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Catholic leaders urge help for migrant kids crossing U.S. border

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A Latin America expert for Catholic Relief Services, the head of the bishops’ migration committee and the president of a Catholic college in Michigan were among those urging the government toward humanitarian responses to a surge of children and families crossing the U.S. border from Central America.

Among their recommendations were: fully funding a requested federal appropriation for services to deal with the influx of people; investigating and working to address the root causes of emigration from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; and creating a program so people may seek permission to come to the United States without having to make the treacherous and illegal journey. Such programs have been successful in Iraq, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union.

In this handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, unaccompanied migrant children are shown at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. . Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS photo/ handout, Reuters)

In this handout photo courtesy of the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, unaccompanied migrant children are shown at a Department of Health and Human Services facility in south Texas. . Many undocumented minors coming across the U.S. border claim they are escaping gang violence in their home countries. (CNS photo/ handout, Reuters)

In testimony to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs July 16, Richard Jones, the CRS deputy regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said his agency has seen the numbers of unaccompanied youth fleeing Central America double yearly since 2011.

“We have seen the homicide rates grow, forced displacement increase and Mexican and Colombian drug cartels battle over who controls the routes through Central America,” he said in written testimony. “In El Salvador and Honduras, there are more gang members than police.”

He gave the example of four boys who were killed and dismembered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, last month because they refused to be drug couriers.

“Two of the four were brothers, one age 10, the other age 6,” Jones said.

Violence in El Salvador also has increased since March 2013, when a truce negotiated between gangs unraveled, Jones said. And since the election of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren earlier this year, he said, “violent deaths have risen to 13 per day or over 70 homicides (per) 100,000 people — nearly double what they were at the same time the previous year.”

In Guatemala City, that nation’s capital, the homicide rate is 116 per 100,000 people, he said, noting that, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, in just the past six months, more than 600 unaccompanied children from that city were apprehended in the United States.

He went on to discuss the various social factors complicating the raw violence, and to describe some of the programs CRS and other organizations are providing to try to address the problems at the core and keep families intact in their home countries, with education, skills and ways of improving their situations.

He mentioned various ways the governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are trying to address their problems, including how to protect people who are returned there after being deported by the United States and Mexico. The efforts are inadequate, he said.

Jones gave several specific recommendations for ways the U.S. can best direct resources to the countries.

Among them, investing in community-based programs focused on security, job creation and violence prevention; including trying to better understand the local conditions causing people to flee.

In a July 17 letter to members of Congress, Seattle Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, who heads the U.S. bishops’ migration committee, said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly support supplemental funding requested by President Barack Obama to take care of the more than 57,000 unaccompanied minors and 36,000 families that have come into the country since October.

He said they also oppose changes to current laws “that would roll back protections for these children that were enacted as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008.”

Bishop Elizondo said that “this vulnerable group is fleeing violence from organized criminal networks. Many are likely to be eligible for a variety of forms of immigration relief, including asylum and various visas. Sending these vulnerable children back to their persecutors without a meaningful immigration hearing would severely decrease their opportunity for legal protection and possibly lead to their bodily harm or even death. We would oppose the repeal of key provisions of these laws in the supplemental appropriations bill or any other legislative vehicle.”

He also opposed placing families into detention facilities, and encouraged increasing funding for community-based alternatives to detention, as well as increased funding for legal representation and for the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged with caring for the children.

Bishop Elizondo also asked for funding to address the reasons why people flee their homelands and to support a program for orderly departure in the region.

“Such programs have worked successfully in Iraq, Vietnam, the former Soviet Union and other locations around the globe,” he said. “The United States and countries in the region could accept a number of children and youth each year, consistent with the best interest of the child standard. Such a program would ensure that children are protected and our international obligations are met while sparing children the dangers of a migration journey.”

And at Marygrove College in Detroit, President David J. Fike called the situation a humanitarian refugee crisis that warrants a different kind of response than has been happening.

“This shouldn’t be a debate,” he said July 17. “The fleeing of vulnerable women, children, and young adults we are witnessing has all of the classic markings of what the world has seen in war-torn regions over and over again, war-torn regions in which unprotected, threatened civilians will take extreme measures to reach a safe haven.

“The only difference in this instance,” he said, “is that the threat to vulnerable civilians is not from standing armies engaged in traditional combat or even organized guerrilla warfare. In this instance, the threat is from brutally violent gangs, extortionists, and narco-traffickers operating with impunity in widespread areas of extreme lawlessness.”

Fike said at a news conference at the Catholic college that the situation calls for a charitable and humanitarian response, yet political leaders and news media debate whether to do that.

“Our elected leaders are all-too-frequently characterizing this situation as being the result of our broken immigration system, or as being the result of our lack of comprehensive immigration reform, or as being the result of some sort of mass psychosis afflicting mothers in specific parts of this hemisphere who are spontaneously deciding to send their children on extraordinarily life-threatening journeys to far off lands,” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Fike, said his personal passion on the topic comes from his time spent in Central America and his friendship with some of the University of Central America faculty and staff who were murdered during the El Salvador civil war.

“I’ve seen and understand the results of dehumanization and I don’t like it … it’s painful, it denies our better selves, it makes us smaller and meaner as a country,” he said.

He said he is frustrated by the lack of moral leadership and called on Obama to recognize the migrants as refugees. He said he would marshal the resources of Marygrove to help in any way possible, and encouraged other higher education administrators to do the same.

 

Pope calls for prayers as Iraqi militants expel Christians from Mosul

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the last Iraqi Christians in Mosul fled the city, Pope Francis urgently called for prayers, dialogue and peace.

“Violence isn’t overcome with violence. Violence is conquered with peace” the pope said before leading thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square in a moment of silent prayer July 20.

An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad July 20. Pope Francis called for prayers, dialogue, and peace, as the last Iraqi Christians flee the Iraqi city of Mosul. (CNS photo/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)

An Iraqi man carrying a cross and a Quran attends Mass at Mar Girgis Church in Baghdad July 20. Pope Francis called for prayers, dialogue, and peace, as the last Iraqi Christians flee the Iraqi city of Mosul. (CNS photo/Ahmed Malik, Reuters)

“Our brothers and sisters are persecuted, they are chased away,” he said, as he assured Christians in all of Iraq and the Middle East of his “constant prayers.”

The pope’s plea came as the last Christian families living in Mosul were forced from the city after facing increasing threats, violence and intimidation.

The Islamic State group, which has taken control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, was threatening to kill any Christians who did not convert to Islam or pay a tax, Syriac Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan told Vatican Radio.

The militants in Mosul also burned to the ground the building housing the Syriac bishop’s office, residence and library, and everything inside, he said July 19.

Islamic State fighters “have already threatened that if they don’t convert to Islam, all Christians will be murdered. It’s terrible! This is a disgrace for the whole international community,” he told the radio.

The international community must immediately halt all aid to the Islamic State group, he said.

“Whom are they getting their weapons from? From these extremist nations in the (Persian) Gulf, with the approval of Western political leaders because they need their oil.”

The patriarch said the world community must uphold human rights and the freedom of religion.

“We are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: We Christians weren’t imported, we’ve been here for millennia and, therefore, we have the right to be treated as human beings and citizens of these countries,” he said.

Patriarch Younan spoke with Pope Francis by telephone July 20 while visiting Rome and told him of the “disastrous” situation in Mosul.

The pope said “he was following closely and with anxiety the plight of Christians” in Mosul, the patriarch told Catholic News Service.

During their nine-minute phone conversation, the patriarch begged the pope “to continue intensifying efforts with the powerful of this world” and to warn them “that it is a mass purification based on religion which is underway in the province of Ninevah,” whose capital is Mosul.

“What a shame for the silence of the so-called civilized world” in response to the tragedy, the patriarch told CNS via email.

The Syriac patriarch was in Rome with Syriac Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa of Mosul and Syriac Catholic Archbishop Ephrem Yousif Mansoor Abba of Baghdad, to meet with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign minister, and explain the plight of Christians in Mosul and surrounding areas.

The patriarch proposed that the Vatican call on its diplomatic corps members to urge their respective governments to take “appropriate measures in order to prevent further killing and abusing of Christians and other minorities in the name of a religion.”

Syriac Catholic Archbishop Yohanna Moshe of Mosul told the Vatican’s Fides news agency that Islamic State fighters took possession of a Syrian Catholic monastery outside of Mosul, near Qaraqosh, July 20.

Earlier, militants occupied Mosul’s Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox cathedrals, removed the crosses at the front of the buildings and replaced them with the Islamic state’s black flag. Tombs and other places of worship were reported to have been desecrated, too.

Militants singled out homes belonging to Christians and marked them in red paint with the letter “N,” for “Nazarat,” which means Christian, as well as “Property of ISIS,” the Islamic State group, said Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad.

“Our worst fears have come true and we don’t know what to do,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.

Those who fled their homes with whatever possessions they could carry were then stripped of everything they owned by the militants at the city’s checkpoints, said Archbishop Jean Sleiman, the Latin-rite bishop of Baghdad.

The militants took people’s belongings, money, personal items “even their cars, leaving them with nothing and forcing them to walk miles under the sun to get to the first Christian villages outside the city where they’re welcomed,” he told SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency.

Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako told AsiaNews that any dialogue with the extremists seemed impossible.

The militants are like “a wall” as they only repeat: “Between us there is nothing but a sword,” the patriarch said. He added that “there is no one of authority to face,” so people “don’t know where they come from and what they really want.”

Patriarch Sako said that as late as the end of June, 35,000 Christians had lived in Mosul, and more than 60,000 lived there before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. But now, “for the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.”

“Iraq is heading towards a humanitarian, cultural and historical disaster,” he said in an open letter to Iraqis and the world July 17.

“It is shameful that Christians are being rejected, expelled and diminished” from a land they have shared together with their Muslim fellow citizens for 1400 years, the patriarch wrote.

He urged Muslims who support the Islamic State “to reconsider their strategy and respect the unarmed innocent people of all ethnicities, religions and sects.” He asked Iraqi Christians to be rational, “calculate their options well,” to come together in solidarity and be patient as they prayed “until the storm passes.”

Syriac Catholic Father Nizar Semaan of Mosul told Fides that world leaders must do something concrete, like “include these groups in the list of terrorist organizations” as well as “make public the names of the countries and forces that finance them.”

He said intelligence agencies and some governments “know where certain weapons and money that keep these groups going come from. It would be enough to stop the flow for a month, and these groups would not have any more force.”

Also, Sunni leaders and followers must help isolate the jihadist groups and declare a religious ruling against them, which “would certainly have a significant effect,” the priest said.

Contributing to this story was Doreen Abi Raad in Beirut.

 

Caritas official launching appeal for Gaza residents, more than 80,000 displaced

July 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, International News

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Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — The head of Caritas in Jerusalem said he would launch an international appeal to help with the Gaza Strip and would not wait until the end of Israeli-Hamas hostilities, as he had done in the past.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires toward the Gaza Strip July 18. Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas July 18, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace. (CNS photo/Nir Elias, Reuters)

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires toward the Gaza Strip July 18. Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas July 18, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace. (CNS photo/Nir Elias, Reuters)

Father Raed Abusahlia, general director of Caritas Jerusalem, said July 18 that more than 80,000 Palestinians had been displaced and 1,250 homes have been completely demolished in Israeli airstrikes and the invasion of Gaza in July. He said 80 percent of the Gaza Strip was without electricity and 90 percent of people did not have drinkable water.

“Families are leaving everything behind and they don’t know what they will be coming back to,” he told Catholic News Service. “It is very difficult. There will be a lot of work to do afterward.”

Israeli launched a ground offensive in Gaza July 17, and in an email to Father Abusahlia that night, Amin Sabbagh, Gaza Caritas staff coordinator, wrote: “We are facing heavy attack from the sea, from the air and from land. There are lots of explosions everywhere, and people are afraid. Children are scared and women are crying. The situation is impossible. We pray that the Lord brings his peace upon us.”

“This needs to stop on both sides,” Father Abusahlia said. “We would have liked Hamas to have accepted the (Israeli-proposed) cease-fire,” but Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, also wants “the lifting of the blockade and an opening of the crossings from both Israel and Egypt.”

“They don’t want just a cease-fire,” the priest said. Referring to the seven-year Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip, he added, “1.7 million people in Gaza should not remain in the biggest prison.”

The priest said Gazans need hospital supplies. He said Caritas medical staff had been volunteering at local hospitals as well as helping where they could from their homes with the use of first aid kits distributed by Caritas after the fighting in 2012.

Despite calls by Hamas not to leave their homes, thousands of people in 14 targeted quarters heeded Israeli warnings and evacuated and were being sheltered in U.N. school buildings. Some Palestinians remained in their homes, fearing theft in tough economic times.

Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem said the school at Holy Family Parish in Gaza had been opened to those fleeing their homes.

Bishop Shomali urged Palestinian and Israeli political leaders to accept Pope Francis’ call for an immediate cease-fire.

“Many innocent people have been killed. The human pride is terrible, and the result is the loss of innocent people,” Bishop Shomali said. “We need an immediate cease-fire both on southern Israel and in Gaza. People are afraid, tired, they don’t sleep.”

In Jerusalem, Matthew McGarry, country representative for Catholic Relief Services, told CNS he was in regular contact with staff in Gaza. He said they told him that although militants had been launching missiles in Israel from civilian areas, many people have also been killed by Israeli airstrikes in areas where there are no launch sites.

A young CRS intern and her family were killed while sitting in their house, he said.

“She was just a young woman trying to improve her situation,” he said. “As with everything, it is not one way or the other. Certainly there are launch sites in civilian areas, but innocent civilians are being killed in their homes.”

He said CRS was working to procure nonfood items for Gazan residents for a time when staffers could distribute them.

“It has been terrible. People are fasting for the month of Ramadan, they are not eating or drinking during the day and they have only a few hours of sleep with the airstrikes and the drones flying overhead,” said McGarry. “It is very frightening, frustrating and disappointing. Clearly this latest round of hostilities is more intense. The indiscriminate targeting of civilians is unacceptable, whoever is doing it.”

Dr. Issa Tarazi, executive director of Near East Council of Churches Department of Services to Palestinian Refugees in Gaza, told Catholic News Service July 18: “There is shooting everywhere, bomb strikes and airstrikes. There are explosions all around. Nobody can move.

“Gaza is so crowded; everywhere you shoot, there are people. We have experience with this, and we don’t want it to be repeated,” he said.

In a post on the Spanish website of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, Father Jorge Hernandez, parish priest in Gaza, said he had shared the translated message of support from Pope Francis with this parish and other Christians.

“Dear brother, I am with you and the sisters and the entire Catholic community. I accompany you with my prayers and closeness. May Jesus bless you and the Virgin Mary protect you,” Pope Francis wrote in Spanish to his fellow Argentine priest.

Father Hernandez, who asked for prayers, spoke of visiting his parishioners, where he saw “terrible moments of fear, confusion, stress, crying, but always, always, always at the end of their stories is the profound confidence in … praising God.”

 

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Francis prays for victims of downed Malaysian jet, urges peace in Ukraine

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Pope Francis offered prayers for the 298 passengers and crew members who died when it came down in eastern Ukraine.

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash July 17 in Grabovo, Ukraine. It is believed all 295 people aboard died in the crash. (CNS photo/Maxim Zmeyev, Reuters)

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash July 17 in Grabovo, Ukraine. It is believed all 295 people aboard died in the crash. (CNS photo/Maxim Zmeyev, Reuters)

According to Australian news reports, as many as 108 of those who died July 17 were on their way to Melbourne for the International AIDS Conference. Also killed was Sacred Heart Sister Philomene Tiernan, a member of the staff at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, a Catholic girls’ school in Sydney.

“The Holy Father, Francis, has learned with dismay of the tragedy of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft downed in east Ukraine, a region marked by high tensions,” said a statement July 18 from the Vatican press office. “The pope raises prayers for the numerous victims of the incident and for their relatives, and renews his heartfelt appeal to all parties in the conflict to seek peace and solutions through dialogue, in order to avoid further loss of innocent human lives.”

Given the ongoing tensions between Ukraine, Ukrainian separatists and Russia, and reports that the plane was flying at 33,000 feet, it was widely believed the plane was shot down.

Regarding the death of Sister Tiernan, the school principal sent a message to parents confirming the news and saying, “this has come as an enormous shock to me and our school community.”

“I heard from Phil yesterday morning,” when the nun was still in France, wrote the principal, Hilary Johnston-Croke. “She told me that she had left Joigny, where she had been attending a retreat,” and had gone to Paris to venerate the remains of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, “which was a very special moment for her.”

“We are devastated by the loss of such a wonderfully kind, wise and compassionate woman who was greatly loved by us all. She was a great friend and mentor to me personally,” the principal said.

The Archdiocese of Sydney announced that a special memorial Mass for all of the victims would be celebrated July 20 in St. Mary’s Cathedral. Australia’s governor general and prime minister were scheduled to attend the Mass.

In Melbourne, as representatives of faith-based groups caring for people with HIV/AIDS held a pre-conference to the international AIDS meeting, they began their work with prayers for the victims.

The White House press office released a statement July 17 offering the country’s condolences to the victims and their families.

“It is critical that there be a full, credible, and unimpeded international investigation as quickly as possible,” the White House statement said. “We urge all concerned — Russia, the pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine — to support an immediate cease-fire in order to ensure safe and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators and in order to facilitate the recovery of remains.”

 

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Pope urges Israeli, Palestinian leaders to end Holy Land conflict

July 18th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Expressing his serious concerns over the escalating violence in the Holy Land, Pope Francis telephoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urging all sides to end hostilities and build peace.

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

Palestinians look at a destroyed building in Gaza City shortly after an airstrike by Israeli Defense Forces July 17. Caritas Jerusalem officials say Gaza civilians are paying the price for the Israeli-Hamas conflict. (CNS photo/Oliver Weiken, EPA)

The morning after Israel launched a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, the pope personally telephoned the two leaders July 18 to express “his very serious concerns about the current situation of conflict.”

Phoning Peres at 10 in the morning and Abbas at 11:30 Rome time, the pope told the leaders that the conflict was creating “numerous victims and was giving way to a state of serious humanitarian emergency,” the Vatican said in a written statement July 18.

The pope told the two presidents, whom the pope “considers to be men of peace and who want peace,” that constant prayer was needed.

He also urged them to “work hard at making sure all interested parties and those who have political responsibilities on the local and international levels dedicate themselves to bring an end to all hostilities, striving to foster a truce, peace and a reconciliation of hearts,” the Vatican said.

The pope assured the two leaders of his “constant prayers” as well as the prayers of the whole church “for peace in the Holy Land.”

Meanwhile, the pope also assured the parish priest of the Holy Family Church, the only Catholic parish in Gaza, of his prayers.

One of the pope’s secretaries sent an email around 7 p.m. July 17 to Father Jorge Hernandez, an Argentine priest of the Institute of the Incarnate Word.

According to the Vatican, the brief message said, “I accompany you all with my prayers. May the Holy Virgin keep watch over you.”

Holy Family Parish had been holding eucharistic adoration and celebrated a special Mass “to implore forgiveness, justice and peace for all,” according to Vatican Radio.

The priest has opened the parish school to “numerous families” who fled their homes in bombed neighborhoods, according to Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news service. The families “didn’t sleep a wink all night because of the bombing,” a Brazilian nun, identified only as Sister Laudis, told Fides.

“The houses were shaking, the children were crying,” said the nun who said she had spoken with Father Hernandez after leaving Gaza July 17 for Beit Jalla, a village near Bethlehem.

 

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Senate blocks bill that aimed at reversing Hobby Lobby ruling

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A woman walks toward a Hobby Lobby store in Phoenix. CNS/Nancy Wiechec

A woman walks toward a Hobby Lobby store in Phoenix. CNS/Nancy Wiechec

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate July 16 voted to block consideration of a bill aimed at reversing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and forcing businesses to provide contraceptive coverage for employees even if they object to it on religious grounds.

Known as the “Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act of 2014,” or S. 2578, the measure was co-written by Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Mark Udall of Colorado. Murray introduced the bill July 9. The 56-43 vote fell four short of the 60 needed to move ahead on the bill.

“While the outcome of today’s vote is a relief, it is sobering to think that more than half the members of the U.S. Senate, sworn to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States, would vote for a bill whose purpose is to reduce the religious freedom of their fellow Americans,” said Jayd Henricks, director of government relations at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We need more respect for religious freedom in our nation, not less,” he said in a statement.

In a July 14 letter to U.S. senators, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, chairman of the Committee on Pro-life Activities, and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, urged the lawmakers to oppose the measure.

They said it had the potential to affect “all existing federal protections of conscience and religious freedom” when it comes to health care mandates, telling senators: “Though cast as a response to the Supreme Court’s narrow decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the bill ranges far beyond that decision. … We oppose the bill and urge you to reject it.”

On June 30, the Supreme Court, citing the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, ruled that closely held for-profit companies cannot be forced to abide by the federal Health and Human Service’s mandate that requires nearly all employers to provide abortion-inducing drugs, elective sterilizations and contraceptives to their employees free of charge if the individual or families that own these businesses have religious objections to the mandate.

Murray and Udall said their bill was “consistent with congressional intent” in RFRA, but Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori said that the measure’s “operative provisions explicitly forbid application if RFRA whenever the federal government wishes to override the religious freedom rights of Americans regarding health coverage.”

After the July 16 vote, Udall said the Democratic Party would continue to contest a ruling that says “a boss’ beliefs can supersede a woman’s rights to health care benefits that she has earned.”

S. 2578 would have kept in place the Obama administration’s exemption from the HHS mandate for houses of worship and some other employers who fit its criteria for that exemption. It also would have kept intact the accommodation for nonexempt employers.

Under that accommodation, organizations self-certify that their religious objections entitle them to an exemption from the mandate and direct a third-party, in most cases the company that manages their health care plan, to provide the objectionable coverage.

But several Catholic and other religious employers who are not exempt and have sued over the mandate argue the exemption is too narrowly drawn and the accommodation itself still involves them in coverage they morally oppose.

In their letter, Cardinal O’Malley and Archbishop Lori wrote: “In short, the bill does not befit a nation committed to religious liberty. Indeed, if it were to pass, it would call that commitment into question. Nor does it show a genuine commitment to expanded health coverage, as it would pressure many Americans of faith to stop providing or purchasing health coverage altogether.”

A companion bill was introduced in the House July 9 by Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Louise Slaughter and Jerry Nadler, who are both from New York. As of July 17, no vote on the measure had been scheduled yet.

 

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British faith leaders warn Parliament not to legalize assisted suicide

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Catholic News Service MANCHESTER, England — The leaders of Britain’s faith communities have united to warn Parliament against the “grave error” of legalizing assisted suicide. Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury joined 21 other of the most senior Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Jain faith leaders to protest the Assisted Dying Bill.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, has joined with other leaders of faith communities to oppose Parliament legalizing assisted suicide. (CNS file)

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, has joined with other leaders of faith communities to oppose Parliament legalizing assisted suicide. (CNS file)

The legislation scheduled to be debated in the House of Lords July 18 was designed to abolish the crime of assisting a suicide by allowing doctors to supply lethal drugs to people expected to die within six months and who are mentally competent. But in a July 16 open letter, the faith leaders said the bill would allow doctors to decide if some people are “of no further value” and that it would place vulnerable and terminally ill people at “increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support.” “This is not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society,” said the letter, signed also by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth and Dr. Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all,” the letter said. The show of unity among faith leaders followed three senior Anglicans saying they supported assisted suicide. Lord Carey, who served as archbishop of Canterbury from 1991 to 2002, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, each said they were in favor of the practice. Anglican Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham also has declared his support for “assisted dying,” making him the first serving bishop of the Church of England to say that doctors should be legally permitted to help their patients to commit suicide. “Today we face a central paradox,” Lord Carey wrote July 11 in the Daily Mail newspaper. “In strictly observing the sanctity of life, the church could now actually be promoting anguish and pain, the very opposite of the Christian message of hope.” The Church of England has opposed the bill on grounds of “patient safety, protection of the vulnerable and respect for the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship.” This position, according to the Church of England’s website, is consistent with successive resolutions against assisted suicide by its governing General Synod. In his Daily Mail piece, Lord Carey announced that he would dissent from such policy and vote for the bill. “The fact is that I’ve changed my mind,” he wrote. “The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.” On July 13, Archbishop Tutu expressed similar sentiments in a column for The Observer, a London-based Sunday newspaper. “I revere the sanctity of life — but not at any cost,” the Nobel peace laureate wrote. “Yes, I think a lot of people would be upset if I said I wanted assisted dying. I would say I wouldn’t mind, actually.” However, Archbishop Welby called the Assisted Dying Bill “dangerous.” He argued that an assisted suicide law would exert pressure on the sick, disabled and elderly to “stop being a burden to others.” “What sort of society would we be creating if we were to allow this sword of Damocles to hang over the head of every vulnerable and terminally ill person in the country?” he asked in a July 12 article for The Times newspaper. The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have encouraged the laity to write to politicians to ask them to oppose the bill. Catholic Bishops Mark Davies of Shrewsbury and Mark O’Toole of Plymouth have issued pastoral letters condemning the bill, and Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth has announced that he will open the churches of his diocese for a “holy hour” of prayer and adoration July 17, the eve of the debate, in the hope that the legislation will fail. Lord Carey was nominated to Britain’s second political chamber on his retirement, but 26 Anglican bishops, including Archbishop Welby, sit there as “Lords Spiritual” and have a right to vote. If the bill progresses successfully through the House of Lords, later this year it will go to the House of Commons, where lawmakers will be allowed to vote according to their consciences. Under the 1961 Suicide Act, the offense of assisting a suicide is punishable in Britain by up to 14 years in prison.

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Dinner, with a side of friendship: For eight years, St. Edmond’s Church has supported international students who work at state’s beaches

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For The Dialog   For eight years, St. Edmond’s Church has supported international students who work at state’s beaches   REHOBOTH BEACH — Chet Poslusny chatted with four students from Bulgaria, making them feel more at home by speaking in their native language. “He made my day,” said one of the students, Denis Ismet. He was surprised to meet someone who not only knew about Bulgaria but spoke the language. Read more »

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Catholic Appeal has exceeded its goal: Annual fundraiser is at $4.5 million with three months to go

July 10th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese Tags:

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The 2014 Annual Catholic Appeal has surpassed its target of $4,347,000 by more than $186,000 with a total of $4,533,436 pledged as of July 7, the diocesan Development Office reported this week.

“The Annual Catholic Appeal is an opportunity for each of us to unite as a Catholic community and to answer the needs of those most vulnerable – the hungry, the homeless, the unemployed, the distressed, the unchurched, our children and our elderly”, said development director Deborah Fols. “Because of the generosity of so many donors, those in need who come to the church searching for Christ’s love and protection will receive assistance.” Read more »

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Holy Land bishops criticize ‘collective punishment’ of Palestinians

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JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in the Holy Land called for an end to the cycle of violence and criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its collective punishment of Palestinians.

“Using the death of the three Israelis to exact collective punishment on the Palestinian people as a whole and on its legitimate desire to be free is a tragic exploitation of tragedy and promotes more violence and hatred,” said a July 8 statement from the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land.

People carry the body of a Palestinian boy whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family's house in Gaza City July 9. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (CNS photo/Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

People carry the body of a Palestinian boy whom hospital officials said was killed in an Israeli airstrike on his family’s house in Gaza City July 9. The Israeli army intensified its offensive on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, striking Hamas sites and killing dozens of people in a military operation it says is aimed at quelling rocket fire against Israel. (CNS photo/Ashraf Amrah, Reuters)

“We need to recognize that the kidnapping and cold-blooded murder of the three Israeli youth and the brutal vengeance killing of the Palestinian youth are products of the injustice and of the hatred that the occupation fosters in the hearts of those prone to such deeds,” the church leaders said, but added that the deaths “are in no way justifiable.”

In early July, Israel launched airstrikes into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, killing more than 40 Palestinians — including children, elderly and militants — in a circle of escalating violence that began with the discovery of the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens and the brutal apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teen. The Israeli offensive, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, has hit hundreds of targets, while more than 100 missiles have been launched into southern Israel, reaching into the center of the country and Jerusalem as well.

The ordinaries, who include Catholic bishops and the Franciscan custos of the Holy Land, called the situation in Gaza “an illustration of the never-ending cycle of violence in the absence of a vision for an alternative future.”

They criticized Israeli “leadership that continues to foster a discriminatory discourse promoting exclusive rights of one group and the occupation with all of its disastrous consequences. Settlements are built, lands are confiscated, families are separated, loved ones are arrested and even assassinated. The occupation leadership seems to believe that the occupation can be victorious by crushing the will of the people for freedom and dignity. They seem to believe that their determination will ultimately silence opposition and transform wrong into right.”

“Resistance to occupation cannot be equated with terrorism,” they said. “Resistance to occupation is a legitimate right, terrorism is part of the problem.”

The church leaders said the mourned all those, Israeli and Palestinians, who had died.

“Some of their faces are well known because the media have covered in detail their lives, interviewing their parents, bringing them alive in our imaginations, whereas others, by far more numerous, are mere statistics, nameless and faceless. The selective coverage, mourning and memory are themselves part of the cycle of violence,” they said.

The church leaders also said the “violent language of the Palestinian street that calls for vengeance is fed by the attitudes and expressions of those who have despaired of any hope to reach a just solution to the conflict through negotiations. Those who seek to build a totalitarian, monolithic society, in which there is no room for any difference or diversity, gain popular support, exploiting this situation of hopelessness. To these we also say: Violence as a response to violence breeds only more violence.”

“We need radical change,” they said. “Israelis and Palestinians together need to shake off the negative attitudes of mutual mistrust and hatred.” They called for educating the younger generation “in a new spirit that challenges the existing mentalities of oppression and discrimination,” but they also called for a change in political leaders.

“We must find leaders who are clear-sighted and courageous enough to face the urgency of the present situation and to take the difficult decisions that are needed, leaders who, if necessary, are ready to sacrifice their political careers for the sake of a just and lasting peace. Such leaders have the vocation to be healers, peacemakers, seekers of justice and visionaries of the alternatives to the cycle of violence,” they said, recalling Pope Francis’ separate meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his May visit to the Holy Land and “his incessant call for justice and peace.”

The complete statement can be found at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2014/07/09/holy_land_a_call_for_courageous_change/1102679.

 

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