Cover photo: File photo from the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, Washington, DC

March 10, 2021
Vatican COVID-19 Commission (VCC-19)

One year into the pandemic, it has become clear that no corner of the globe has been untouched by the public health crisis. We are also urgently aware of the distinct toll it has taken on the most vulnerable.

According to a recent bulletin from the Migrants and Refugees Section, “the Holy Father wishes the Church to play an active, vigorous role in the social, cultural, and personal changes that he asks all humanity to undertake. For this reason, he established the Vatican COVID-19 Commission (VCC-19) to analyze the socio-economic, health, cultural, and political challenges of the future and to develop proposals to address them.”

The annual report provides an overview of the commission’s work. A resource kit for church leaders is now available here and includes information on Clinical Questions Regarding COVID-19 Vaccines, resources for homilies, a guide for family conversations, sample social media posts, and trusted sources for scientific and health information. To sign up for regular bulletins from the commission, enter your information here
COVID-19 relief continues to move through Congress, without the Hyde Amendment

Late last week, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirmed the need for a robust COVID-19 relief package, but challenged President Biden and legislators to, “include the same protections against abortion funding that have been present in every COVID relief bill to date, and every annual spending bill for almost half a century.”

The American Rescue Plan is the largest spending bill in U.S. history and includes payroll support, rental assistance, jobless benefits, assistance for re-opening K-12 schools, and healthcare resources, which is where the disputes about the Hyde Amendment emerge. The rider or attachment is typically enacted alongside major legislation to block the use of federal funds for most abortions.

Even if the American Rescue Plan is passed without the amendment, individual states could set their own parameters for how matching Medicaid funds were handled regarding abortion. In addition, special populations, such as veterans, would likely see additional Congressional action required to roll back existing regulations governing their healthcare coverage.

Trip to Iraq brings attention to religious freedom, fraternal love, and reconciliation

Emphasizing themes in Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ visit to Iraq promoted interreligious dialogue and brought encouragement to local Christians who have experienced war and conflict. He emphasized forgiveness and reconciliation in some of the most fraught places in the modern world. This pastoral visit recognized their suffering while also inviting them to live in hope for restored trust among warring groups. The Mass in Baghdad on Saturday was particularly noted for the homily centered on the message of love as strength. 
Urge House and Senate Leaders to Act Before April 1

While the newly introduced U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 may be the comprehensive reform that has long been sought by Catholic advocates, there are two current pieces of legislation that could assist immigrants now.

Together, the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would establish a path to citizenship for immigrant youth, TPS holders, DED holders, and seasonal farmworkers, many of whom have lived in and served communities across the United States for many years. Find a sample letter here from the USCCB Justice for Immigrants Campaign to urge house and senate leaders to act before April 1, 2021.
CMSM JPIC coordinators are invited to a new digital community

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men is rolling out a digital space designed to support our members. A community for Justice and Peace coordinators will add resources that go beyond what is available publicly on our website, and include space for conversation, community building, and pressing social justice news that is time sensitive. (If you used to belong to a JPIC Google Group, this would serve a similar function, but with expanded features.)

Signing Up

An email will be sent to official JPIC coordinators for provinces and monasteries whose information we have on file. The email will invite you to join the new online JPIC coordinator community, and will provide instructions for setting up your account and signing in.

If you are an official JPIC coordinator and do not receive an email by the end of day on Thursday inviting you to this community, please email Bethany Welch, Fellow for Peace and Justice, at Let us know your role, province, and contact information. If your role is listed online at your province website, a link also is helpful. Stay tuned as we add content and post opportunities for action.
Religious orders working group identified for the Laudato Si’ Action Platform

We are moving closer to the launch of the Laudato Si' Action Platform (LSAP). The proposed members of the LSAP Religious Orders Working Group received formal letters of invitation late Friday afternoon from Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, SDB, coordinator, ecology sector, Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Once those invitations are formally accepted, a letter will go out to superiors with details on next steps for men religious in the United States. A second letter and packet will be sent to the JPIC coordinators and those designated by the superiors/leadership teams to serve as the Laudato Si' designees for this initiative. From there, we can convene our collective work for sustainability! 
Ecumenical and interreligious guidebook:
Care for our common home has been released
A fantastic new resource to help us care for our common home has been jointly published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Association of Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Officers, and Catholic Climate Covenant. It includes foundational Scripture and Church teaching on creation, as well as a wide range of materials for prayer, reflection, advocacy, and action.

You can access the full guidebook here for no charge. You can also view an online dialogue that celebrated the launch of this resource. Featured speakers include Cardinal Blaise Cupich and Imam Saffet Catovic.
The Call to Transformative Love in Religious Life:
Stories of Race, Place and Grace, Pt. 2
Over 2,000 people participated in the first series of webinars offered by the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life and The National Black Sisters’ Conference. The conversations continue this month about the role of religious life in addressing and dismantling racial injustice. All are welcome on March 15 and March 22, 6-8 p.m. CST.

The time for each session has been extended to two hours to provide space for breakout group discussion. A one-time registration is required for access these virtual events (another was held March 8), even if you can only attend one.
Virtual Way of the Cross for Economic and Ecological Justice

Join Catholic organizations from across the Washington, DC metro area and beyond on Zoom on Good Friday, April 2, at 12 noon ET, for the 2021 Virtual Economic and Ecological Way of the Cross. The observance of Christ’s Passion is an opportunity to reflect on the ways we have broken our covenant with God at the expense of other persons and creation. For each station we will focus on a different economic or ecological challenge or sign of hope for our times.

Save the date now; Zoom details to follow in the next JP Alert. 
  • Fourth Sunday of Lent (March 14), prepared by Rev. Francis Gargani, CSsR
  • Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 21), prepared by Kayla S. Jacobs, director of programs for Laudato Si’ ministries, Diocese of Joliet.

Remember that you can access the lectionary reflections each week on our website. These resources are posted as they are available.

Bethany Welch, Ph.D., CMSM Fellow for Justice and Peace
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