Religion

Vatican-sponsored national conference planned in Modesto to help ‘most weak and vulnerable’

Msgr. Raymond Dreiling, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, with Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Sartillo, Mexico, before listening to Pope Francis speak in Bolivia in July of 2015.
Msgr. Raymond Dreiling, vicar general of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, with Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Sartillo, Mexico, before listening to Pope Francis speak in Bolivia in July of 2015. SPECIAL TO THE BEE

The Vatican-sponsored U.S. Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements will be held in Modesto in February.

Catholic officials said Pope Francis is exploring teleconference possibilities, which would allow him to speak remotely to those at the 2017 conference, to be held Feb. 16-19 at Central Catholic High School. The event is closed to the public; each diocese is allowed to send a set number of delegates.

The pope blessed water from the central San Joaquin Valley during last year’s World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia, which was attended by several faith leaders from the central San Joaquin Valley, including Monsignor Raymond Dreiling of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

Organizers say the World Meeting of Popular Movements aims to deepen relationships with communities and grassroots organizations and to “boldly advocate for the most weak and vulnerable among us. The right to work, housing and land are primary areas of concern. Racial injustice, immigration and environmental challenges will also be addressed.”

The 2017 conference is co-sponsored by the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and PICO – the largest network of faith-based groups in the nation. The Diocese of Fresno is co-hosting the event.

“We recently gathered in Rome at the invitation of Pope Francis to show the church’s closeness to all sectors in our society, including grassroots movements,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s department for Integral Human Development. “This is a gathering which is being taken out to the regions and to the national levels. The gathering is about the dignity of all people, which we don’t receive from any government; it’s something we are born with. We encourage all grassroots movements to join us in Modesto.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

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