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Deacon: From wildfires come acts of kindness for those trying to recover

IMAGE: CNS photo/Christina Gray, Catholic San Francisc

By Christina Gray

SAN FRANCISCO (CNS) -- Deacon Ray Helgeson left his home in Paradise on the morning of Nov. 8 with his wife, Donna, for daily Mass at the close-knit Butte County town's only Catholic church. They never arrived.

On the short drive to St. Thomas More Church, where the deacon assists at Mass and heads the parish's adult faith formation program, the Helgesons saw billowing smoke and a nearby peak in flames. They continued warily in the direction of the church but were soon intercepted by emergency crews, who diverted them from what would become California's most destructive wildland fire.

The Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres, destroyed more than 14,000 homes and caused 85 fatalities, with several people still reported missing as of Dec. 6.

The fire left more than 80 percent of Paradise residents, including the Helgesons, essentially homeless and had a devastating impact on St. Thomas More parishioners, with an estimated 640 losing their homes out of 800 on the official roster.

"This stuff really confuses you," Deacon Helgeson told Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He made the comments in a Nov. 28 phone interview from his son's home in Citrus Heights outside Sacramento, a 90-mile drive from Paradise.

He and his wife arrived Nov. 8 with the clothing they wore to church that morning, a short supply of necessary medications and Deacon Helgeson's breviary. Like many residents, they have not been back to the fire zone, where recovery efforts are still underway, but have confirmed that their home is gone.

"Stability for human persons is huge and we don't have a place now to call home now," Helgeson said. "If your faith is weak, it's going to be extra tough."

St. Thomas More Church and School were spared, but the parish hall and rectory were gutted.

Many displaced people have found refuge in the college town of Chico about 22 miles from Paradise. A campus Newman Center located a block away from St. John the Baptist Church has served as the spiritual and organizational epicenter for the displaced from St. Thomas More. St. John the Baptist is one of two Catholic parishes in Chico.

On Nov. 18, 10 days after the fire began, Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto celebrated a Mass for St. Thomas More fire survivors at the center. On Nov. 25, the center offered a special Mass for St. Thomas More parishioners.

Jim Collins is a St. Thomas More parishioner and retired educator who is acting as commander-in-chief of a relief and communications center set up in the Newman Center hall. Collins, a Grand Knight in St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus Council 7772, is one of the few parishioners whose house didn't burn.

Of the 107 Knights in the council, 69 lost their homes.

"This is really Job territory," Collins said. "That imagery is perfect here."

Collins and a small crew of fellow Knights spend their days tracking down missing parishioners, communicating with family members about their safety and whereabouts, helping find housing for survivors, distributing donated clothing, money and gift cards and raising money for long-haul recovery, he told Catholic San Francisco during a visit to Chico Nov. 29.

Collins pointed to rows of brand-new backpacks filled with toiletries, scarves and little luxuries. The included greeting card was signed by Deacon Dominic Peloso and his wife, Mary Ann Peloso, from the Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park.

"We're buried in backpacks!" Collins said. "Just this morning, we got all of these backpacks and $9,000 in gift cards from your archdiocese."

Fellow Knights Bill Vichi and Greg Wright are longtime St. Thomas More parishioners who arrived to help Collins. Nothing in their words or manner betrayed the fact that both were made homeless by the fire as they greeted Collins with back-slaps and jokes.

Vichi later shared that he lost everything.

"Actually I'm not distributing gift cards here today, I'm getting them," he said matter-of-factly.

Wright had even less reason to smile but did so easily and often. He was a renter without renter's insurance, among those worst off after a disaster because they lack resources to start over, Collins said.

"I will follow wherever the Lord directs me," Wright said.

Until Nov. 30, the Newman Center hall also served as an administrative home base for the Paradise parish. The effort was organized by St. Thomas More pastor Father Godwin Xavier, parish plant manager Greg Kidder and Deacon Helgeson. Kidder helped Father Xavier escape the rectory before it was destroyed and risked his own escape by taking the time to bring valuable parish records with them.

"Compared to what other people lost, mine is just little," said Father Xavier, who was installed at the parish only five months ago. "I don't care about that."

On Nov. 30, St. Thomas More parish administration and relief efforts moved to Our Divine Savior, a Catholic parish in north Chico, at the Sacramento diocese's direction.

Father Xavier said he intends to reintroduce the weekly night of "centering prayer" the parish offered each week in Paradise. "That could be healing," he said.

Zooba Zwicker, music director for St. Thomas More, and her husband, Clint Freedle, lost their home and his successful construction business in the fire. Still, she arrived to talk to Collins about music and logistics for the funeral of parishioner Larry Campbell Dec. 15. Campbell, who was terminally ill with cancer, escaped the fire with his wife but died two days later of a stroke.

Deacon Helgeson, who travels between Citrus Heights and his home parish three days a week for his pastoral duties, said the disaster has had its positive side.

"Something like this awakens something within us," he said. "It gives the Lord a chance to pull triggers within us of generosity, of kindness and of gentleness with others."

He said the fire and his faith have forged something new and unexpected in himself and other survivors.

"It's an awareness of being without, but there is also a sweetness to it," he said.

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Gray is associate editor of Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Pope to make historic visit to United Arab Emirates in February

IMAGE: CNS photo/EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will visit the United Arab Emirates next year, becoming the first pope to visit the Arabian Peninsula, the Vatican announced.

In a Dec. 6 statement, the Vatican said the pope will "participate in the International Interfaith Meeting on 'Human Fraternity'" after receiving an invitation by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

"The visit will take place also in response to the invitation of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates," the Vatican said.

The trip Feb. 3-5 will take place less than a week after Pope Francis returns from his Jan. 23-28 visit to Panama for World Youth Day.

Shortly after the announcement, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the announcement of the pope's visit in a post on his personal Facebook page.

The visit, he said, "will strengthen our ties and understanding of each other, enhance interfaith dialogue and help us to work together to maintain and build peace among the nations of the world."

In a message published on the visit's official website, Swiss Bishop Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of Southern Arabia, expressed his hope that the pope's "short visit will be a moment of deepening our faith and our adherence to the bishop of Rome."

Although a detailed program of the pope's schedule "will be published before Christmas," Bishop Hinder confirmed that Pope Francis will celebrate a public Mass in Abu Dhabi Feb. 5 and that arrangements are being made to allow as many faithful as possible "to participate in this historic event."

"Let us keep in mind that it will be the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula," the bishop said.

The Vatican also released the logo and the theme of the papal visit, "Make me a channel of your peace," which is inspired by St. Francis of Assisi's prayer for peace.

The theme, the Vatican statement said, "expresses our own prayer that the visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates may spread in a special way the peace of God within the hearts of all people of goodwill."

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, said the theme was also a fitting description of the purpose of the pope's visit, which will focus on "how all people of goodwill can work for peace."

"This visit, like the one to Egypt, shows the fundamental importance the Holy Father gives to interreligious dialogue," Burke said. "Pope Francis visiting the Arab world is a perfect example of the culture of encounter."

Gabriel Said Reynolds, professor of Islamic studies and theology at Notre Dame University, said the trip is a sign of Pope Francis' "profound personal commitment to interreligious dialogue."

The trip to Abu Dhabi, he said, also "shows his appreciation for the increasing openness there to the religious freedom of non-Muslims, as witnessed by the presence of two Catholic churches in the Emirate."

Reynolds said the visit could "also raise the visibility of the problematic situation for religious freedom in neighboring Saudi Arabia."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope revamps Vatican City State structures, laws to boost oversight

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis approved a new set of laws concerning the structure and governance of Vatican City State in an effort to simplify the many offices and activities of the world's smallest nation and to boost oversight, transparency and budgetary controls.

The measures, issued "motu proprio," on the pope's own accord, were published Dec. 6.

In his letter, the pope said the reorganization was necessary to make it "suitable to current needs" while ensuring its mission to serve the pope and the specific aims of the departments and activities within Vatican City State.

He said the time was right to "proceed with a systematic legislative reform enlightened by the principles of rationalization, cost-effectiveness and simplification as well as pursuing the criteria of functionality, transparency, regulatory consistency and organizational flexibility."

The pope approved the legislation that had been drafted by a working commission headed by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the governing office of Vatican City State. The new laws will go into effect June 7 and fully replace the law approved by St. John Paul II's motu proprio in 2002.

While most of the new law reorganizes existing offices and departments, it "suppresses," that is, eliminates from its jurisdiction, the Pilgrim and Tourist Office, and it allows the Vatican pharmacy -- run by the Brothers of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God -- to maintain its "technical and administrative autonomy."

The new law aims for greater transparency with the creation of an oversight and inspection body.

"This new position will have the specific tasks of verifying that the norms, procedures and evaluation of cost-effectiveness and efficacies are being observed" within the different departments and offices, said a note accompanying the new law.

It also creates the general secretariat office, which will be under responsibility of the secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State. The office will run the new oversight and inspection body, manage the "coordination of events" and take care of the central archives.

According to the legislation, the organizational structure of the governorate will remain substantially unchanged, yet will have greater responsibility in supervising the offices in Vatican City State. The changes that have been made to the operational structure were hoped to allow the governorate of Vatican City State "to operate effectively with regard to problems, emergencies and ordinary management." The legislation is also geared toward "a moderate decentralization" as well as a strengthening of internal audits, strategic planning in preparing budgets that ensures "greater and more efficient functionality."

While ensuring greater oversight and transparency, the heads of the governorate's offices and departments will be responsible for their own "assigned objectives, workplace safety and data protection" without the obligation of consistently seeking approval from the general administration.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

A life built on trust in God is built on solid ground, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians are not people of faith in name only, Pope Francis said; they trust in God, base their lives on his truth and seek to act on the teachings of Jesus.

People with faith in God have not put their hope only in words or in "vanity, pride, in the fleeting powers of life," he said. They put their hopes on solid ground -- the Lord, he said in his homily Dec. 6 during morning Mass at his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus tells his disciples that those who act on his teachings will have built their house on solid rock, while those who only listen to his word and do not act will be fools with a vulnerable house built on sand.

The pope said the Advent season is a time for people to ask themselves, "Am I Christian in words or in deeds? Do I build my life on the rock of God or on the sand of the world, of vanity? Am I humble? Do I seek to always lower myself, without pride, and, in that way, serve the Lord?"

Being Christian in name or words only, he said, is a superficial form of belief, like putting on makeup to look the part. It is going only "halfway -- I say I am Christian, but I don't do what Christians do."

"What Jesus proposes is concreteness, always concrete," like the works of mercy, he said.

The consequence of only trying to look Christian by words alone and without concrete action is having a life lacking in any solid foundation, Pope Francis said.

The Lord provides the strength, he said. "Many times, those who trust in the Lord do not stand out, they are not successful, they are hidden. But they are solid."

"The concreteness of Christian life makes us go forward and build on that rock that is God, that is Jesus," not on "appearances or on vanity, pride, connections. No. The truth."

 

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Advent calendars: Old tradition and modern commercialism, same message

The Advent calendar with one tab or box to open each day for 24 or 25 days taps into something people really like: countdowns. It also highlights the anticipation that is at the heart of the four-week liturgical season of Advent.

The post Advent calendars: Old tradition and modern commercialism, same message appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 26:1-6

On that day they will sing this song in the land of Judah:

"A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.
A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace;
in peace, for its trust in you."

Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.
He humbles those in high places,
and the lofty city he brings down;
He tumbles it to the ground,
levels it with the dust.
It is trampled underfoot by the needy,
by the footsteps of the poor.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a

R. (26a) Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD
than to trust in princes.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD's;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia Is 55:6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call him while he is near.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 7:21, 24-27

Jesus said to his disciples:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined."
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Pope expresses condolences for death of former President Bush

Pope Francis expressed his condolences for the death of the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

The post Pope expresses condolences for death of former President Bush appeared first on Superior Catholic Herald.

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said:
"Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
This is the LORD for whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, the Lord comes to save his people;
blessed are those prepared to meet him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 15:29-37

At that time:
Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee,
went up on the mountain, and sat down there.
Great crowds came to him,
having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute,
and many others.
They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.
The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking,
the deformed made whole,
the lame walking,
and the blind able to see,
and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said,
"My heart is moved with pity for the crowd,
for they have been with me now for three days
and have nothing to eat.
I do not want to send them away hungry,
for fear they may collapse on the way."
The disciples said to him,
"Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place
to satisfy such a crowd?"
Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?"
"Seven," they replied, "and a few fish."
He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Then he took the seven loaves and the fish,
gave thanks, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied.
They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 11:1-10

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A Spirit of counsel and of strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.

On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
The Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king's son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
He shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, our Lord shall come with power;
he will enlighten the eyes of his servants.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Lk 10:21-24

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
"I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows who the Son is except the Father,
and who the Father is except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

Turning to the disciples in private he said,
"Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
For I say to you,
many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,
but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it."
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Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Declaración del Presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos en relación a la muerte del Presidente George H.W. Bush

WASHINGTON— El Cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo, Arzobispo de Galveston-Houston y Presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, emitió un comunicado sobre el fallecimiento del Presidente George Herbert Walker Bush.

La declaración completa del Cardenal DiNardo es la siguiente:

“Nos unimos a las personas de todo el país al lamentar el fallecimiento del Presidente George H.W. Bush. Recordamos con gratitud a este gran hombre que pasó su vida desinteresadamente al servicio de su país. Con un compromiso inquebrantable de construir puentes de paz y garantizar las libertades de nuestra nación, también inspiró a muchos como un devoto esposo, padre y patriarca de la familia. En nombre de mis hermanos Obispos de Estados Unidos, oramos por el descanso del alma de nuestro cuadragésimo primer presidente al recordar una vida bien vivida. También ofrecemos nuestras más sinceras condolencias y oraciones por su familia afligida y por todos aquellos que lloran su muerte. Que encuentren paz y consuelo en el amor consolador de Jesucristo".
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Palabras clave: Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos, USCCB, Presidente George Herbert Walker Bush, Cuadragésimo Primer Presidente, Cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo,

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