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Pope Francis names Italian-born Somascan priest an auxiliary bishop in Texas

Bishop-elect Italo Dell’Oro, C.R.S. / Screenshot from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s YouTube channel.

CNA Staff, May 18, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Tuesday named an Italian-born Somascan priest as an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

The pope appointed Fr. Italo Dell’Oro, C.R.S., on May 18 to the post in the archdiocese that serves more than 1.7 million Catholics in 146 parishes across 10 counties in southeastern Texas.

The 67-year-old bishop-elect was born in 1953 in Malgrate, northern Italy. Growing up in the town of Valmadrera, situated on Lake Como, he was a keen rock climber and mountaineer.

When he arrived in Texas in 1992 to serve as pastor of Assumption Church in Houston, he hoped to continue his high-altitude adventures, unaware of the local geography.

“When I came to Houston I started looking for mountains, excited to have found near Assumption Church the street named ‘W. Mount Houston,’” he told the Texas Catholic Herald in 2015.

“I followed it and found myself in the subdivision Hidden Valley. So I took up jogging, which I still try to do.”

Dell’Oro felt a calling to the priesthood at age 15, which he said “grew to an unbearable level” in his early 20s.

He grew up six miles from Somasca, where in the 16th century St. Jerome Emiliani founded the community that would become known as the Somascan Fathers. A friend who had joined the religious congregation dedicated to the service of the poor, orphans, and abandoned youth persuaded Dell’Oro to follow in his footsteps in 1976.

Dell’Oro attended the Somascan Novitiate and Theologate in Rome, making his first profession in 1978 and his solemn profession in 1981. He was ordained to the priesthood in Como a year later.

He gained a baccalaureate in sacred theology from the University of St. Anselmo in Rome in 1982. He then served as a priest assistant at Pine Haven Boys Center in Allenstown, New Hampshire, from 1985 to 1992, also earning a master’s degree in counseling and psychotherapy from Rivier University in Nashua.

After his 1992 move to Houston, the priest served at Assumption Church until 2000, when he became dean of the Northeast Deanery in Houston.

He was then vocations director at the Somascan Fathers House of Formation from 2001 to 2005 before serving as archdiocesan director of ministry to priests until 2015.

Dell’Oro, who is fluent in English, Italian, and Spanish, was named vicar for clergy and secretariat director for clergy formation and chaplain services in 2015 and episcopal vicar for marriage affairs in 2016.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is led by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, 71, with the assistance of 75-year-old Auxiliary Bishop George Sheltz. The archdiocese, which dates back to 1847, covers 8,800 square miles, comprising the counties of Austin, Brazoria, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Montgomery, San Jacinto, Walker, and Waller.

Dell’Oro told the Texas Catholic Herald that his youthful interest in mountaineering and rock climbing had given way to hobbies such as reading novels by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Tom Clancy, listening to Bach, Beethoven, and Vivaldi, and watching movies, including the series of action thriller films featuring CIA assassin Jason Bourne.

Israel-Gaza conflict: Patriarch Pizzaballa asks Catholics to pray for peace and justice

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa blesses the congregation at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on April 4, 2021. / Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

CNA Staff, May 18, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa has urged Catholics worldwide to pray for “peace and justice” as violence racks the Holy Land.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem issued the appeal for prayers May 18 as the death toll mounts in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

He told EWTN News: “It is important that all the Church will join the mother Church of Jerusalem in the prayer of intercession for peace and justice in the Holy Land.”

“Every Christian in any part of the world is spiritually born here, because our faith is rooted here, in this Land. For that reason, the suffering in the Holy Land is painful in the whole Church.”

“All together, therefore, as one body, we should be committed to raise our prayer to the Lord, our Father, for all His children of the Holy Land.”

The 56-year-old Church leader, who was appointed Latin Patriarch in October, also issued a reflection on the causes of the current conflict, which has claimed more than 200 lives.

Pizzaballa said that the fighting was just the latest eruption in a cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time and I fear not even the last in which we will have to deal with these explosions of violence and war in the Holy Land,” he commented.

“These outbreaks of violence will only leave more rubble, deaths, animosities, and feelings of hatred, but they will bring no solution. We will see mutual accusations on the use of power, probably we will resort to international courts, accusing each other, but in the end, everything will be as before, until the next crisis.”

He continued: “Until we decide to really face the problems that have afflicted these countries and these peoples for decades, in fact, I fear that we will be forced to witness more violence and other grief.”

The crisis began on May 6 with Palestinian protests against an upcoming ruling by the Supreme Court of Israel on the eviction of six Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The protests led to clashes with Israeli police.

Palestinian militant groups then fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel, prompting airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces.

Pizzaballa said: “Jerusalem is the heart of the problem and this time it was the spark that ignited the country. As is well known, it all started with the well-known question of Sheikh Jarrah, which has been presented as a legal question.”

Referring to a May 10 statement by the Latin Patriarchate, he said: “However, as we have already reiterated in our previous declaration, it is also evidently a political decision of further expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.”

“It is a decision which changes the already many times broken balance between the two parts of the city and this creates tensions and suffering.”

“This crisis, however, indicates that this methodology does not work and that no solution on Jerusalem can be imposed. The solution can only be the result of the dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, who will both have to make their own the open, multi-religious and multicultural vocation of the city.”

The leader of Latin Catholics in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus said that this principle applied not only to Jerusalem but also to the wider Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

He said: “The Palestinian people have been waiting for years for a dignified solution, a serene and peaceful future, in their land, in their country. For them, however, there seems to be no place in the world and, before being able to live with dignity at home, they are continually invited by the various chancelleries to await an unknown and continually postponed future.”

Pizzaballa, a Franciscan friar who served as apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate from 2016 to 2020, suggested that the international media had not given adequate coverage to another “worrying” development: intercommunal violence between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israeli cities.

He said: “We have witnessed violence, organized patrols, lynching attempts on both sides, Jews and Arabs ... an explosion of hatred and rejection of the other that probably had been brewing for some time and that has now emerged violently and has found everyone unprepared and frightened.”

He argued that the clashes resulted from years of “violent political language” that had driven an “ever-deeper” wedge between the two peoples.

“It will take a long time to rebuild these deeply wounded relationships. We will have to work with the many people, of all faiths, who still believe in a future together and are committed to it. They are a lot. But they need support, someone who can bring their voice to the whole world,” he said.

“We will have to start rebuilding the relationships between all of us all over again, and in this sense, it will be a priority to start from the painful discovery of these days, that is, from the hatred that harbored above all in the hearts of young people.”

“We must not cultivate or allow feelings of hatred to develop. We must make sure that no one, whether Jewish or Arab, feels rejected.”

Speaking after his Regina Coeli address on May 16, Pope Francis called for an end to the violence.

“In these days, violent armed clashes between the Gaza Strip and Israel have gained the upper hand, risk degenerating into a spiral of death and destruction,” he said.

“Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them are even children, and this is terrible and unacceptable.”

On May 17, the pope discussed the conflict with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Pizzaballa, who was born in northern Italy, said that community leaders would need to be clearer in denouncing divisive actions.

“We cannot be any more satisfied with interreligious peace meetings, thinking that with those initiatives we have solved the problem of coexistence among us,” he observed.

“But we will really have to commit ourselves so that in our schools, in our institutions, in the media, in politics, in places of worship, the name of God, of brother and of life partner, resonates.”

“We will have to learn to be more attentive to the language we use and become aware that the reconstruction of a serious model of relations between us will require a long time, patience, and courage.”

“We will need a new alliance, between people of goodwill who, regardless of faith, identity, and political vision, feel the other as part of themselves and wish to commit themselves to live with this conscience.”

He added that before the outbreak of violence world leaders had appeared to have “forgotten” the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. He called for it to be placed at the top of the international agenda.

“The wound was only covered, hidden, but never healed,” he said.

Citing John 14:27, he concluded: “I invite you to pray for the Church of Jerusalem, so that it may be a Church that goes beyond closed walls and doors; that she believes, announces, builds peace, but ‘not as the world gives it.’”

“The Church will have to build the peace which is the fruit of the Spirit, who gives life and trust, always anew, without ever getting tired.”

Laudato Si’ Week: Indonesian churches warn of looming eco-disaster

As the Church celebrates Laudato Si’ Week, Churches in Indonesia are warning that deforestation around Lake Toba could lead to an environmental disaster.

Caritas Internationalis launches appeal for Gaza

Caritas Internationalis launches an urgent appeal to bring medical assistance to the population affected by the current bombardment of Gaza.

Vatican offers guidelines for diocesan WYD celebrations

The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life presents guidelines for World Youth Day celebrations in particular churches as a resource to be creative in planning and implementing initiatives which show that the Church considers its mission with young people to be a pastoral priority.

New Auxiliary Bishop for Galveston-Houston in US

Pope Francis appoints the Rev. Italo Dell’Oro, C.R.S. as auxiliary bishop of Galveston-Houston in the United States.

Native American Catholics focus of Knights of Columbus documentary

Black Elk, daughter Lucy Black Elk and wife Anna Brings White. Public Domain.

Hartford, Conn., May 17, 2021 / 19:01 pm (CNA).

The historical and contemporary witness of Native American Catholics are the subject of a Knights of Columbus-produced documentary set for broadcast in upcoming weeks.


“It is impossible to fully understand what it means to be a Catholic in North America without a sincere appreciation for the Catholic tradition among so many native tribes,” the Knights of Columbus website said. “Few people realize that Indigenous communities throughout the continent were sincerely practicing their faith centuries before the founding of the United States.”


The Catholic fraternal organization characterized the documentary as offering “a missing piece to the greater story of Catholicism in America.” It combines the history of Native American Catholics and their continuing contributions, with commentary from present-day Native Americans and other Catholic leaders.


Among those who speak in the documentary is Deacon Andrew Orosco, who on his father’s side is descended from the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians of the Ipai clan of Kumeyaay. Their traditional lands are in what is now the San Diego area.


“Christ reveals himself through the beauty of each and every one of our cultures,” said Orosco, a Catholic deacon of the San Diego diocese. “We are vibrant. We are alive. We are still here. And our voices need to be heard.”


The documentary, “Enduring Faith: The Story of Native American Catholicism,” will air on ABC TV affiliates as part of a partnership with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission. Broadcasts first began in some localities on May 16 and will generally air on Sundays.


A trailer and broadcast schedule are available at the Knights of Columbus website.


“The history and deeply ingrained traditions of Native American Catholics demonstrate how Christ reveals himself through the uniqueness of every culture,” Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly said May 13. “Our hope is that this film will inspire a greater appreciation of the faithful witness of Native American Catholics.”


Father Henry Sands, executive director of the Black and Indian Mission Office, is another commentator for the documentary. Sands, a priest of the Detroit archdiocese, belongs to three tribes: Ojibway, Odawa, and Potawatomi. He is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of the Odawa Indians in Michigan. His organization, the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, was founded in 1874 to serve Native American Catholics and to act as their advocate with the federal government.


“We know that there is a lot of negative history in the interaction between the native people and the peoples who came from Europe,” he said. “At the same time, one of the positive things that took place is that the gospel did come to the people of the Americas. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been thriving among native peoples since it was first brought here.”


The Knights of Columbus said they aim for the documentary to “inspire in viewers a deeper appreciation for the spiritual and cultural gifts of Native American Catholics, a greater awareness of the wrongs inflicted upon them by the unjust policies of the British and American governments, and a sense of hope at how Native American Catholics continue to live out their faith in fully enculturated ways today.”


The documentary covers history like the 1531 apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, an Aztec native. The miraculous Marian image which appeared on his tilma portrays the Virgin Mary as an indigenous woman wearing native dress. The apparition and image led to the mass conversions of many Native American communities to Catholic Christianity.


Then there is the story of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was born in 1656 in a Mohawk village in part of the Iroquois confederacy, the area that is now upstate New York and southern Canada. She converted to Catholicism at age 19 and sought to live a life of holiness and virtue, despite obstacles and opposition within her tribe. She died at age 24. She was canonized by Benedict XVI in 2012, the first Native American to be declared a saint.


Nicholas Black Elk, a convert to Catholic Christianity, was born sometime between 1858 and 1866. He was a prominent Lakota medicine man who was present at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 and wounded at the Wounded Knee Massacre. He joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, which toured Europe, including a performance before Queen Victoria.


He became a catechist in 1907, chosen for his enthusiasm and his excellent memory for learning Scripture and Church teaching. His work brought over 400 people into the Catholic Church. He was one of the signatories of the cause of canonization for St. Kateri Tekakwitha. He died Aug. 19, 1950 in Pine Ridge, S.D.


“Our faith is deep. Our faith is long-standing. And that story needs to be told, if you’re going to tell the story of Catholicism in the Americas,” said Patrick Mason, Supreme Secretary of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Osage Nation. “But more importantly, that faith needs to be shared, and people need to know that we are here, and we’re here to share our faith with you.”


Carl Anderson, past Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, discussed the need to learn from Native Americans. He said there is “a need for reconciliation with Native Americans” and this need is “often hidden from many Americans by the fact that so many native communities are isolated.”


“We need to get to know each other better,” he said.


The documentary is part of the Knights of Columbus’ Native Solidarity Initiative, announced in 2019. The initiative began as a partnership between the Catholic organization, the Diocese of Gallup, and the Gallup-based Southwest Indian Foundation to build a shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha in the southwest U.S.


The Knights of Columbus noted their outreach to native and indigenous communities in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Hawaii during the coronavirus epidemic. The organization is collaborating with the Black and Indian Mission Office and the native-run Life is Sacred nonprofit.


The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic men’s fraternal organization, has over 2 million members in over 16,000 councils worldwide.

Laudato si’ inspired bakers offer special outreach

Since 2018, the Laudato si' Community of Stupinigi has been engaged in activities and concrete outreach following the principles of Pope Francis' Encyclical on care for our common home. In recent years, about thirty volunteers of all ages have organized community lunches for families dealing with housing and financial emergencies. Despite the crisis triggered by the pandemic, they have continued their outreach through a community bakery, kneading flour from ancient grains produced locally and baking bread for those in need.

The Pharaohs at the Papal Court

A place where statues, sarcophagi and paintings speak of the ancient Egyptian civilization, of the land where the Exodus began and that offered safe haven for the Holy Family. A visit to the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, a vital reference point for scientific and comparative research, offers the opportunity to relive the excitement of the age of the Pharaohs.

Dioceses begin easing masking, social distancing restrictions 

lev radin/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., May 17, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

Some Catholic dioceses have begun updating their COVID protocols for public Masses, as federal public health officials have introduced new guidance. 

The new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), issued on May 13, states that fully vaccinated people “can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” 

The guidance specifies that a person is considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two weeks after receiving the second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 

On the same day the CDC published its new guidance, the Catholic Conference of Ohio announced that it would lift its general dispensation from the Sunday obligation on the weekend of June 5. 

Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, except for grave reasons. Bishops throughout the United States granted general dispensations from the obligation during the pandemic, but some dioceses began lifting the dispensation beginning in August 2020.

People who have significant risk factors or are ill will still be exempt from the obligation to attend Sunday mass, the Ohio Catholic Conference clarified.  

“The obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days is not something God asks of us out of his own necessity to be worshipped, but rather a gift to the faithful for their spiritual well-being, eternal salvation and formation in our relationship with God and one another,” the state’s bishops wrote in a joint letter

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati will also lift its own mask mandate at churches as of June 2, the day the state of Ohio’s updated mask guidance goes into effect. Other dioceses in the state indicated they would likewise follow the state’s mask recommendations.  

Meanwhile, the Diocese of Pittsburgh announced last week that as of May 31 it would no longer require masks for the fully vaccinated, in accordance with Pennsylvania state guidance. The diocese added that to accommodate people who are not yet vaccinated, it would encourage churches to have a section where masks and social distancing are maintained.  

Bishop David Zubik said in a statement that “as we have seen at several points throughout this pandemic, health guidance and directives can change rapidly.” 

“I continue to express my gratitude for the flexibility of the faithful, and the hard work of our clergy and their parish teams in implementing the changing directives into our parishes,” Bishop Zubik said. “Our loving Lord has seen us through our masks and is here with and for us during this next transition.”

The Diocese of Charlotte, citing state guidance from North Carolina, also announced on May 14 that it would ease its COVID protocols, lifting “mask and social distancing requirements in most circumstances, effective immediately.” 

The diocese will also reinstate its general obligation to attend mass as of Sunday, May 23, with exceptions remaining in place for the ill or vulnerable. The diocese additionally specified that it will not reinstate the Sign of Peace at this time.