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Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Bishop Stephen Blair of Stockton; Names Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta as Successor

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, 75, from the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Stockton, California, and has named Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta as his successor, up until now the Auxiliary Bishop of Sacramento. 

The resignation and appointment were publicized in Washington, January 23, 2018, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. 

Bishop Myron Joseph Cotta was born on March 21, 1953 in Dos Palos, California. He attended St. John's Seminary in Camarillo, 1980-1987, receiving a bachelor's degree and master of divinity degree. 

He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Fresno, California, on September 12, 1987. Parish assignments included: Parochial vicar, St. Anthony, Atwater (1987-1989); administrator of the Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Laton (1989-1992); and pastor of Our Lady of Miracles, Gustine (1994); as well as administrator, Holy Rosary Parish, Hilmar (1994). 

Since 1996, he has served on the board of trustees, priest's retirement board and personnel board. Since 1999, his duties have included vicar general, moderator of the curia, board of consultors, vicar of clergy, director of continuing formation of the clergy, director of the Propagation of the Faith, director of pastoral support of the priests sensitive claims board, member of the diocesan finance council, and supervisor of the safe environment program. 

He was named a chaplain to his holiness (monsignor) in 2002 and a prelate of honor in 2009. Upon the death of Bishop John Steinbock of Fresno on Dec. 5, 2010, Bishop Cotta was elected by the Diocesan College of Consultors as the Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Fresno. He served as administrator from Dec. 7, 2010 until Feb. 1, 2012, when Bishop Armando Ochoa assumed leadership of the Diocese of Fresno. 

On January 24, 2014 Pope Francis appointed Cotta as the fifth Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento, and he was ordained a bishop on March 25, 2014. 

Bishop Stephen Blaire was born December 22, 1941, in Los Angeles, California. He graduated from St. John's Seminary in Camarillo in 1967, where he earned a master's in Theology. He also has graduate degrees in Education and Secondary School Administration. 

He was ordained to the priesthood on April 29, 1967 for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

Assignments after ordination included: associate pastor, St. Luke's Church, 1967-1972; teacher/administrator, Alemany High School, 1972-1976; Vice Principal, Bishop Amat High School, 1976-1977; principal, Bishop Alemany High School, 1977-1986; Moderator of the Curia/Chancellor, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 1986-1994; vicar general, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 1990-1996. 

On May 31, 1990, he ordained as Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles and Titular Bishop of Lamzella by Cardinal Roger Mahony. On January 19, 1999, he was appointed Bishop of Stockton by Pope John Paul II and was installed as the fifth Bishop of Stockton March 16, 1999 at the Cathedral of the Annunciation. 

As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishops Blaire has served as the chairman of the Pastoral Practices Committee and as a member of the Committee for Ecu-menical and Interreligious Affairs. Bishop Blaire has also served locally as president of the Cali-fornia Catholic Conference. In 2009, he was elected chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice, Peace and Human Development. 

The Diocese of Stockton is comprised of 9,938 square miles in the state of California and has a total population of 1,376,940 of which 298,061 or 22 percent, are Catholic. 

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Diocese of Stockton, Diocese of Sacramento

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Catholic Bishops’ Pro-Life Chairman Praises House for Passing Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, thanked and praised the House of Representatives for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act today with a bi-partisan vote of 241-183.

"As Chairman of the United States Bishops' Committee, I offer gratitude and praise to the House of Representatives for passing the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (H.R. 4712). This common-sense legislation offers a simple and widely supported proposition: a child born alive following an abortion should receive the same degree of care to preserve her life and health as would be given to any other child born alive at the same gestational age. I call on the Senate to pass this bill as well and ensure that the lethal mentality of Roe does not claim new victims – vulnerable human beings struggling for their lives outside the womb."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protections Act, House of Representatives, abortion, preservation of life and health, vulnerable human beings

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Bishops’ Conferences Look to Youth to Bring Hope for a Better Future in the Holy Land

WASHINGTON—Noting the deteriorating prospects for peace in the Holy Land, representatives of bishops' conferences from several countries, including the United States, acknowledged the struggle of the young people they met but called them the "hope for a better future."

The bishops made their annual solidarity visit to the Holy Land January 13 – 18, 2018. They visited Gaza, met with school children there and in the West Bank and in Israel as well as with students at Hebrew University and Bethlehem University. They also visited l'Arche in Bethlehem and a home of the elderly in Beit Emmaus.

In a communique issued at the end of their visit, the bishops cited the many challenges (unemployment, discrimination, and lack of opportunity) faced by youth, particularly those living in the West Bank and Gaza. But in their discussions with Israeli youth, the bishops found that many shared with their Palestinian counterparts the "same aspirations for peaceful coexistence."  

For the bishops, it was clear that it is the youth from West Bank, Gaza and Israel who are resilient and courageous in keeping alive the hope for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops along with bishops from other nations on this solidarity visit have long decried violence as a way to resolve conflict but instead strongly supported a two-state solution in which a secure Israel coexists with a viable and independent Palestinian state.

The bishops called on communities in their respective countries to act in solidarity with youth who have an essential role in promoting peace through actions such as prayer, and supporting programs that create jobs, provide housing and foster dialogue.

The Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land has met every January since 1998 to pray and act in solidarity with the Christian community in the Holy Land. Bishops representing Europe, North America, and South Africa participated in this visit.

The bishops' statement is available at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/israel-palestine/holy-land-coordination-communique-january-2018.cfm

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Holy Land, Gaza, West Bank, Israel, Bethlehem, L'Arche, Beit Emmaus, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, youth, violence, independent Palestinian state, dialogue

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane 
202-541-3200


Chairmen Applaud New HHS Initiatives on Conscience and Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, chair of the USCCB's Committee for Religious Liberty, offered the following joint statement in response to the creation of a new Division on Conscience and Religious Freedom within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and other related administrative actions:

"We applaud HHS for its significant actions to protect conscience rights and religious freedom. For more than forty years—dating back to the Church amendment of 1973—Congress has enacted federal laws protecting rights of conscience in health care. We are grateful that HHS is taking seriously its charge to protect these fundamental civil rights through formation of a new division dedicated to protecting conscience rights and religious freedom. For too long, we have seen medical professionals, including pro-life nurses like Cathy DeCarlo, who have been coerced by their employers into participating in abortion. And we have seen states like California, New York, and Oregon demand that even religious organizations cover elective abortions in their health plans. These violations of federal law require a remedy from HHS. 

We are pleased to see HHS's proposed regulation to enforce civil rights laws to protect Americans involved in HHS-funded programs, and we look forward to filing more detailed public comments on this proposal.  We also appreciate the Administration's action to rescind a 2016 guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that required states to provide Medicaid funding to family planning providers like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions.

Conscience protection should not be subject to political whims, however. Permanent legislative relief is essential. We urge Congress to pass the Conscience Protection Act in order to give victims of discrimination the ability to defend their rights in court. No one should be forced to violate their deeply held convictions about the sanctity of human life."

A list of current federal laws protecting conscience rights can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/conscience-protection/upload/Federal-Conscience-Laws.pdf

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Keywords: Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, HHS, conscience, religious freedom, religious liberty

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Cardinal Dolan Invites Nationwide Participation in '9 Days for Life' Prayer, Action Campaign

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, is inviting Catholics and others to join the nationwide 9 Days for Life campaign.

"We bring many needs to God this month, including care for displaced persons, racial harmony, Christian unity, and the protection of all human life," Cardinal Dolan said. "I invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to join me and my brother bishops in 9 Days for Life from Thursday, January 18 through Friday, January 26. Our prayers matter. Every prayer matters, and if you can't start at the beginning, jump in when you can!"

9 Days for Life is the U.S. bishops' annual, pro-life prayer and action campaign surrounding the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decisions legalizing abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

The overarching intention of the centerpiece novena is the end to abortion, and each day treats a different aspect of respecting the dignity of the human person—from the beginning of life to its natural end. This year, as part of the "Share the Journey" campaign supporting displaced persons, one day addresses human trafficking, something migrants and refugees are particularly at risk of suffering.

By responding to the U.S. bishops' invitation, participants can make a "digital pilgrimage." Joining tens of thousands nationwide, they can build a culture of life through prayer and action, and share their experiences on social media with the hashtags #9DaysforLife and #OurPrayersMatter. There's also a Facebook frame participants can use on their profile picture to show their support for life.

The website, www.9daysforlife.com, features a video with Cardinal Dolan calling the campaign "a great way to put our faith into action." The site offers a print version of the novena, as well as four ways to automatically receive the daily prayers, reflections, and suggested actions in either English or Spanish: free "9 Days for Life" mobile app (with customizable reminders), email, text message, and a Facebook event.

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Keywords: USCCB, Catholic, U.S. bishops, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Roe v. Wade, abortion, anniversary, Pro-Life, Prolife, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, 9 Days for Life, People of Life, #9daysforlife, #OurPrayersMatter, Share the Journey, migrants, refugees, human trafficking, "digital pilgrimage", prayer, novena

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Media contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Emphasize Human Beings All Made in the Likeness of God

The following statement has been issued by James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), emphasizing the USCCB position that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore deserving of our respect and compassion.

Full statement follows:

"Reports of recent disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti have aroused great concern. As our brothers and sisters from these countries are primarily people of color, these alleged remarks are especially disturbing. All human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, and comments that denigrate nations and peoples violate that fundamental truth and cause real pain to our neighbors. It is regrettable that this comes on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and could distract from the urgent bipartisan effort to help Dreamers and those with Temporary Protected Status. As a vigorous debate continues over the future of immigration, we must always be sure to avoid language that can dehumanize our brothers and sisters."

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Keyword: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; USCCB; Chief Communications Officer; James Rogers; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; Temporary Protected Status; TPS; Dreamers; Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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Media contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

 

National Prayer Vigil for Life in Nation’s Capital, January 18-19; Plenary Indulgence May be Obtained by Those Taking Part in “Sacred Celebrations” Surrounding March for Life

WASHINGTON—The National Prayer Vigil for Life will be held from Thursday afternoon, January 18 to Friday morning, January 19, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Over 20,000 pilgrims from around the nation will pray there for an end to abortion before the annual March for Life. The Vigil marks the 45th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy. Since those decisions, over 58 million abortions have been performed legally in the United States.

The principal celebrant and homilist at the Vigil Opening Mass will be Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities. His fellow cardinals and many of the nation's bishops and priests will concelebrate with him in the Basilica's Great Upper Church from 5:30-7:30 p.m. The Vigil continues overnight in the Crypt Church with confessions, a National Rosary for Life, Byzantine Rite Night Prayer, and Holy Hours led by seminarians from across the country from 11 p.m.- 6 a.m.

"This year, pilgrims have been given a special spiritual gift. A plenary indulgence may be obtained under the usual conditions by participating in the National Prayer Vigil for Life or the other sacred celebrations surrounding the March for Life," said Deirdre McQuade, assistant director for pro-life communications at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

For those seeking Sacramental Reconciliation while on site, confessions will be heard in the Our Lady of Hostyn Chapel of the Crypt Church over the course of nine hours before and after the Opening Mass. See www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events/national-prayer-vigil-for-life-schedule.cfm for additional details.

"We also invite all the faithful nationwide to be in solidarity with the bishops during their annual pro-life novena, 9 Days for Life, from January 18-26," McQuade continued. "May our prayers, combined with acts of love, help build a culture that cherishes every human life."

On the day of the March for Life, Friday, January 19, the Basilica will once again host Eucharistic Adoration in the Crypt Church at 6:00 a.m., with Morning Prayer/Benediction following at 6:30. The Vigil's Closing Mass will take place at 7:30 a.m. in the Great Upper Church, with Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas as principal celebrant and homilist.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life is co-sponsored by the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and The Catholic University of America.

Media are welcome to attend the Opening Mass and interview pilgrims throughout the 14-hour Vigil.

Media should check in at the Basilica's Great Upper Church sacristy and present press credentials to Jacquelyn Hayes or a designated Basilica press representative to receive a press pass. Advance registration is preferred. Footage from the Mass may also be obtained by satellite feed courtesy of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). For coordinates, or to register, contact Jacquelyn Hayes, director of communications for the Basilica, at 202-281-0615 or jmh@bnsic.org.

For more details on the overnight National Prayer Vigil for Life and some of the other pro-life events in the Washington, DC area, visit www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/january-roe-events. To join -- and help spread the word about -- 9 Days for Life, visit www.9daysforlife.com.

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Keywords: National Prayer Vigil for Life, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, abortion, Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, U.S. Supreme Court, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop Burns, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Secretariat, The Catholic University of America, cardinals, bishops, seminarians, Byzantine rite, rosary, adoration, benediction, 9 Days for Life, prayer, #9daysforlife, #ourprayersmatter, March for Life, #whywemarch, #marchforlife2018, #lovesaveslives, Project Rachel, post-abortion healing, hopeafterabortion.com, plenary indulgence

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane

202-541-3200

USCCB Chairman Expresses Support for Finding a Legislative Solution for Dreamers; Ready to Work with Congress and White House

WASHINGTON—On Jan 9th, congressional members met at the White House with President Trump to discuss immigration reform. In response to this important bipartisan meeting, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the Committee on Migration (USCCB/COM), issued the following statement:

"We are encouraged by the consensus that emerged from yesterday's White House meeting that Congress and the President should move expeditiously to craft and enact legislation that would provide urgently needed relief for Dreamers. For years, these young people have been living in and enriching the United States in many ways. They are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes and communities. They and their families deserve certainty, compassion, generosity, and justice.

We also are pleased to see the mutual understanding that ensuring protection for these young people should be the first step in the systematic reform of our outdated immigration laws. We believe in measures that improve the security of our nation. Our teaching acknowledges and respects the right of sovereign nations to control their borders. Such measures should be financially sound, effective, and should not harm the vulnerable. However, we caution against introducing unrelated, unnecessary, or controversial elements of immigration policy—especially those that jeopardize the sanctity of families or unaccompanied children—into the bipartisan search for a just and humane solution for the Dreamers.

As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to Dreamers. These young people have steadfastly worked to improve themselves and our country and attempted in good faith to comply with the law as it stood. Their futures hang in the balance. We stand ready to work with the President and with Congress in the coming days to help fashion a just solution that meets their needs, ensures our nation's safety and security, and sets the stage for the larger debate on immigration reform that is so urgently and desperately needed."

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; USCCB; United States Congress; Homeland Security; Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez; Committee on Migration; Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; DACA; Dreamers; legal status; youth; deportation; immigration; border security; legislative solution.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane

202-541-3200

 

U.S. Catholics Prepare for Bishops’ Launch of “9 Days for Life” Respect Life Campaign on January 18th

WASHINGTON—On January 18, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will launch the national "9 Days for Life" campaign calling Catholics and the faithful together for a 9-day "digital pilgrimage" focusing on cherishing the gift of human life from conception to natural death. The campaign surrounds the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, which occurs on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States. The overarching intention of the centerpiece novena is the end to abortion, and each day highlights a different intention related to respect for human life: end of life care, human trafficking, healing after abortion, the death penalty, and more. Participants are called to both prayer and action unified around each day's specific intention and can subscribe to receive daily messages at www.9daysforlife.com. Leaders' resources, including a press kit, are available at www.usccb.org/9-days-for-life-toolkit.

WHO: The U.S. bishops are calling Catholics, parishes, schools, organizations, and all people of good will to participate in the nationwide "9 Days for Life" campaign. Through our unified prayer and action, we can help create a culture that cherishes the gift of every human life.

WHEN
: "9 Days for Life" will run from Thursday, January 18 – Friday, January 26, 2018.

WHAT
: 9daysforlife.com is the dedicated website for joining the novena and for accessing resources to share and go deeper into this "digital pilgrimage." Participants can receive the novena by downloading the free "9 Days for Life" app, or by subscribing to daily emails or text messages. (A printable version is also available online.) Those who join the campaign are invited to:

  1. Pray with a multi-faceted novena that includes a new intention, brief reflection, bonus information, and suggested actions each day.
  2. Gather in prayer and fellowship with others. (Suggestions are provided.)
  3. Share a culture of life online! #OurPrayersMatter #9DaysforLife

WHERE: For additional information and updates on ways to get involved, please visit 9daysforlife.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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About the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is an assembly of the hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States. The purpose of the Conference is to promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place. This purpose is drawn from the universal law of the Church and applies to the episcopal conferences which are established all over the world for the same purpose. For more information, visit www.usccb.org and www.usccb.org/prolife. Follow the USCCB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, 9 Days for Life, Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children, Roe v. Wade, culture of life, end of life care, human trafficking, healing after abortion, Project Rachel, death penalty, pro-life, novena, prayer, abortion, #OurPrayersMatter, #9DaysforLife

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB President Calls for Courage and Commitment on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

WASHINGTON— The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, has issued the following statement in relation to the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Cardinal DiNardo's full statement follows:

"In recent years—including last summer in Charlottesville—we have glimpsed an appalling truth that lurks beneath the surface of our culture. Even with all the progress our country has made on the issue, racism remains a living reality. As our nation celebrates the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we are given an important time to recommit ourselves to the Gospel message he preached, that the sin of racism can be defeated by active love and the light of faith.

Our challenge is to bring Dr. King's message into the present moment in a way that inspires lasting change. In a pivotal 1958 essay, he wrote that: 'Along the way of life, someone must have the sense enough and the morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethics of love to the center of our lives.'

Breaking the chain of hate requires both courage and commitment. Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, a Franciscan Sister of Mary and the first African-American sister to march with Dr. King in Selma, exemplified these qualities. She told those gathered that: 'I'm here because I'm a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness.' Sister Antona passed away on November 11 last year at the age of 93. She remained a bold and dedicated champion of civil rights throughout her lifetime, and her witness should inspire our own.

We pray in confidence that Jesus Christ will remind us all that he is the most powerful means to break the chains of hate that still bind too many hearts, a truth which lies at the center of Dr. King's legacy."

USCCB racism resources and information about the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/racism/

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Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., observance, Charlottesville, racism, Sr. Mary Antona Ebo, Selma, civil rights 

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200