Liveblog: U.S. bishops’ fall general meeting

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, addresses the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Here we are again, ready to liveblog the fall general meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, just as we did last year. (If you’ve opened this page mid-session, make sure you refresh your browser often to get the latest updates.)

Our thanks to Telecare, the television ministry of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., for livestreaming the meeting from Baltimore.

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4:50 p.m.: Wrapping up for the day with Our Father and Hail Mary, then adjournment.

4:46 p.m.: “A principled position, not a political one,” he says. Also criticizes NYTimes editorial decrying bishops’ efforts.

4:44 p.m.: Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chair of the committee most responsible for formulating USCCB position on health care reform, now addressing bishops. Thanks staff for hard work.

4:43 p.m.: And it is endorsed by the bishops.

4:39 p.m.: Presenting his statement issued last week after House vote for backing by the entire body of bishops. (Full text here.)

4:37 p.m.: Not on agenda, but Cardinal George is thanking members of the House of Representatives who voted to maintain restrictions on abortion funding in health care bill.

4:35 p.m.: Archbishop Dolan concludes by thanking bishops for listening to him “brag” about CRS.

4:21 p.m.: Another annual report, this time on Catholic Relief Services, presented by the chairman of the board, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., and Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz chat prior to Mass on the first day of the U.S. bishops' general meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., and Chicago Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz chat prior to Mass on the first day of the U.S. bishops' general meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

4:10 p.m.: Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia now giving presentation on proposed document, “Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology.” Here’s our preview story.

4:02 p.m.: Preliminary discussion on the bishops’ proposed pastoral letter on marriage.

3:53 p.m.: Here again we have a preview on what the bishops are trying to revise in their health care directives.

3:49 p.m.: Now on to preliminary discussion on a proposed revision to “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care.”

3:41 p.m.: Here’s our story on Cardinal George’s address this afternoon opening the meeting.

3:37 p.m.: If you’re having a hard time following the liturgy issues being discussed right now, here’s a backgrounder on these five action items.

3:24 p.m.: Back in session. First up, preliminary presentations on five liturgy-related action items. The bishops will not vote today — this is just preliminary discussion.

3:01 p.m.: Related to the meeting, we’ve just posted our story on the bishops’ commemoration of the assassination 20 years ago today of six Salvadoran Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter.

2:57 p.m.: Coffee break. Cardinal George wants everyone back at 3:20 to resume.

2:53 p.m.: Father O’Connell gets a standing ovation as he says good-bye and thanks the bishops for the privilege of serving them as president of “your university.”

2:43 p.m.: President of The Catholic University of America, Father David O’Connell, giving his annual update to the bishops. Notes that this is his last address to the bishops before stepping down next August.

2:42 p.m.: Archbishop Sambi concluding his talk. Hope to get the full text later.

Auxiliary Bishops James D. Conley of Denver and Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia share a light moment with Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., following Mass on the opening day of the U.S. bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Auxiliary Bishops James D. Conley of Denver and Daniel E. Thomas of Philadelphia share a light moment with Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., following Mass on the opening day of the U.S. bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

2:27 p.m.: If you’re looking for background on the meeting agenda, here’s our preview story. And the bishops’ media office last Friday published this backgrounder called “What’s What at the Bishops’ Meeting.”

2:18 p.m.: Cardinal George concludes his address. Now up is the annual address by the pope’s representative to the U.S., Archbishop Pietro Sambi.

2:15 p.m.: Quotes his predecessor, Cardinal Bernardin, on the importance of health care protecting all people, including the unborn.

2:10 p.m.: Cardinal George is emphasizing the importance of the priesthood in this Year for Priests.

2:07 p.m.: VP of bishops’ conference, Bishop Kicanas of Tucson, is introducing Cardinal George for the latter’s presidential address, a sort of a “state of the church” speech that always opens the bishops’ fall meeting.

2:02 p.m.: You can also follow the meeting on the Twitter page of the USCCB media relations office.

1:58 p.m.: National Advisory Council report being given now. Council is a body of laity, religious, priests and bishops that give advice to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on issues facing the bishops. Here’s some background on the council.

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives Communion to U.S. bishops during Mass at the opening of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore this morning. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives Communion to U.S. bishops during Mass this morning at the opening of the bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore. (CNS/Bob Roller)

1:45 p.m.: Routine opening business, intro of new members, intro of retired bishops who are attending. There’ll be a prayer for deceased bishops, approval of agenda, approval of minutes from previous meeting, before any other action takes place.

1:40 p.m.: That’s Bishop Edward J. Burns, of Juneau, Alaska, leading the opening prayer.

Pope names archbishop for Milwaukee, bishop for Fort Wayne-South Bend

(UPDATE: Full story.)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Jerome E. Listecki of La Crosse, Wis., to be the archbishop of Milwaukee and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, Pa., to be the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

He also accepted the resignation of Bishop John M. D’Arcy, who has headed the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend since 1985. He is 77 years old, two years past the age at which canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation.

The appointments and resignation were announced in Washington Nov. 14 by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

In Milwaukee Archbishop Listecki, 60, succeeds Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, who was appointed to head the New York Archdiocese in February.

Bishop Rhoades, who will turn 52 Nov. 26, succeeds Bishop D’Arcy, who earlier this year was at the forefront of strong criticism of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend for inviting President Barack Obama to give the commencement address and its decision to give him an honorary degree.

More than 70 bishops and other critics of Obama said his support of legal abortion and embryonic stem-cell research made him an inappropriate choice to be commencement speaker at a Catholic university and to receive an honorary degree.

Later in the year, in an article in America magazine, Bishop D’Arcy said the controversy was not about Obama, a replay of the 2008 elections or “whether it is appropriate for the president of the United States to speak at Notre Dame or any great Catholic university on the pressing issues of the day.”

“This is what universities do,” he said. “No bishop should try to prevent that.”

The central question, Bishop D’Arcy said, is: “Does a Catholic university have the responsibility to give witness to the Catholic faith and to the consequences of that faith by its actions and decisions — especially by a decision to confer its highest honor?”

Bishop D’Arcy said that, in his 24 years as head of the diocese in which Notre Dame is located, “I have never interfered in the internal governance of Notre Dame or any other institution of higher learning within the diocese.”

But he said a bishop “must be concerned that Catholic institutions do not succumb to the secular culture, making decisions that appear to many, including ordinary Catholics, as a surrender to a culture opposed to the truth about life and love.”


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Pope John Paul II and the rosary

Pope John Paul II “wanted so much for the family, the young, the sick and elderly, deacons and priests and bishops to learn and adopt his new method of praying the rosary so that the rosary would be come more of a contemplative prayer and therein have its true beauty and depth discovered,” author and educator Robert Feeney wrote in a recent note to CNS.

He wanted to make us aware rosaryof a new book he has written, “The Rosary: The John Paul II Method,” released by Aquinas Press and distributed by Ignatius Press. He covers the history of the rosary; writings about Mary by Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI; Our Lady of Fatima and the rosary; and the mysteries of the rosary. But the book’s centerpiece is how Pope John Paul recited the rosary, including his suggestion that after each mystery, a person used a picture or icon to “open up a scenario,” to visualize being part of that mystery.

The pope also suggested a person pray for a virtue with each mystery and pause briefly to meditate “on the word of God and the content of the mystery.”

“The pope always saw the young as the future and hope of the church and wanted to, in spirit, pass the rosary beads on to them,” said Feeney. He added that during the Year of the Rosary, declared by the late pope from October 2002 to October 2003, Feeney taught his own students how the pope prayed the rosary. “They were very impressed with the contemplative dimension and interjections of silence,” he said.

Feeney said he wrote the book because he wants to help the young to discover the rosary to help them “in their trials and tribulations,” like it did for him as a young man serving in the Vietnam War.  He was seriously wounded and nearly died, he said, but he called on Mary, whom he credits for his recovery. 

Feeney’s book on the pope and the rosary follows an earlier one he wrote titled “The Catholic Ideal: Exercise & Sports.” He has been told that it’s being used as a textbook in the PE department at some Catholic colleges and universities.

Promoting “Alma Mater” on the Internet

ROME — Geffen Records UK, which teamed up with the Pauline Fathers’ Multimedia San Paolo to set Pope Benedict’s voice to music, is going all out with publicity for the album “Alma Mater” in anticipation of its Nov. 30 worldwide release.

Msgr. Pablo Colina directing the "Alma Mater" choir

Msgr. Pablo Colino directing the choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome last evening. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The record company, a division of Universal Music Group, hosted a press conference yesterday in the chambers of the Rome city council and a 20-minute concert in the nearby Basilica of St. Mary Ara Coeli.

Geffen has set up a Web site promoting the album and is giving away 100 pairs of free tickets to a concert of music from the album. The concert will be held Dec. 2 in London’s Westminster Cathedral and will feature the choir of the Philharmonic Academy of Rome, which sings on the album.

Geffen’s Web site for the album features a video whose soundtrack includes the full clip of Pope Benedict XVI singing the “Regina Coeli” Marian prayer May 1, 2005.

But Geffen also has cast its net farther, posting “the making of” video on YouTube.

Inside scoop on Vatican’s groundbreaking virtual tour

VATICAN CITY — As a participant in Villanova University’s Vatican internship program, I had the opportunity to be a part of a groundbreaking project.

This Monday, in celebration of the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Vatican website launched a state-of-the-art virtual tour of the basilica.

Paul Wilson in the apse of St. John Lateran

Paul Wilson working on the virtual tour of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in October. (Photo by Villanova intern, Heather West)

The tour of St. John Lateran is only a small part of a monumental project in which a team of Villanova University professors and students photographed the Sistine Chapel, the newly resorted Pauline Chapel, the Basilica of St. Mary Major and the Necropolis of St. Rosa.

Having labored long and hard on the virtual reality tour, the launch is a sort of personal triumph for me.

To allow the Villanova team to photograph everything in peace, officials kept the public out of the buildings, except at St. John Lateran. The Villanova interns and I worked as the photographer’s personal police squad. We made sure no curious tourists or aspiring models got in the way of the cameras. This was particularly difficult because people in St. John Lateran had no qualms about walking right up to the lens and inspecting the state-of-the-art equipment.

I was assigned to help Villanova Digital Media Coordinator Chad Fahs photograph the front entrance of the basilica. Shooting the outside of the basilica had a different set of challenges; the open space and large crowds make crowd control more difficult. It seemed as though every time Chad was about to begin the shooting process a large herd of tourists was walking right in front of the camera on their way into the basilica.

The highlight of the photo shoot was Paul Wilson’s face after he finished the apse. Paul is the director of the Villanova University’s Vatican project. He is a seasoned veteran who has more than 40 years of experience in photography. After the shoot, he was physically unable to suppress the huge smile on his face. The only words he could let out were, “We got it.”

“It’s monumental. Michelangelo and other artists created these masterpieces and we are showing them to the world.” Paul’s words capture the work he and the team of Villanova students and professors are doing to create virtual tours of important sites throughout the Vatican.

Wilson was, right we got it. The Villanova team captured what it is like to be inside the basilica. Save the motion-sensitive controls that could cause some headaches and nausea before you get accustomed to them, the virtual tour is quite impressive. The photographs are crystal clear and the people actually add perspective to the basilica’s size.

The launch of the tour of St. John Lateran is not the end of the story. One can’t help but think how impressive the virtual tours of the Sistine Chapel, the Pauline Chapel, St. Mary Major and the Necropolis of St. Rosa will turn out.

(Gustavo Solis currently works as an intern in the CNS Rome bureau.)

Cardinal George statement on House-approved health care bill

UPDATE: Our story on the statement.

The following statement was issued this evening by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Over the weekend, the US House of Representatives advanced major legislation to provide adequate and affordable health care to all. The Catholic Bishops of the United States have long advocated that adequate health care be made available to everyone. In an essential step, the House voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm the longstanding and widely supported precedent that no federal funds will be used to pay for elective abortions. In doing so, the Representatives honored President Obama’s commitment to the Congress and the nation that health care reform would not become a vehicle for expanding abortion funding or mandates. The Conference will remain vigilant and involved throughout this entire process to assure that these essential provisions are maintained and included in the final legislation. We will work to persuade the Senate to follow the example of the House and include these critical safeguards in their version of health care reform legislation. We also thank the members of the House who took this courageous and principled step to oppose measures that would force Americans to pay for the destruction of unborn children, and the Democratic leadership for allowing the Representatives to vote on this amendment that protects the common good.

In the national discussion on how to provide the best kind of health care, we bishops do not claim or present ourselves as experts on health care policy. We are not prepared to assess every provision of legislation as complex as this proposal. However, health care legislation, with all its political, technical and economic aspects, is about human beings and hence has serious moral dimensions. Our focus is the concrete realities of families with children and their access to doctors, the poor and the elderly, those with limited means and those with few or even no means, such as the mother carrying a child in her womb. Our Catholic commitment to health care picks up the pieces of our failing system in our emergency rooms, clinics, parishes and communities. This is why we believe our nation’s health care system needs reform which protects human life and dignity and serves the poor and vulnerable as a moral imperative and an urgent national priority.

We remain deeply concerned about the debate that now moves to the Senate, especially as it will affect the poor and vulnerable, and those at the beginning and end of life. We will continue to insist that health care reform legislation must protect conscience rights. We support measures to make health care more affordable for low-income people and the uninsured. We remain deeply concerned that immigrants be treated fairly and not lose the health care coverage that they now have. We will continue to raise our voices in public and in prayer; we ask our people to join us in making the moral case for genuine health care reform that protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all.