WASHINGTON (May 29, 2001) -- The Catholic Bishops of the United States will demonstrate the breadth of
their sacred and secular concerns when they tackle statements ranging from a Q and A for Catholics confused about the Church's teaching on the Real Presence, to a plea for prudent and balanced discourse in the current worldwide discussion of global climate change.
The bishops will discuss a resolution on renewing United States leadership in refugee protection and another on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, at their Spring General Meeting in Atlanta. The meeting will be held at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel, June 14-16.
They will vote on modifications to the text of their 1995 Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, and be presented with Guidelines concerning the academic Mandatum in Catholic universities; they will also vote on revisions of two liturgical documents.
One liturgical proposal would make each January 22, the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court abortion decisions, "a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person" in the 194 dioceses in the United States.
The bishops will hear a presentation by Cardinal Jozef Tomko, Prefect Emeritus of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and hold discussions on the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the role of the bishop in the Church.
Some 285 bishops from throughout the country will participate in the 61st general meeting of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and United States Catholic Conference. It will be the last time the bishops meet as the NCCB and USCC. Under new statutes which take effect July 1, their two organizations will be merged into one, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The proposed pastoral statement The Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist: Basic Questions and Answers originated with the November 1999 General Meeting when a large number of bishops signed a varium which said: "Our pastoral experience, as well as published surveys, indicates that a significant number of Catholics are confused about the Real Presence. We consider this to be a grave situation which needs to be addressed by the Body of Bishops."
Assisted by theologians and religious educators, the bishops' Committee on Doctrine prepared the statement to respond to fifteen questions that commonly arise with regard to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If approved, the pastoral statement will be offered to pastors and religious educators to assist them in their teaching responsibilities.
The statement "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good, " is the bishops' attempt to contribute to a difficult public policy issue which the Holy Father has addressed on several occasions. Their Domestic and International Policy Committees consulted with a wide range of scientific and policy experts to develop a statement which would address the moral and human dimensions of the issue without taking positions on very specific policy choices.
"Along with Pope John Paul II, church leaders in developing countries--who fear that powerful interests will mute their voices and ignore their needs--have expressed their concerns about how this global challenge will affect their people and their environment," the draft says. "Action to mitigate global climate change must be built on a foundation of social and economic justice that does not put the poor at greater risk or place disproportionate and unfair burdens on developing nations."
The resolution Renewing U.S. Leadership in Refugee Protection was prepared by the bishops' Committee on Migration to mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and also of the founding by the Holy See of the International Catholic Migration Commission. Lamenting the trends of the last decade, which have seen a reduction in this country's support to refugee populations, the resolution calls on national leaders to strengthen U.S. leadership in the area of global refugee protection.
The Catholic Church, whose founder fled with Joseph and Mary into Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod, has always held a special interest in the plight of refugees. Through the work of the United States Catholic Conference Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and Catholic Relief Services, the Church in this country "provides life-sustaining assistance, resettlement services, and legal services to refugees and asylum seekers around the globe," the resolution states.
The Catholic Church has assisted more than one million of the five million refugees resettled in the United States since 1951.
The Resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian Crisis urges Catholics in the United States to join the bishops in concrete acts of solidarity with the Church in the Holy Land. It also reiterates the bishops' support for the United States to be actively engaged in the search for a just peace in the Middle East. "A way must be found to end the violence and quickly return to genuine negotiations, embracing, as far as possible, the gains made in the last rounds of final status talks. Nonviolence, dialogue and negotiation are the only ways forward," the resolution says. It warns that "the future of a living Christian presence in the Holy Land is in doubt" because conditions have caused so many families to emigrate abroad.
In addition to considering this resolution, the bishops will hear about the situation of the Church in the Holy Land from Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, President of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land.
The bishops will be asked by the Working Group on the Revision of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services to approve a small number of revisions in the text of the directives.
The directives are offered to assist institutionally based Catholic health care services in undertaking what is termed a systematic and objective moral analysis of new partnerships in view of the potential dangers. While the challenges that new partnerships may pose "do not necessarily preclude their possibility on moral grounds," such analysis "takes into account the various factors that often pressure institutions and services into new partnerships that can diminish the autonomy and ministry of the Catholic partner," the text says.
The Committee on the Liturgy will ask the bishops to approve a revised edition of the U.S. Appendix to the General Instruction on the Roman Missal issued last year. Many of the
proposed changes to the appendix are editorial but some involve more substantive changes. One proposal would designate January 22 (or January 23 when the 22nd falls on a Sunday) as a "particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through acts of abortion and euthanasia and prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life. The Mass 'For Peace and Justice'...should be celebrated...and the observance will have the rank of a Feast in the Liturgical Calendar for the dioceses of the United States of America."
The Bishops will also discuss a revised version of "This Holy and Living Sacrifice," the 1984 U.S. directory for reception of Communion under both kinds. The revision addresses such issues as rules for extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion and the procedures to be followed in the distribution of the Eucharist.
On November 17, 1999, the Bishops approved The Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for the United States, implementing Pope John Paul II's apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education. This action received the recognitio from the Congregation for Bishops on May 3, 2000. The Application states that "a detailed procedure will be developed outlining the process of requesting and granting (or withdrawing) the mandatum." The mandatum is fundamentally an acknowledgment by church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is a teacher within the full communion of the Catholic Church. All Catholics who teach theological disciplines in a Catholic university are required to have a mandatum.
A copy of the draft Guidelines Concerning the Academic Mandatum was sent to all the bishops for their use in conversations on the local level with theologians last December. Since January, the Ad Hoc Committee on the Mandatum has received a number of reports containing summaries of the conversations between bishops and theologians as well as suggestions for changes in the text of the Guidelines. The Committee amended the text accordingly for presentation to the General Meeting in Atlanta. Approval will require a majority of Latin rite members present and voting.
All other statements, revisions, and resolutions will require approval by two-thirds de iure membership.
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