Bishop Kopacz releases statement in solidarity with ‘Dreamers’

Nov. 2, 2017

Dear Friends in Christ,
With the passing of time since September 5 and the rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, those not directly affected can be lulled into sleep that this crisis has passed. All who are directly affected, either personally, or with a family member, friend, or neighbor, know differently. Unless this reality is addressed justly and comprehensively by the United States Congress in March 2018, this presidential decision will mushroom into a crisis for all affected Dreamers, as well as for all whose lives will be adversely impacted, especially family members.
As Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, I am in solidarity with my brother Bishops throughout the United States, standing with all Dreamers for whom this nation is the only homeland you know. You have lived here for most of your lives, you were educated here, you work here, and many of you have defended our nation in the Armed Services, all of which is to say that you have dreamed here and have been building a life for yourselves while contributing to our nation’s wellbeing. The Diocese of Jackson is in solidarity with you, welcomes you, prays with you and for you, and will advocate for a just legal decision when the United Sates Congress addresses this critical issue of national integrity and identity. You are our brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus, members of the Catholic Church and the family of God, and we will labor to uphold your dignity and rightful place in our nation.

Con el paso del tiempo desde el 5 de septiembre y la decisión de la Acción Diferida para Llegadas en la Infancia, DACA, aquellos que no se ven afectados directamente pueden ser arrullados en el sueño de que esta crisis ha pasado. Todos los que se ven directamente afectados, ya sea personalmente o con un familiar, amigo o vecino, saben de manera diferente.  A menos que esta realidad sea abordada justa y exhaustivamente por el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en marzo de 2018, esta decisión presidencial se convertirá en una crisis para todos los Soñadores afectados, así como todas sus vidas se verán negativamente afectadas, especialmente los miembros de la familia.

Como obispo de la diócesis de Jackson, me solidarizo con mis hermanos obispos en todos los Estados Unidos, junto con todos los Soñadores para quienes esta nación es la única patria que conocen. Ustedes han vivido aquí la mayor parte de sus vidas, fueron educados aquí, trabajan aquí, y muchos de ustedes han defendido a nuestra nación en los Servicios Armados, todo lo cual es para decir que han soñado aquí y han estado construyendo una vida para ustedes mismos mientras contribuyen al bienestar de nuestra nación. La diócesis de Jackson se solidariza con ustedes, les da la bienvenida, ora con ustedes y por ustedes, y defenderá una decisión legal justa cuando el Congreso de los Estados Unidos aborde este tema crítico de integridad e identidad nacional. Ustedes son nuestros hermanos y hermanas en el Señor Jesús, miembros de la Iglesia Católica y la familia de Dios, y trabajaremos para mantener su dignidad y el lugar que les corresponde en nuestra nación.

In the peace of Christ,
Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson

Download the statement as a PDF here.

Bishop Kopacz, Bishop Kihneman pen letter to lawmakers about federal budget

The Bishops of Mississippi joined together Friday, May 26, to release a letter to lawmakers in response to the proposed federal budget.

May 26, 2017
This week, President Trump unveiled his FY18 federal budget proposal, a document that seeks to balance our nation’s budget but that is also a reflection of our American values. Or is it?
The budget includes steep cuts to both domestic and international funding for programs that help the poor, while increasing military spending. Many have spoken out in opposition to cuts of vital programs like Meals on Wheels or the Food Stamp program so many of our brothers and sisters rely on. And their voices have been amplified by media coverage of a budget that very much seems to be balanced on the backs of some of our fellow Americans who can least afford it.
For years, federal funding has been a revenue stream that supports essential health and social needs throughout Mississippi. Drastic cuts are certain to be harmful to all segments of the population, especially to vulnerable children and the elderly. Of course, it is incumbent upon our elected federal officials to direct the nation’s resources toward promoting the general welfare and national defense. On moral and civic grounds, we believe that a healthy and educated populace is of paramount importance for the security of our nation.
But we must also speak out about the draconian cuts to foreign aid funding the proposed budget includes. As Catholics, we’re called by the gospel to help our neighbors – whether they’re down the street or across the globe – and pay attention to ‘the least of these.’ Millions of people around the world depend on our generosity for their next meal, their clean drinking water, or the roof over their heads. But their voices aren’t heard. We must be their voice.
With nearly 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world right now – more than 20 million of them refugees – and famine-like conditions in four countries, the proposed elimination of U.S. food aid especially would create a massive gap in assistance, resulting in lives lost.
In Mali, for example, the American Catholic’s international aid organization, Catholic Relief Services, provides US-government funded school lunches to hundreds of thousands of children. It’s often their only reliable meal, and without it many would drop out of school.
Across East Africa, in Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan, where famine was recently declared, food aid is a lifeline for millions who would otherwise be on the verge of starvation due to recurring drought and climate change.
Foreign aid provides much more than food. In Central America, for example, CRS and our local church partners provide job and skills training to youth whose lives are threatened daily by gang violence. Providing them with better economic prospects combats the proliferation of gangs and enables them to stay in their communities instead of migrating.
Americans are proud of international assistance that saves lives and gives people a chance at a future. We imagine ourselves in the shoes of a Somali woman who cannot feed her children, and she compels us to act. We feel God inviting us to be the Good Samaritan.
We have to be good stewards of our resources and balancing the budget requires difficult decisions. Those decisions should be “guided by moral criteria that protect human life and dignity, give central importance to “the least of these” (Matthew 25), and promote the welfare of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity,” as some of my brother bishops recently stated in a letter to Congress.
As the world’s wealthiest nation, the United States plays a key role in protecting the common good globally. The elimination of programs that offer food to starving families and development assistance to those seeking opportunity would have a detrimental impact on millions of lives around the world.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. We urge our government to listen as well, even amidst the many competing challenges we face around the world.

Yours in Christ,

Louis F. Kihneman, III                                                        Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Biloxi                         Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Jackson


Bishop Kopacz opposes Arkansas executions

To reiterate his opposition to the death penalty, Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson, released the following statement about multiple executions scheduled in Arkansas.

I join with Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Diocese of Arkansas and other faith leaders in the region in calling for the Governor of Arkansas to halt the remaining executions scheduled for this week.

A judge has deemed one of the drugs the state uses in executions to cause a ‘substantial risk of serious harm’ so the state will not have access to it as of April 30. The governor, in an attempt to use what the state has on hand, scheduled eight executions in 10 days. One execution has already taken place and several more are set for later this week, including a double-execution set for Monday. This does not represent the pursuit of justice.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement on these scheduled executions April 13. “The schedule of executions was not set by the demands of justice, but by the arbitrary politics of punishment. The state’s supply of a sedative is expected to expire at the end of the month, and so, in a dark irony, a safeguard that was intended to protect people is now being used as a reason to hasten their deaths,” Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice and committee chairman wrote.

As Catholics, we believe in the dignity of life in all its stages. Execution does not allow room for conversion nor does it provide healing to crime victims, their families or our communities.

Yours in Christ,
Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson

Bishop Kopacz: Don’t expand death penalty, end it

March 6, 2017

Bishop Kopacz: Don’t expand death penalty, end it
As the State of Mississippi’s Legislature debates the expansion of methods in support of the resumption of capital punishment, (H.B. 638) we respectfully submit the perspective and teachings from our Catholic faith that promote the abolition of the death penalty. We encourage and pray for a more comprehensive debate that calls into question our assumptions the moral legitimacy of the death penalty in the state and in our nation.

If, however non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority ought to limit itself to such means as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with dignity of the human person. Today the state, by rendering one who has committed the offense incapable of doing harm, without definitively taking away from him or her the possibility of redemption, the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity, are very rare, if not practically non-existent.
– Catechism of the Catholic Church 2267

When dwelling on legal and moral arguments concerning the death penalty, we should do so not with vengeance and anger in our hearts, but with the compassion and mercy of the Lord in mind. It is also important to remember that penalties imposed on criminals always need to allow for the possibility of the criminal to show regret for the evil committed and to change his or her life for the better. We do not teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill others. Saint Pope John Paul II has said the penalty of death is both cruel and unnecessary. Likewise, the antidote to violence is not more violence.

It has been nearly a year since our Catholic community suffered the tragic murders of Sister Paula Merrill, SCN, and Sister Margaret Held, SSSF, who served at a medical clinic in Holmes County. Immediately, in the midst of their profound loss, both the religious communities to which they belonged and their families stated time and again that they are opposed to the death penalty as a further assault against human dignity. We wholeheartedly agree.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of the Diocese of Jackson

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)

Bishop Kopacz issues letter in support of Daniela Vargas and all DACA recipients

Bishop Joseph Kopacz sent the following letter in support of Daniela Vargas, a previous DACA recipient, who was detained by federal authorities moments after she spoke about her desire for a path to citizenship at a news conference. Although the letter speaks to a specific case, he writes in support of all DACA recipients.

March 2, 2017

To Whom It May Concern:

I am Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Miss., and I am writing in support of Daniela Vargas who was taken into custody yesterday after speaking on behalf of DACA recipients at the press conference in Jackson.  I do not know the details of why her DACA status lapsed or was not renewed in a timely fashion, but I am writing to recommend that whatever steps need to be taken to renew her status as a DACA recipient ought to be implemented as soon as possible and that she should be released during this process.  Some have expressed grave concern at every level of government and society that DACA recipients may be especially vulnerable in the transition from one administration to the next, but President Trump has stated that he will honor the status of all DACA recipients.  I would hope that local branches of our Immigration and Customs Service will uphold the letter and spirit of the law with respect to the legal status of DACA recipients.

Thank you for your attention to this critical concern.


+Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of Jackson

Download the PDF here.

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)

Bishop Kopacz opposes SB 2710

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   February 15, 2017

Bishop Kopacz opposes SB 2710, so-called “Sanctuary Cities” bill

As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger and care for those in need. As citizens, we are called to keep our communities strong and safe. We feel that the so-called “Sanctuary Cities” bill (SB 2710) being debated right now in the Mississippi Legislature damages both of those efforts.

The bill is flawed and not needed. Its language is so broad it will only confuse an already complicated issue and could put already vulnerable people at higher risk. Members of our law enforcement communities work hard to build trust in their communities. Putting them under a vague mandate such as this one would damage that trust. Immigrants, both those who enter this country legally and those who have come here hoping for a path to a new life, may be scared to seek needed help if they believe officers and first responders have been pitted against them.

SB 2710 may confuse those seeking education services for their children or college students who wish to seek help from a counselor or other administrator on campus. All of these unintended consequences make this bill a poor proposal for our state.

We urge lawmakers and advocates to oppose SB 2710. We will, as a Catholic community, continue to work with immigrants and refugees – welcoming their contributions to our community and culture – even as we pray for a just solution to the challenges of immigration and security.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)

Pope names new bishop for Biloxi, Bishop Kopacz offers warm welcome

BILOXI — Pope Francis has named Msgr. Louis Kihneman III, 64, as Bishop of the Diocese of Biloxi, and accepted the resignation of Bishop Roger Morin, 75, from the pastoral governance of that diocese. Msgr. Kihneman is a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, and currently serves as vicar general.
The appointment was publicized in Washington, December 16, by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Msgr. Louis Kihneman III

Msgr. Louis Kihneman III

Msgr. Kihneman III, was born on February 17, 1952 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He holds a bachelor of arts degree and master degrees in religious education and theology from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He attended St. Mary’s seminary, Houston, and was ordained as a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi on November 18, 1977.
“I would like to personally welcome Monsignor Louis Kihneman to Mississippi and wish him all the best as he makes the transition to the episcopacy. He brings with him a wealth of experience, having served in many churches in the Gulf South as well as in Mexico. I will keep him in my prayers and I look forward to serving with him in the Magnolia state for many years to come,” said Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson. “I would also like to thank Bishop Roger Morin for his many years of devoted service and wish him a peaceful and prayerful retirement.”
Assignments after ordination included, parochial vicar at San Isidro Labrador Church, Arteaga, Mexico, 1977; St. Anthony of Padua Church, Robstown, Texas, 1978; Christ the King parish, Corpus Christi, 1980; Saints Cyril and Methodius Church, Corpus Christi, 1981. Pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Alice, 1983; diocesan director of vocations and seminarians, 1986-1993; director, St. John Vianney House of Studies, 1986-1993; director of Christian leadership vocations, 1986-1993; pastor, Sacred Heart Church, Rockport, 1993-2011; vicar general, 2010-present; pastor, St. Philip Church, Corpus Christi, 2014 – present.
Other assignments include marriage tribunal advocate, diocesan director of religious education, priest personnel board, associate vicar for clergy, presbyteral council member and as chancellor.
Bishop Roger P. Morin was born on March 7, 1941 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was ordained a priest on April 15, 1971; he was appointed auxiliary bishop of New Orleans on February 11, 2003, and ordained a bishop on April 22, 2003. He was appointed bishop of Biloxi on February 23, 2009.
The Diocese of Biloxi, originally part of the Diocese of Jackson, comprises 9,653 square miles in the state of Mississippi. It has a total population of 818,801 people of which 57,912 or seven percent, are Catholic.

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
(601) 969-3581- office
(251) 753-6917

Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Alabama and Mississippi on Capital Punishment

The brutal murders of Sisters Paula Merrill, SCN and Margaret Held, OSF in the small community of Durant, Mississippi caused shock and sadness. For 15 years these two Catholic religious women selflessly provided health care to the poor in Holmes County and beyond. While the senselessness of murdering two servants of the poor was exceptionally egregious, this act was one more instance of violence which plagues all areas of our society, devastating the lives of victims of violence and their loved ones.
Faced with such loss, this is an appropriate time to consider the manner in which the Lord has taught us to respond to evil. The issue of capital punishment immediately comes to mind. As Christians, we remember that wrongdoing, no matter how evil, deserves punishment but not vengeance.
We are called to respect every human life because each of us is created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:27) God can touch and change even the most bitter and hardened heart. Mindful of this, we do not support the execution of criminals. When we execute someone, we take away any opportunity they have to repent and develop a relationship with God in this life.
While we recognize that the State must protect innocent people from violent criminals, there are ways to do so other than executions. The death penalty is not a deterrence to murder. States with the death penalty do not have lower murder rates than states without capital punishment. In addition, innocent people are sometimes put to death as demonstrated by capital punishment convictions where the convicted person is later proven to be innocent.
The death penalty does not protect; it does not deter. Instead, it prolongs the suffering of loved ones and serves to foster a spirit of vengeance. As Christian leaders we call for alternatives to capital punishment more in keeping with our Christian values. We echo the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “If…non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.” In our country we have the ability to provide justice and protect the innocent without using the death penalty.
Society does not teach respect for life by taking life. Capital punishment contributes to a lack of respect for life and a climate of violence in our States. Life without parole, which some studies indicate costs fewer tax dollars than seeking to execute a criminal, protects society and keeps offenders from harming others. We implore our fellow citizens to ask our elected official to end the violence of the death penalty and to replace it with non-lethal means of punishment.
Let us together embrace the words of scripture: “As I live, says the Lord God, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion, that he may live. Turn, turn from your evil ways.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

Signed by:
Most Reverend Robert J. Baker
Bishop of Birmingham

Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz
Bishop of Jackson

Most Reverend Roger P. Morin
Bishop of Biloxi

Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi
Archbishop of Mobile

Memorial Arrangements for Sister Paula and Sister Margaret

Arrangements for Sr. Margaret Held, OSF, and Sr. Paula Merrill, SCN, both found murdered in their home Thursday, Aug 25, in Durant, Miss., are as follows:
Wake Service — Sunday, Aug. 28, 5:30 p.m. at St. Thomas Church in Lexington.
Memorial Mass — Monday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle in Jackson.
Their mortal remains will be taken to their respective Mother Houses after the Wake Service for Funeral Masses with their respective communities. The Memorial on Monday will be an opportunity for our diocesan community and friends to celebrate the lives of these two remarkable women. Bishop Kopacz will be the principal celebrant.
Parking is available in the Regions Garage for a small fee.