Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nuncio to US Bishops: Reflect on gift of communion with Pope.

The Fall General Assembly of the Bishops of the United States opens with speeches by the Apostolic Nuncio, and the outgoing President of the Episcopal Conference.

Vatican News:

The Bishops of the United States are meeting in Baltimore this week for their regular Fall General Assembly, with the prelates expected to address numerous topics, including the formation of priests, the political responsibilities of Catholics, and the strategic priorities for the Church in the United States for the coming years. At the meeting, the Bishops will also be electing a new President and Vice-president, as well has chairmen for several committees of the USCCB.

Bishops at prayer during the 2019
Fall General Assembly of the US Bishops' Conference

Nuncio addresses Bishops

After introductory business, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, took the floor to address the assembled Bishops. While recognizing the many challenges the Church faces, Archbishop Pierre also focused on the strengths of the American Church, including its defence of human life and religious liberty, as well as the rights of migrants and families, and its generosity in charitable works, especially for the most vulnerable.

In the face of an increasingly secularized culture, the Nuncio encouraged the Bishops to reflect on the missionary nature of the Church; how all members of the Church partake in her mission; collegiality among the Bishops themselves; communion within the Church, and especially with priests; and on how to address the shortage of clergy.

The gift of communion with the Pope

In view of the Bishops’ ongoing “ad limina” visits (taking place over the next several months), Archbishop Pierre suggested to the Bishops that “it may be useful to prayerfully reflect on the gift of communion with the Bishop of Rome”. He encouraged them to bring the Magisterium of Pope Francis to their people, focusing on the teachings of the Apostolic Exhortations Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia, and the Encyclical Laudato sí, as well as the Holy Father’s recent teachings on human fraternity. “Our communion with the Holy Father”, he said, “can be expressed in the concrete actions that we take to make his Magisterium better known among the people”.

Renewed fervor for evangelization

Archbishop Pierre also invited the Bishops, when they go to Rome, to share with the Holy Father “good news” from their Dioceses, and urged them to a renewed fervor for evangelization, in order to fulfill the “Holy Father’s dream for a ‘missionary option’ in the Church”.

He concluded his address by acknowledging the “spiritual and cultural heritage” of the Church in the United States, as well as the “faith and devotion” of the American Bishops and their flocks. “I am confident”, he said, “that the Church in the United States will discover the right path for its spiritual renewal so that it can continue to be the Church that Christ calls it to be”.

Reprinted from Vatican News

Monday, October 14, 2019


Featured on Angelus News
Children in a Meki school. Education is key to the future of any people,
but especially so in the more rural areas of any country.

I recently returned to Los Angeles from a weeklong trip to Ethiopia, a place where the Catholic Church, with only 1% of the population, has an incredible impact across the entire country.

I went with a superb staff from Catholic Relief Services (CRS). The purpose of the trip was to help its local partners with their programs that help displaced and malnourished people, and to aid its overall efforts in alleviating a variety of problems within the community.

On the first day of my trip, we drove to a town called Meki, which is an apostolic vicariate (the last step before becoming a diocese). We visited the beautiful Our Lady of Perpetual Help Clinic. The clinic serves many children, and offers care to pregnant mothers, from pre-birth to post-birth.

Small children are in the care of the clinic's day care center
while their mothers are working.

The vicariate there is doing an amazing job to promote and aid the local community. The bishop of Meki, Abraham Desta, owns and operates a large farm outside of the city, where small farmers are trained to be more efficient while raising funds for the vicariate. A variety of food can be found on this farm, from crops to dairy cows, to even vineyards for winemaking!

Bishop Abraham proudly displaying a 2018 Syrah red wine.

This farm is a unique example of how the Church in mission lands can be creative in serving the people by bringing them new skills for their own livelihoods.

Day two brought a trip to an area where a Women’s Empowerment Project is underway. Centuries of cultural tradition have empowered men to be the absolute authority in each family, while the wives are often relegated to a diminished role.

The new initiative has been designed to create a new paradigm of family life, one where husbands and wives work together, sharing the authority of the family. There is a school in this area as well, teaching both young women and young men the mutuality of the role of husband and wife from an early age.

Students at the school, where young women learn the usual subjects,
but also a new formation in women empowerment.

Day three led us to Dire Dawa, where we met with the Catholic Secretariat of the Eparchy of Dire Dawa, who operates all the educational, social, and health projects in this large eparchy.

We then drove through more mountainous lands. CRS has pioneered the terracing of the mountains so that more land was available for food production, as well as to halt erosion of the soil. This initiative has had an enormous impact on the communities.

In Dire Dawa, our hosts prepared a special celebration bread which
is broken up into pieces and shared by all who are gathered.

CRS has developed a very creative project to make life easier for people throughout Ethiopia, creating wells and innovative water solutions to provide good, clean water to the local villages. No other project has had such an enormous, multiplier effect upon the local populations. Having clean water changes every aspect of local life — saves time finding water, fewer illnesses, sanitation, and more water for crops. 

The water points are managed by local committees.

Later, we arrived to an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Deder. These people have been displaced due to conflicts involving territory and various groups.

After spending the night in Dire Dawa, we visited several projects in and around the city itself. We saw an orphanage that offers shelter to those children who otherwise would be on the streets at night. It provides a shelter for youth to gather, study, and play Ping-Pong.

Youth playing Ping-Pong at the shelter.

We also visited one of the 15 Ethiopian warehouses that CRS maintains, where there are fresh food items stored in preparation for any sort of disaster. I was especially impressed with CRS’ commitment to pre-staging items needed for various disasters, from typhoons and earthquakes, to displaced persons fleeing their homes.

A CRS warehouse filled with supplies. This is one of 15 within Ethiopia.

Our visit took us to Notre Dame School, one of the largest Catholic schools in Ethiopia, with more than 1,600 students.

We were fortunate to be able to make a brief visit to the Missionary of Charity Sisters community, where they care for the most neglected and needy people in the area. They provide medical and mental health attention to those in need. With the food supply from CRS, the sisters are able to accommodate and serve so many people.

As you know, immigrants and refugees hold a special place in the heart, soul, and ministry of Pope Francis. He always encourages us to bring “closeness” and “accompaniment” to people on the periphery. This trip allowed me to do that, in his name!

May God continue to inspire all of us, disciples of Jesus, to be alert for the most needy in our midst, and to reach out to them in his name!

This article was featured in Angelus News 

Saturday, October 5, 2019



After overnight in Dire Dawa, we visited several projects in and around the city itself.


This is a non-residential facility which deals with two types of youth:  those in homes with special needs, such as a single parent; and those on the streets with no place to stay at night.

The at-home youth are provided a place to gather, to play, and to study after school.  Simple facilities provide various things for the youth to do, such as ping pong.

Women in the community come together to learn how to create and operate small businesses.  One woman bakes very fine cookies and is selling them to various stores and food outlets.  She has received a loan from the Community Group, and repays it over a few months.  This woman is saving to purchase larger baking equipment so she can expand her business.  These many businesses give women a greater security for their families, and are able to provide more opportunities for their children.  

It is a real joy to feel the enthusiasm, interest, and commitment of all these women.  They support each other and learn different techniques from each other, as well as specialists who come in to work with them.  Really impressive to see their initiatives!!


One of the most impressive aspects of CRS activities around the world is their long-held strategy to station relief supplies in large warehouses in so many countries.  These are called Primary Distribution Points, and there are 15 of them in Ethiopia.  CRS brings in commodities from the port of Djibouti and stores, as in this example.
In order to keep the items fresh, they are brought in and stored for no more than 3 months, then sent on to local centers.

Over several years of seeing the CRS projects around the world, I have been so impressed with their commitment to pre-staging items needed for various disasters and needs:  typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, groups fleeing all kinds of threats, and the like.  In this way CRS can respond quickly when crises arise.


We had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame School, one of the largest Catholic schools in Ethiopia with some 1,600 students--from kindergarten to seniors in high school.  The quality education is provided for all these students who come from the surrounding areas.  Three Ethiopian Sisters serve in the school, along with a layman as principal.  A large and varied staff helps teach and form these young people.


Since our time was limited before having to fly back to Addis Ababa, our visit was very short.  Basically, these Sisters of St. Mother Teresa's Community care for the most neglected and needy persons in the community.  Almost all need medical attention through various clinics, as well as living arrangements for many until they are able to live on their own.

Medical and mental health issues are very prevalent here, as well as those in advanced age who are near death.  The Sisters benefit from various doctors and nurses who help out, but they are also able to send patients to the local hospital for more specialized care.

CRS is the primary food source for this enormous compound.  Without this food, the Sisters would never be able to accommodate and serve so many people.

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Today we flew to Dire Dawa, about an hour southeast of Addis Ababa.  We first met with the staff of the Secretariat of the Eparchy of Dire Dawa.  The Catholic Secretariat operates all of the educational, social, and health projects across this very large Eparchy.  

We met the staff and enjoyed a traditional coffee ceremony with them.  Ethiopian coffee is of very high quality and drank all acround the world.  In addition, they prepare a special celebration bread which is broken up into pieces and shared by all who are gathered.

We then drove through more mountainous lands with people living in villages at various elevations.  The main highway is the one taken from Ethiopia to Djibouti.  Since Ethiopia has no link to an ocean, all cargo coming by sea enters through the port of Djibouti.  We saw many large Containers being hauled in both directions, as well as fuel and other products.


CRS pioneered the terracing of the mountains so that far more land was available for food production, as well as the halting of the erosion of the soil.  This one initiative has had an enormous increase in the amount of land available to farmers, as well as the production of food.

We then drove to an Internally Displaced Persons [IDP] camp in Deder.  These people have been displaced because of conflicts between different groups in various places of Ethiopia.  One example is the class between local farms in an area with roving herdsmen who come into their area and allow their herds to eat crops.  These conflicts result in people having to flee.  

Approximately 300 persons live in such tin shelters, with about 8,000 such displaced persons around the country.


In this mountainous region, CRS has developed a very creative project to obtain good, clean water and make it available to people at local water stations.  Before, they would spend hours per day going in search of water.

One example of this project consists of a well down in the valley floor where there is abundant water below the surface.  This water is then pumped uphill about 2.5 miles to various levels of the mountain into storage tanks.  One large water tank holds 32,000 gallons.  Then, water lines descend down to 12 water points, and 6 water points for displaced persons' camps.

This means that some 45,000 people benefit from these water projects in and around this region.  The water points are managed by local committees.  So far, these pumps use diesel or electricity to pump the water.  Possibly in the future solar panels will replace them.

No other project has had such an enormous, multiplier effect upon the local populations.  Available good and clean water changes every aspect of local life:  little time spent in finding water, fewer illnesses because of the high quality of the water, better water for bathing and washing, and water for more crops.

On our return journey, stopped at one of the food distribution warehouses operated by CRS across the country.  These warehouses contain basically food products such as grains, and they are distributed as needed to various communities near and around these storage facilities.  Having the food near at hand is a great blessing for the people in need since little time is lost in transporting the food.

We then flew back to Addis Ababa after a most fruitful visit to this section of Ethiopia.


Friday, October 4, 2019



Before departing Meki, we visited one of the Catholic Schools.  Catholic Education is a high priority for the Church and CRS across Ethiopia.  This school is located near the compound where the Bishop and his staff carry out all their local projects.

Education is key to the future of any people, but especially so in the more rural areas of any country.


We then drove to an area where a Women's Empowerment Project was underway.  Centuries of cultural tradition have empowered men to be the absolute authority in each family.  The wife has a very diminished role, relegated primarily to fetching water--often at several miles; caring for the children, preparing meals, washing clothes, and the like.

This new initiative has been designed to create a new paradigm of family life where husbands and wives together share the authority of the family.  Women are taught about their personal identity and dignity, and how to help their husbands understand that sharing mutually the authority of the family brings many blessings to the entire family.

These women learn business skills whereby they are able to begin small enterprises such as raising chickens and selling eggs, raising goats, preparing food products for sale, and the like.  They are then able to save their own money and eventually expand their businesses.  They do this in harmony with their husbands, not in opposition, a new mutuality of roles.

At the same location there is a school where young women learn the usual subjects, but also a new formation in women empowerment.  They are given new skills.

Also at the same location the boys are taught and formed as well.  They begin to understand the concept of mutuality in the role of husband and wife, and the great benefits to the family and to the marriage when such equal sharing in duties and rights is observed.


The single element essential for all human life is water.  Without water there is no life.

However, the only water which really benefits the people is good, clean water.  In rural areas throughout the world often the water supply is inadequate, or polluted, or not near to the people.

CRS long ago saw the need to help small communities develop new water projects which would provide clean and safe water where the people actually lived.  CRS purchased five very large drilling rigs for use across Ethiopia to help locate water, drill down to the water, and pump it up for the people.

A well is drilled to a level where fresh, safe and good water is located.  A pump is installed, and initially a diesel generator is used to pump the water to the surface.  In this example, the water is delivered nearby to a water station.  People bring 5 gallon jugs to obtain the water, about one or two cents the charge.

A local committee receives the money and accounts for it, using it to repairs or improvements to their system.  This committee is composed of both women and men.

A new addition to this water well is that of solar panels.  The panels are more expensive to install, but they have no moving parts, require no fuel, and have fewer performance problems.  The use of solar panels across Africa will mean an entirely new and sustainable source of energy for all projects.

The installation of water wells and the supply of local water that is good and clean is one of the great achievements of CRS over the years.

PLEASE DONATE TO CRS AT:   www.crs.org

Tuesday, October 1, 2019



This morning we left Addis Ababa, and drove with CRS Country Director John Shumlansky and staff in a southwestern direction to the town of Meki.  Within the Church Meki is an Apostolic Vicariate--the last step before becoming a Diocese.  The Bishop Abraham Desta heads up the Vicariate.

The Vicariate is situated in a very large compound with a new Church at the center of it.  The Bishop's residence, offices for the Vicariate, and other leadership activities are situated here.

We first visited the wonderful Our Lady of Perpetual Help Clinic supported primarily by donors and entities in Spain.  The Director is a young man from Madrid, and he has helped the Clinic to grow to a most effective medical center for the area.  Spanish doctors, medical specialists, and dentists take turns coming from Spain to staff the Clinic.  Many Spanish volunteers also come for a period of Christian volunteer work.

The Clinic opens at 6:30 am, and people begin lining up early to be seen by Clinic staff.  A triage person evaluates each person to determine where he/she should be sent for care.  Emergencies receive priority over all others.
A large number of patients are children.  The Clinic serves pregnant women in pre-birth, birth itself, and after birth to make sure that there are no major issues with the mother or the baby.

A new large building is in the process of being completed, and new specialized equipment is coming from Spain.  A new, large ultrasound machine is still in its shipping packaging, but soon it will be a powerful tool to assist the doctors for many illnesses.

Bishop Abraham Desta is shown visiting
 some of the young children with their
mothers in the clinic area.

Small children are in the care of the clinic while their mothers are working, a marvelous Day Care Center.  The young people assist in caring for the young ones until their mothers pick them up.

The Clinic also operates an orphanage program, with a special emphasis on creating a sense of "family" among the youngsters.  They attend a Catholic school nearby, and they consider each other as genuine brothers and sisters--just like the other children from regular families.


In order to help train small farmers how to be more efficient in their farming, and to raise funds for the Vicariate for all of its programs, the Bishop owns and operates a huge farm outside the city.  The farm has several distinct operations:

  •   Tree Fruit:  mangoes, avocados, and other fruits  
  •   Row Crops:  corn, alfalfa, potatoes, and many kinds of vegetables to be sold  
  •   Dairy Cows:  to produce milk with the majority of it being used to make three kinds of     cheeses
  •   Vineyards and Wine Making:  the farm grows three varieties of red wine grapes, and     chenin blanc grapes for white wine
This is my first visit to a farm owned and operated by the Church that produced fine wines and cheeses!


Add caption

Bishop Abraham proudly displaying a 2018 Syrah red wine.  The license to sell its wines and cheeses is pending.

The major funding and wine-making expertise came from Italy and Spain with their own marvelous wines.
In addition Italy and Spain provided assistance with the cheese making process.

This Farm is a unique example of how the Church in mission lands can be creative in serving the people by bringing them new skills for their own livelihoods.

Another splendid example of CRS at work in assisting local Dioceses with so many initiatives to help lift the economic potential of their people.


Monday, September 30, 2019


[I regret that there are no photos to accompany this article, but my suitcase has been stranded for days somewhere between the Frankfurt airport and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.]

You enter through a non-descript gate off a busy road, not knowing the vastness and the goodness of God which you will be about to witness.

This Center was established years ago by St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and it reflects the broad sweep of her charitable works.  She visited often since this particular Center represents her charitable works from birth to death.

The Center is divided into several large sectors, and some of the 18 Sisters who labor here are visible in each sector.  The Sisters accept the poorest of the poor, from pregnant mothers to the very elderly waiting to exit this life.

Early on, the Sisters would have to drive around Addis Ababa searching for people living in misery and hopelessness.  Not any more.  Families and friends now bring many to the Sisters.  Even the local government which had been hesitant to allow this vast facility to exist now help in various ways with the Center and refer residents and patients here.

The section set aside for pregnant women and new mothers is so inspiring.  Here women about to give birth are cared for, and mutual support is offered to them by other mothers and nurses and doctors.  

Once a mother has been birth to her baby, there is a special residential care section for her and her baby.  They are allowed to stay a few months, but in the meantime, they are given various skills in order to work after their stay.  One of the small kitchens is used to teach these young mothers how to be cooks in hotels and other settings.  A skilled woman chef guides them through all of the various kinds of food they will need to prepare.  We were told that these women are usually hired quickly because of their skills.

Another sector deals with handicapped men and women--young and old.  Again, doctors work with them to enhance their lives and to make them ready to return to society.

Every aspect of the care given here is to enhance individual talents and to prepare them to return to the world and be self-sufficient.

While encountering younger children with orthopedic disabilities, we tended to feel sorry for them.  But they themselves were engaged in joyous play, their sights set firmly on a life of normalcy even with some type of hindrance physically.

The section with the old and those terminally ill was particularly difficult.  On any given day, one or two people die each day.  A week ago there were eight who died in one day.  The bodies are prepared according to Ethiopian custom, and set in a morgue until morning.  Then a vehicle comes from the government to pick up those who had died, and they are transported to a place of burial.

A special trait of Mother Teresa and her Sisters is joy in the midst of much human suffering and hopelessness.  Their eyes are raised well above the ills and downfalls of a particular life, and they see souls en route to the Kingdom of God.

Catholic Relief Services [CRS] provides most of the food for this Center, as well as several others all across the country of Ethiopia.  CRS is heavily involved in obtaining medical equipment as well as medicines for the Centers.  Early on, the government did not appreciate the tremendous contribution the Sisters were making, but officials now realize that if the Sisters were not here offering all of these services, these people would be out on the streets where lack of human dignity was so seldom regarded.

All of the left over bread products from the Addis Ababa airport are brought each morning to this vast Center where it is cherished and valued by the residents.

While most of the doctors and nurses are Ethiopian, often other volunteers from around the world come in order to work alongside he Missionaries of Charity.  

That original vision of St. Mother Teresa was to go out onto the streets, and to bring in the sick and the dying--with the primary vision being upon their dignity as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.  That vision and reality are truly palpable at this incredible Center where Jesus is brother to all!

Friday, September 27, 2019


Today I depart for Ethiopia in order to visit the many refugees and refugee centers in several areas of the country.

I am going with the superb staff of Catholic Relief Services [CRS] and will be posting photos and commentary during these days in Ethiopia.

As you know, immigrants and refugees hold a special place in the heart, soul, and ministry of Pope Francis.  He always encourages us to bring to people on the periphery "closeness" and "accompaniment."  I hope to do that in his name.

May God continue to inspire all of us, disciples of Jesus, to be alert for the most needy in our midst, and to reach out to them in his name.




R.I.P. Cardinal William J. Levada
September 26, 2019

Cardinal Roger Mahony

          Today we are all saddened as we learned of the sudden death of His Eminence, Cardinal William J. Levada.  He was well known to all of us here in Los Angeles, as well in the various Archdioceses in which he served, as well as his time as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith.
            Cardinal Levada was a dear friend and seminary classmate.  He joined our class at St. John’s Seminary following his graduation from St. Anthony’s High School in Long Beach, along with two other classmates from that school:  Msgr. Anthony Leuer, and Archbishop George Niederauer, both deceased.
            After finishing his seminary college courses, he was sent by Cardinal McIntyre to the North American College in Rome where he finished his theology courses.  Ordained in December 1961, he subsequently received his doctorate in Sacred Theology in Rome.
            He served on the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under the guidance of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
            He served in various roles in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, as well as the Executive Director of the California Catholic Conference.
            Cardinal Levada was the essential Churchman.  His entire life was focused upon his life with Jesus Christ, and the good of the Church in every possible realm. 
            He was named Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles in 1983, and served as the Regional Bishop in Santa Barbara.
            Then Bishop Levada and the late Bishop John Ward headed a special Task Force for me after my Installation in Los Angeles as Archbishop to develop our Regional System for the Archdiocese.  Their plan was adopted, and the five Pastoral Regions were created, along with four Deaneries in each Pastoral Region.
            In 1986 then Bishop Levada was named the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, where he served for some nine years.
            In 1995 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of San Francisco and succeeded to the See that same year.
            When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, he selected then Archbishop Levada to serve as his successor as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  He also served as the President of the International Theological Commission, and President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and later, as President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.  After being created a Cardinal in 2006, his Titular Church in Rome was Santa Maria in Domnica.
            Upon reaching the age of 76 years, he retired from all of his Vatican responsibilities.  He then remained very active giving many learned presentations in various places around the world.  He was sought after for his knowledge and vast experience in all matters theological.
            Cardinal Bill was a dear and long-time friend, and I shall miss him greatly.  Our Ordination Class of 1962 remained very close over the years, gathering at least once a year formally, and at many other times as well.  Our class was blessed to have four Bishops over the years:  Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop George Niederauer, and Bishop Tod Brown, and myself.
            We always enjoyed each other’s company and priestly fraternity, and supported each other in our priestly ministry constantly.  Our Class believed deeply in the value of priestly fraternity, and lived it out fully.
            Cardinal William Levada, the eminent Churchman, devoted his entire life to the life and well being of the Church, nationally and internationally.  There was no issue involving the Church that eluded his care and concern—theological issues, ecclesiological issues, and any issue which touched the Church across the globe in any way. 
            May God open wide his arms to embrace our beloved brother, Cardinal Bill, as he enters the fullness of life in God’s Kingdom!