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Cardinal Woelki takes time out from archdiocese, retains Pope’s confidence

Having reviewed the results of the apostolic visit to the German archdiocese of Cologne concerning the handling of abuse cases, the Pope accepts Cardinal Woelki’s request to have a break. At the same time, the Holy Father rejected the resignation of two auxiliary bishops of Cologne.

Pope to new Armenian Patriarch: closeness to Syria, Lebanon

In a letter, Pope Francis has granted the “Ecclesiastica Communio” to the new Patriarch of the Armenian Catholic Church, who was elected on September 23. The Pope received His Beatitude Raphaël Bedros XXI Minassian of Cilicia in the Vatican on Friday.

USCCB Subcommittee Approves Updated Certification Competencies for Catholic Chaplains

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service has had a lengthy collaboration over the years with the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC). The most recent fruit of their work has been the update of certification competencies for use by Catholic chaplains. The subcommittee met on September 15 and approved the recently-updated certification competencies developed by NACC for chaplains ministering in health care settings and veteran affairs, as well as new certification competencies for prisons chaplains. The subcommittee granted its approval of the competencies for a period of seven years.

“Catholic chaplains and pastoral care ministers have been essential providers of spiritual and sacramental care in hospitals and other health care facilities for decades,” said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, bishop emeritus of Tucson, chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service. He especially noted their ministry to the critically ill over the past two years: “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and also in response to the spiritual pandemics of racism and social trauma which have accompanied it, ordained, lay and religious chaplains have been ‘spiritual first-responders,’ assuming the same risks of illness as the medical professionals with whom they collaborate. When physically isolated from loved ones suffering and dying alone, chaplains have been there to assist families with virtual visits and agonizing decisions about medical care.”

Bishop Kicanas further highlighted that these ministers have convened families to process the loss of loved ones and to provide innovative forms of common prayer when funeral liturgies could not be celebrated. “When medical staff have been fatigued and demoralized, our pastoral care providers - priests, deacons, sisters and lay women and men – have offered listening hearts and gentle guidance. NACC’s board-certified chaplains and pastoral care ministers remain a vital gift of the Church’s care for the most vulnerable among us,” he said.

Bishop Donald J. Hying of Madison, the USCCB’s episcopal liaison to the NACC, indicated how the approval of the updated certification competencies enhances and affirms the formation which board-certified Catholic chaplains receive. “The bishops of the United States can take great pride and have a strong confidence in the mission and performance of the NACC. The organization prepares and certifies chaplains and pastoral care ministers who provide to Catholics, other Christians and even those of other faiths, the Church’s compassionate care and support.”

The USCCB subcommittee approved updated and new competencies submitted by the organization which will be used to certify the following ministerial roles:

  • Board-Certified Catholic Chaplain
  • Board-Certified Catholic Chaplain for Veterans Affairs
  • Certified Associate Catholic Chaplain 
  • Catholic Correctional Chaplain, in association with the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition

The USCCB subcommittee also approved Diocesan Pastoral Care Competencies for the Sick, the Homebound and Older Adults (available here in English and Spanish), the NACC Code of Professional Ethics, and Ethics Procedure Manual. Additionally, the subcommittee reviewed and noted the value of the Palliative Care and Hospice Advanced Certification for qualified Board-Certified Catholic Chaplains.

The approved formation materials and certification competencies are based upon the four dimensions of comprehensive formation for lay ecclesial ministers presented in the 2005 USCCB resource, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, and they include specialized competencies unique to pastoral care in health care, veteran and prison ministries.

The approval of NACC’s certification competencies builds upon a half-century relationship between the USCCB and the NACC. The association has long been considered a model for other Catholic Church associations and organizations which have looked for guidance in the development of ministry education and training programs, the writing of standards and certification processes, and a model of collaboration with other organizations. Originally formed in 1965 from the USCCB-predecessor body, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, NACC also has long-standing collaborative relationships with a broad range of ecumenical and interfaith chaplaincy and spiritual care partners: ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education, the Association of Professional Chaplains, Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains, the Canadian Association of Spiritual Care, the American Correctional Chaplains Association, the National Association of Veterans Affairs Chaplains and the National Conference of Veterans Affairs Catholic Chaplains. For additional information about NACC, visit https://nacc.org.

The USCCB’s Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service assists the bishops in reviewing and approving certification standards and procedures to be used on a voluntary basis by arch/dioceses and national organizations in the certification of specialized ecclesial ministers. It also offers consultative services aimed at improving the quality of lay ministry formation programs that are sponsored by arch/dioceses and by academic institutions. For more information visit https://www.usccb.org/certification.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

USCCB Subcommittee Approves Certification Competencies for Catholic Correctional Chaplains

WASHINGTON - During its September meeting, the Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved new comprehensive certification standards and procedures for Catholic prison ministry. The formation and certification competencies that were approved capped a five-year process of collaborative and synodal engagement among multiple bishops, USCCB offices, seasoned Catholic prison chaplains, theologians, experts in pastoral care, and stakeholders across the country. 

The competencies, submitted and jointly administered by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains (NACC) and the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (CPMC), will assist bishops, diocesan ministry formation leaders, national organizations and groups as they train lay ecclesial ministers, ordained deacons, and priests serving pastoral care roles throughout the criminal justice system, including the role of Certified Catholic Correctional Chaplain.

“Throughout his papacy, Pope Francis has emphasized the need for the Church to care for those on the margins of our society,” said Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, bishop emeritus of Tucson, and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service. “Those who are incarcerated or in detention facilities - as well as their families - deserve access to well-prepared Catholic laity and clergy who can provide for their spiritual needs, and, where appropriate, assist with their rehabilitation and re-entry into society,” he said. “An important aspect of this ministry is also the ability to provide pastoral care to victims and their families, correctional officers and staff. It must also include advocacy for a more just criminal justice system. These approved competencies offer a more comprehensive approach to all aspects of Catholic prison ministries,” he added. 

The competencies establish a first-of-their-kind developmental model in Catholic prison ministries. They have been crafted to support integral formation for Catholics who wish to minister and journey with incarcerated persons or groups, as well as those affected by incarceration in any way. They are based upon the four dimensions of comprehensive formation for lay ecclesial ministers presented in the 2005 USCCB statement, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, and include specialized competencies that are unique to pastoral care in jails, prisons, and immigration detention facilities. The practices outlined in the competencies are also guided by the USCCB statement issued in 2000, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, in which the bishops identified several important facets of these ministries, including:

  • Dedicated pastoral care for incarcerated persons and their families, as well as for victims of crime and their families, and for those who have been affected by immigrant detention
  • Meaningful efforts to assist those in prison with a myriad of personal and social issues confronting them - including addiction, mental illness, and navigating the system of re-entry into society after serving their sentence.
  • Innovative efforts aimed at making the current prison system more just and restorative, especially through building awareness of the whole community's benefit when these systems operate on the basis of care for the person and for the common good

The competencies have been approved for use over the next seven years. This milestone marks the end of a period of dedicated effort on the part of multiple stakeholders. Initially spurred in 2016 by requests from the Holy See’s Congregation for Clergy and the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, the subcommittee sponsored a survey of diocesan Catholic prison ministries. The results of the survey demonstrated a nationwide need for formation, resources, support, and networking around prison ministries. This led to a national gathering sponsored by the USCCB and multiple Catholic organizations and prison chaplains, which forged a group which became the CPMC. To date those who have participated in CPMC events, online forums, and webinars have included Catholic prison ministers from 116 (arch)dioceses covering 42 states, along with 3 Canadian dioceses.  

CPMC’s work was further enhanced in 2020, when it gained fiscal sponsorship by the NACC. Together they offer dioceses, parishes and other organizations a cohort-based adaptive model of formation including three pathways: a foundational formation for Catholic prison ministries volunteers with little or no prior background, an intensive formation in a specific area of prison ministries, and a professional certification as a Certified Catholic Correctional Chaplain.

To introduce and update bishops and diocesan leaders about the new competencies and how they may be applied at the local and regional levels, the USCCB’s subcommittee, CPMC and NACC will host virtual workshops this fall. Additionally, CPMC continues to offer many resources via its website - catholicprisonministries.org. For more information visit https://www.usccb.org/certification.

The USCCB’s Subcommittee on Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service assists the bishops in reviewing and approving certification standards and procedures to be used on a voluntary basis by arch/dioceses and national organizations in the certification of specialized ecclesial ministers. It also offers consultative services aimed at improving the quality of lay ministry formation programs that are sponsored by arch/dioceses and by academic institutions.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Responds to House Vote on Bill that Imposes Radical “Abortion on Demand Until Birth”

WASHINGTON - Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, H.R. 3755. This bill would impose abortion on demand nationwide at any stage of pregnancy through federal statute and would eliminate pro-life laws at every level of government -- including parental notification for minor girls, informed consent, and health or safety protections specific to abortion facilities. H.R. 3755 also would compel all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars and would also likely force health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply-held beliefs, as well as force employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion. 

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued the following statement: 

“This deceptively-named bill is the most extreme pro-abortion bill our nation has ever seen. H.R. 3755 is not about the health of women, but only about eliminating any and all protections for unborn children - including baby girls. It would lead to the deliberate destruction of millions of unborn lives, leaving countless women with physical, emotional, and spiritual scars.   

“This bill assumes that abortion can be the only, or best, solution to a crisis pregnancy. H.R. 3755 is built on a false and despairing narrative that utterly fails women. In treating abortion as the moral equivalent to the removal of an appendix, this proposal is radically out of step with the American public. As a nation built on the recognition that every human being is endowed by its Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, this bill is a complete injustice. Congress should embrace public policy that respects the rights of mothers, their children, and the consciences of all Americans, not advance a radical ‘abortion on demand until birth’ policy that is completely out of step with our country’s principles.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

Germany: Political parties rally supporters ahead of election

As Germans prepare to go to the polls in a national election on Sunday, political parties are using the last two days of this campaign to win over undecided voters.

Pope names Special Delegate for the Memores Domini association

Pope Francis has named Archbishop Filippo Santoro of Taranto as his Special Delegate to the Memores Domini Lay Association. Archbishop Santoro will temporarily assume the governance of the association in order to safeguard its charism and preserve its unity.

Pope sends condolences on death of Cardinal Urosa Savino

In a telegram, Pope Francis remembers the archbishop emeritus of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, who died late Thursday at the age of 79. The Venezuelan cardinal had been admitted to intensive care at the end of August. Cardinal Savino remained close to the suffering of the Venezuelan population to the very end, inviting political leaders to work together to peacefully resolve the political crisis wracking the country.

Martyrs of Chalcedon: Saint of the Day for Friday, September 24, 2021

A group of forty-nine Christians slain in Chalcedon during the reign of Emperor Diocletian . Records indicate that the martyrs were members of the choir in the church of Chalcedon.

UN rights office: Myanmar junta's violence amounts to crimes against humanity

The UN rights chief urges the international community to redouble its efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar before it is too late.