Nation and world briefs

U.S.

NBCC explores call to live Gospel in tough times

WASHINGTON — Delegates attending Congress XII of the National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Florida, in July will take on new responsibilities this time around. Rather than working from a draft of a pastoral plan developed before the congress as per tradition, the 2,000 attendees will be tasked with developing a pastoral plan during the July 6-9 gathering and taking it home to their parishes and dioceses. "In the end, what is finally approved, we hope to see it reflected in the pastoral plan of the local bishop," said Father Stephen D. Thorne, pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Philadelphia and a congress leader. "Whatever the goals are — an African-American Catholic saint, or Catholic education and Catholic schools being viable in our communities and supporting them, or the violence of young people — can be included. It's a real act of faith, an act of the Spirit, to come together kind of like in conclave, (and) have the people say what is in our hearts."

Pope Francis names bishop of Evansville as archbishop of Indianapolis

WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has named Bishop Charles C. Thompson of Evansville, Ind., to head the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Thompson, who has been Evansville's bishop since 2011, will succeed Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, who was named in November to head the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J. The appointment was announced June 13 in Washington by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Archbishop Thompson, 56, a native of Louisville, Ky., was vicar general of the Louisville archdiocese from 2008 until he was named bishop of Evansville. On the national level, he's a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee, the Committee on Priorities and Plans, and the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.

U.S. bishop: Counter fears, show refugees as real people

VATICAN CITY — By telling individual stories and putting a human face on migrants seeking a new home, the media can help inspire communities to assist and not be afraid of newcomers, said one U.S. bishop. "One thing we really need to work on, especially in the United States, is to do advocacy work and education of the community because there is still a lot of resistance to the welcoming of the immigrant and refugees," retired Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., said June 12. "People are afraid. And I think we have to listen and understand where that fear comes from, but at the same time we have to educate people about human rights, about the Church's tradition" and how so many Americans are decedents of immigrants, he said.

WORLD

Pope tells Nigerian priests accept bishop or be suspended

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is giving priests belonging to the Diocese of Ahiara, Nigeria, 30 days to write a letter promising obedience to him and accepting the bishop appointed for their diocese or they will be suspended. The papal text in English was posted June 9 on the blog of Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian bishops' conference. Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan of Abuja told Catholic News Service the same day that the text was what Pope Francis said. The Vatican press office released the text June 10. Nigerian church leaders had met Pope Francis June 8 to discuss the situation of Bishop Peter Ebere Okpaleke, who was appointed bishop of Ahiara by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, but who has been unable to take control of the diocese because of protests, apparently by the majority of priests. The protests were motivated by the fact that Bishop Okpaleke isn't a local priest.

Death of prelate illustrates complicated situation of bishops in China

HONG KONG — A Chinese bishop who avoided government intervention in the affairs of his diocese died without having his Vatican-appointed successor officially ordained, illustrating the complications for bishops in China. Ucanews.com reported that Vatican-approved Bishop John Liu Shigong of Jining (Wumeng), in the northern Inner Mongolia autonomous region, died June 9 after being diagnosed with liver cancer in May. The 89-year-old was the fourth bishop to die in China this year. A funeral for the bishop was scheduled for June 15, to be celebrated by Bishop Meng Qinglu of Hohhot, ucanews.com reported. It is believed that in 2010, the Vatican appointed Father Anthony Yao Shun, vicar general of the diocese, as Bishop Liu's successor. Father Yao was ordained a priest in Jining in 1991 and in 1996 graduated from St. John's University, Collegeville, Minnesota. The 52-year-old is considered a liturgy expert in China.

Pope, cardinal advisers study 'healthy decentralization' proposals

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and members of his international Council of Cardinals discussed the possibility of allowing local bishops rather than the Vatican decide on certain matters, including the marriage or priestly ordination of permanent deacons. It's "what the pope calls a 'healthy decentralization,'" said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office. Briefing journalists on the council's June 12-14 meeting, Burke said the cardinals and pope looked specifically at the possibility of allowing bishops to determine whether a permanent deacon who is widowed can remarry or whether a permanent deacon who is unmarried or widowed can be ordained to the priesthood without having to "wait for a decision to be made in Rome" as is the current rule. Such decisions regarding permanent deacons now are handled at the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, but could pass to the local bishops' conference, Burke told journalists June 14. The council of cardinals advising the pope on Church governance also discussed proposals to broaden the participation of laypeople and members of religious orders in the selection of new bishops.

Cardinal Re chosen subdean of College of Cardinals

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis approved the election of Italian Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, 83, as subdean of the College of Cardinals. He replaces 94-year-old French Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who moved in January to a home for retired priests in Bayonne, France, and asked to be relieved of his role as the second-in-charge in the body of cardinals. The Vatican announced the pope's approval of Cardinal Re's election June 10. The dean of the college is Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 89, who was elected to the post in 2005 to succeed Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected Pope Benedict XVI. When a pope dies, the dean informs heads of state and diplomats accredited to the Holy See. He presides over the meetings of the entire College of Cardinals in the days preceding a conclave to elect a new pope. And, if he is under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in the conclave, he presides over the actual election in the Sistine Chapel.

Archbishop to become Lithuania's first beatified Soviet-era martyr

WARSAW, Poland — A Lithuanian archbishop who was murdered with a lethal injection after 16 years in prisons and labor camps was to become the first Catholic martyr from the country's communist era to be declared blessed. The beatification ceremony for Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, who died in 1962, was planned for June 25 in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. About 30,000 people including bishops and priests from abroad were expected to attend. "Besides being our first Soviet-era martyr recognized by the universal Church, he'll also be the first Lithuanian beatified on native soil," said Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, president of Lithuania's bishops' conference.

— Catholic News Service 

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