I am writing you this week from Baltimore, where I am taking part in the annual meeting of the nation’s Catholic bishops.

During the meeting, I had the privilege to make a presentation as part of a “canonical consultation” to consider the sainthood cause of a priest who served in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

I am supporting the efforts of the Claretian Fathers and the Association for the Beatification and Canonization of Father Aloysius Ellacuria.

Father Aloysius was a priest from Spain who served for decades in Los Angeles and ministered throughout California, as well as in Texas and Arizona; he is buried at Mission San Gabriel.

He had a reputation for holiness and for inspiring others to seek holiness in their lives. In his ministry, he taught at several Claretian seminaries and was known as a wise and patient confessor and spiritual director.

Through his pastoral guidance, he inspired and attracted many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. He also had a ministry to the sick and the dying and accompanied them in their sufferings with mercy and tenderness.

So I was pleased that my brother bishops expressed support that now is an opportune time for his cause for canonization to move forward.

Also during our meeting, we approved a strong pastoral statement on the scourge of pornography in our society and we also updated our longstanding document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.”

This is an important document that helps us to understand our responsibilities and the vital role we play as Catholic citizens in our nation’s political and cultural life.

American democracy depends on churches, religious institutions and religious believers all being engaged in the discussions and debates that shape our common life together.

For Catholics, our civic engagement must always be rooted in our faith in Jesus and in the moral principles and social teachings he entrusted to his Church.

Catholic social teaching is universal not sectarian; it’s not about promoting the narrow interests of the Church or Catholic “causes.”

The Church’s social teaching is essential to her mission of spreading the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God on earth; it reflects and promotes God’s beautiful vision of love for creation and for all peoples.

As Catholics, we are working for a society and culture where every human life is welcomed, cherished and cared for, and where all people can live with dignity and fulfill the purposes for which God created them.

In recent years, Church institutions have been experiencing growing pressure from government agencies and cultural leaders to abandon or compromise their religious beliefs.

At the same time, believers find themselves facing increasing criticism, even legal challenges, for their beliefs. In some cases, their jobs and livelihoods are being threatened simply because they are trying to stay faithful to God and live out their faith in their everyday lives.

So it is important that Catholics join other believers in defending the fundamental right to religious liberty.

When Pope Francis spoke at the White House during his recent pilgrimage to America, he called religious freedom “one of America’s most precious possessions.” He praised the U.S. bishops for their efforts to “preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”

That is why the U.S. bishops are supporting the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act that is working its way through the U.S. Congress.

The legislation would defend Catholic and other institutions from policies that would require them to provide health care insurance that covers abortions.

But the issue is not only abortion. The issue is also religious freedom. Since America’s founding, our government and courts have always recognized the freedom of religious institutions to organize and operate according to their beliefs. 

We need to restore this sense of the primacy of conscience and religious liberty in our society.

Our society needs the influence of universal religious beliefs — especially in the fundamental areas of human life.

That is why my brother bishops in the California Catholic Conference are supporting the referendum to overturn California’s new assisted suicide law. The referendum is being proposed by Seniors Against Assisted Suicide, an independent citizens’ group. If successfully qualified the referendum would be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

My brother bishops and I believe this new law, which could take effect as early as March 2016, is an urgent and grave threat — especially to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and those dependent on public assistance for their health care.

That is why we are permitting signature-gathering at parishes statewide in an attempt to qualify. Signature-gathering will take place here in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles this weekend, Nov. 21-22, Christ the King Sunday. And I am grateful for the assistance of the Knights of Columbus, who are working closely with our Office of Life, Justice and Peace. For more information, please refer to our website: ahardpill.org/resources.

So let’s pray for each other this week, and let’s pray for the success of our signature-gathering efforts this weekend.

And may Our Blessed Mother Mary help all of us to be faithful citizens and work for social justice and human dignity in our state and in our country.

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