WASHINGTON (October 26, 2000) -- A pastoral statement, "Unity in Diversity: Welcoming the Immigrant Church in the U.S.," a resolution on immigration reform, a Statement on Criminal Justice: Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, and a document on Church art and architecture are among major items on the agenda of the fall general meeting of the nation's Catholic Bishops.
The bishops will also vote on statements, "The U.S. Supreme Court and the Culture of Death," and a statement on the genocidal war in Sudan.
About 290 bishops from throughout the country are expected to attend the 60th general meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and United States Catholic Conference (NCCB/USCC). The meeting will be held November 13-16 at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency Hotel.
It will begin at 9:00 AM, Nov. 13, with an address by the Conference President, Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston. Prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours will accompany each day's deliberations.
The Bishops' Committee on Migration is presenting two action items to the body of bishops. One is a resolution urging reforms in U.S. immigration law and policy to "uphold the basic dignity and human rights of immigrants among us and preserve the unity of the immigrant family."
The other is a pastoral statement , "Unity in Diversity: Welcoming the Immigrant Church in the U.S."
"The new immigrants call us back to our ancestral heritage as descendants of immigrants and to our baptismal heritage as members of the body of Christ," the statement says.
The statement challenges Church leaders and all Catholics to welcome immigrants and celebrate cultural diversity. It calls on them to combat prejudice and distrust and to foster the full integration of immigrants into the life of Church and society.
The Statement on Criminal Justice: "Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice," is being presented by the USCC Committee on Domestic Policy chaired by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles. The proposed statement urges Catholics and others of good will to address the serious need for improvements in major aspects of the nation's criminal justice system.
In proposing the statement, Cardinal Mahony noted the document has "a distinctly Catholic approach to...issues, expressing the Church's teaching on both justice and mercy, responsibility and restoration, punishment and forgiveness."
"We have consulted widely, especially among Catholics involved with criminal justice: chaplains, judges, victims and their advocates, wardens, ex-offenders, etc.," Cardinal Mahony said. "Despite their different perspectives, they all agree that the current system is in need of a fresh approach: one that offers real rehabilitation for offenders, takes serious the concerns of victims and restores communities affected by crime."
Last November the bishops discussed the draft of a new statement on art and environment for worship. The final draft which the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy is presenting for vote at this meeting has been restructured in light of consultation with bishops and other experts. It is entitled "Built of Living Stones."
Subtitled "Art, Architecture and Worship," the text discusses spatial requirements for various liturgical rites and the role of art in assisting the Church at prayer.
It addresses the role of bishop, pastor, parish committees, architects, liturgical consultants, and others in the design of a church and its surroundings, as well as special issues that must be faced in renovating an existing church.
Their Committee on the Liturgy will also ask the Bishops to adopt the Mexican Lectionary as the new translation for Scripture readings in U.S. Spanish-language liturgies, and a proposal on how and when to revise the Lectionary for Masses with Children.
"Sudan's Cry for Peace," prepared by the Bishops' International Policy Committee, says that all sides in "the cruel, fratricidal conflict in Sudan...are implicated in egregious human rights abuses."
The statement calls attention to the government's campaign of terror against Christians in the Sudan and the many pleas for peace issued by the Catholic bishops there. It seeks to arouse greater attention by the U.S. government and the international community to the decades-long civil war that has killed two million Sudanese and displaced as many as four million.
The Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, chaired by Cardinal William Keeler, is presenting a statement called "The U.S. Supreme Court and the Culture of Death." The statement deplores the high court's denial of rights to the unborn since its Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
It says the Supreme Court's rejection last June of a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion has "shattered" any hope of "legal sanity on abortion" and "has brought our legal system to the brink of endorsing infanticide."
As usual at their November meetings, the Bishops will cast a series of votes on Conference budget and plans, including a new special emphasis objective, giving greater attention in conference activities to the multicultural dimension of the Church.
The agenda also calls for the Bishops to discuss, but not vote at this time, some revisions in the text of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Institutions.
The bishops will vote for a new secretary, who becomes one of the conference's executive officers, and for new chairmen of about one-third of their standing committees.
The day before their meeting, many of the bishops will participate in a workshop on the ecumenical role of the bishop. It will be led by Cardinal Edward Cassidy, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Newly ordained bishops will have a workshop designed to help deepen their understanding of their ministry. There will also be a workshop for bishops presented by the National Diocesan Attorneys Association.
The opening Mass will be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 400 Michigan Ave, N.E., on Monday evening, Nov. 13 at 6:00 PM.
The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) will broadcast hour-long summaries of the meeting each evening.
Media accreditation and arrangements are made through the USCC Department of Communications.