WASHINGTON (February 25, 2002) -- More than 500 Catholic leaders will meet in Washington for four days of discussion, strategy, and advocacy on the Church's social mission and its response to September 11.
The theme for the meeting is "Catholic Social Mission: Seeking Justice, Overcoming Poverty, Building Peace." It is hosted by fourteen national Catholic organizations and will be held from February 24-27 at the Washington Court Hotel (525 New Jersey Ave., NW).
Participants direct a wide range of human service and public policy efforts in Catholic dioceses around the country. A major objective of their advocacy work is ensuring that the voices of poor children and families are heard on Capitol Hill as legislators make decisions about public policy and the allocation of public resources.
Plenary sessions and workshops on the first two days will address issues of peacemaking and social justice. A featured speaker in the opening session on Sunday evening was Bishop Anthony Lobo of Pakistan, who offered an international perspective on the events of September 11, followed by a prayer and reflection service on the culture of violence in our world.
Monday afternoon's plenary includes Bishop John Oneyiakan, President of the Bishops' Conference of Nigeria. The U.S. Bishops' Conference recently released a statement on solidarity with the Church in Africa.
The Catholic leaders will visit their Senators and Representatives on Tuesday afternoon (February 26) and ask them to consider the bishops' Conference positions on several key issues: the reauthorization of welfare reform, creating a national housing trust fund, allocating more resources to aid developing countries, especially health care, and to urge them to address global poverty, as part of the continuing response to the events of September 11.
On Wednesday, February 27, participants will hear from diverse perspectives about how September 11 has affected the public policy priorities of the Church. Father. J. Bryan Hehir, President, Catholic Charities USA and former dean of the Harvard Divinity School; Ms. Margaret Steinfels, Editor of Commonweal Magazine; Robert Royal, President, Faith & Reason Institute, and Ray Suarez, of the PBS Newshour, will be the speakers at this session. Mark Shields and David Brooks of the Newshour will be the closing speakers on Wednesday. Other speakers during the four days include James Towey, Director of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Deepak Bhargava, of the Center for Community Change, and Cecilia Munoz, of the National Council of La Raza.
Sponsoring organizations include the following offices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: Department of Social Development & World Peace, Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Secretariat for African American Catholics, Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs, Office of Migration and Refugee Services; and the other following national organizations: The ROUNDTABLE (the national association of Catholic social action directors), Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, National Council of Catholic Women, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services, National Catholic Office for Persons With Disabilities, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and McAuley Institute.