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Laudato si': Atlanta archdiocese’s sustainability efforts 5 years on

Denver Newsroom, May 22, 2020 / 04:58 pm (CNA).- Susan Varlamoff, a retired biologist and parishioner at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, was in 2015 serving as director of the Office of Environmental Sciences at the University of Georgia, when she heard that Pope Francis was working on an encyclical on the environment.

Varlamoff told CNA that working for a cleaner environment has been a personal mission for her for many years, in part because her family suffered the negative effects of living near a toxic landfill when she was a child. 

“I've been on the forefront of this, doing so much in my own home, but to actually see the Catholic Church embrace this and the pope, who's a trained chemist, come out with an environmental encyclical was absolutely thrilling,” she told CNA.

Varlamoff approached her archbishop at the time— Wilton Gregory, now Archbishop of Washington— to see if she could somehow offer her scientific expertise to the pope.

Gregory laughed and said the pope likely had all the scientific help he needed— but, he said, the archdiocese would need its own action plan.

Valamoff began collaborating with climate scientists and other professionals at the University of Georgia, along with several interreligious groups who also were working on addressing environmental issues, to begin the process of creating the action plan. Before they could do much, Laudato si’ was promulgated.

Valamoff said when she read the encyclical, it exceeded her expectations. It was clear to her that Pope Francis had received good input from his scientific advisors, she said.

“What I was surprised about the document was that it addressed many different environmental issues from biodiversity, energy, water, and then he talked about the unfair way that the environmental issues are affecting the poor. They're taking a disproportionate share of the burden, of these environmental issues,” Varlamoff said.

Laudato si’ was released in May 2015. By November, Susan and her team presented a 48-page, peer-reviewed action plan to the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The plan suggests ten areas where Catholics in Atlanta can make changes to make their homes— or their parishes— more eco-friendly, from energy efficiency and recycling to sustainable landscaping and water conservation.

Each section includes a few concrete suggestions that vary in time commitment, cost, and resources. For example, if you want to conserve water, you can check your toilet for slow leaks. Or, if you want to do something bigger, you can install a drip irrigation system in your yard.

The archdiocese presented the plan in 2016, and sent a copy to every parish.

Now, four years on, there are at least 60 or 70 parishes throughout the archdiocese that have a sustainability ministry, Varlamoff said.

One of the first things Varlamoff did at her parish was to replace styrofoam and disposable dishes at events with actual dishes, which reduced waste after large events.

In addition, after an energy audit, the parish replaced all its light bulbs, and is transforming its campus by planting native plants and trees.

She said for the ministries to work well, each parish needs a point person.

“They need somebody to lead the effort, to inspire the people to do this work, and to bring together experts and interested people to move the parishioners and to move the pastor and facilities manager and parish council to do this work,” she said.

At the beginning of this year, the Atlanta archdiocese started the Laudato Si Initiative, meant to expand on what the parish teams were already doing under the action plan.

The archdiocese also hired two Laudato si’ coordinators, including a sustainability strategist, in February.

Leonard Robinson, the sustainability strategist, has some 45 years experience in the field and previously worked with several California governors at the California Environmental Protection Agency.

He said not every parish in Atlanta has embraced the call for greater sustainability, partly because it simply was something new for many of them.

“It's a slight change, but it's not the change people expect. A lot of the parishes said, ‘Okay, we're overburdened. We've got all these ministries we've got doing this, this and this. We don't have time for one more thing’," Robinson told CNA.

“Well, I explained that this one more thing it's not really a thing, we want to weave sustainability in all walks of Catholic life, education, ministry, and everything else. So if you're open to it, you won't even notice that it's extra work. You might find in some cases there's less, and you'll have more resources to do other things.”

In some cases, the best way to approach parishes or individuals is not to even mention the phrases “climate change” or “sustainability.”

“Let's say energy efficiency. Let's say water conservation. Let's say sustainable landscapes. Let's say extra resources for other ministries, because you're saving energy, and these things when you save them, it does save you money, but it's not about money, it's maximizing the things that you do to enforce other ministries."

Robinson said the Laudato Si Action Plan was a great starting point, a “roadmap” for his work at the archdiocese.

“That was one of the attractions for my job. I don't have to start from zero, I've got this roadmap. All I have to do is institute that and weave that into every part of Catholic life,” he said.

Varmaloff commented: "The Pope is so well respected as a moral leader in the world...why shouldn't Catholic churches be demonstration sites for energy efficiency, water efficiency, growing food sustainably? Why not recycling? There's no reason why the Catholic church can't lead the way.”

Church fighting Mississippi coronavirus restriction was burned down

CNA Staff, May 22, 2020 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- Authorities are investigating the burning of a Mississippi church as a potential arson. The fire comes less than a month after the church filed suit arguing the city’s stay-at-home order was unconstitutional.

First Pentecostal Church of Holly Springs, located in the city of Holly Springs, MS, was destroyed by a fire on Wednesday, May 20. Firefighters responded to the blaze at approximately 2 a.m., and were unable to save the building.

Fire investigators described the incident as an “explosion” from the back of the church, which further damaged the front of the building. The church has been declared a total loss.

At the scene, several cans of spray paint were recovered. A message reading “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits [sic]” was found painted on the church’s parking lot.

These factors, said Marshall County official Kelly McMillen, have led authorities to suspect arson.

“We do believe that based on the evidence and what we have seen at the scene and on top of the hill this was an arson,” said McMillen to local media.

Pastor Jerry Waldrop, who has led the congregation for more than three decades, said he would continue to “keep the faith,” and “keep doing what we have always done.”

“I’ll get with our faithful people, and maybe we’ll rent a building or whatever we need to do for the time being,” Waldrop said. He said that his church “has the means” to rebuild, and that he was unable to come up with any potential suspects.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said on Twitter Thursday that he was “heartbroken and furious” to hear of the burned church.

“What is this pandemic doing to us? We need prayer for this country,” said Reeves.

Waldrop, through his church, filed suit against Holly Springs on April 23, one day after his weekly Bible study was broken up by three members of the Holly Springs Police Department. On Easter Sunday, Waldrop was cited for violating the city’s stay-at-home order by hosting a service inside the church building instead of in the parking lot.

To protest the Easter Sunday citation, Waldrop took his congregation en masse to a nearby Walmart, where they were permitted to gather without incident.

Churches were among the establishments listed as “nonessential” in the March 30, 2020 stay-at-home order issued by Holly Springs. According to the lawsuit, the order’s terms were so far-reaching that Waldrop would not be allowed to enter his own office at the church by himself.
In the lawsuit, Waldrop claims that his First Amendment rights were violated by the selective enforcement of the stay-at-home order. He states that efforts were taken to ensure social distancing at the indoor services, and that the services were indoors due to inclement weather.

There have been 68 reported cases of COVID-19 in Marshall County, with three deaths. Two of the cases were connected to long-term care facilities.

Holly Springs is not the only Mississippi city home to a controversial stay-at-home order. In April, the city of Greenville withdrew an order that forbade even socially-distant drive-in church services.

On Wednesday, April 15, the City of Greenville announced on its website that “all drive in and parking lot church services are allowed as long as families stay in their cars with windows up and adhere to all state and federal social distancing guidelines.”

Mayor Errick D. Simmons (D) was quoted saying that he was “pleased to announce that Governor Tate Reeves has responded to my public request for definitive guidance on drive-in and parking lot church services. Thank you, Governor Reeves.”

Prior to rescinding the order, a church had been fined for having a parking lot service, and Greenville police blocked the parking lot of another church to prevent a gathering of parked cars.
 

Corpus Christi bishop condemns naval base shooting

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 22, 2020 / 02:11 pm (CNA).- Bishop Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi offered prayers for a sailor who was injured in a terrorist attack in his diocese on Thursday, and pledged to be a force for peace in the face of evil.

Early on May 21, a 20-year-old man named Adam Salim Alsahli drove to the entrance of the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and shot a member of the base’s security forces, who was wearing a bulletproof vest. He then proceeded to crash his car into a barrier, and continued to fire shots. Alsahli was shot and killed, and the base was locked down.

“I condemned the act of terrorism that was perpetrated this morning at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi,” said Mulvey in a statement released shortly after the attack. “These acts of violence are heinous, but they will not undermine our resolve to work for peace in our hearts, and our society. Our prayer is with the sailor who was injured this morning.”

Mulvey prayed for “the Lord to sustain those on the front lines who courageously confront this evil,” and for “calm and peace to our community and the world.”

The base’s guard suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital on Thursday.

Alsahli’s vehicle was checked for explosives, but none were found. Authorities said that “electronic media” was found at the scene, but did not elaborate as to what this meant.

The FBI’s Houston office confirmed Alsahli’s identity shortly after 1 p.m. local time May 22, following the notification of his family .

“The FBI would like to recognize the bravery and heroism of the NAS personnel who took quick action to prevent the shooter from entering the base and engaged the shooter, potentially saving many innocent lives,” said the agency on Twitter.

By Thursday afternoon, law enforcement had declared that the shooting had been “terrorism related.”

Law enforcement told Texas media that they believed Alsahli, who lived in the United States but was born in Syria, had expressed online support for various terrorist groups, including the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Authorities are continuing to investigate if there is a second person connected with Thursday’s shooting.

Thursday’s attack on the Naval Air Station is the second terrorist attack in a six-month period to occur on a naval air station. On December 6, 2019, three people were killed and eight were injured after a shooting at the Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida. The shooter was killed shortly afterwards by law enforcement.
 
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took credit for that attack in February 2020, and the FBI confirmed on May 18 that the shooting was related to terrorism.

President Trump: Churches should reopen 'right now'

Washington D.C., May 22, 2020 / 12:57 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump on Friday called on state governors to reopen churches “right now.”

At a Friday press briefing, Trump said that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  would “at my direction” be issuing new guidance for churches to reopen. He said he was identifying houses of worship as “essential places that provide essential services,” noting that state governors had classified such establishments as liquor stores and abortion clinics as providing essential services, but not churches.



The White House and the CDC have for weeks reportedly been in the process of drafting and publishing new guidelines for churches to reopen.

On Friday, CNA learned that, according to someone familiar with the deliberations, the new CDC guidance is expected on Friday afternoon and will differ from its previous interim guidance for faith communities that was issued in March, at the outset of the U.S. pandemic. That guidance was reportedly not cleared by the White House before publishing.

That guidance was reportedly met with concern by many in the faith community for certain provisions that seemed to intrude on the autonomy of religious groups, such as one recommendation that Jews should be allowed to use electronic devices on the Sabbath to stream services online.

The new guidance, CNA was told, would be more sensitive to the autonomy of churches and religions and will apply a “lighter touch” to them, functioning as a set of recommendations rather than instructions, and implying that actions taken by state and local governments that go beyond the federal recommendations are inappropriate. It has the input of lawyers with experience in religious freedom cases.

The guidance will include a section for state and local leaders, saying they should recognize religious gatherings as something unique and different from other gatherings and protected by the First Amendment; it will imply that states should not be treating churches more strictly than they are treating other public gatherings or businesses reopening.

Churches, however, will not be officially classified as “essential” establishments, CNA was told, as that classification can vary state-by-state in its implications for religious groups. However, calling churches “essential” in the administration’s “messaging” on the guidance was reportedly discussed.

Earlier on Friday, Trump said that he believed the CDC would “be issuing a very strong recommendation” for churches to reopen, speaking at the end of an event with military veterans at the White House.

Trump added that “we’re going to make that [churches] ‘essential.’”

On the previous day, Thursday, Trump spoke several times about his desire for churches to reopen soon, and said health officials would issue relevant guidance “today or tomorrow.”

“I think CDC is going to put something out very soon. I spoke to them today; I think they're going to put something out very soon,” Trump said at a listening session with African-American leaders on Thursday afternoon in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Conversations about guidance for churches to reopen during the pandemic have taken place for weeks. On April 28 and 29, officials at the White House and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) talked with four Catholic bishops who had decided to resume public Masses in their respective dioceses. The conversation focused on the reopening of churches and what federal guidance on that might look like.

The CDC reportedly drafted guidance for reopening businesses, churches, and other places of public accommodation earlier in May, but on May 7, AP reported that the Trump administration had shelved a 17-page CDC report that included an “Interim Guidance for Communities of Faith.”

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the White House pushed against the CDC issuing guidance for churches, with the concern that it did not want to unnecessarily limit the freedom of churches.

The CDC, meanwhile, has published a report this week warning that “COVID 19 spreads easily in group gatherings” and citing the case of a rural Arkansas church where 35 of 92 attendees of services between March 6 and 11 ended up testing positive for COVID-19, with three deaths.

On Thursday, however, Trump spoke several other times of his desire to see churches open again soon.

“I saw a scene today where people are trying to break into a church to go into the church -- not to break in and steal something, to break in -- they want to be in their church,” Trump said on Thursday afternoon.

“I said, ‘You better put it out,’” he added, referring to the CDC guidance. “And they [the CDC] are doing it and they’re going to be issuing something today or tomorrow on churches. We got to get our churches open.”

There have been more than 1.5 million cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) in the U.S., and more than 93,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

As the virus spread in March, all U.S. Catholic dioceses curtailed public Masses to prevent the spread of the disease. However, beginning in mid-April, dioceses have begun resuming the offering of public Masses.

In Minnesota, the state’s Catholic bishops decided on Wednesday to resume public Masses on Pentecost weekend, in defiance of a state order. As the order had allowed some businesses to begin reopening, but not churches, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis said on Thursday that Catholics “really depend on the Eucharist to get through the challenges of their lives” in defense of the decision to reopen.

Masses will be offered in churches at no more than 33% capacity, the bishops said, and with safety precautions.

Trump hosted a conference call with administration officials and 1,600 “pastors and faith leaders,” the White House said on Thursday. The participants included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church.

According to the White House readout of the meeting, Trump said the right of church congregations to hold services was part of America’s “transition to greatness.”

Speaking with reporters before he boarded the Marine One helicopter on Thursday afternoon, the president said that “One of the other things I want to do is get the churches open.”

“The churches are not being treated with respect by a lot of the Democrat governors,” he said. “I want to get our churches open. And we’re going to take a very strong position on that very soon.”

When a reporter asked if he wanted mosques to reopen as well, Trump said that he did.

In the listening session with African-American leaders in the afternoon, Trump repeated his desire to have churches reopened swiftly.

When asked if he “prioritizing the reopening of churches over other establishments,” Trump answered “No, not at all.”

Regarding churches, he said “they’re so important, in terms of the psyche of our country,” and that they “are essential.”

“It’s wonderful to sit home and watch something on a laptop, but it can never be the same as being in a church and being with your friends.”

 

Catholic aid groups provide relief to those affected by Cyclone Amphan

CNA Staff, May 22, 2020 / 11:29 am (CNA).- Catholic Relief Services is among the agencies providing aid to those impacted by Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh and eastern India. The storm killed at least 96, millions were evacuated, and Kolkata was devastated.

The cyclone made landfall in India May 20, and it dissipated the following day. It brought winds of as much at 160 mph, and waves up to 15 feet.

Kolkata, a city of 4.5 million, was without power for at least 14 hours, and its roads were flooded.

“Initially they were not willing to evacuate, because they were weighing between the risk of the cyclone and the invisible risk of Covid-19,” Snigdha Chakroborty, CRS' Bangladesh country director, told PBS NewsHour May 20 of local residents.

“They do not have income, they do not have homes, they also lost their crops in the field. So basically it a devastating and painful situation that they will have to live with now.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">We just received photos of damage caused by <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CycloneAmphan?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CycloneAmphan</a> in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bangladesh?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Bangladesh</a>. Please keep everyone impacted in your prayers. We&#39;re assessing damage will provide updates on our response asap. <a href="https://t.co/gr3fhSpXs0">pic.twitter.com/gr3fhSpXs0</a></p>&mdash; CatholicRelief (@CatholicRelief) <a href="https://twitter.com/CatholicRelief/status/1263513689530888193?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 21, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

CRS and Caritas have indicated there are immediate needs for shelter, potable water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Ahead of the storm, the groups indicated they had “pre-positioned emergency supplies” and were “supporting efforts to clean evacuation centers and procure critically needed supplies in local markets.”

Archbishop Thomas D'Souza of Calcutta has asked Church officials to open their facilities to those rendered homeless by the cyclone, according to UCA News. The “top priority is to arrange food for so many people who have lost everything,” he told the independent Catholic news source.

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for Domestic Justice and Human Development Urges Care for the Poor and Vulnerable in Further Consideration of COVID-19 Relief Legislation

WASHINGTON - Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released a statement urging lawmakers to remember the needs of the poor and vulnerable as they consider additional relief packages related to the COVID-19 crisis. This follows the statements of Archbishop Coakley on March 12 and March 28 on the previous legislation providing emergency relief to those suffering from the impact of the coronavirus.  
 
Archbishop Coakley’s full statement follows:
 
“In the readings last Sunday, we heard from St. Peter, ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope...’ (1 Pt. 3:15). On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for the gift of hope while powerfully illuminating the concerns of the Church during the pandemic:
‘This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless. May these, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world, not be abandoned. Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities...’[1]
“As Congress turns once more to considering additional relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus should be on those most in need—the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins—to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances. Since early April, some of my brother bishops and I have sent five letters to express this touchstone principle to Congress and its various committees, in contexts ranging from food security, housing, access to affordable health care, protections for the unborn, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, assistance for the poor and unemployed, care for migrants and refugees, safety for detainees and the incarcerated, education, international assistance and debt relief, and help for charities serving vulnerable populations.  
 
“Additional needs have emerged such as sufficient protective equipment for all essential workers, protection of familial well-being and integrity, additional research on the link between air pollution and coronavirus health outcomes, and the need to address disruptions to the food supply chain and its impact on farmers and farmworkers, food waste and public health. We welcome the Vatican’s new commission on COVID-19, and will continue our advocacy in the same mode as this critical work for the common good continues.
 
“In this time of trial, it is important to remember ‘the reason for our hope.’ On the Feast of the Ascension this week, we hear the resurrected Lord tell his disciples, ‘And behold, I am with you always’ (Mt. 28:20). Let us proceed in this hope, asking the Lord for wisdom on how best to respond, drawing close to our brothers and sisters in need, and finding our peace in the Lord’s promise to be with us ‘until the end of the age.’”  
 
The recent letters of USCCB chairmen to Congress on its COVID-19 response can be found at the following links:
1.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate and House Committees on Appropriations
2.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary
3.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and House Committee on Education and Labor
4.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate Committee on Finance, House Committee on Ways and Means, and House Committee on Energy and Commerce
5.   May 7, 2020, letter to all members of Congress on moral framework for health care
 
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, coronavirus, COVID-19, CARES Act.

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

 

USCCB Chairman Commends Guidance Upholding Religious Freedom at U.S. Department of Labor

WASHINGTON - Late last week, Secretary Eugene Scalia issued guidance directing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure equal treatment for religious institutions participating in DOL grants and programs. Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, released the following statement:

“The recently issued guidance from the Secretary of Labor rightly recognizes that religion and religious institutions make vital contributions to the well-being of our country. I am grateful for the steps the Administration has taken to promote fairness for people faith. By ensuring that religious institutions can participate in public programs on equal footing with secular ones, the Department of Labor protects faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve and thus promotes the common good.”

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop George V. Murry, Department of Labor, Committee for Religious Liberty, religious liberty, religious freedom.

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

 

Pope Francis Merges Archdiocese of Anchorage and Diocese of Juneau and Names Bishop Andrew Bellisario, CM as Metropolitan Archbishop of Anchorage-Juneau

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has merged the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Diocese of Juneau and has erected the new ecclesiastical circumscription of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. At the same time, he named the current bishop of Juneau and apostolic administrator for Anchorage, Andrew E. Bellisario, CM as the new metropolitan archbishop of Anchorage-Juneau.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Bellisario was appointed bishop of Juneau in July 2017. He has also been serving as apostolic administrator of Anchorage since June 2019. He is a member of the religious order, the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers and Brothers).

The Archdiocese of Anchorage is comprised of 138,985 square miles in the State of Alaska and has a total population of 481,023 of which 24,115 are Catholic. The Diocese of Juneau is comprised of 37,566 square miles in the State of Alaska and has a total population of 75,000 of which 7,249 are Catholic.
 
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario, Archdiocese of Anchorage, Diocese of Juneau.

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

 

Catholic Communication Campaign Connects Communities in Christ

WASHINGTON—The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is scheduled to take place on the weekend of May 23-24, coinciding with World Communications Day. This annual national appeal supports efforts in the United States and around the world to use the media, internet, and print publications to help people connect with Christ.

The COVID-19 virus has prompted life to change in dramatic ways for more than two months with an increased reliance on communication tools to stay connected. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are using online tools to work and attend school, and stay connected to their families, friends, and their faith. Although most people are unable to gather together in their parishes for Mass, some dioceses offer electronic offertory programs that include the Catholic Communication Campaign or other ways for parishioners to support scheduled appeals. “In these times, the support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is vital to help keep the faithful connected to our faith and for dioceses to communicate the Gospel through all available means,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). “The CCC has long recognized the need to reach people and help them connect with Christ. Thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the United States, millions of people throughout the world have been able to connect in new ways with the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially in recent months,” continued Archbishop Hartmayer.

Fifty percent of the funds collected through the campaign remain in each diocese to support local communication efforts. The other half is used to support national efforts in the United States and in developing countries around the world.

With support from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the USCCB developed a resource page in response to the COVID-19 virus, “Together in Christ” on its website with links for families, parishes, and dioceses to prayer resources, livestream of Masses, and catechetical materials.

Two documentaries supported by major CCC grants are now in national broadcast television circulation. Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story, about the Catholic Worker movement co-founder who is on the road to sainthood, was released to public television stations in March 2020 and has already exceeded 1,000 broadcasts nationwide. The film won the Religion Communicators Council 2020 Wilbur Award for best documentary. Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the intriguing life of a man born into pre-reservation America and immortalized in author John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks. The program brings to light Black Elk’s conversion to Catholicism and his dedication to bringing other Native Americans to the Catholic faith. In cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the program will be available on ABC-TV stations nationwide beginning May 17, 2020.

The Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign oversees the collection and an annual grants program under the direction of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications. Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign can be found at www.usccb.org/ccc. Still photos from the documentary films Revolution of the Heart and Walking the Good Red Road are available to the media upon request.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Catholic Communication Campaign, World Communications Day, COVID-19, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, Together in Christ.

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

 

Bishop Chairmen Express Solidarity with Native and Indigenous Communities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON- Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of USCCB’s Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs have released the following statement in solidarity with Native and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
 
“As Native Communities continue to greatly suffer from the COVID-19 epidemic, the Church is developing ways to draw upon its deep roots in the person of Jesus to foster strength, charity and support to those who are sick and those who have died. We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope. We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis. We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands.

The virus is exacerbating health disparities and long-standing social inequalities facing Native and Indigenous communities. Adequate funding for the Indian Health Service has long been a challenge, and there are reports of shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds. We are hopeful that the U.S. Senate’s recent unanimous confirmation of a director for the Indian Health Service affirms the recognition for the need of a strong advocate for the health needs of tribal communities. It is also good that additional resources were allocated in recent legislation, and it is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible. We implore lawmakers and government officials to protect the life and dignity of Native and Indigenous peoples by working with tribal leaders to ensure strong support and ample resources to protect their communities, including resources to adequately respond to large Native populations living in urban areas and resources devoted to addressing underlying medical conditions that increase the threat of COVID-19 for Native populations.”

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop James S. Wall, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, COVID-19, Native and Indigenous communities.

 

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