During a recent gathering, instructors of U.S. Catholic Conferences came together in Rome to discuss the most pressing issues they face, immigration and human trafficking being the top two.
“One of the biggest emerging issues that we’re seeing, that’s at the state level but also in the United States…was the issue of human trafficking,” director Jenny Kraska told CNA in an Oct. 25 interview.
Kraska is the Director of the Colorado Catholic Conference in the United States, and was one of many others present in Rome for a conference held there every ten years in order to “have conversations with different congregations” within the Vatican.
The goal of the meeting is to discuss local issues “on the state level” as well as a “country level,” but also to understand “how those issues play out in a global front.”
During the directors’ conference, they had the opportunity to meet with three different congregations and councils within the Vatican, two of them being the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Cardinal Turkson, president of the Council for Justice and Peace, addressed the issue of human trafficking as a particular concern, noted Kraska, stating that it is “an issue that will continue to be at the forefront of not only the work that the Church is doing through that congregation, but also the work that all of our state Catholic conferences are doing.”
Another key issue discussed was the topic of immigration within the United States, and the debate surrounding the ongoing process of reform, Kraska revealed.
“It’s something that is obviously very important to the Church in America,” she observed, adding that being in Rome “and seeing the impact that immigration has at a global level,” will assist the directors in the decisions being made on the home front.
Kraska explained that it is her desire that the participants in the gathering will take this global perspective “back to the work that we are going to be doing with immigration reform.”
With “the continued push that the bishops will have,” and “as congress continues to meet in the United States,” Kraska expressed her hope that something will be “passed in the house” and that “something that the senate can hopefully agree on” will “get done before, ideally before the new year.”
“The Church’s position that we are obviously advocating on behalf of would be the respect and dignity for human life,” she continued, saying that “that’s really where all of our thinking and our principals regarding immigration reform start.”
“They start with the respect for the person as created in the image and likeness of Christ.”
“Obviously going forward from there,” Kraska highlighted that “it branches out into all of the different values that we should consider while we examine this issue, especially things like unification of family structure and making sure families are not torn apart.”
“I think those are all things universally that, no matter what state you’re from, no matter what bishop your representing,” she stressed, stating that “those are all really unifying principals” that they as directors offer.
Regarding the ongoing push for religious freedom in light of the Health and Human Services mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance covering contraception, sterilization and some abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs, Kraska noted that she has seen progress.
Recalling numerous rallies and events that have taken place across the United States, she went on to say that “we’ve been able to see coming together as a group and talking about this issue very specifically, is that people are starting to become, if nothing else more aware.”
“It’s really important that people to know that there is these religious liberty issues that are popping up, and that what our rallies, and what the bishop’s initiatives have done, is put that issue and put that terminology at the forefront of people’s minds.”
When asked if she has seen any change on the side of the Obama administration as far as religious freedom being a pressing issue, Kraska stated that “I would like to hope it is.”
“I really would hope that the Obama administration would make it a priority for themselves as well.”
Expressing future goals of the directors following the conference, Kraska explained that “our first and foremost goal always is to advocate on behalf of our local bishop, and our local Church.”
However, she observed that being in Rome with “this experience of not only educating ourselves about lots of different issues that the Church is facing at a universal level” as well as the “spiritual dimension of pilgrimage,” has provided a “new vigor” to the work that they do.
“We’re dealing usually with issues that are very controversial, and that takes its toll, and so I think having the experience of being together in Rome will give us the additional strength that we need to be renewed in our passions for our jobs, and for the work that we do for the Church.”