My report from the June meeting of U.S. bishops

Below is a summary of the June meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). This is not an official summary, but my notes. 

1. The U.S. bishops sent greetings to Pope Francis assuring him of our prayers and support. We asked for his blessings in our episcopal ministry.

2. Ms. Stacie LeBlanc of New Orleans has been appointed to the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People.

3. The bishops were encouraged to sign the Catholic Climate Declaration in order to call us to care for creation and care for the poor.

4. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, addressed the bishops. He assured us of the blessings and appreciation of Pope Francis. He reminded us to be dedicated to evangelization and especially to young people. He encouraged us to be good listeners in a spirit of discernment. The upcoming Encuentro and the Synod on Youth in October are opportunities to listen carefully to our youth and their hunger for faith. Our youth are searching for a connection with others in spite of the individualism of our society. He reminded us that we are to make our parishes more welcoming and attentive to our young people and young adults in order that they may encounter Christ. We need to give special attention to our Hispanic youth and Hispanic vocations. He also discussed our Holy Father’s recent encyclical on the call to holiness.

5. The National Advisory Council, which has 50 members representing clergy, religious and laity, reported on our agenda. They review our agenda and offer comments on the various issues we are to discuss and vote on.

6. The chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People gave a report to the bishops. The annual audit of each diocese has been completed. The work of the local Review Board is a great service to the church (the Archdiocese of New Orleans does local audits of parishes and schools). The protection of children is of utmost importance. There is concern that some parishes and dioceses are growing lax regarding background checks and safe environment training. 

7. A report was given on the Catholic News Service (CNS) and its mission. New reading habits and the intense news cycle presents challenges to CNS; a continued evaluation is needed. We need to give more attention to the needs and interests of young adults. More information is available in digital content, as this is often replacing printed material.

8. The Committee on Migration gave an update on “Share the Journey Campaign.” It was launched by Pope Francis to welcome, protect and promote the dignity of migrants and refugees. The campaign calls us to pray, share a meal with migrants, serve as advocates and support legislation that will improve the lives of vulnerable children throughout the world. 

9. The working group on immigration issues discussed the challenges that lie ahead. “Dreamers” were discussed and the need for legislative changes. The separation of families is a serious issue. From May 3-18, over 640 families were separated. Catholics have resettled over 1 million refugees since 1980. An executive order reduced the number of refugees from 110,000 to 45,000. It is projected that only 21,000 will arrive this year. “Temporary Protected Status” is being withdrawn for those from several countries. USCCB continues its efforts to care for immigrants and refugees and to be an advocate.

10. A panel of lay people and one religious brother (young adults) addressed the bishops in preparation for the Ordinary Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” They spoke about their experience in meeting Pope Francis and in attending a meeting in Rome to prepare for the October Synod. Pope Francis requested that representatives from other religious and “none’s” participate in the discussion in Rome.

11. The Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church presented an update on V Encuentro to be held Sept. 20-23 in Grapevine, Texas.

12. The bishops voted in favor of the revised “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” In essence, the charter has no significant changes but addresses some needed clarifications and updated quotes from the pope and others.

13. The bishops approved for publication of the USCCB statement, “Encountering Christ in Harmony: A Pastoral Response to our Asian and Pacific Island Brothers and Sisters.”

14. Translation for the proposed “Liturgy of the Hours: Proper of Time” was discussed and approved by the bishops. This must be approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome. 

15. The bishops approved the revised “Ethical and Religious Directions for Catholic Health Care Services,” Part 6 only. Part 6 specifically deals with a diocese’s collaboration with non-Catholic entities in providing health care services.

16. The document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” is published by the USCCB to assist people in forming their conscience in order to vote as a faithful citizen for U.S. and local elections. The bishops supported a motion to continue to provide resources including a pastoral letter, video and other resources that will include the teachings of Pope Francis. 

17. A guest speaker, Mr. Bryan Stevenson, gave an insightful presentation on the death penalty, incarceration and racism. A person can become a victim of the system and not receive assistance to learn a new way of life. Many 17-year-olds and younger are in prison and not given a chance for rehabilitation. Racial bias is a reality and must continue to be addressed in our society. He discussed the injustice to African Americans in our history. Stereotypes are placed on black and brown people. As a church and society, we must address this reality. Some are uncomfortable in discussing racial inequality; however, we must enter into the “uncomfortable” dialogue.

18. The Committee on Racism gave an update on their work. Regarding the pastoral letter on racism, the proposed document will be voted on in November 2018. It expresses concern for the racist comments that have become more common in the public arena. The issue of racism causes self-reflection for all of us. The Committee on Racism will make specific suggestions on how to implement the pastoral on racism after it is approved. On May 9, 2018, there was an interfaith dialogue regarding race relations. Diocesan listening sessions are being held in many dioceses as we have done in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

19. Religious freedom continues to be of concern to the bishops. The committee reminds us of how important are our local and national efforts in fostering religious freedom. It seems that the younger people are not as aware of the threats to religious freedom. It is important that we can follow our conscience in the public arena as people of faith.

Thanks to all who remembered us in prayer.

Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to clarionherald@clarionherald.org.

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