Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates





World Day of Peace: January 1 – “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” 

In his 2013 Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1), Pope Benedict XVI reminds us at that we all have a role to play in building peace in our communities and world.  His 2013 Message focuses on human dignity, rights and responsibilities, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris. Share this two-page handout to encourage reflection on how we are all called to be peacemakers.

Celebrate Poverty Awareness Month in January 

January is Poverty Awareness Month! This simple calendar offers suggestions for learning and action on U.S. poverty for each day during the Month. In January, join others around the country in prayer, reflection, learning and action to address the root causes of poverty in the U.S. Plan to use it during the month of January. You can also utilize the Twitter-length suggestions for each day of the month to get out the word about poverty via social media during January. Download the 1-page calendar.

Helpers’ Mass and Rosary Procession

The next Helpers’ Mass and Rosary procession will be held at St. Augustine Catholic Church (375 North Sunset Dr., Casselberry) on Saturday, January 5, 2013 beginning with Mass at 9 a.m. After Mass we will drive to St. Mary Magdalen (861 Maitland Ave. Altamonte Springs) and start our rosary procession from there. Please join us in praying for the protection of human life. For more information, contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice; 407-246-4819;

March for Life-St. Augustine 2013

You are invited to register for the March for Life in St. Augustine on January 19, 2013. Every year hundreds of people from all over our state get together to celebrate and defend life and we want you to join us for this great public witness. The keynote speaker will be Mark Houck from The King’s Men, a Catholic men’s ministry dedicated to “building men in the mold of Leader, Protector, and Provider”. Buses are available and youth groups are welcome.  Please see the flyer for more information and to register. Check out the video from last year:

Conversion in the Year of Faith at St. Andrew Catholic Church

To witness to the “New Evangelization” of the Catholic faith requires an examination of how the teachings of the Church form our understanding of the value and dignity of each person in an increasingly secular and relativist world view. The goal of this day is to provide a forum for examining the profound respect each person is owed in justice and how we may express that Truth through our personal and collective conversion. Come join us at St. Andrew (801 N. Hastings St. Orlando) on Saturday February 23, 2013 from 12 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Keynote speaker will be Rev. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S. To RSVP and for more details please contact the Advocacy and Justice Office at 407-246-4819 or email us at

Catholic Days at the Capitol (Tallahassee)

Join us as we meet and build relationships with our legislative representatives and Catholic bishops from all across Florida in our state’s capital, Tallahassee. It is a great opportunity to advocate on social issues and church teachings. We will be in Tallahassee from March 19th to the 21st. Register here!

Catholic Groups Criticize Doha Round

The just concluded UN-sponsored climate talks in Doha, Qatar, ended with a whimper according to CIDSE, the 16-member alliance of European and North American Catholic relief and development agencies. 

 Before the talks began, CIDSE Secretary General Bernd Nilles said, Too few with too little ambition: that is the main problem. The new World Bank report showing that we are on our way to a +4 degrees Celsius world is only the last of a series of alarm bells that all countries must react to. We need deeper emission cuts and sustainable low carbon economies to protect the most vulnerable people already suffering increasingly extreme weather and to safeguard future generations.

After the talks, CIDSE’s Climate Policy Officer, Emilie Johann, had tough words for the lack of progress: Even typhoon Bopha hitting the Philippines during the talks didn’t stir [delegates] to action. Developing countries were forced to accept an empty outcome. Governments might be able to live with this agreement, but people – the world’s poorest in particular – and the planet cannot

Johann said that it was not clear if developed nations will commit any more funds for international adaptation: $100 billion (by 2020) was called for in the Copenhagen talks in 2009.  Nor was the impact of climate on agriculture discussed in Doha.  Already small-scale agriculture is suffering around the globe because of irregular and damaging changes in weather patterns.

For a good analysis of the climate talks, we recommend a Washington Post piece         


America Magazine on Pollution and Human Life

America Magazine recently published an article titled Polluting the Future: We are leaving our children a toxic world. The article recognizes that the environmental factors that adversely affect the health of women and developing children garner little attention, even though these factors offer areas of possible agreement between the pro-life and pro-choice camps.

Highlighted is how mercury and other toxic chemicals from industries, factories and fossil fuel plants compromise the health of both mother and fetus.  This reality led Coalition members—including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Health Association of the U.S.—to support Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed standards for mercury and air toxics produced by power plants in June 2011.  Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development championed this cause in letters to Congress, the EPA and in other public forums. 

The article concludes by recognizing possibilities for common environmental advocacy between those that are pro-life and those that support abortion: Pro-life advocates interested in fetal and maternal health could expand their concerns to include the environmental factors that impede fetal development. Pro-choice advocates concerned that motherhood is freely chosen could expand their concerns to embrace the long-term health of women, lest their choices be “contaminated” by environmental factors in fetal and early childhood development.        


Interfaith Power and Light 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge Winners

     Interfaith Power and Light is pleased to announce that a sustainable renovation and restoration project in Madison, Connecticut, brought the Sisters of Mercy the top prize in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation category in the 2012 Cool Congregations Challenge.  The article religious community chose to set a good example of sustainability to renovate and restore its aging buildings, as well as care for its 33-acre property on Long Island Sound.

The article highlights that the Sisters of Mercy view climate change as a major social justice concern, [s]o they used their renovation as an opportunity to inspire others to reduce carbon consumption. They emphasized the reuse and recycling of building materials and required all contractors to follow rigorous guidelines for deconstruction, recycling, and integrated waste management.
     Additionally, the Mercy Center has curbed energy use and reduced carbon dioxide emissions through energy abatement programs offered by Connecticut Light and Power, including energy audits and solar-powered hot water heaters n its Cool Congregations Challenge application, the Sisters of Mercy wrote, ‘Together, we believe that these substantial changes to Mercy Center express our religious commitment to environmental sustainability. They also help us show our guests ways they might incorporate sustainability in their own lives.’

If you are interested in learning more about the Cool Congregation Challenge, contact the Orlando Diocese Office of Advocacy and Justice at 407-246-4819 or email:  Presentations are available for parish groups.      


Catholic Teen Uses Musical Talent to Help Motivate Kids to Save Planet

A Catholic News Service article describes how [F]ourteen-year-old Catholic high school student Ashley Cortes . . . is one of the 10 artists who recorded volume one of “Pacha’s Pajamas,” a cartoon about protecting the environment.

The article continues: This concern Ashley has for the environment sprouted even before she was part of the “Pacha” project when she went to a science camp in seventh grade . . . ‘Nature is important because it’s one of God’s creations, we don’t want the earth to be getting worse, if we work together we can make it more beautiful,’ Ashley said.       

Coalition, FAN Highlighted by Huffington Post

     In a recent article titled Religion and the Reality of Climate Change, Peter M.J. Hess, Ph.D., Director of Outreach to Religious Communities at the National Center for Science Education, highlights the work of the Coalition. 
     Dr. Hess’ central question is, [W]hat role do religion and theology play in the accelerating conversation about climate change?  In response to this question, he highlights the work of Young Evangelicals for Climate Action and the Jewish Climate Initiative, as well as the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change and Franciscan Action Network.  Hess recognizes that these and other religious groups have both an opportunity and an obligation to reinvigorate our society’s conversation about climate change and hold policymakers’ feet to the fire.            

CRS Resource on Peace in the Holy Land

As we continue to pray for an end to the conflict in the Holy Land, the iBuild Peace in the Holy Land educational resource can help young people reflect on how we are called to be peacemakers. Access the resource here.

Christmas Gifts that Support Economic Development in Poor Communities 

This Christmas, help Catholics make gift choices that support economic development projects in low-income communities in the U.S. and around the world! The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops, provides grants to groups that help low-income people start small businesses. Learn about–and support–some of these featured businesses. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works with fair trade programs and projects overseas to help communities overcome poverty globally. Learn about-and support-CRS fair trade.

Campaign for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty 
A new five-part strategy invites Catholics to pray for rebuilding a culture favorable to life and marriage and for increased protections of religious liberty. The strategy begins the Sunday after Christmas and leads up to the celebration of a second Fortnight for Freedom in July. Learn more.


Poverty USA: How Catholics Can Combat Poverty in the U.S.

Nearly one in six Americans live in Poverty USA. And worse, nearly one in four is a child. These are families and individuals who make less than the Federal government’s official poverty threshold, which is $22,314 for a family of four. These include people working at minimum wage and even holding down several jobs; seniors living on fixed incomes; wage earners suddenly out of work. These are millions of families everywhere from our cities to rural communities.

Join Catholic groups and networks in breaking the cycle of poverty and helping people move themselves out of PovertyUSA. Click on this link to learn more about community organizations that support self-sufficiency, improve communities, and encourage independence.

Concentration of Poverty is a Growing Rural Problem

Concentrated poverty has increased in the U.S. over the last decade, particularly in rural areas and in areas with distinct racial/ethnic minority populations. Historical regional concentrations of high poverty persist in the South, but there is evidence of emergent concentrations in the West and Midwest. The spread of nonmetropolitan concentrated poverty is associated with the recent economic recession and the slow pace of the recovery.  Read more in Amber Waves, the online magazine of the Economic Research Service of USDA


Advocacy Efforts

Church Urges ‘Circle of Protection’ for Poor in U.S. Budget Debate

     Catholic social teaching’s concern for human life and dignity stood front and center as the role of the federal spending was debated by political leaders and assessed by the electorate in a presidential election year.

     Concepts rooted in church teaching — subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good — entered the public arena, offering Americans insight into principles that must be considered when identifying spending priorities while the country struggled with a growing federal deficit and a sluggish economic recovery. There must be a “circle of protection” for poor and vulnerable families in our U.S. budget discussions.  Read more…

Learn, Pray and Act to Preserve International Assistance for our Brothers and Sisters in Poverty

Make your voice heard as President Obama and Congress continue deliberating how much funding to make available for poverty-focused international assistance. Reducing future unsustainable deficits is important, but it must be done in a morally responsible way that gives priority to those who are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad. Poverty-focused international assistance makes up less than 1% of the U.S. federal budget and this little bit of funding saves millions of lives around the world. Take action now.

Eleven Companies Now Participating in Coalition for Immokalee Workers Fair Food Agreements!

     Trader Joe’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill are the latest food industry corporations to sign the Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. With every company that signs the agreement, the penny per pound premium paid for their purchase yields higher wages for Florida’s tomato workers, as well as other benefits under the agreement. The Fair Food Standards Council, under the direction of former New York State Supreme Court Judge Laura Safer Espinoza, oversees implementation of the program.   We are still encouraging Florida’s Publix supermarkets to join with others and become the 12th company to sign the Fair Food agreement.  We call on Pubix to do the right thing.  Visit for more news. 


Bishops Urge Congress to Protect Poor, Future Generations

     In a November 13 letter, the chairmen of the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace urged Congress to avoid measures that harm at-risk students, low-income families and people currently benefiting from poverty-focused international assistance, as Congress works to avoid sequestration and enact responsible deficit reduction. Read more.

     Bishop Blaire also called on all Christians to “help our brothers and sisters who are hungry and living in poverty by providing food especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. It is also essential that we advocate for budgets and programs that serve the common good and help those living in poverty. The Christian path requires that we walk with both feet- the foot of charity and the foot of justice.” Use this template to write your members of Congress and distribute it with your parish’s outreach efforts or holiday basket campaigns.


Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is an educational and funding program of the United States Bishops to end the cycle of poverty in our nation. Currently, in America there are more than 46 million people, many of them children, living in poverty. Through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection, parishes have direct impact on those living in poverty in our counties and state. The collection that is held in parishes across the country each year on the Sunday before Thanksgiving have funded local, community based projects and initiatives that have helped immigrants, youth and low income individuals in our community.

In the Orlando Diocese there are several of these groups that have improved the health care access and job prospects of many individuals. With all the good work these groups have done, there continues to be allegations by one specific group, American Life League (ALL), on the legitimacy of the CCHD program and the efforts of the Catholic bishops. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the CCHD and diocesan staff take seriously and investigate thoroughly any allegation. No truth has been found in this most recent attack by ALL. Bishop Jaime Soto, Chairman of the Subcommittee for CCHD states: “ALL continue to recycle allegations that CCHD funds many organizations that are in conflict with Catholic teaching. [ALL] simply does not agree with CCHD’s mission and how we apply our guidelines and requirements.”

See the statement, at: If you would like information on the locally funded groups in the Orlando Diocese and their positive contributions, please contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice at 407-246-4819 or