Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 16, 1978 when the first Mass was held at St. Monica Church, Northford.
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Nativity Arist Gerard van Honthorst Public Domain CNA 12 17 15Nativity by artist Gerard van Honthorst (Public Domain/CNA)

WASHINGTON (CNA/EWTN NEWS) – New clarifications about Department of Veterans Affairs rules have resolved a dispute about religious Christmas carols, gifts and displays in veterans’ hospitals, a chaplains’ group has said.

“No one should try to water down Christmas for our veterans just because they object to any religious references or items. I am most grateful that the VA has clarified their policy prior to the upcoming holidays,” Chaplain Ron Crews, a retired Army Reserve colonel, said Sept. 21.

The chaplain is executive director of Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, a group of Protestant Christian organizations and ministries that provide over 2,600 chaplains for the U.S. military.

“This should make clear that churches may sing Christmas carols and distribute Christmas cards at VA hospitals,” Chaplain Crews continued. “The guidelines state that hospital administrators may allow this and provide reasonable guidance as to where displays may be set up and where and how long a church choir may sing.”

He said the new policy “should put a stop to those organizations that complain without basis about any mention of faith in VA facilities.”

The Veterans Affairs department had attracted controversy for some hospital policies applied at Christmastime.

In December 2013, A Veterans’ Affairs hospital in Georgia barred high school Christmas carolers from singing religious songs. The hospital required them to sing from a list of 12 Christmas songs its pastoral service deemed appropriate. The ban was enacted on the grounds that each veteran had the right to be protected from unwelcomed religious material.

The new guidance says that once a director allows holiday singing in a designated location, the department “must remain neutral regarding the views expressed by the group or individual generally or in its holiday songs.”

The guidance says that Veterans Health Administration facilities may receive cards and gifts with religious messages for distributions to patients and residence in accordance with their individual preferences.

It also allows veterans’ groups to set up displays with religious items on VA property.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.