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U.S. Bishops Approve Action Items on Their Agenda at the Spring General Assembly

WASHINGTON —The Catholic bishops of the U.S. met this week for their Spring General Assembly, June 16-18 in a virtual format. Their meeting agenda included votes on 9 action items.

Action Items #1 & #2:

During their meeting, the bishops held a canonical consultation on the causes of beatification and canonization of the servants of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, diocesan priest, and Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, professed Brother of the Order of Saint Benedict. The bishops expressed their support for the advancement of the causes of beatification and canonization of both individuals at the diocesan level.

Action Item #3:

The Conference voted to approve the development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for the Native American and Alaska Native Ministry. It was approved with 223 votes in favor, 6 against, and 0 abstentions. The plan envisions encompassing the concerns of the Catholic Native Communities but also a dialogue to develop ways for evangelization and matters of Catholic Native social justice.

Action Items #4, 5 & 6:

The Latin Church members of the Conference voted to approve three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) for use in the dioceses of the United States. They included a vote that concerned materials for the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, which was approved with 188 votes in favor, 2 against, and 0 abstentions. This memorial was added to the liturgical calendar in 2018 and is observed on the Monday following Pentecost. The second vote was on a collection of intercessions and prayers for the Liturgy of the Hours, which was likewise approved with 186 votes in favor, 3 against, and 1 abstention.

The retranslation of the Liturgy of the Hours is a large and ongoing project, and there are still several groups of texts that will need to be approved by the bishops in the coming years before the entire project can be completed. The bishops approved a new translation of the Order of Penance, with 182 votes in favor, 6 against, and 2 abstentions. This liturgical book is usually not needed for individual confessions but is particularly useful in the planning of parish penitential services. The votes for these three texts required affirmation by two-thirds of the Latin Church members and are subject to the confirmation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Action Item #7:

The full body of bishops also voted to task the Committee on Doctrine to move forward with the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. Requiring a simple majority vote for approval, the action item passed with 168 votes in favor, 55 against, and 6 abstentions.

Action Item #8:

Following the Vatican’s 2018 synod on young people, faith, and vocational discernment, Pope Francis issued a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on young people, Christus Vivit. The bishops voted with 222 in favor, 7 against, and 0 abstentions to approve of the drafting of a National Pastoral Framework for Youth and Young Adults that would be the United States’ response to the implementation of Christus Vivit. Considering this movement in the Church of engagement of young people, and in the wake of the COVID pandemic which continues to impact life in the world, the bishops believe is an opportune time for this framework to guide the Church’s efforts in the coming years.

Action Item #9:

The bishops voted to approve a National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love, that was proposed by the Committee for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. The framework is intended to assist dioceses as local pastoral planning and implementation continues to take place since the publication of the 2016 apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. It provides guidelines for the pastoral accompaniment of married couples and families in every phase of life, drawing upon the teachings and recommendations contained in the apostolic exhortation. The proposal was approved with 212 votes in favor, 13 against, and 4 abstentions.

Recordings of the bishops’ general assembly and the press conferences may be accessed at www.usccb.org/meetings.

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Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Bishop Chairmen Welcome Supreme Court Decision Protecting Freedom to Serve

WASHINGTON - Three chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) responded to yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. The statement of Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop David A. Konderla of Tulsa, chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage follows:

“Americans have long been a tolerant people who respect each other’s deepest differences. Yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that tradition, reinvigorating the First Amendment’s promise that religious believers can bring the full vitality of their faith to their charitable service and to the public square. This is a victory for the common good and for thousands of children who rely on religious foster care and adoption agencies to find a loving home with a mother and father, which is their right.

“We are grateful the ruling recognizes our right to witness in our works of mercy and God’s plan for the family. We Catholics must continue to practice what we preach. Let us show all our neighbors the truth of our beliefs by their beauty when they are put into action.”

The USCCB had filed an amicus curiae brief in the case in 2020, available here.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

U.S. Bishops’ Migration Chairman on the Observance of World Refugee Day (June 20)

WASHINGTON— For the last twenty years, World Refugee Day (June 20) has been observed annually in the United States and around the world to increase awareness of the plight of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. The United States has resettled an all-time low number of refugees during the last three consecutive years. As restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic loosen, together with a revised Presidential Determination for this year, there is now a path for the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to regain its historical prominence. Currently, the world faces the largest forced migration crisis since World War II, with almost 80 million forcibly displaced people around the world and 25 million refugees among them, around half of whom are children.

In advance of this year’s World Refugee Day, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“In the face of each refugee, we see the face of Christ, calling us to be a neighbor. It is this—our shared humanity—that should motivate us to respond to those in need, so as to imitate the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel.

“We know that it will take time for our country to return the refugee program to the historic norms that have come to be expected in its efforts to assist refugees. However, my brother bishops and I remain committed to those who live each day seeking to free themselves from violence, poverty, and persecution. As Catholics, we recall that many in our own community came as strangers. We must never forget that experience, nor the related challenges of integration, which the Church is uniquely qualified to ease.  

“As Pope Francis teaches, ‘Being compassionate means recognizing the suffering of the other and taking immediate action to soothe, heal, and save. To be compassionate means to make room for that tenderness which today’s society so often asks us to repress.’ Today, we possess an opportunity to welcome the refugee with dignity and share the many blessings we enjoy as a country. Let us seize it.”

More information on World Refugee Day, including a list of prayer services around the country,  can be found on the Justice for Immigrants website.  

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Media Contacts:

Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Conduct Canonical Consultation on Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, Diocesan Priest

WASHINGTON— At their annual spring Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Joseph Verbis Lafleur, diocesan priest.

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel of Lafayette in Louisiana, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. The bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

Father Joseph Verbis Lafleur was born on January 24, 1912 in Ville Platte, Louisiana, the fourth child of Agatha Dupre Lafleur and Valentine Lafleur. He spent his early years as a student at Mount Carmel Academy in Ville Platte. Early in life, he expressed an interest in the priesthood, and at the age of seven he became an altar boy. In 1926, the family moved to Opelousas, Louisiana, where Joseph Verbis attended school, but his real dream was to enter the seminary. He told his pastor at St. Landry Catholic Church of his desire and then entered St. Joseph's Minor Seminary in Saint Benedict, Louisiana. In 1927 he began his studies at St. Joseph's where he spent six years, followed by five years of study and prayer at the Notre Dame Major Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana before he was ordained to the priesthood.

Father Lafleur was ordained in 1938 and celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at St. Landry, his home parish, on April 5, 1938. He was sent to Saint Mary Magdalen Catholic Church in Abbeville, Louisiana as assistant pastor. He was in Abbeville when he joined the Army Air Corps in 1941, just months before the United States became involved in World War II.

Father Lafleur was assigned to a unit at Albuquerque, New Mexico, in July 1941. Four months later the unit, the 19th Bombardment Group, arrived at Clark Field, some 60 miles from Manila in the Philippine Islands. On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Philippines came under heavy attack by Japan. Father Lafleur assisted the wounded and dying, actions that earned him the United States Army’s Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star.

Father Lafleur would later be taken captive by the Japanese and placed with other prisoners of war in various locations and camps but not without having been given opportunities for evacuation to take an easier path. Instead, he chose the path of charity for the good of the men entrusted to his spiritual care. It was in this context where he exercised countless acts of selflessness, charity, and generosity. He would exchange places with a POW to provide a priestly presence for a grueling forced work detail of 650 of his fellow POW’s who were taken for maintenance of a Japanese airstrip. Fearing liberation by American forces, the Japanese loaded the men onto a Hell Ship bound for Japan. The ship was torpedoed by an American submarine that did not realize the American prisoners of war were on board.

Survivors of the torpedo attack recall Father Lafleur’s heroic efforts as their ship was now on fire and sinking. Refusing to seek safety for his own life, Father Lafleur was last seen aiding prisoners to escape the sinking and burning ship, despite being fired upon by Japanese guards. He was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions immediately following the War.  A second Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded in October of 2017 for his heroic actions. 

On September 5, 2020, the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana, led by Bishop J. Douglas Deshotel, officially opened Father Lafleur’s cause for beatification and canonization.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Conduct Canonical Consultation on Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue

WASHINGTON— At their annual spring Plenary Assembly, the bishops of the United States held a canonical consultation on the cause of beatification and canonization of the Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue, professed Brother of the Order of Saint Benedict (O.S.B.).

Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, and Bishop Kevin J. Sweeney of Paterson, facilitated the discussion by the bishops. The bishops expressed support for the advancement of the cause of beatification and canonization on the diocesan level.

Captain Leonard LaRue/Brother Marinus, O.S.B., was born January 14, 1914 and baptized at St. Joachim Church in Philadelphia. He attended the Pennsylvania Nautical School, serving aboard the Schoolship Annapolis, graduating in 1934. In December 1950, Captain LaRue and the SS Meredith Victory were delivering military supplies to northeast Korea, when he encountered Korean refugees who were desperate to flee the oncoming Chinese soldiers. Knowing that staying behind would mean certain death, Captain LaRue did not hesitate to take the refugees onto his ship. In the end, 14,000 refugees were taken on board the SS Meredith Victory into the freezing Sea of Japan and the mine-infested waters to Geoje Island where they disembarked on Christmas Day 1950, completing their 450-mile journey.

Years later reflecting on that Christmas voyage, Brother Marinus said, “I think often on that voyage. I think how such a small vessel was able to hold so many persons and surmount endless perils without harm to a soul. And as I think the clear, unmistakable message comes to me that on that Christmastide, in the bleak and bitter waters off the shores of Korea, God’s own hand was at the helm of my ship.”

Captain Leonard LaRue entered St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey in 1954 and took the name of the Brother Marinus for the Blessed Lady. As a monk, he did not follow the path to priesthood, and instead he served at St. Paul’s Abbey as a religious brother, performing tasks such as dishwashing, working in the gift shop, and ringing the abbey’s bell each morning to wake the monks.

When Brother Marinus was asked what influenced his entering religious life, he summarized it: “To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances. To seek Him the greatest adventure. To find Him, the greatest human achievement.”

Brother Marinus also expressed his deep love for the Church and the mission of evangelization. In his correspondence with Bob Lunney, his friend, and the shipmate, one reads that “he has accepted recent publicity about that Christmas voyage only because there is such a tremendous need for vocations throughout the world.” And in the same letter he stated, “Our Lord has recommended the single life to those who can stand it but it takes the assistance of the sacraments for an individual to live a virtuous life […] the more we attend Mass, the more we receive Holy Communion, the more Christ like we become and the more Masses will speak for us on our judgment day. Our Lord wants us to be daily communicants and if you have never done so, I would urge you to do so… you do not know what you are missing until you do. It will completely change your whole life and put things in their proper perspective.” Brother Marinus died on October 14, 2001 at the age of 87 at St. Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Newton, New Jersey. The abbey is located in the Diocese of Paterson.

Bishop Sweeney has affirmed Captain LaRue’s heroic actions as a Merchant Marine, and the monastic life of Brother Marinus, which was marked with simplicity and obedience, as reasons for moving forward with his cause of beatification and canonization.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

MEDIA ADVISORY: Agenda for U.S. Bishops’ Meeting June 16-18

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather virtually for the 2021 Spring General Assembly starting today, Wednesday, June 16 in a virtual format.

The agenda for the meeting may be found here.

The livestream of the general assembly will be available on www.usccb.org/meetings.

  • Wednesday, June 16 from 2:30 - 4:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Thursday, June 17 from 1:00 - 4:00 PM Eastern Time
  • Friday, June 18 from 1:00 - 2:30 PM Eastern Time

There will also be two* press conferences livestreamed on, www.usccb.org/meetings, commencing approximately fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the general session.

  • Wednesday, June 16   (~ approx. 4:15 PM Eastern Time)
  • Thursday, June 17       (~ approx. 4:15 PM Eastern Time)

*Initial media advisory indicated only 6/16 press conference

News updates, vote totals, texts of addresses and presentations, and other materials will be posted to www.usccb.org/meetings as soon as possible.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media are invited to use the hashtag #USCCB21 and follow on Twitter (@USCCB) as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb).

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte

202-541-3200
 

On Anniversary of DACA, Migration Chairman Reaffirms Need for Congress to Act

WASHINGTON—Today marks nine years since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was created. DACA allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children—known as Dreamers—to remain in the country, subject to several requirements. DACA does not provide legal status, nor does it create a pathway to citizenship, but it does make recipients eligible for work authorization and other benefits. There are over 600,000 active DACA recipients currently living in the United States and as many as 3.6 million Dreamers total, about 1.8 million of which are DACA-eligible.

In recognition of DACA’s anniversary, Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, auxiliary bishop of Washington and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued the following statement:

“Every day, DACA recipients make important contributions to their communities and the life of our nation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, over 200,000 DACA recipients have served as essential workers, and they continue to demonstrate their resolve during this period of recovery. Yet, these young people have far too often faced uncertainty and rejection at the hands of our broken immigration system. 

“The Biden Administration has identified immigration reform as a priority, and we look forward to seeing it realize that commitment through congressional engagement. Meanwhile, the ideal time for Congress to act has long since passed, though the opportunity and imperative still remain. Dreamers—together with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure holders, migrant agricultural workers, and undocumented essential workers—deserve relief.

“As a Church, we recognize the inherent, God-given dignity of every human person, regardless of immigration status. Therefore, we will continue to call for comprehensive immigration reform that preserves family unity, honors due process, respects the rule of law, recognizes the contributions of foreign-born workers, defends the vulnerable, and addresses the root causes of migration, consistent with the common good.”

Congress currently has multiple opportunities before it to enact immigration reform, including the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603), bipartisan bills passed by the House of Representatives in March. Bishop Dorsonville submitted written testimony for a hearing held today by the Senate Judiciary Committee on the American Dream and Promise Act. This follows a statement issued in March by Bishop Dorsonville and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, urging the Senate to act.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Rev. Ronald Kunkel Appointed as Executive Director of USCCB's Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs

WASHINGTON – Father Ronald Kunkel, S.T.D., a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been named executive director of the Secretariat of Doctrine and Canonical Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The appointment was made today by Monsignor Jeffrey D. Burrill, USCCB general secretary, and is effective August 9.

“Father Kunkel brings an extensive background of theological instruction to the Conference,” said Monsignor Burrill. “I am confident that his expertise will fruitfully serve both the bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, as well as the secretariat with the theological and pastoral consultation that is necessary in carrying out the work of the Conference.”

Father Kunkel was ordained to the priesthood in 2000. He served as associate pastor of St. Peter parish in Skokie, Illinois and associate pastor and director of liturgy at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. Since 2005, he has served at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, as an instructor of systematic theology, assistant professor of dogmatic theology, director of sacred liturgy, and associate professor of dogmatic theology. He obtained his bachelor of business administration from the University of Notre Dame and a bachelor of sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He then received his licentiate of sacred theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome, and his doctorate of sacred theology from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake.

Father Kunkel is a member of the Catholic Theological Society of America, the American Academy of Religion, the Society for Catholic Liturgy, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and he is a contributor to the theological journal Chicago Studies. He succeeds Father Michael J.K. Fuller, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, who was named last November as Associate General Secretary for the USCCB.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for International Justice and Peace Welcomes International Religious Freedom Summit

WASHINGTON - Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace welcomed the announcement of the International Religious Freedom Summit to be held July 13-15 in Washington.

“According to a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 83 percent of the world’s approximately 7 billion people now live in countries with high government or social hostilities involving religion. Every culture, nation, religious or political system must strive to better protect religious freedom, a vital human right,” said Bishop Malloy.

“It is for that reason that I welcome the announcement of an International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit to be held in our nation’s capital this July. This summit is intended to raise awareness about international religious freedom within the United States and to bring together a broad coalition that will work together for the cause of religious freedom around the world.”

The USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace is a proud sponsor of the IRF Summit and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, will be one of the keynote speakers. More than 40 organizations committed to upholding religious freedom have joined as convening partners for the Summit. For more information, please visit: irfsummit.com.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte

202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops to Meet Virtually June 16-18; Assembly to Be Livestreamed and Live-Tweeted

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will gather virtually for the 2021 Spring General Assembly on June 16-18. Earlier this year, the bishop-members of the USCCB voted to approve the convocation of this year’s June meeting in a virtual format in light of the challenges posed to meeting in person with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The assembly will begin with an address by the papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. The plenary will also hear from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles as he addresses the assembly as USCCB president.

The items on the agenda of the meeting include votes on nine action items:

  • Causes for canonization for Servant of God Joseph Verbis Lefleur, and Servant of God Marinus (Leonard) LaRue
  • The approval of three translations by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) for use in the dioceses of the United States
  • A National Pastoral Framework for Marriage and Family Life Ministry in the United States: Called to the Joy of Love
  • The development of a new formal statement and comprehensive vision for Native American / Alaska Native Ministry
  • The approval of the drafting of a formal statement on the meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the Church
  • The approval of the drafting of a national pastoral framework for youth and young adults

During the meeting, the bishops will hear a report from the National Review Board which advises the Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection, specifically on policies and practices. Also, on the agenda: an update from the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis on the Eucharistic Revival initiative; an update from the Subcommittee for Pastoral Care for Immigrants, Refugees and Travelers on a study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA); and an update on the work of the Subcommittee on the Catechism.

The livestream of the public sessions of the general assembly, the votes (and tallies) of the action items, news updates, texts of addresses and presentations, and other materials will be available at www.usccb.org/meetings.

Those wishing to follow the meeting on social media are invited to use the hashtag #USCCB21 and follow on Twitter (@USCCB) as well as on Facebook (www.facebook.com/usccb) and Instagram (https://instagram.com/usccb).

The livestream of the bishops’ meeting will be broadcast on the USCCB website:

  • Wednesday, June 16 (2:30-4:00 PM EDT)
  • Thursday, June 17 (1:00-4:00 PM EDT)
  • Friday, June 18 (1:00-2:30 PM EDT).

Broadcast media, please note, there will be no satellite feed available. There will also be a press conference livestreamed on the USCCB website on June 16 commencing approximately fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the general session (approximately 4:15 PM).

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte

202-541-3200