WASHINGTON (July 12, 1999) -- The church in the United States will mark a milestone in its history in mid-July as over 3,000 people join together at "Open the Doors to Christ: A National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice," July 15-18, in Los Angeles at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
The unprecedented gathering has drawn people from almost every state, including Alaska and Hawaii, to celebrate justice triumphs in the nation during the last 200 years and to mobilize efforts going into the Third Millennium.
Sponsors of the meeting include 64 national Catholic groups.
The gathering will focus on the spirituality underlying justice efforts leading up to the Jubilee Year 2000 and feature people who have stood out in this arena.
The meeting begins at 4 p.m., July 15, with Mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Homilist will be Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Illinois, NCCB Vice-President and Chairman of the Bishops' Subcommittee on the Millennium. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, President of the Vatican's Central Committee for the Great Jubilee Year 2000, will present greetings from Pope John Paul II and offer a global perspective on Jubilee Justice.
The evening program will feature Bud Welch, a death penalty opponent who lost a child in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Maria Julia Hernández, head of the human rights office of the Archdiocese of San Salvador.
Friday's program begins with a retreat experience led by Father Virgil Elizondo, founder of the Mexican American Cultural Center, and Mercy Sister Marie Chin, newly elected president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, the largest order of nuns in the United States.
The afternoon session will look at the four themes of Jubilee Justice: Let the Land Lie Fallow, Atonement/Reconciliation, Liberty and Freedom, and Forgiving Debts. Leading the round-table discussion on these themes will be PBS and CNN commentator, Mark Shields, writer and commentator Peggy Noonan, Boston anti-violence activist Rev. Eugene Rivers and Harvard University's Father J. Bryan Hehir, a leading analyst of Catholic social teaching and winner of a MacArthur Grant.
An evening reconciliation service will be led by Father J. Glenn Murray, a nationally known liturgist, and Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph and model for the award-winning movie Dead Men Walking, based on her book by the same name.
Saturday's sessions will feature 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Felipe Ximenes Belo of East Timor, Craig Kielburger, a youth who has led the fight against child labor internationally, and John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. Breakout and workshop sessions will follow.
Workshops will address more than 100 topics, including racism, the environment, health care, non-violence, parish social ministry, liturgy and worship, debt forgiveness, sweatshops, immigration, euthanasia and other pro-life issues, education for justice and Catholic identity.
The meeting will conclude with a liturgy celebrated by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles.
Co-chairs of the event, Annette Kane, executive director of the National Council of Catholic Women, and Father Robert Vitillo, executive director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, note that the meeting is a response to Pope John Paul II's call for Catholics to prepare for the Jubilee Year 2000.