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Pope Francis today launched a worldwide, two-year “Share the Journey” campaign calling on Catholics to ‘encounter’ migrants and refugees in an effort to break down barriers of fear and suspicion and build bridges of understanding and hospitality. “Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to share the journey! Do not be afraid to share hope,” he said.

Many dioceses are sponsoring events in the coming weeks as a part of the campaign. The new website www.sharejourney.org offers ways in which people, parishes, schools and other groups can participate. “Share the Journey” is a call to prayer, to reflection and to action.

There are some specific action steps you can take today. One is to contact your members of Congress in support of the “DREAM Act of 2017.” Please click this link for a sample message to Congress in support of the DREAM Act. It was recently introduced in Congress as a bipartisan effort to protect immigrant youth who entered the United States as children and know America as their only home.

Earlier this month, the Catholic bishops of Iowa sent a letter to our Congressional delegation in support of DACA youth and the Dream Act. We also encourage you to follow up on the bishops’ letter by sending one of your own to your local newspaper. Our system will send the letter for you. Click here for a sample.

There is also a new action alert in support of our country’s being generous in the number of refugees we admit. You can send a message here. The low numbers being suggested by many do not reflect the need, our compassion, or our capacity as a nation.

HEALTH CARE AT ISSUE

Also connected to the dignity of every human being is the provision of health care.  Our tradition teaches that health care is more than a commodity; it is a natural human right, essential to protecting human life and dignity.

At press time it looks like the Republican leadership in the Senate has put aside another effort to change the Affordable Care Act.

Previously, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin called on the U.S. Senate to “think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people” by provisions contained in the “Graham-Cassidy” health care legislation.  They urged Senators to “amend the legislation while retaining its positive features.” The full letter is available here.

CONSCIENCE PROTECTION ACT

The grassroots arm of the U.S. bishops for pro-life matters, Human Life Action, has sent out an updated action alert regarding the Conscience Protection Act. This bill would clarify federal law and ensure that those who provide health care and health coverage can do so without being forced by government to help destroy innocent unborn children.

The good news is that the Conscience Protection Act has been included in an appropriations bill passed by the House. Our goal is to make sure these and other pro-life provisions make it into the final bill which will probably be passed by Congress in December. This is why we are again being asked to contact our members of Congress. Even if you have already sent a message, please do so again. Go to www.humanlifeaction.org/take-action to send a message.

BISHOPS SUPPORT CLIMATE SOLUTIONS

The U.S. bishops are welcoming a bipartisan bill that seeks climate solutions. Bishop Frank J. Dewane and Bishop Oscar Cantú have voiced their support for the Climate Solutions Commission Act of 2017, a bill that would establish a bipartisan National Climate Solutions Commission.

“This bill has the potential to inspire positive and concrete solutions towards protecting our common home,” said Bishops Dewane and Cantú.

Bishop Dewane is the Bishop of Venice, Florida and chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop Cantú is the Bishop of Las Cruces, and chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the USCCB.

BISHOP PATES TO RECEIVE HUMANITARIAN AWARD

Congratulations to our ICC board chair, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, who has been named the 2017 recipient of the “Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award.” Bishop Pates will receive the award during the Hunger Luncheon on Oct. 16 at the Iowa Hunger Summit, held at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown.

The award was created in 2013 by The World Food Prize Foundation in recognition of Iowa Governor Robert D. Ray’s global humanitarian leadership, and as a special honor marking his 85th birthday. The award is presented annually to an Iowan who has provided significant leadership in confronting hunger and alleviating human suffering both at home and abroad, much as Gov. Ray did on behalf of Asian refugees during his time in office.

Bishop Pates was selected as this year’s recipient because of his work on social justice issues both domestic and abroad.

AND FINALLY,

This is the time of year when Iowa Catholic Conference staff is out and about for meetings with our committees, legislators and other groups. Heading into next January’s legislative session we are working on a variety of concerns, including parental choice in education, immigration, pro-life, increasing the minimum wage, and opposing the reinstatement of the death penalty. Please pray for our work and the work of legislators as they consider their priorities for the next session.