S. bishops put forth such a plan was in 1987. With an April Pew Research Center analysis showing a steady decline of Latino adults who self-identify as Catholic, the urgency to provide pastoral care for Hispanic/Latino Catholics is a high priority. Ahead of the vote, Bishop Oscar Cantú of San Jose, California, Chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs, told OSV News that there was a great need to “get moving so that (the new pastoral plan) can be implemented in our dioceses and parishes.” The plan directly responds to the pastoral priorities and recommendations generated through the four-year Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry (V Encuentro). The priorities listed in the plan include ongoing formation, accompaniment of families, immigration and advocacy, care for those on the peripheries, the promotion of vocations, and the need to engage with youth and young adults. A day before the vote took place, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop J. Arturo Cepeda, who chairs the USCCB’s Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, called the plan a sign of the times that recognizes Hispanic/Latino Catholics — who account for more than 40 percent of U.S. Catholics — as “missionaries among us” that can reinvigorate the life of the Church. The pastoral plan recognizes the unique ways Hispanic Catholics engage in their faith, while calling on “pastoral leaders ‘to exercise their prophetic role without fear’” and to develop or promote pastoral responses to local needs, “while also inviting the faithful to promote the common good on the national and global levels.”

Sister Wilhelmina’s Apparently Incorrupt Body Shows in Christ ‘Death Loses Its Power and Its Sting,’ says Abbess

GOWER, Missouri (OSV News) — Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell puts the number of pilgrims who in the past six weeks have flocked to her Benedictine abbey in rural Missouri between 10,000 and 15,000. It’s a conservative estimate, she said, of the droves of people who, at times, have waited hours in line to see the body of the community’s foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles disinterred her remains on Friday, April 28, four years after her death at age 95, and discovered a surprising lack of decay, leading to claims of her incorruptibility and potential for canonization. Most visitors are locals, or from Kansas City or St. Louis. Some, however, have traveled from Washington state, Maine, California, and Florida, but also from as far as Canada, Colombia, and India, Mother Cecilia said. “It was her relationship with Christ on the path (to) holiness that led her to greatness before Him. She sends a message of the value of vocation, of charity, and forgiveness, even through racial barriers, and that holiness is possible in our day. Quite a few people have said, ‘I knew her. This makes me realize that I can be holy too!’” Mother Cecilia said.

Knights of Columbus are Called to Take ‘Co-Responsibility’ for Church with ‘Heart of a Father’

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (OSV News) — Knights of Columbus are called to have “the heart of a father” while taking “co-responsibility” for the mission of the Catholic Church, said Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly in a keynote address at the Knights’ annual Organizational Meeting of State Deputies, which took place from June 8 to June 11 in New Haven, Connecticut. This year, the gathering, which drew upward of 70 state deputies from the U.S., Canada, and throughout the world, coincided with the Knights’ June 7-9 assembly of more than 40 state chaplains. At present, the Knights count some 2 million members worldwide, with more than 16,000 local councils. “Our witness as Knights … is more important than ever,” Kelly said. “We must be witnesses to the love of God and witnesses to the heart of the Father in heaven.” The Knights are set to launch new evangelization and faith formation programs, building on what Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, who attended the assembly, called the friendship that was “key in the Knights of Columbus.” Kelly stressed that in all of its activities, the Knights have “(worked) side by side with our priests and bishops,” caring for the vulnerable, strengthening faith, and countering religious discrimination. “This is the power of co-responsibility,” said Kelly. “It’s the ‘how’ of the Knights of Columbus. … It’s how, in each generation, we’ve been the ‘strong right arm of the church.’”

Iowa Supreme Court Deadlocks on 6-Week Abortion Ban

DES MOINES, Iowa (OSV News) — The Iowa Supreme Court’s failure to lift a block on the state’s “fetal heartbeat” law banning abortion after six weeks does not mean “the fight” is over, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said on Friday, June 16. “There is no right more sacred than life, and nothing more worthy of our strongest defense than the innocent unborn. We are reviewing our options in preparation for continuing the fight,” she said in a statement after the court deadlocked 3-3 regarding lifting a lower court judge’s block on a 2018 abortion law that never took effect. Abortion remains legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. The blocked law prevented doctors from performing an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Reynolds said that the state Supreme Court’s “lack of action” shows disregard for Iowa voters “who elected representatives willing to stand up for the rights of unborn children, but it has sided with a single judge in a single county who struck down Iowa’s legislation based on principles that now have been flat-out rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.” On June 24, 2022, the U.S. high court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned prior precedent that had made abortion access a constitutional right.

USCCB Approves Plan to Start Revising Medical Guidelines for Transgender Patients at Catholic Health Facilities

ORLANDO, Florida (OSV News) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday, June 16, authorized a process to revise its guidelines on medical directives for Catholic health care facilities regarding the treatment of persons who experience gender dysphoria and identify as transgender. In a voice vote, the bishops agreed to move ahead with revising part three of the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” which concerns the relationship between Catholic health professionals and their patients and patient rights. The move to revise the ERDs comes as the issue of gender dysphoria becomes an increasingly controversial political issue. Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, Chairman of the conference’s doctrine committee, said the proposal to revise the document is twofold: “to reaffirm the ethical standards of behavior in health care” and to “provide authoritative guidance on certain moral issues that face contemporary health.” He explained the doctrine committee would seek to incorporate a doctrinal note released on March 20 into the ERDs that dealt with transgender chemical and surgical interventions which the note stated did not accord with “the fundamental order of the human person as a unity of body and soul, including the sexual difference inscribed in the body.” Noting the section in question has not been revised since 1994, Bishop Flores said “at that time, it was not envisioned that it might be necessary to include specific guidance concerning radical modifications of the human body, such as are widely advocated in practice today, the treatment of those suffering from gender dysphoria.”

Pope Francis blesses a four-foot-tall monstrance, a chalice and a paten during an audience with members of the organizing committees of the U.S. National Eucharistic Congress and Eucharistic Revival in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 19, 2023. The monstrance, which was made in Mexico, will hold the Eucharist during the National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis in July 2024, and the chalice and paten will be used during the closing Mass. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

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