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Pope Francis Names Fr. Mario Alberto Avilés as Auxiliary Bishop of Brownsville

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Fr. Mario Alberto Avilés, C.O., up until now the Procurator General of the Congregation of the Oratory, as Auxiliary Bishop of Brownsville, Texas.

The announcement was publicized in Washington on December 4 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.  

Father Aviles was born in Mexico on September 16, 1969. He joined the Congregation of the Oratory in Mexico City in 1986 and in 1988 he moved to the Pharr Oratory in Texas. He attended the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy in 1998. 

He was ordained a priest on July 21, 1998. He then earned a master of divinity degree from Holy Apostles in Cromwell, CT in 2000. Additional education includes a master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. 

Assignments after ordination include: parochial vicar, Jude Thaddeus parish in Pharr, Texas, 1998-2002; pastor, Sacred Heart parish in Hidalgo, Texas, 2002-present. 

Other responsibilities include: deputy, Confederation of the Oratory, permanent deputation, 2000-2012; director of the Oratory Academy and Oratory Athenaeum, 2005-2012; member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, 2011-present; procurator general of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, 2012-present. 

The Diocese of Brownsville comprises 4, 296 square miles. It has a total population of 1,350,158 people of which 1,147,634 or 85 percent, are Catholic. The current bishop of Brownsville is Bishop Daniel E. Flores.

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Keywords: Pope Francis, Father Mario Alberto Aviles, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Diocese of Brownsville, Congregation of the Oratory, Mexico City, bishop appointment.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Congress Must Change Fundamentally Flawed Tax Policies in Final Bill, Says U.S. Bishops Chairman

WASHINGTON— As the U.S. Senate passed its tax reform bill, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called for Congress to fix fundamentally flawed tax policies as the House of Representatives and Senate attempt to reach agreement on a final bill. 

The full statement follows:

"Today, the U.S. Senate passed its tax reform legislation, and it will now be reconciled with the House of Representatives' passed bill in an effort to reach agreement on the details of a final piece of legislation. Congress must act now to fix the fundamental flaws found in both bills, and choose the policy approaches that help individuals and families struggling within our society.

We are reviewing the final Senate bill and will soon provide analysis about key improvements that are necessary before a final agreement should be reached and moved forward. For the sake of all people—but especially those we ought, in justice, to prioritize—Congress should advance a final tax reform bill only if it meets the key moral considerations outlined in our previous letters."

The November 9 USCCB letter analyzing the House of Representatives tax reform bill can be found at:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-11-9-2017.pdf

The November 22 USCCB letter analyzing the Senate tax reform bill can be found at:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Senate-Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-2017-11-22.pdf

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, U.S. House of Representatives, tax reform proposal, comprehensive revision, tax code, moral principles, tax policy

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Chairman of International Justice and Peace and President of Catholic Relief Services Urge Continued Funding of U.S and Global HIV/AIDS Programs

WASHINGTON—On World AIDS Day, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, Chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, along with Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, urge full funding of U.S. and global HIV and AIDS programs in the FY 2019 budget request. Their position was outlined in a letter sent to the Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The letter to Director Mick Mulvaney coincides with World AIDS Day, December 1, 2017. While acknowledging that great strides have been made regarding the AIDS epidemic, the letter emphasizes that any reduction in the funding of programs could have catastrophic life-threatening implications.

In 2000, only 685,000 people had access to HIV treatment. Today, roughly 21 million people have access to anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the past six years has seen a reduction of 56 % in new infections in children in Eastern and Southern Africa and a 47 % reduction worldwide.

Archbishop Broglio said, "At a moment when we are finally witnessing great success in turning back a disease that shocked the world only a generation ago, any cuts in funding would directly result in a reduction in the number of people living with HIV who are added to treatment each year, and could trigger a resurgence in the global epidemic."

"Despite enormous gains, millions of lives still hang in the balance", says Sean Callahan. "This also extends to 16 million children who have lost one or both parents due to AIDS related illnesses, and millions more children who are vulnerable because the disease has contributed to malnutrition, cognitive delays, stunting, lack of education or poor physical or mental health."

Their letter argues that it is critical the U.S. government continue to fund the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to at least 2017 levels. "Although we have principled concerns about those PEPFAR and Global Fund prevention activities we find inconsistent with Catholic teaching and do not implement or advocate for these activities, we support the lifesaving missions of PEPFAR and the Global Fund and urge robust funding for both programs."

The full text of the letter can be found here:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/usccb-crs-letter-to-omb-director-mulvaney-re-hiv-aids-programs-2017-12-01.cfm.

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Keywords: Archbishop Timothy Broglio, Archdiocese for the U.S. Military Services. Committee on International Justice and Peace, Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services, Director Mick Mulvaney, U.S. Office of Management and Budget, U.S. global HIV/AIDS programs, Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), Eastern and Southern Africa, U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Global Fund.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking Advocate for Slave-Free Seafood Label

WASHINGTON—To commemorate the United Nations International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on December 2, 2017, the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT) is asking seafood producers, distributors and seafood retailers to make public, through packaged product labeling, their efforts to fight human trafficking in their product supply chains. According to CCOAHT, consumers are not receiving enough information needed to make moral purchasing decisions.

CCOAHT, which is facilitated by Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, consists of over 30 national and international Catholic agencies working to eliminate the plight of trafficked victims. Its pursuit of ethical consumerism seeks to echo the Vatican's commitment to "proof" its own supply chains from slave labor.

To support the request for slave-free seafood labels, CCOAHT distributed a survey to its networks, asking consumers if slave-free labeling would affect purchases. Over 2,200 people responded and the results showed that 99% of consumers want companies to take steps to engage in ethical business practices, 98% want their packaged seafood to be labeled, and 97% said labels would influence their purchasing decisions. 

"Catholics are becoming increasingly aware of the collective power they possess as consumers to press for positive change in the lives of those who catch our fish. As my CCOAHT colleagues have remarked, 'we are asking the seafood industry to do better. The companies that do will be supported by consumers'", said Hilary Chester, Director of Anti-Trafficking at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The consumer survey built upon a 2016 Lenten postcard campaign organized by CCOAHT.  Members' networks mailed 15,000 postcards to U.S. seafood retailers urging them to examine their supply chains and commit to a product free of slave labor. CCOAHT members will highlight survey data in upcoming dialogue with seafood supply chain shareholders.

For additional details about Labeling for Lent, refer to: Consumers Want the Choice to Buy Slave-Free Seafood.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Coalition of Catholic organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT), Migration and Refugee Services, Vatican,United Nations International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, seafood producers, distributors, retailers, human trafficking, product supply chains, slave labor, seafood labels, ethical business practices, Catholic consumers, Hilary Chester, Lenten Postcard Campaign, survey data.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB Offers Advent and Christmas Online Resources for Prayerful Preparation

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is offering online resources for prayerful preparation for Advent and Christmas. The daily suggestions for reading, reflection, and prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons are now available online. In addition to a clickable online Advent calendar, with each click opening "doors" to a page of suggested reading, the online page also offers daily reflections, prayers, suggested activities and bilingual calendars that can be printed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides the online Advent and Christmas resources at http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/advent/index.cfm and http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/christmas/index.cfm.

This year, in addition to the traditional bilingual calendar for Advent that can be printed out, the USCCB is also offering a second bilingual Advent calendar specifically for families, with daily suggestions for prayers and activities to do as a family in preparation for Christmas. Suggestions include creating a Jesse Tree, blessing the family Nativity, and taking time to learn about Advent traditions around the world.

Other Advent resources on the website include liturgical notes on the season, a commentary on the proper prayers of the Advent season from the Roman Missal, and prayers and blessings from the USCCB publication Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Also included are lectio divinas for the four Sundays of Advent.

For Christmas, in addition to the clickable calendar and the bilingual calendar that can be printed, there are lectio divinas for four feast days during the Christmas season—the Solemnity of Christmas; the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph; the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God; and the Solemnity of the Epiphany. The lectio divinas are also available in English and Spanish.

Advent begins on December 3 and continues until the evening of December 24 when the Christmas season begins. The Christmas season will conclude with the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 8, 2018.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, website, resources, Advent, Christmas, prayer, lectio divina, Roman Missal, reflection, families 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Jonathan Reyes, Ph.D., Named as Assistant General Secretary for Integral Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON—Jonathan J. Reyes, Ph.D., has been appointed as Assistant General Secretary for Integral Human Development for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), based in Washington D.C. In the newly established position, Dr. Reyes will become executive administrator of the Office of Government Relations while also continuing to oversee the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD), which supports the Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, the Subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Committee on Religious Liberty, and Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. 

Jonathan Reyes joined the Conference as Executive Director of JPHD in 2012. He will begin the new position effective January 1, 2018.

Msgr. Brian Bransfield, USCCB General Secretary, made the appointment.

"Jonathan is a proven administrator having worked successfully in the service of the bishops and the Conference in overseeing a broad area and numerous projects, including the 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders, the Task Force on Peace in Our Communities, the Immigration Working Group, Biblia in America, and Forming Consciences of Faithful Citizenship," said Msgr. Bransfield. "I feel confident that his extensive knowledge, experience and commitment to the Church's social mission and teachings will prove invaluable in advancing the issues impacting our most vulnerable sisters and brothers."

Prior to joining the Conference, Dr. Reyes served as President and CEO of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver from 2009-2012. During that time, he also served as Director of Social Ministry for the Archdiocese. His previous work in Denver included co-founding the Augustine Institute, where he was president from 2005-2008. The Institute is a Catholic graduate school that combines education in theology, Scripture and history with practical formation in pedagogy and leadership. From 2004-2005, he was vice president for campus ministry and leadership formation of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) in Denver. FOCUS is a team-based evangelization program aimed toward students on college campuses. 

Among his other contributions to the social mission of the Church, Reyes oversaw the creation of Regina Caeli Catholic Counseling Services and Lighthouse Women's Care Center and completed the Guadalupe Community Assistance Center in Greeley, Colorado. 

From 1998-2004, Reyes served on the staff of Christendom College, where he held senior administrative and teaching positions. 

Jonathan received a doctorate in European History from the University of Notre Dame in 2000. He received a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Michigan in 1990. He is married and has seven children.  

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Jonathan Reyes, Ph.D., Msgr. Brian Bransfield, General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary, Integral Human Development, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD), Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Subcommittee for Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Chairman of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Committee on Communications Voices Strong Support for Net Neutrality Protections

WASHINGTON—Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Communications, is urging the retention of an open internet in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission proposal unveiled last week that would repeal protections intended to keep the internet open and fair. The concept of an open internet has long been called "net neutrality," in which internet service providers neither favor nor discriminate against internet users or websites. Bishop Coyne continues to voice strong support for net neutrality protections in a statement in response to last week's proposed FCC action.

Bishop Coyne's full statement follows:

"Strong net neutrality protections are critical to the faith community to function and connect with our members, essential to protect and enhance the ability of vulnerable communities to use advanced technology, and necessary for any organization that seeks to organize, advocate for justice or bear witness in the crowded and over-commercialized media environment.

Robust internet protections are vital to enable our Archdioceses, Dioceses, and Eparchies, our parishes, schools and other institutions to communicate with each other and our members, to share religious and spiritual teachings, to promote activities online, and to engage people – particularly younger persons – in our ministries. Without open internet principles which prohibit paid prioritization, we might be forced to pay fees to ensure that our high-bandwidth content receives fair treatment on the internet.  Non-profit communities, both religious and secular, cannot afford to pay to compete with profitable commercialized content."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Christopher Coyne, Committee on Communications, Federal Communications Commission, Internet, net neutrality

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Response to Egypt Mosque Attack

WASHINGTON—— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement in response to today's bombing at a mosque in Egypt's North Sinai region. The bombing has left at least 200 dead and has injured at least 100 others.  

Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows: 

"As President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I join with my brother bishops in unequivocally condemning the monstrous terrorist attack on innocent people at prayer in Egypt. Terrorist acts can never be justified in the name of God or any political ideology, and the fact this attack took place at a Mosque, a place of worship, is especially offensive to God. The Catholic Church in the United States mourns with the people of Egypt at this time of tragedy, and assures them of our prayerful solidarity. We join with all those of good will in prayer that these acts of terror and mass killings – these acts of grave evil – will end and will be replaced with genuine and mutual respect for the dignity of each and every person."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Egypt, North Sinai, terrorist attack, grave evil, Mosque, prayerful solidarity.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Bishops’ Chairman Calls for Senate to Amend Tax Proposal to Ensure Just Moral Framework

WASHINGTON— Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, called for amendments to the Senate tax reform proposal to "ensure a just and moral framework for all."

"The Senate bill doubles the standard deduction, which will provide tax relief to many. However, the 'Chairman's Mark,' as written, will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy," wrote Bishop Dewane. "Tax breaks for the financially secure, including millionaires and billionaires, should not be made possible by increased taxes to families struggling to meet their daily needs."

According to the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), on average, taxpayers making between $10,000 and $30,000 per year will see a tax increase in 2021. Significant tax breaks to the very wealthy—including millionaires and billionaires—are projected for the same year. In 2023 and 2025, average taxes will increase for those making less than $30,000, but they will go down for those making more than $30,000. By 2027, after most individual tax cuts are set to expire, average taxes will increase for taxpayers making less than $75,000, while decreasing for those making more.

Bishop Dewane expressed support for positive aspects of the bill, including the fact that the Senate plan does not repeal the adoption tax credit or the exclusion for employer adoption assistance programs. It also recognizes children in utero by allowing contributions to a 529 savings plan before birth. However, the Bishop highlighted serious problems with the legislation which include the elimination of personal exemptions (which "places a significant burden on larger families"), and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate apart from broader health care reform.

"The Senate proposal repeals one portion of the Affordable Care Act—the individual insurance mandate—apart from a needed comprehensive approach to health care reform, one that would protect against millions of additional people becoming uninsured and fix problems that pertain to affordability, protect unborn life, conscience and immigrant access," noted Bishop Dewane. "Tax reform should not become the vehicle for a partial health care reform that fails to address significant problems in our health care system while exacerbating other difficulties."

Bishop Dewane also highlighted a November 14, 2017 Congressional Budget Office letter that stated that a deficit increase of $1.5 trillion over ten years would require spending cuts as early as 2018, if other legislation is not enacted. "These cuts will almost certainly include deep reductions to programs that help those in need," the USCCB letter said.

The full letter can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/federal-budget/upload/Senate-Tax-Cuts-and-Jobs-Act-Letter-2017-11-22.pdf.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Senate tax reform, Joint Committee on Taxation, tax increases, adoption tax credit, adoption assistance programs, Affordable Care Act, tax reform, health care reform, protection of unborn, Congressional Budget Office, spending cuts.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Migration Chairman Responds to Troubling Termination of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti; Calls on Congress to Find a Solution

WASHINGTON—On November 20, the Department of Homeland Security announced termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. TPS is a temporary, renewable, and statutorily-authorized humanitarian migration program that permits individuals to remain and work lawfully in the U.S. during a period in which it is deemed unsafe for nationals of that country to return home. There are an estimated 50,000 Haitian TPS recipients living in the U.S.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement in response:

"Yesterday's decision to terminate TPS for Haiti is deeply troubling. As discussed in our recent delegation trip report, Haiti is not yet in a position where it can safely accept return of the estimated 50,000 Haitian nationals who have received TPS. This decision will devastate many families with TPS members, including those with U.S. citizen children. It will tear individuals from their loved ones, homes, careers, and communities. It will also have direct negative consequences for many in Haiti who rely on remittances for vital support. 

Our nation has a responsibility to provide continued temporary protection until TPS holders' return and reintegration can be safely accomplished. Catholic Social Teaching recognizes a duty to not turn our backs on our neighbors in need. Scripture states: 'If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?' (1 John 3:17). Our Haitian neighbors, at home and abroad, need our compassion while their country rebuilds and recovers. Yesterday's decision ignores such needs.

The Administration has provided an 18-month period during which TPS recipients from Haiti can legally stay in the United States and prepare for their departure. While this time is appreciated, it will not remedy the protection concerns and family separation that Haitian TPS recipients will face.

Congress needs to find a legislative solution for long-term TPS recipients and enact legislation that keeps these families together.

Our prayers and continued support are with the Haitian people who have deep ties to our communities, parishes, and country. They are businesses owners, successful professionals, home owners, and parents of U.S. citizen children and most importantly, they are children of God."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Committee on Migration, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Department of Homeland Security, Haiti, migration, families, children, Catholic social teaching. 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200