Pontiff prays with bishops, calls on them to embrace role as pastors

By Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Francis had much to say to the U.S. bishops during his remarks at a midday prayer service at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington Sept. 23, the first full day of his U.S. apostolic journey.
Because of that, different bishops could take away different things. Bishop Joseph Kopacz put his reaction to the prayer and the Canonization Mass in his column this week, found on page 3.

The Pope arrives at St. Matthew Cathedral for Midday prayer with members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 23 in Washington. Bishop Kopacz was on hand for the service. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Pope arrives at St. Matthew Cathedral for Midday prayer with members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 23 in Washington. Bishop Kopacz was on hand for the service. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

What resonated most for Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, was the pope’s remarks about immigration.
“It’s a historical legacy but also something very, very real” today, Bishop Flores told Catholic News Service after the prayer service had ended.
“I liked how Pope Francis saw the immigrant as a gift, and how we are called to love one another,” Bishop Flores added. “In the Rio Grande Valley, that means a lot. It was beautiful, beautiful.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore took heart in what Pope Francis said to bishops about “the encouragement he gave to the episcopacy. He cares to see us express discipleship in our roles as pastors. That, and the care of the poor and the immigrants. It was a beautiful address.”
Retired Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento, California, echoed the points made by Archbishop Lori and Bishop Flores.
Pope Francis “wants us to be pastors, shepherds for other people,” Bishop Weigand said. “I worked 10 years in Latin America with the poor. In my experience, that’s exactly what a priest needs to do. And bishops more so.”
Bishop Weigand also liked how Pope Francis told the U.S. bishops to “not fear what we love to do, and to stay close to his people. Ask God to give his light and his strength. He has a very simple way of focusing on what to do: Feed the people, give them Jesus. He takes a complex example and boils it down.”
For others in attendance at the cathedral, the takeaway may have come just in being there.
Margarida Alves, a Brazilian immigrant who came to the United States 31 years ago, got her ticket, she said, because as a member of the cathedral parish she has been volunteering at St. Matthew since she retired two years ago.
“I help them to clean and polish and wash for the service. Everything they need me to do.” Now that she is retired, “I have time for my church now,” Alves added.
Sabrina Gallego, another cathedral parishioner, was there with her mother. “Just being here, I feel blessed,” she said. “My mother was worried we wouldn’t make it in time. So she woke up at six-thirty in the morning. I woke up at seven” for a service that started at 11:30 a.m. (EDT)
Gallego added, “We’re just lucky the Metro didn’t have any problems.” Even before the sun was up, Metro, Washington’s subway system, was reporting delays on five of its six lines, including the Red Line closest to the cathedral. They got lucky in another way: “We won the holy lottery” for tickets, Gallego said.
One attendee who didn’t have to worry about the commute was Father Rafael Barbieri. Although he hails from Brazil, he is parochial vicar at St, Matthew.
“We are all really excited about him coming here to the cathedral,” Father Barbieri said. “This pope has said and done many, many good things. He’s a definite inspiration to all of us priests.”
His position at the cathedral, though, was no guarantee that Father Barbieri would get to shake Pope Francis’ hand. “Only when he goes down the aisle will I have a chance to say hi,” he said.
Father Barbieri’s boss – Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, the cathedral rector – was busy greeting parishioners who were filtering into St. Matthew well before the 300 or so bishops arrived.
Asked if he were fairly bursting with excitement, Msgr. Jameson pointed to his combination belt and sash tied around his cassock. “I have to be careful about that,” he said. “If I get too excited I might pop my Velcro.”
(Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

In address to Congress Holy Father addresses need for collaboration to protect most vulnerable

By Cindy Wooden
WASHINGTON (CNS) – The past, the promise and the potential of the United States must not be smothered by bickering and even hatred at a time when the U.S. people and indeed the world need a helping hand, Pope Francis told the U.S. Congress.
Making history by being the first pope ever to address a joint meeting of Congress, Pope Francis was introduced to the legislators by the House sergeant at arms Sept. 24 as: “Mr. Speaker, the pope of the Holy See.”
The pope introduced himself, though, as a son of the American continent, who had been blessed by the “new world” and felt a responsibility toward it.

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts)

Pope Francis condemned legalized abortion, the death penalty and unscrupulous weapons sales. He called on Congress to “seize the moment” by moving forward with normalizing relations with Cuba. And, again referring to himself as a “son of immigrants” – and pointing out that many of the legislators are, too – he pleaded for greater openness to accepting immigrants.
“I would like to take this opportunity to dialogue with the many thousands of men and women who strive each day to do an honest day’s work, to bring home their daily bread, to save money and – one step at a time – to build a better life for their families,” the pope said.
“These are men and women who are not concerned simply with paying their taxes, but in their own quiet way sustain the life of society,” he said. “They generate solidarity by their actions, and they create organizations which offer a helping hand to those most in need.”
Showing he had studied the United States before the visit – something he said he would do during the Rome August break – he used four iconic U.S. citizens as relevant models of virtue for Americans today: Abraham Lincoln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
“A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did; when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work; the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton,” the pope said.
Describing political service with the same tone used to describe a vocation to religious life – “you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you” – the pope recognized the weighty responsibility of being a member of the U.S. Congress.
Dialogue, he said, is the only way to handle the pressure and fulfill the call to serve the common good, promoting a culture of “hope and healing, of peace and justice.”
For the speech, Pope Francis stood in the House chamber in front of Rep. John Boehner, speaker of the House and a Republican from Ohio, and Vice President Joe Biden, president of the Senate. Both men are Catholics. Besides the senators, representatives and their invited guests, the attendees included members of the U.S. Supreme Court and members of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
Tens thousands of people watched the speech on giant screen from the Capitol’s West Lawn. Gathered hours before the pope’s morning visit, they were entertained by military bands.
In his speech, Pope Francis gave strong support to several concerns of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic faithful, including defending the right of people to publicly live their faith and join political policy debates from a faith-based perspective.
“It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society,” he said. The dialogue the country needs must be respectful of “our differences and our convictions of conscience.”
“Every life is sacred,” he insisted, calling for the “global abolition of the death penalty” and the “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Some U.S. politicians and pundits have expressed confusion or even anger over Pope Francis’ teaching about the damage provoked when money becomes a god and profits count more than people. The pope insists his words are straight out of Catholic social teaching.
His speech to Congress included more of that teaching, delving deeper into the positive aspects of a market economy – as long as it is ethical and includes controls, solidarity and a safety net for the poorest and weakest members of society.
“The creation and distribution of wealth” obviously is important for continued efforts to reduce poverty in the United States and around the globe, he said. “The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable.”
“Business is a noble vocation” when it seeks the common good, Pope Francis said. And today, he told legislators, the common good includes protecting the environment and taking bold steps “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
The pope then proceeded to the West Portico of the Capitol, where tens of thousands of people with tickets had waited for hours.
“Good morning, everyone,” he said in Spanish, then blessed the crowd.
“I am so grateful for your welcome and your presence here, especially for the most important ones here – the children. I will ask God to bless you. ‘Lord, father of all, bless this people, bless each one of them, bless their families, give them what they need most. And I ask you all please to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you please to send good wishes my way. Thank you. Thank you very much. And God bless America.”
(Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)

American Parish: CNS reporter features Greenwood communities

By Patricia Zapor
GREENWOOD (CNS) – Franciscan Father Gregory Plata is the key to one example of how Catholic parishes are dealing with the decline in the number of priests.
He’s pastor of two small, geographically close, but vastly dissimilar parishes in Greenwood. Three missions and a struggling school also are his responsibility. Combined they serve 2,385 square miles of the Mississippi Delta, where Catholics have always been few and scattered.
As part of a look at how different types of parishes handle contemporary challenges, Catholic News Service reporters visited churches around the United States over the past few years. This package of stories, American Parish, presents a glance at some of the kinds of communities that Pope Francis might see if he had the time to visit a variety of parishes on his visit to the United States.
Workloads like Father Plata’s, with responsibilities for multiple parishes and missions, are one way U.S. dioceses have adapted to deal with a 35 percent decline in the number of priests since 1965.
Fifty years ago, the nation’s 17,637 parishes and 49 million Catholics were served by 58,632 priests. Today, nearly the same number of parishes – 17,458 – accommodate 31 million more Catholics, with 38,275 priests.
Until last summer when some Redemptorist missionaries came to do Hispanic outreach in the Greenwood area, it was just Father Plata and a retired priest covering the four weekend and five weekday Masses, and all pastoral needs for hospital and home visits and sacraments at two parishes and three missions scattered across Leflore County.
Three miles across town at Immaculate Heart of Mary, the older of the two churches in Greenwood where Father Plata also is pastor, a paid staff of three manages day-to-day functions. That includes a joint religious education program for both parishes. About 300 families are in Immaculate Heart Parish and 200 at St. Francis.
Volunteers in the two parishes and the missions make nearly everything else possible.
At St. Francis School, thin resources mean the teachers are mostly retired public school employees, who can only afford to work there because they have pensions to supplement their low pay, acknowledged the principal, Franciscan Sister Mary Ann Tupy.
As when the Franciscans opened the St. Francis Mission – first a school and then the church – as an outreach to impoverished African-Americans at the height of civil rights tensions, the order’s missionary commitment continues. Besides Father Plata and Sister Mary Ann, Franciscan Brother Craig Wilking, development director, finds the school grants and other forms of financial support. A retired military chaplain, Franciscan Father Adam Szufel, is in residence at St. Francis, celebrating Mass and helping ensure the mission churches get regular visits from a priest.
In the past year, the Redemptorists established a presence in the county, primarily to serve the growing population of Hispanic immigrants. One has been living at St. Francis and joining Father Plata and Father Szufel in pastoral services.
The ongoing commitment of the Franciscans to Greenwood was further stretched a few years ago, when Father Plata was asked to also serve as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary because of a shortage of priests in the Diocese of Jackson.
The two parishes traditionally have been home to distinct communities. Although the days have passed when blacks were pointedly told they were unwelcome at Immaculate Heart, few African-Americans worship there regularly.
On the other hand, the formerly all-black congregation of St. Francis includes a handful of white regulars, who either find the Mass schedule suits them better or, as several said, they appreciate the more multicultural community and lively liturgies. St. Francis’ growth in the last decade has come largely from Hispanics, leading Father Plata to schedule a weekly Spanish Mass, which is generally better attended than the English one.
Marc Biggers, a lifelong Immaculate Heart parishioner, said that since his childhood the black and white communities of Greenwood have come a long way toward being comfortable with each other.
“The last 10 to 15 years we’ve really mingled a lot better,” he said. Sharing a pastor has helped. “At first the transition to having a Franciscan was kind of awkward,” he said. “But I think it’s working.”
Katherine Fisher a parishioner at St. Francis, said she does not go to Immaculate Heart for Mass primarily because she has so many obligations at St. Francis. But she and other African-Americans expressed some lingering discomfort with their Catholic counterparts across town, largely dating to the racial tensions of decades ago.
A cracked blue window pane above the front door at St. Francis has intentionally been left unrepaired since someone shot a gun at the church in the 1960s, a pointed reminder of the struggles faced by the Franciscans and the parishioners.
Father Plata described the sentiments within the two parishes toward each other as “not exactly a division, but more that people are more comfortable in their own cultures.”
Immaculate Heart parishioner Dave Becker is among those who recognized that while the two churches have quite different cultures, they will need more and more consolidation if the Catholic presence in Greenwood is to survive.

Cardinal, other leaders advocate for prison reform in advance of papal visit

By Richard Szczepanowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) – As part of the Walk With Francis Pledge campaign to benefit the local community and reach out to those in need in the days leading to Pope Francis’ Sept. 22-24 visit to Washington, a group of Christian leaders is advocating for “a fair and more welcoming” criminal justice system in this country.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington joined with other Christian leaders Sept. 11 to advocate for a criminal justice system that “aids those who have paid their debt (to society) and are ready to rejoin us.”
“Criminal justice reform is something that we’ve talked about. It’s been on our radar screen for a while,” the cardinal said. “We want a system that says, ‘We welcome you back into our society. We welcome you back into our community. We welcome you back to be a productive member of society.’”
The Christian leaders, in a news conference organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is an opportune time to advocate for sentencing reform laws and laws to counter recidivism. Pope Francis is a frequent visitor to those in prison, and will visit prisoners at a Philadelphia correctional center Sept. 27.
“During this momentous visit, we will walk with Francis when he speaks to Congress, visits the White House and addresses the United Nations,” said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development. “We will also Walk with Francis when he visits Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia.”
Reyes noted that the United States – with its estimated 2.3 million people in prison – represents 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population. He added that one in three African-American males will at one time or another be incarcerated.
“There is currently an active debate on (criminal justice) reform that is bipartisan and interreligious,” Reyes said. He said that as lawmakers consider reform legislation, “this is a great moment to walk with Francis.”
The Walk With Francis Pledge campaign – jointly sponsored the Archdiocese of Washington and its Catholic Charities arm – invites people to serve others in their community and then share their pledge on social media. The pledge involves three ways to “Walk with Francis” – through prayer and learning about the faith; through charitable service to others; and through taking action to spread the Gospel in families, workplaces and public policy.
“Pope Francis gives us a very visible sign how to care for those incarcerated. His is a pastoral approach,” Reyes said.
Msgr. John Enzler, the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, pointed out that Catholic Charities has for nearly two decades run a Welcome Home Program to assist those how have formerly been incarcerated.
“This is an effort to say, ‘We are here to greet you; we are here to welcome you,’” the priest said. He said the program offers former prisoners a variety of assistance, including mentoring, and support with employment, housing, health issues and counseling. He said the program assisted 1,100 people last year.
“We are not huge, but we are effective,” he said.
Rudolph Washington, who is currently in the Welcome Home Program, said his participation “has given me a new lease on life and helped me learn about myself. I am grateful.”

U.S. bishops support aid to refugees from war-torn Middle East

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic Church “stands ready to help” in efforts to assist refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 10.
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, also that Catholics in the U.S. and “all people of good will should express openness and welcome to refugees fleeing Syria and elsewhere in order to survive.”    Tens of thousands of people from Syria and other countries are “fleeing into Europe in search of protection,” he said, adding that images of those “escaping desperate” circumstances “have captured the world’s attention and sympathy.”
The archbishop noted that Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, has been providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe, and in the U.S., he said, “nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes” assist refugees coming into the country each year.
Archbishop Kurtz’s statement follows Pope Francis urging Catholics in Europe to respond to the needs of refugees entering their countries.    He expressed solidarity with the pope, the bishops of Syria, the Middle East and Europe, “and all people who have responded to this humanitarian crisis with charity and compassion.”
The archbishop called on the U.S. government “to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting these refugees and in helping to end this horrific conflict, so refugees may return home in safety.”
The Obama administration announced that it was planning to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the coming fiscal year. However, an AP story said they are “already in the pipeline” waiting to be admitted to the U.S. and are not part of the flood of people currently entering Eastern Europe to make their way to other countries.
“In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus, Mary and Joseph flee the terror of Herod,” Archbishop Kurtz said in his statement. “They are the archetype of every refugee family. Let us pray that the Holy Family watches over the thousands of refugee families in Europe and beyond at this time.”

Jackson priests already empowered to absolve

By Nancy O’Brien
BALTIMORE (CNS) – Pope Francis’ Sept. 1 announcement that priests worldwide will be able to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral practices in the United States and Canada, where most priests already have such authority in the sacrament of reconciliation. Priests in the Diocese of Jackson have had the authority for many years, but ,many hope secular media coverage of the announcement may lead some to seek reconciliation who had been reluctant in the past.
“It is my understanding that the faculty for the priest to lift the ‘latae sententiae’ excommunication for abortion is almost universally granted in North America,” said Don Clemmer, interim director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“Latae sententiae” is a Latin term in canon law that means excommunication for certain crimes, including involvement in abortion, is automatic. Clemmer said it is “the fiat of the local bishop” whether to allow the priests in his diocese to absolve those sins and most bishops granted such permission when giving priests faculties to minister in their local church.
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, confirmed that in a Sept. 1 statement welcoming what he called the pope’s “wonderful gesture.”
“Any woman who has had an abortion, any person who has been involved in an abortion in any way, can always seek God’s forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation, if they are truly sorry for their actions.”
Several prelates, including Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, emphasized that Pope Francis’ action “in no way diminishes the moral gravity of abortion.”
“What it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who seeks it with a truly penitent heart,” he said.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, said his “hope and prayer is that all those carrying the burden of an experience of abortion would turn to the church and her sacraments and experience the Lord’s mercy and love.”
Catholic moral theologian Charles Camosy, noted that the pope’s words about abortion and forgiveness bore a striking resemblance to the words of Pope St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae.”
Addressing women who have had abortions, Pope John Paul wrote, “If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the sacrament of reconciliation.”
New teaching or not, Albany’s Bishop Scharfenberger expressed hope that women will take advantage of this opportunity.
“The real news is that there is no need to wait,” he said. “God is ready to forgive and heal now!”

Annulment process amended, shortened

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – While a juridical process is necessary for making accurate judgments, the Catholic Church’s marriage annulment process must be quicker, cheaper and much more of a pastoral ministry, Pope Francis said.
Rewriting a section of the Latin-rite Code of Canon Law and of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Pope Francis said he was not “promoting the nullity of marriages, but the quickness of the processes, as well as a correct simplicity” of the procedures so that Catholic couples are not “oppressed by the shadow of doubt” for prolonged periods.
The Vatican released Sept. 8 the texts of two papal documents, Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus, the Gentle Judge) for the Latin-rite church and Mitis et misericors Iesus, (The Meek and Merciful Jesus) for the Eastern Catholic churches.
The changes, including the option of a brief process without the obligatory automatic appeal, go into effect Dec. 8, the opening day of the Year of Mercy.
“While it is going to take some time to digest Pope Francis’ procedural reforms to the declaration of marriage nullity process, it is clear that the removal of some of the administrative processes will cut the time it takes for an average petition to reach final judgment,” said Father Jeffery Waldrep, Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Jackson.
“Some of the significant ways, starting December 8, that the Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus directly effects the Diocese of Jackson’s Tribunal proceedings are: an automatic appeal to the Court of Second Instance is eliminated; it is normative that a single judge, under the guidance of the local ordinary, is to judge on a case; there is a possibility of an expedited process if explicit requirements are met,” he explained. Cases being heard here are currently sent to the Archdiocese of Mobile for the second instance.
One of the challenges in getting the new process up and running is that the decree is currently only available in Latin and Italian. “It is unfortunate that we do not have an official English translation of the twin moto proprios yet. When we do it is then that we can start working on the finer juridical procedural changes that will be taking effect starting December 8,” said Father Waldrep.
Pope Francis said the changes in the annulment process were motivated by “concern for the salvation of souls,” and particularly “charity and mercy” toward those who feel alienated from the church because of their marriage situations and the perceived complexity of the church’s annulment process.
“While Pope Francis has made some significant procedural changes, it is important to realize that in no way has he compromised the Church’s teaching that a lawful, consummated, sacramental marriage is a bond that cannot be broken by any force other than death,” said Father Waldrep.
The new rules replace canons 1671-1691 of the Code of Canon Law and canons 1357-1377 of the Eastern code. Pope Francis also provided a set of “procedural regulations” outlining how his reforms are to take place, encouraging bishops in small dioceses to train personnel who can handle marriage cases and spelling out specific conditions when a bishop can issue a declaration of nullity after an abbreviated process.
Those conditions include: when it is clear one or both parties lacked the faith to give full consent to a Catholic marriage; when the woman had an abortion to prevent procreation; remaining in an extramarital relationship at the time of the wedding or immediately afterward; one partner hiding knowledge of infertility, a serious contagious disease, children from a previous union or a history of incarceration; and when physical violence was used to extort consent for the marriage.
The reformed processes were drafted by a special committee Pope Francis established a year earlier. Among the criteria he said guided their work, the first he listed was the possibility of there being “only one executive sentence in favor of nullity” when the local bishop or judge delegated by him had the “moral certainty” that the marriage was not valid. Previously an appeal was automatic and a declaration of nullity had to come from two tribunals.
Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, dean of the Roman Rota, a Vatican court, and president of the commission that drafted the new rules, told reporters that Pope Francis asked for updates throughout the year, sought a review by four “great canonists” not involved in the drafting and in the end adopted the changes with “great seriousness, but also great serenity.”
The changes made by Pope Francis, particularly the responsibility and trust placed in local bishops, are the most substantial changes in the church’s marriage law since the pontificate of Pope Benedict XIV in the mid-1700s, Msgr. Pinto said. Even with the 1917 and 1983 new Codes of Canon Law, the process for recognizing the nullity of a marriage remained “substantially unchanged,” he said.
“Putting the poor at the center is what distinguishes the reform of Pope Francis from those made by Pope Pius X and Pope Benedict XIV,” Msgr. Pinto said.
In fact, Pope Francis ordered that the “gratuity of the procedure be assured so that, in a matter so closely tied to the salvation of souls, the church — by demonstrating to the faithful that she is a generous mother – may demonstrate the gratuitous love of Christ, which saves us all.”
Father Waldrep emphasized that streamlining the process does not water down the reality of marriage. “Many will be affirmed to know that the declaration of nullity process will be easier. Some of the administrative processes that caused significant delays have been eliminated. However, it is fundamental to note that the Church is still focused on discerning the truth according to the Church’s teachings on the nature of marriage. The process might be a bit less cumbersome in some instances but the reality is that nullity will still need to be proven in conscience and with moral certainty,” said Father Waldrep.
Pressed by reporters about how quickly the new procedures will go into effect in dioceses around the world, Msgr. Pinto said it will take some dioceses longer than others to adapt to the new norms and to find ways to finance their tribunals other than charging couples. Couples do not have to pay to request an annulment in the Diocese of Jackson, but they do have to pay if they appeal to Rome once the local process is exhausted.
Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who also was a member of the commission, insisted the pope’s new rules were not about “annulling marriages,” but about recognizing and declaring the nullity of a marriage, in other words, declaring that it never existed as a valid sacrament.
Although the new rules remove the obligation that a declaration of nullity automatically be appealed, he said, it does not remove the right of one of the parties to appeal the decision. However, he said, “and this is a great innovation,” if the appeals court believes the appeal is “obviously a delaying tactic,” the appeals court can issue a decree confirming the nullity of the marriage without a full process.
Msgr. Alejandro Bunge, secretary of the commission and a member of the Roman Rota, said the new processes are motivated by recognition of the church as a “field hospital,” as Pope Francis has described it. “For those who have special injuries – a marriage null from the beginning – we will have intensive care” in the form of more rapid annulment procedures.
While many marriage cases will continue to require time in order to arrive at the truth, he said, the longer procedure will be reserved to those cases in which it is not obvious that the marriage was null from the beginning and in which the couple does not agree that a real marriage never existed.
Byzantine Bishop Dimitrios Salachas of Greece, also a member of the commission that drafted the new rules, said they were urgent for his Eastern church. Some 90 percent of his married faithful are married to a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, which permits second marriages under special penitential provisions.
Most Catholics who have divorced an Orthodox “don’t wait years and years” for the Catholic Church’s double declaration of nullity, he said. “They just leave,” finding it easier to follow the Orthodox Church’s procedures and begin a second union in the Orthodox Church.
The changes, he said, “were necessary, including to keep the Catholics” in the church.

Greenwood parish featured in national series

By Patricia Zapor
WASHINGTON (CNS) – If Pope Francis were to have time on his U.S. visit in September to stop at “typical” parishes, it might take a week or two just to see a representative sample.
Of course, while no two parishes anywhere in the world are exactly alike, North American Catholics who grew up in the middle of the 20th century likely would have felt more or less at home at the time visiting most churches around the United States.
The average parish of those decades probably was not unlike the version found in movies such as “Going My Way,” the Bing Crosby classic. In such parishes, “Father” was in charge of a smooth-running operation, with a couple of priests to assist him. Likely, “Sister” and other religious women ran the school. A handful of laypeople had minor parish support roles, but mostly the laity was found in the pews, bringing their children to school or supporting the church through bingo, carnivals and pancake breakfasts.
Today, changing demographics of the U.S. Catholic population have brought a great deal of variety to parishes – the U.S. church is now 40 percent Latino, a proportion that is rapidly increasing. Fewer Catholics feel compelled to have the kind of every-Sunday commitment to Mass that previous generations did. And an increasingly secularized, mobile and multicultural society has ended the days when one’s neighborhood or the country where one’s parents were born dictated what church the family attended.
But perhaps more than anything else, the changes in the way Catholic parishes function is a byproduct of the dramatic shift in the number of priests. Nearly one in five U.S. parishes lacks a resident priest pastor, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. In about 430 parishes – 2.5 percent of all U.S. parishes – the management is in the hands of a deacon or layperson such as a parish life coordinator or lay ecclesial minister.
In a project intended to provide a snapshot of some of the ways the U.S. church functions, over the course of three years, Catholic News Service reporters visited a cross-section of parishes around the country. The churches were chosen because they represent particular types of communities and certain models of parish management. In an unexpected bit of overlap, it turns out that the first parish visited, St. Francis of Assisi in the white, middle-class Midwestern manufacturing town of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, regularly sends parishioners on a summer mission trip to the last parish CNS visited, another St. Francis of Assisi, this one home to mostly African-Americans and Hispanics in the poverty-stricken, rural southern town of Greenwood, Mississippi.
The parishes visited included:
St. Francis of Assisi in Manitowoc; The Church of the Sacred Heart in South Plainfield, New Jersey; St. Ann Parish of Coppell, Texas; Holy Family Parish in South Pasadena, California; Our Lady of Redemption, a Melkite parish in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan. St. John By the Sea, the sole parish on Prince of Wales Island in southeastern Alaska and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Greenwood, Mississippi, founded by the Franciscan friars to serve African-Americans in the midst of the ugliest days of the civil rights struggles in the South.
The stories will look at how these parishes faced somilar issues. For example, in Manitowoc six parishes were closed or ‘supressed’ to form one city-wide parish that rotates between three worship sites. In the California parish, a lay woman is the boss in the parish, in charge of two full-time priest-ministers, various lay and religous minsiters and three other priests who assist in various ways. The largest parish, St. Anne in Coppell, Texas, boasts more than 30,000 members in 8,900 registered families – more than the entire Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota. In contrast, St. John by the Sea on Price of Wales Island is only accessible by plane or boat, but serves a huge geographic region.
Stories in the series will look at the state of parish finances, clergy roles, education – both elementary schools and religious education programs – and some non-traditional ways parishes organize themselves today. See the full description of all the parishes visited on www.mississippicatholic.com.
(Look in upcoming editions of Mississippi Catholic for more installments from this series. Dennis Sadowski, in South Plainfield, Mark Pattison in Coppell and Warren, and Nancy Wiechec in Klawock contributed to this story.)

New museums highlight history

By Mary Woodward
JACKSON – On a recent sweltering August morning, Bishop Joseph Kopacz looked out over the construction site of the burgeoning Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum project in downtown Jackson. The two museum project has been in the works for years and now will come to fruition in time for the Magnolia State’s bicentennial in 2017.
The Museum of Mississippi History will explore the sweep of the state’s history from earliest times to the present. The adjacent Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, the nation’s first state-operated civil rights museum, will examine the struggle for civil rights and equality that changed the course of the state and the nation.
Bishop Kopacz was visiting the site as part of a presentation on the project by Katie Blount, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), and Trey Porter, director of community relations at MDAH. Because of it’s long history of involvement in these turbulent times and its commitment to justice and reconciliation, the Diocese of Jackson is sponsoring one of the permanent exhibits in the Civil Rights Museum. During the visit, Bishop Kopacz received an in depth look at the overall project as it has progressed.
Part of the diocese’s plan of support for the project will come in the sharing of artifacts held in the diocesan archives. In terms of the Civil Rights Movement, the diocesan archives holds artifacts and correspondence ranging from documentation of Bishop R. O. Gerow’s integration of Catholic schools to his statement on the assassination of Medgar Evers to his trip to the White House in 1963 at the request of President John Kennedy. These papers reflect the church’s prominent role in seeking justice for all of Mississippi’s people. Therefore Bishop Kopacz wanted the diocese to support the museum project in order to continue that legacy.
The archives also contains papers on the development of Mississippi’s journey to statehood from the earliest times through the eyes of the Catholic faithful and ultimately their bishops. Bishop Gerow indexed and catalogued all the previous six diocesan bishops’ papers he inherited when he became bishop in 1924.
The diocesan archives gives a unique accounting of history through the growth and spread of the Catholic faith within the boundaries of the 20th state of the union. Papers and records in the archives date back to Spanish Colonial times in 1796 Natchez and travel forward through the establishment of the diocese in 1837, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the turn of the 19th century into the 20th, world wars, great floods, economic depression, the Civil Rights Movement, up to the present day. Items from these archives, gathered and maintained by Bishop Gerow and now continually updated by the diocesan chancellor’s office, will be scanned and offered to MDAH for its collections and the two museums project.
Constructed side-by-side on North Street in downtown Jackson, the two museums will share space including a lobby, auditorium, store, and classrooms. The complex is being designed by ECD — an architectural consortium composed of Eley Guild Hardy; Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons, Ltd.; and Dale Partners — in consultation with the Freelon Group.
Since construction began in December 2013, all interior floors have been completed. Work on the roof, limestone façade, and public parking garage will be completed in 2015. Phase two, interior construction, will last sixteen months. The Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum are scheduled to open in 2017 as the centerpiece of the state’s bicentennial celebration.
The Mississippi Legislature has committed $74 million in bond funds for construction and exhibits for the “2 Mississippi Museums.” The Legislature required a dollar-for-dollar match for the exhibits. The Foundation for Mississippi History and the Foundation for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum committed to raising $16 million — $12 million for exhibits and $4 million for endowments for the museums. The Foundations are on track to meet that goal. MDAH will seek additional public funds in 2016 to complete the exhibits and furnish the building.
The Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division estimates the two new museums will welcome approximately 180,000 visitors each year. These visitors will create a projected annual tourism impact of $17.1 million in tourism expenditures, 231 direct tourism jobs in the three-county region with an estimated $6.3 million payroll, and 92 indirect jobs with a $3.3 million payroll, contributing $1.2 million to the State General Fund. Even before the museums open, the Mississippi Development Authority estimates the employment and economic impact of construction to be approximately $50 million in total brick and mortar with 500 direct and 275 indirect jobs.
For more information on the project visit the MDAH website at www.mdah.state.ms.us.