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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 

MEDIA ADVISORY: U.S. Bishops Mark Nov. 26 as Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians

WASHINGTON—The USCCB in collaboration with the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and Aid to the Church in Need announce the observance this Sunday, November 26, as A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. The Day of Prayer also initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs from November 26-December 3. The Day of Prayer on the Solemnity of Christ the King, is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers.  

"On the solemnity of Christ the King, I ask that the entire church in the United States come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering," says Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during his annual address to bishops. In a statement to bishops, the cardinal added, "To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others. Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."

To support the observance of the Day of Prayer and Week of Awareness, a wide array of resources are available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries. One of those resources is the Executive Summary of "Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians Oppressed for their Faith 2015-2017". The report was made available to all bishops during the November Plenary Assembly, courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need.  Electronic copies of the report are now available at www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians.

Additional resources on the site include:

  • Action Alert: Help Persecuted Christians/Religious Minorities in the Middle East
  • Homily Notes
  • Intercessions
  • Recommended Aid Agencies
  • Background on Catholic Churches in the Middle East
  • Background on Christians of the Middle East
  • Education Materials
  • Video: Religious Freedom and Christians in the Middle East
  • Logos for Local use (English and Spanish)

For social media, we are using the hashtag: #SolidarityInSuffering

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), Aid to the Church in Need, Day of Prayer, persecuted Christians, solemnity Christ the King, Week of Awareness, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, oppression, Christianity, prayer.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope Francis: Cultural colonization ends in persecution

(Vatican Radio) Cultural and ideological colonization does not tolerate differences and makes everything the same, resulting in the persecution even of believers. Those were Pope Francis’ reflections in his homily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, which centered on the martyrdom of Eleazar, narrated in the book of Maccabees from the First Reading (Maccabees 6: 18-31).

The Pope noted that there are three main types of persecution: a purely religious persecution; a “mixed” persecution that has both religious and political motivations, like the Thirty Years War or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre”; and a kind of cultural persecution, when a new culture comes in wanting “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything: the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.” It is this last type of persecution that led to the martyrdom of Eleazar.

The account of this persecution began in the reading from Monday’s liturgy. Some of the Jewish people, seeing the power and the magnificent beauty of Antiochus Ephiphanes (a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire), wanted to make an alliance with him. They wanted to be up-to-date and modern, and so they approached the king and asked him to allow them “to introduce the pagan institutions of other nations” among their own people. Not necessarily the ideas or gods of those nations, the Pope noted, but the institutions. In this way, this people brought in a new culture, “new institutions” in order to make a clean break with everything: their “culture, religion, law.” This modernizing, this renewal of everything, the Pope emphasized, is a true ideological colonization that wanted to impose on the people of Israel “this unique practice,” according to which everything was done in a particular way, and there was no freedom for other things. Some people accepted it because it seemed good to be like the others; and so the traditions were left aside, and the people begin to live in a different way.

But to defend the “true traditions” of the people, a resistance rose up, like that of Eleazar, who was very dignified, and respected by all. The book of Maccabees, the Pope said, tells the story of these martyrs, these heroes. A persecution born of ideological colonization always proceeds in the same way: destroying, attempting to make everyone the same. Such persecutions are incapable of tolerating differences.

The key word highlighted by the Pope, beginning with Monday’s reading is “perverse root” – that is Antiochus Epifanes: the root that came to introduce into the people of God, “with power,” these new, pagan, worldly” customs:

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too. But we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the last century, which was a new cultural thing: [Trying to make] everyone equal; [so that] there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God. It is the perverse root. Faced with this cultural colonization, which arises from the perversity of an ideological root, Eleazar himself has become [a contrary] root.

In fact, Eleazar dies thinking of the young people, leaving them a noble example. “He gives [his] life; for love of God and of the law he is made a root for the future.” So, in the face of that perverse root that produces this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives [his] life for the future to grow.”

What had come from the kingdom of Antioch was a novelty. But not all new things are bad, the Pope said: just think of the Gospel of Jesus, which was a novelty. When it comes to novelties, the Pope said, one has to be able to make distinctions:

“There is a need to discern ‘the new things’: Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root? But before, [for example] yes, it was a sin to kill children; but today it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty. Yesterday, the differences were clear, as God made it, creation was respected; but today [people say] we are a little modern... you act... you understand ... things are not so different ... and things are mixed together.”

 The “new things” of God, on the other hand, never makes “a negotiation” but grows and looks at the future:

“Ideological and cultural colonizations only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything. And with this attitude of making everyone equal and cancelling out differences, they commit, they make an particularly ugly blasphemy against God the Creator. Every time a cultural and ideological colonization comes along, it sins against God the Creator because it wants to change Creation as it was made by Him. And against this fact that has occurred so often in history, there is only one medicine: bearing witness; that is, martyrdom.

Eleazar, in fact, gives the witness by giving his life, considering the inheritance he will leave by his example: “I have lived thus. Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God.” Eleazar does not think about leaving behind money or anything of that kind, but looks to the future, “the legacy of his testimony,” to that testimony that would be “a promise of fruitfulness for the young.” It becomes, therefore, a root to give life to others. And the Pope concludes with the hope that that example “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Black Elk and the Need for Catechists

At the November meeting of the United States bishops, I heard an impassioned case for the canonization of Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota Indian medicine man who converted to Catholicism and eagerly took up the task of catechesis within his community. My prayer is that, if the cause of Black Elk moves forward, we might one day invoke him as a real icon for catechists in the Catholic Church.

“Trade must benefit people,” say U.S. and Mexican Bishops in Statement on NAFTA Renegotiation

WASHINGTON—The chairmen of the Committee on International Justice and Peace and Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as chairmen of the Conference of the Mexican Episcopate's Pastoral Social Committee, have issued a joint statement on the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

NAFTA—a trilateral commercial agreement among the United States, Canada, and Mexico—came into force in 1994, and has brought about many positive outcomes as well as some negative ones, especially for poor and vulnerable persons in the United States and Mexico.

The statement, entitled, "RENEGOTIATING NAFTA: Rebuilding our Economic Relationship in Solidarity, Mutual Trust, and Justice," restates longstanding principles and guidelines of Catholic Social Doctrine regarding international trade. The bishops remind all involved that:

"Trade must, first of all, benefit people, in addition to markets and economies. It is crucial   that these complex and multifaceted agreements arise from a sound legal and moral framework that protects the common good and the most vulnerable."

Noting that trade agreements "have consequences beyond the economic sphere," the bishops of both countries offer in their statement criteria based on experience, as pastors, to help guide the renegotiation process so that it might serve as a "means of achieving the welfare and integral development of all."

The full statement is available in both English and Spanish at: 

www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/trade/upload/NAFTA-STATEMENT-ENGLISH.pdf

www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/trade/upload/NAFTA-STATEMENT-SPANISH.pdf

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Keywords:  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Committee on International Justice and Peace, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Mexican Episcopate, Pastoral Social Committee, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), United States, Canada, Mexico, trilateral agreement, renegotiation, solidarity, justice, Catholic social doctrine, international trade, markets, economies, common good, development, vulnerable, moral framework.

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope Francis Names New Bishop of the Diocese of Nashville; Pope Francis also Names New Bishop of Jefferson City

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father J. Mark Spalding of the Archdiocese of Louisville as the new bishop of Nashville. Pope Francis has also named Father Shawn McKnight, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, as the new bishop of Jefferson City after accepting the resignation of Bishop John R. Gaydos. 

The appointments were publicized in Washington on November 21, 2017 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Father J. Mark Spalding was born January 13, 1965 and was ordained a priest on August 3, 1991. 

He attended St. Meinrad College Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana where he studied philosophy. He later attended the American College at Louvain in Belgium (1991) where he earned a degree in theology. He later attended the Catholic University of Louvain, where he earned a Licentiate of Canon Law in 1992.

Assignments after ordination included parochial vicar, St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral, Bardstown (1992-1996); parochial vicar, St. Augustine Parish, Lebanon (1996-1998); parochial vicar, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Louisville (1998-1999); pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish, LaGrange (1999-2011); pastor, Holy Trinity Parish, Louisville (2011-present).   

Father Spalding also served as judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of Louisville from 1998-2011 and is currently vicar general for the Archdiocese, 2011-present.  

Father Shawn McKnight was born June 26, 1968. He was ordained a priest for the diocese of Wichita on May 28, 1994.  

He earned a master of arts degree and a master of divinity degree from the Pontifical College Josephinum (1993-1994) and later earned a Licentiate of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome in 1999. In 2001, he earned a Doctor of Sacred Theology also from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm.

Assignments after ordination include: associate pastor, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Wichita (1994-1997); pastoral administrator, St. Patrick Parish, Chanute (1999); chaplain, Newman University, Wichita (2000-2001); priestly service, St. Mary's Parish, Delaware (2003-2008); pastor, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Wichita (2008-2010); priestly service, parishes in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Washington (2010-2015); presbyteral council and college of consultors, Wichita (2000-2005); pastor, Church of the Magdalen, Wichita (2015-present).

Father McKnight formerly served as executive director of the Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 2010-2015. He has also held numerous academic, professional and academic society positions among them serving as director of Liturgy and director of Formation at the Pontifical College Josephinum.  

Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop John R. Gaydos, who has served as the third bishop of Jefferson City.  

Bishop Gaydos was born August 14, 1943 and will turn 75 this August. On June 25, 1997, Gaydos was appointed bishop of Jefferson City by Pope John Paul II. He was ordained as bishop on August 27, 1997. 

He also served within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as Chairman of the Committee on Priestly Life and Ministry, now known as the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations (CCLV). 

The Diocese of Nashville comprises 16,302 square miles. It has a total population of 2,607,152 people of which 83,124 or 3 percent, are Catholic.

The Diocese of Jefferson City comprises 22,127 square miles. It has a total population of 920,234 people of which 81,958 or 11 percent, are Catholic.  

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop John R. Gaydos, Father J. Mark Spalding, Archdiocese of Louisville, Nashville, Father W. Shawn McKnight, Jefferson City

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

USCCB President Makes Thanksgiving Day Appeal for Protection of the Vulnerable, Especially Migrant & Refugee Families

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees.

Full statement follows:

"As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States. My brother bishops and I, gathered last week in Baltimore, were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance—the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.

My brothers expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm—and urgency to act—in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago: the deportation of Dreamers, young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation; the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them; and an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin.

One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society. These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now. My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage—and signature—of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families.

Another common feature of these policies is that they are symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform. This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked. Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them.

So this year, I give thanks for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation. I also pray that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!"

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Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Thanksgiving Day, America, blessings, migrants, refugees, comprehensive reform, family reunification

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Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

Pope addresses Italian road and railway police

While commending Italy’s police force for ensuring the safety and security of those travelling by road and train, Pope Francis on Monday called on them to also inculcate humanity, uprightness ‎and “mercy”.  ‎  The Pope met some 100 top leaders and officials of Italy’s road police that celebrating its 70th anniversary and railway police that is marking its 110 years. 

Click below to listen:

 

Road safety

Talking about road safety, Pope Francis told the group it is necessary to deal with the low level of responsibility on the part of many drivers, who often do not even realize the serious consequences of their inattention (for example, with improper use of cell phones) or their disregard.  He said this is caused by a hurried and competitive lifestyle that regards other drivers as obstacles or opponents ‎to overcome, turning roads into "Formula One" tracks and the traffic lights as the starting line of a Grand Prix race.  In such a context, the Pope said, sanctions are not just enough to increase security, but there is a need for an ‎educative action, which creates greater awareness of one’s responsibilities for those traveling ‎alongside. ‎

Beyond professionalism

The Pope told the police men and women that the fruit of their experience on the road and the railway will help in raising awareness and increase civic sense. Their professionalism not only depends on their skills but also on their “profound uprightness” which never takes ‎advantage of the powers they possess, thus helping develop a “high degree of humanity.”  The Pope said that in surveillance and prevention, it is important to ensure never to let the use of force degenerate into ‎violence, especially when a policeman is regarded with suspicion or almost as an enemy instead of a guardian of the common good.

Mercy

In fulfilling their functions, the Holy Father suggested the police have a “sort of mercy”, which he said is not synonymous with ‎weakness.  Neither does it mean renunciation of the use of force.  It means not identifying the ‎offender with the offence he has committed, that ends up creating harm and generating revenge.  Their work requires them to use mercy even in the countless situations of weakness and pain that they face daily, ‎not only in various types of accidents but also in meeting needy or disadvantaged people.

Good vs evil

The Pope also asked the road and railway police to recognize the presence of the clash between good and evil in the world and within us, and to do everything possible to fight egoism, injustice and  ‎indifference and whatever offends man, creates ‎disorder and foments illegality, hindering the happiness and growth of people. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope on World Day of the Poor: they open for us the way to heaven

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Father announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and entrusted its organization and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

There were some 4 thousand needy people in the congregation for the Mass, after which Pope Francis offered Sunday lunch in the Paul VI Hall.

Speaking off the cuff to guests at the luncheon, the Holy Father said, “We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.” The Holy Father went on to ask God's blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. “Rome,” he said, “is full of this [charity and good will] today.”

Click below to hear our report

The World Day of the Poor is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the homily he prepared for the occasion and delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica following the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.” He went on to say, “When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”

Reminding the faithful that it is precisely in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9), and that there is therefore in each and every poor person, a “saving power” present, Pope Francis said, “[I]f in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“For us,” the Pope continued, “it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.

“To love the poor,” Pope Francis said, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material: and it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away.” 

(from Vatican Radio)