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Pope Francis Names Monsignor Schlert as New Bishop of Allentown

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert as Bishop of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Monsignor Schlert is currently the diocesan administrator of the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, June 27, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Bishop-elect Schlert was born in Easton, Pennsylvania July 24, 1961. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia and the Pontifical Roman Seminary and St. John Lateran University in Rome. He received a Licentiate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University in 1992.  He was ordained a priest on September 19, 1987. 

Assignments after ordination included: assistant pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Allentown; professor at his alma mater Notre Dame High School; and Catholic chaplain at Lehigh University. He was named Vice Chancellor and Secretary to the bishop in 1997; and was named vicar general of the diocese of Allentown in 1998. 

Pope St. John Paul II named him Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor in 1999. Pope Benedict named him a Prelate of Honor, the second highest rank of Monsignor, in 2005.

While still serving as Vicar General, he was still pastor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus Church in Hellertown, 2008-2010, when he resumed full time service as vicar general. 

In addition, Bishop-elect Schlert is Vice President of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and a member of its Administrative Board.  He also served on the diocesan Council of Priests, the diocesan Financial Council, and the diocesan College of Consultors. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for DeSales University.  

The Diocese of Allentown has been a vacant see since December, 2016 when it was announced Pope Francis had transferred Allentown Bishop John O. Barres to serve as Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Center in Long Island, New York.

The Diocese comprises 2,773 square miles and it has total population of approximately 1,161,932 people of which 272,300, or 23 percent, are Catholic.

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Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Monsignor Alfred A. Schlert , Diocese of Allentown, Bishop John O. Barres, vacant see.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Judy Keane
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U.S. Bishops Conference Chairman Responds to Today’s Supreme Court Action on Travel Ban

WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Administration's Executive Order 13870 announcing an emergency stay partially overturning preliminary injunctions that were put in place by federal courts in Maryland and Hawaii and upheld by the Fourth Circuit and the Ninth Circuit.The Supreme Court decision narrows refugee resettlement and travel from six Muslim-majority countries to individuals who can prove a "bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States," until the Supreme Court can rule on the legality of the ban. 

Bishop Vasquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration issued the following statement:"

Today's decision will have human consequences. While my brother bishops and I appreciate the Court's ruling to allow individuals who have a 'bona fide relationship' with a person or entity in the United States to continue arriving,we are deeply concerned about the welfare of the many other vulnerable populations who will now not be allowed to arrive and seek protection during the proscribed pause, most notably certain individuals fleeing religious persecution and unaccompanied refugee children.

Going forward, as the Administration begins its review of the refugee program, we urge a transparent, efficient and timely review. We ask that such review include civil society and refugee service providers as well as national security and immigration experts. We believe it is vital to utilize the full expertise of the existing resettlement program when conducting such an important evaluation."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Vasquez, U.S. Supreme Court, federal court, emergency stay, refugees, family separation, values, vulnerable populations.

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MEDIA CONTACT:
Judy Keane
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U.S. Bishops Chairman Responds to CBO Report on Senate Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON—The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) today has released its score on the Senate health care bill. The score could impact how the Senate votes on the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. As he is analyzing the full report, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Domestic Justice and Humane Development Committee, has issued the following initial statement:"

Today, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the 'discussion draft' of the Senate health care proposal, indicating that millions of people could lose their health insurance over time.This moment cannot pass without comment.As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable.These are real families who need and deserve health care.We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right."

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MEDIA CONTACT
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB Chairman Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Decision Protecting Religious Liberty

WASHINGTON– Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, in which the Court held that the exclusion of churches from an otherwise available public benefit violates the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Trinity Lutheran's preschool sought to participate in the State of Missouri's scrap tire program, which would have allowed it to repave its playground with recycled tire pieces in order to provide a softer and safer playground surface for children.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, offered the following statement in response:

"Today's decision is a landmark victory for religious freedom. The Supreme Court rightly recognized that people of faith should not be discriminated against when it comes to government programs that should be made available to all. The decision also marks a step in the right direction toward limiting the effects of the pernicious Blaine Amendments that are in place in many states around the country. Blaine Amendments to state constitutions, most of which date back to the nineteenth century, stem from a time of intense anti-Catholic bigotry in many parts of the country. We are glad to see the Supreme Court move toward limiting these harmful provisions, which have restricted the freedom of faith-based organizations and people of faith to serve their communities."

The amicus curiae brief that USCCB submitted in this case: Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley.

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. Supreme Court, Archbishop William E. Lori, religious freedom, religious liberty, Trinity Lutheran, Blaine Amendments.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope Francis Nominates Auxiliary Bishop from Slovakia as Apostolic Administrator of Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Auxiliary Bishop, Milan Lach, SJ, currently Auxiliary Bishop of Prešov, Slovakia, as Apostolic Administrator of the sede vacante (vacant see) of the Epharcy of Parma for the Ruthenians. The Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma is the Catholic eparchy governing most Ruthenian Catholics in the mid-western United States. It is headquartered in Parma, Ohio.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, June 24, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Pope Francis relieved His Excellency William Skurla, Archbishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Pittsburgh, from the pastoral governance of the Eparchy of Parma.

Bishop Lach, 43, was born in Kežmarok, Slovakia in 1973. In 1992, he was admitted to the Greek-catholic seminary in Prešov and in 1995 entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Trnava, Slovakia. He continued his studies at Trnava University and also studied at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, where he obtained a master's degree from the Eastern Church Sciences and later, a doctorate degree. In 2009, he began working at the Center of Spirituality East – West of Michal Lacko in Košice, Slovakia.

He was ordained a deacon of the Society of Jesus on November 11, 2000 and was ordained a priest on July 1, 2001. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Prešov and titular bishop of Ostracine on April 19, 2013. He was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Prešov and titular bishop of Ostracine, June 1, 2013.

The Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians was erected February 21, 1969. Currently, the Eparchy of Parma encompasses the geographical area of Ohio (except the eastern border counties), Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. Byzantine Catholics living in those states are members of the local Church of Parma.

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Keywords: bishop appointment, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Auxiliary Bishop Milan Lach, SJ, Eparchy of Parma for the Ruthenians, Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ruthenian Catholics, auxiliary, Slovakia, Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.


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MEDIA CONTACT:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops Chairman Reacts to Draft Senate Health Care Bill

WASHINGTON—After the U.S. Senate introduced a "discussion draft" of its health care bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, highlighted certain positive elements in the bill, but reiterated the need for Senators to remove unacceptable flaws in the legislation that harm those most in need.

The full statement follows:

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is examining very closely the new Senate "discussion draft" introduced today and will provide more detailed comments soon.

It must be made clear now, however, that this proposal retains many of the fundamental defects of the House of Representatives-passed health care legislation, and even further compounds them. It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.

An acceptable health care system provides access to all, regardless of their means, and at all stages of life. Such a health care system must protect conscience rights, as well as extend to immigrant families.

The Bishops value language in the legislation recognizing that abortion is not health care by attempting to prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortion or plans that cover it. While questions remain about the provisions and whether they will remain in the final bill, if retained and effective this would correct a flaw in the Affordable Care Act by fully applying the longstanding and widely-supported Hyde amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill. 

However, the discussion draft introduced today retains a "per-capita cap" on Medicaid funding, and then connects yearly increases to formulas that would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.

Efforts by the Senate to provide stronger support for those living at and above the poverty line are a positive step forward. However, as is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net.

The USCCB has also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal. It fails, as well, to put in place conscience protections for all those involved in the health care system, protections which are needed more than ever in our country's health policy. The Senate should now act to make changes to the draft that will protect those persons on the peripheries of our health care system. We look forward to the process to improve this discussion draft that surely must take place in the days ahead.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, American Health Care Act (AHCA), respect for life, human dignity, health care, affordability, abortion, poverty, immigration, conscience.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB President and Bishop Chairmen Urge Department of Homeland Security to Defer Deportation of Refugees Who Have Escaped Religious Persecution

WASHINGTON—The President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston as well as the Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, John F. Kelly, urging him to defer deportation of those persons to Iraq, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, who pose no threat to U.S. public safety.

The letter has been sent to specifically address the pending deportation of dozens of Christian and Chaldean Catholics in Michigan and Tennessee.

While the bishops recognize that some of the individuals may have orders of deportation because they have committed criminal offenses in the past, they are gravely concerned that they would then be sent back to a country where religious persecution and persecution against ethnic minorities remains an ongoing threat. The letter states that "the fact that they have a significant risk in experiencing persecution, and even possible bodily harm because of their faith is, from our moral perspective, an important factor to be weighted in the calculation to deport." 

The full letter to Secretary Kelly can be found here:  https://justiceforimmigrants.org/uncategorized/1287/

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Secretary John F. Kelly, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez , Bishop Oscar Cantú, Committee on Migration, Committee on International Peace and Justice, Christians, Chaldean Catholics, deportation, legal refuge, refugees, religious persecution, ethnic minorities.

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USCCB President and Chairman of Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Respond to Terror Attack at Mosque in London

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, Massachusetts and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs have issued a joint statement in response to Sunday's attack on worshipers outside a mosque in London.

The attack occurred after a van plowed into a crowd existing a mosque after Ramadan prayers near Finsbury Park located in north London.

The full joint statement follows:

"We would like to express our deepest condolences to the people of London who once again woke to the news of a terrorist attack.  Our prayers extend especially to the community of Muslims from Finsbury Park Mosque in North London whom it appears were the intended victims of the attacker. 

Once again, in this now sad reality of regular acts of terror that are meant to destroy life and to crush hope, we remember that light has overcome darkness once and for all. Let us be united in hope and with one voice reject utterly all forms of terror and violence that seek to dissuade us from the pursuit of a culture of life and solidarity. 

The Bishops of the United States unequivocally reject such acts of violence and plead with all people to cease from committing or plotting to commit further acts.  

In this dark hour for the people of London, especially the Muslim community, please know that we stand in solidarity with you, mourning for the loss of life and praying for the victims, their families, and the entire nation." 

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, mosque attack, Muslim community, Finsbury Park, London, terror attack, culture of life, solidarity, violent extremism, peace.

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U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Chairman of International Justice and Peace Statement on Cuba Policy Changes

WASHINGTON—President Donald J. Trump recently announced modifications to existing U.S. policy towards Cuba that will impact travel by U.S. citizens to the island, as well as U.S. commercial relations with Cuban government-controlled entities.

In the following statement, Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, expressed regret at the scaling-back of U.S. engagement with Cuba, while also appreciating the President´s concern for the human rights situation on the island.

Full statement follows:

"On the eve of my pastoral visit to Cuba at the invitation of the Cuban bishops, I was saddened to learn that President Trump scaled-back our country's bilateral engagement with the island nation. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in solidarity with the bishops of Cuba and the Holy See, has long held that human rights and religious freedom will be strengthened through more engagement between the Cuban and American people, not less. For decades, we have called for the U.S. travel ban and embargo against Cuba to be lifted.

In my capacity as international chairman, I urge that as the implementing regulations are drafted the President consider the ramifications for many ordinary Cubans who have taken advantage of new opportunities to support their families. The President is correct; serious human rights concerns persist. The Cuban government must be urged to respect religious freedoms and to extend greater social, political and economic rights to all Cubans. The fruits of investment in Cuba should benefit individuals and families, and not the security forces.

Pope Francis helped our nations to come together in dialogue. It is important to continue to promote dialogue and encounter between our neighboring nations and peoples."

For more information about the Committee on International Justice and Peace regarding Cuba, please visit the following page on the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/cuba/

Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, President Donald Trump, Bishop Oscar Cantú, Cuba policy, bilateral engagement, Pope Francis, Holy See, religious freedom, human rights, economic rights, investment, security, dialogue, encounter.

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Judy Keane
202-541-3200

World Refugee Day 2017, International Day Celebrating Refugees to be held June 20

WASHINGTON—World Refugee Day 2017 will take place June 20th with celebrations noting the contributions of refugees occurring locally, nationally and globally. The international day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the global refugee situation and the success of resettled refugees.  The world is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis since World War II with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, including 21 million refugees worldwide.

"World Refugee Day is a day where we highlight the achievements of refugees.  Refugees are like all people, unique children of God," said Bill Canny, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services. "We hope to see this year's celebration of World Refugee Day create greater awareness and appreciation on both the community and national level."

As part of the 2017 World Refugee Day celebration, the USCCB will be hosting a World Refugee Day Kick – Off event at the National Press Club on Monday, June 19th, featuring Bishop Mario Dorsonville of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and Admiral Garry Hall Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for International Organizations and Alliances, ‎National Security Council. Additionally there will be two panels, one which focuses on the domestic aspects of refugee resettlement and the other which highlights the international protection needs of refugees.

This year will be the 17th year that the United Nations has officially recognized June 20th as World Refugee Day.  Many nations around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day prior to 2001, with one of the most widespread events being Africa Refugee Day, which had been celebrated on June 20.

Educational materials and other resources for World Refugee Day are available for download at https://justiceforimmigrants.org/take-action/world-refugee-day/. For more information on events in your area or to submit an event, email USCCB/MRS Communications Manager Mark Priceman (mpriceman@usccb.org).

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe Vazquez, Committee on Migration, refugees, migrants, immigrants, human trafficking, National Migration Week

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