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U.S. Bishops’ Chairman for Domestic Justice and Human Development Urges Care for the Poor and Vulnerable in Further Consideration of COVID-19 Relief Legislation

WASHINGTON - Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, released a statement urging lawmakers to remember the needs of the poor and vulnerable as they consider additional relief packages related to the COVID-19 crisis. This follows the statements of Archbishop Coakley on March 12 and March 28 on the previous legislation providing emergency relief to those suffering from the impact of the coronavirus.  
 
Archbishop Coakley’s full statement follows:
 
“In the readings last Sunday, we heard from St. Peter, ‘Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope...’ (1 Pt. 3:15). On Easter Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for the gift of hope while powerfully illuminating the concerns of the Church during the pandemic:
‘This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless. May these, the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters living in the cities and peripheries of every part of the world, not be abandoned. Let us ensure that they do not lack basic necessities...’[1]
“As Congress turns once more to considering additional relief related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus should be on those most in need—the poor, the vulnerable, and people on the margins—to offer them some hope and assistance in desperate circumstances. Since early April, some of my brother bishops and I have sent five letters to express this touchstone principle to Congress and its various committees, in contexts ranging from food security, housing, access to affordable health care, protections for the unborn, addressing racial and ethnic disparities in health outcomes, assistance for the poor and unemployed, care for migrants and refugees, safety for detainees and the incarcerated, education, international assistance and debt relief, and help for charities serving vulnerable populations.  
 
“Additional needs have emerged such as sufficient protective equipment for all essential workers, protection of familial well-being and integrity, additional research on the link between air pollution and coronavirus health outcomes, and the need to address disruptions to the food supply chain and its impact on farmers and farmworkers, food waste and public health. We welcome the Vatican’s new commission on COVID-19, and will continue our advocacy in the same mode as this critical work for the common good continues.
 
“In this time of trial, it is important to remember ‘the reason for our hope.’ On the Feast of the Ascension this week, we hear the resurrected Lord tell his disciples, ‘And behold, I am with you always’ (Mt. 28:20). Let us proceed in this hope, asking the Lord for wisdom on how best to respond, drawing close to our brothers and sisters in need, and finding our peace in the Lord’s promise to be with us ‘until the end of the age.’”  
 
The recent letters of USCCB chairmen to Congress on its COVID-19 response can be found at the following links:
1.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate and House Committees on Appropriations
2.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate and House Committees on the Judiciary
3.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and House Committee on Education and Labor
4.   April 9, 2020, letter to Senate Committee on Finance, House Committee on Ways and Means, and House Committee on Energy and Commerce
5.   May 7, 2020, letter to all members of Congress on moral framework for health care
 
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, coronavirus, COVID-19, CARES Act.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

USCCB Chairman Commends Guidance Upholding Religious Freedom at U.S. Department of Labor

WASHINGTON - Late last week, Secretary Eugene Scalia issued guidance directing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to ensure equal treatment for religious institutions participating in DOL grants and programs. Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, released the following statement:

“The recently issued guidance from the Secretary of Labor rightly recognizes that religion and religious institutions make vital contributions to the well-being of our country. I am grateful for the steps the Administration has taken to promote fairness for people faith. By ensuring that religious institutions can participate in public programs on equal footing with secular ones, the Department of Labor protects faith-based organizations’ freedom to serve and thus promotes the common good.”

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop George V. Murry, Department of Labor, Committee for Religious Liberty, religious liberty, religious freedom.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Pope Francis Merges Archdiocese of Anchorage and Diocese of Juneau and Names Bishop Andrew Bellisario, CM as Metropolitan Archbishop of Anchorage-Juneau

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has merged the Archdiocese of Anchorage and the Diocese of Juneau and has erected the new ecclesiastical circumscription of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau. At the same time, he named the current bishop of Juneau and apostolic administrator for Anchorage, Andrew E. Bellisario, CM as the new metropolitan archbishop of Anchorage-Juneau.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Bellisario was appointed bishop of Juneau in July 2017. He has also been serving as apostolic administrator of Anchorage since June 2019. He is a member of the religious order, the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Fathers and Brothers).

The Archdiocese of Anchorage is comprised of 138,985 square miles in the State of Alaska and has a total population of 481,023 of which 24,115 are Catholic. The Diocese of Juneau is comprised of 37,566 square miles in the State of Alaska and has a total population of 75,000 of which 7,249 are Catholic.
 
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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Andrew E. Bellisario, Archdiocese of Anchorage, Diocese of Juneau.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Catholic Communication Campaign Connects Communities in Christ

WASHINGTON—The annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC) is scheduled to take place on the weekend of May 23-24, coinciding with World Communications Day. This annual national appeal supports efforts in the United States and around the world to use the media, internet, and print publications to help people connect with Christ.

The COVID-19 virus has prompted life to change in dramatic ways for more than two months with an increased reliance on communication tools to stay connected. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are using online tools to work and attend school, and stay connected to their families, friends, and their faith. Although most people are unable to gather together in their parishes for Mass, some dioceses offer electronic offertory programs that include the Catholic Communication Campaign or other ways for parishioners to support scheduled appeals. “In these times, the support of the Catholic Communication Campaign is vital to help keep the faithful connected to our faith and for dioceses to communicate the Gospel through all available means,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. of Atlanta, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign (CCC). “The CCC has long recognized the need to reach people and help them connect with Christ. Thanks to the generosity of the faithful in the United States, millions of people throughout the world have been able to connect in new ways with the Good News of Jesus Christ, especially in recent months,” continued Archbishop Hartmayer.

Fifty percent of the funds collected through the campaign remain in each diocese to support local communication efforts. The other half is used to support national efforts in the United States and in developing countries around the world.

With support from the Catholic Communication Campaign, the USCCB developed a resource page in response to the COVID-19 virus, “Together in Christ” on its website with links for families, parishes, and dioceses to prayer resources, livestream of Masses, and catechetical materials.

Two documentaries supported by major CCC grants are now in national broadcast television circulation. Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story, about the Catholic Worker movement co-founder who is on the road to sainthood, was released to public television stations in March 2020 and has already exceeded 1,000 broadcasts nationwide. The film won the Religion Communicators Council 2020 Wilbur Award for best documentary. Walking the Good Red Road: Nicholas Black Elk’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the intriguing life of a man born into pre-reservation America and immortalized in author John Neihardt’s classic 1932 book Black Elk Speaks. The program brings to light Black Elk’s conversion to Catholicism and his dedication to bringing other Native Americans to the Catholic faith. In cooperation with the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission, the program will be available on ABC-TV stations nationwide beginning May 17, 2020.

The Subcommittee on the Catholic Communication Campaign oversees the collection and an annual grants program under the direction of the USCCB’s Committee on Communications. Shareable resources for the collection are available online. More information about the Catholic Communication Campaign can be found at www.usccb.org/ccc. Still photos from the documentary films Revolution of the Heart and Walking the Good Red Road are available to the media upon request.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Catholic Communication Campaign, World Communications Day, COVID-19, Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, Together in Christ.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Bishop Chairmen Express Solidarity with Native and Indigenous Communities During the Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON- Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City and chairman of USCCB’s Committe on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Native American Affairs have released the following statement in solidarity with Native and Indigenous communities who are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
 
“As Native Communities continue to greatly suffer from the COVID-19 epidemic, the Church is developing ways to draw upon its deep roots in the person of Jesus to foster strength, charity and support to those who are sick and those who have died. We cherish our close connections to Native Communities through our Catholic parishes, missions and schools. We recall once more our profound desire to develop pathways to hope. We are heartbroken over reports that Native and Indigenous communities across this country are suffering at disproportionately high rates from the COVID-19 pandemic and concerned about the lack of sufficient resources to respond to the crisis. We are especially mindful of the Navajo Nation where people are being infected with the coronavirus at some of the highest rates in the country. We hold in prayer our brothers and sisters who are suffering and grieving in these communities, and we stand with them in calling for a robust response to the pandemic in their lands.

The virus is exacerbating health disparities and long-standing social inequalities facing Native and Indigenous communities. Adequate funding for the Indian Health Service has long been a challenge, and there are reports of shortages of medical personnel and hospital beds. We are hopeful that the U.S. Senate’s recent unanimous confirmation of a director for the Indian Health Service affirms the recognition for the need of a strong advocate for the health needs of tribal communities. It is also good that additional resources were allocated in recent legislation, and it is essential that this funding reach its intended recipients as soon as possible. We implore lawmakers and government officials to protect the life and dignity of Native and Indigenous peoples by working with tribal leaders to ensure strong support and ample resources to protect their communities, including resources to adequately respond to large Native populations living in urban areas and resources devoted to addressing underlying medical conditions that increase the threat of COVID-19 for Native populations.”

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, Domestic Justice and Human Development, Bishop James S. Wall, Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, COVID-19, Native and Indigenous communities.

 

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Pope Francis Names Father Peter Muhich of Diocese of Duluth as Bishop of Rapid City

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father Peter M. Muhich, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth as the Bishop of Rapid City.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 12, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. The Diocese of Rapid City has been a vacant see since July 2019.

Bishop-elect Muhich was born on May 13, 1961 and ordained to the priesthood on September 29, 1989 for the Diocese of Duluth. Father Muhich attended Eveleth High School in Eveleth, MN and University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, MN. He studied theology at American College of Louvain in Belgium.

Father Muhich’s assignments in the Diocese of Duluth after ordination include: Parochial Vicar at St. Francis Parish in Brainerd (1989-1991); Parochial Vicar at St. Joseph, Grand Rapids; Our Lady of the Snows in Bigfork and St. Theresa in Effie (1991-1993). Pastor at Holy Rosary in Aurora (1993-1996); Pastor at Queen of Peace in Hoyt Lakes (1993-1996); Pastor at St. Rose in Proctor and St. Philip in Saginaw (1996-1998); Pastor at Blessed Sacrament, St. Leo and Immaculate Conception in Hibbing (1996-2009). He has served as Pastor at St. Mary Star of the Sea and at Our Lady of Mercy in Duluth (2010), and in 2019, he served as Interim Administrator at St. Francis in Carlton and Sts. Mary and Joseph in Sawyer. Bishop-elect Muhich has served as Administrator at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth where he currently serves as Rector.

Father Muhich’s ministry includes service for the Deacon Formation Program (1993); Presbyteral Council (1993-1996); College of Consultors (1993-1996); Clergy Personnel Board (2002-2007); Priest Personnel Board (2007); Diocesan Finance Officer (2009-2011); Spiritual Director at St. Raphael Guild of the Catholic Medical Association (2013); Presbyteral Council (2014) and Vicar Forane of the Duluth Deanery.  

The Diocese of Rapid City is comprised of 43,000 square miles in the State of South Dakota and has a total population of 227,211 of which 23,934 are Catholic.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Father Peter M. Muhich, Diocese of Duluth, Diocese of Rapid City.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

 

Pope Francis Names Father Louis Tylka of Archdiocese of Chicago as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has named Father Louis Tylka, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago as the Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria.

The appointment was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC is the current bishop of Peoria, and the appointment as coadjutor bishop confers on Bishop-elect Tylka the right of succession for the Diocese of Peoria.

Bishop-elect Tylka was born on May 26, 1970 in Harvey, Illinois and ordained to the priesthood on May 18, 1996 for the Archdiocese of Chicago. He attended Niles College Seminary of Loyola University Chicago (1989-1992) and received a Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University Chicago (1992). Father Tylka attended Mundelein Seminary, IL (1992-1996) where he received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology (1995) and his Master of Divinity (1996).   

Father Tylka’s assignments in the Archdiocese of Chicago after ordination include: Associate Pastor at St. Michael Paris in Orland Park (1996-2003); Associate Pastor at Ss. Faith, Hope & Charity Parish in Winnetka (2003-2004); and Pastor at Mater Christi Parish in North Riverside (2004-2014). Since 2014, Father Tylka has served as President of the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and Pastor of St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park.

The Diocese of Peoria is comprised of 16,933 square miles in the State of Illinois and has a total population of 1,492,335 of which 139,835 are Catholic.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Father Louis Tylka, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, Diocese of Peoria.


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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer of Cincinnati

WASHINGTON—Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer as Auxiliary Bishop of Cincinnati.

The resignation was publicized in Washington, D.C. on May 7, 2020 by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Pope Francis, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio, Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Upcoming Cases Provide Opportunity for Supreme Court to Preserve the Religious Liberty of Little Sisters of the Poor and Other Christian Ministries

WASHINGTON – The Little Sisters of the Poor again find themselves in court defending their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to violate their conscience. The Supreme Court of the United States hears oral argument today in the case of Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Additionally, the Court will hear oral argument on May 11 in the consolidated cases of Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel. These cases involve the right of Catholic schools, free of government interference, to choose teachers who will teach and model the Catholic faith.

Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop Michael C. Barber, S.J. of Oakland, chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, have issued a statement addressing the cases:

“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor, a ministry we appreciate even more as we endure a pandemic to which the elderly poor are particularly vulnerable. Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. James schools continue the Catholic tradition of offering Christian education. All of these ministries are animated by the Spirit of Christ. They are responses to the call of lay and religious to bear witness to the kingdom of God in the world.

“Religious organizations have a right, recognized by the Constitution, to select people who will perform ministry, and the government has no legitimate authority to second guess those ministerial decisions. Nor may the government force a religious order to violate the religious beliefs that animate its mission. It is dismaying that after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the freedom of our Catholic religious orders and schools to practice their faith and to serve others in love.”

The USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs supporting these religious institutions. The briefs can be found here:
Little Sisters of the Poor v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrisey-Berru

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Keywords: Bishop George V. Murry, Bishop Michael C. Barber, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, religious liberty, conscience rights, religious freedom, Catholic education, Little Sisters of the Poor, pro-life, contraceptive mandate, Supreme Court, Our Lady of Guadalupe School, St. James School, Catholic education.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200

 

Bishop Chairmen Condemn Racism and Xenophobia in the Context of the Coronavirus Pandemic

WASHINGTON – In the midst of fear and anxiety being fueled by the COVID-19 virus, there have been increased reports of incidents of racism and xenophobia against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage. Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City and chairman of the USCCB’s Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux and chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism have issued a statement expressing their deep concern.

“The pandemic resulting from the new coronavirus continues to sweep across the world, impacting our everyday behavior, practices, perceptions, and the way we interact with one another. While we have been heartened by the countless acts of charity and bravery that have been modeled by many, we are also alarmed to note the increase in reported incidents of bullying and verbal and physical assaults, particularly against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage.

“While a high percentage of Asian Americans work in the health care sector risking their own health to save lives, some have experienced rejection and requests to be treated ‘by someone else.’ Way before state and local ordinances brought to a halt almost every economic sector in the country, communities across the country, from Oakland, California to New York City, reported a sharp decline in the patronage for businesses owned and operated by Asian Americans. These are only a few painful examples of the continuing harassment and racial discrimination suffered by people of Asian and Pacific Islanders and others in our country.

“As Catholic bishops, we find these actions absolutely unacceptable. We call on Catholics, fellow Christians and all people of good will to help stop all racially motivated discriminatory actions and attitudes, for they are attacks against human life and dignity and are contrary to Gospel values. As we wrote in our pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts (2018), racism is ‘a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God.’

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been victims of these vile displays of racism and xenophobia. These dreadful occurrences are a reminder that, in an environment of increased anxiety and fear, racial profiling and discrimination continue to negatively impact the lives of certain populations, adding to the pain and suffering already caused by the pandemic.

“The acts of violence and unjust discrimination evoke and prod a long history of xenophobia and racism in this country. If uncontested, they could lead once again to a normalization of violence and abuse against particular groups. It would be a tragedy for the United States to repeat this history or for any American to act as if it is appropriate to do so.

“Rather, the reality of the times and all the suffering caused by this pandemic call for a stronger resolve towards unity, demonstrated through acts of solidarity, kindness and love toward one another, so that we can emerge from this crisis renewed and stronger as one American people; a people that places value in every human life, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender or religious affiliation.

“While we continue to pray fervently for an end to the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, we call for a firm rejection of racial categorizations or presumptions, racially based verbal assaults or slurs, and for an end to all forms of violence. We ask our elected officials and public institutions, as well as all public figures, to do all that they can to promote and maintain peace in our communities; and we encourage all individuals, families and congregations to assist in promoting a greater appreciation and understanding of the authentic human values and cultural contributions brought by each racial heritage in our country.”

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Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Bishop Oscar A. Solis, Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, Bishop Shelton Fabre, Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, racism, xenophobia, COVID-19, Asian American.

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Media Contacts:
Chieko Noguchi or Miguel Guilarte
202-541-3200