Catholic News Service
BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNS) — Put down the weapons of war and work for justice, Pope Francis urged the people of the Central African Republic.
“Even when the powers of hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love and peace,” the pope said in an evening homily Nov. 29 at Bangui’s cathedral. Read more »
Catholic News Service
By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
KAMPALA, Uganda — As Pope Francis encouraged Ugandan Christians to draw inspiration from the 19th-century Ugandan Martyrs, he carried with him graphic images of the horrors the 45 Anglican and Catholic martyrs endured.
The pope made an early morning visit Nov. 28 to the Anglican shrine and museum located on the site where many of the martyrs died. The main exhibit features realistic statues of men being tortured, bound and thrown on a fire.
Pope Francis had a look of shock on his face as Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda explained how the martyrs were executed on the orders of King Mwanga II in the late 1800s.
Afterward, the pope celebrated a Mass outside the nearby Catholic shrine to the martyrs. The shrine has an artificial lake, and Ugandan security patrolled it in a little rubber boat throughout the liturgy.
In his homily, Pope Francis honored all the martyrs, noting that they shared the same faith in Jesus and they offer a witness to “the ecumenism of blood.”
Honoring the martyrs is not something to be done only on their feast day, he said, but must be done daily through upright behavior and loving care for others in the family, the neighborhood, at work and in society.
Keeping one’s eyes focused on God, he said, “does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come. Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.”
Heart-breaking modern challenges to faith led Pope Francis to abandon the text he had prepared for an afternoon meeting with Ugandan youths. Instead, he tried to respond directly to the young woman and young man who addressed him, although the effort was plagued by technical problems with the microphone.
Winnie Nansumba, 24, told the pope she was born HIV-positive and, “as a young woman, I always found it hard to fall in love because I thought I didn’t have a right to love and be loved.”
In the end, she said, she decided to use her story to teach other youths about HIV and AIDS, particularly that “we must respect our life and that of others,” changing behavior to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Take charge of your life and know your (HIV) status,” she told the estimated 150,000 youths gathered at the Kololo airstrip to see the pope. “AIDS is real, but it can be prevented and managed.”
More than 7 percent of Ugandan adults are HIV-positive and tens of thousands continue to be infected each year. According to U.N. AIDS, because of sexual violence and lack of access to education, young women are particularly in danger in Uganda. U.N. figures estimate that 4.2 percent of Ugandan women aged 15-24 are HIV-positive while 2.4 percent of men that age are.
Pope Francis did not speak specifically about AIDS or its prevention, but spoke instead about overcoming despair and depression and fighting for one’s life.
He also went on at length about courage, referring both to Nansumba and to Emmanuel Odokonyero, who had talked about being kidnapped by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in 2003, tortured and escaping after three months.
From the late 1980s and for more than 20 years, the Lord’s Resistance Army terrorized Uganda, kidnapping thousands of children and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to seek safety in camps for displaced persons.
“In your veins the blood of martyrs flows,’’ the pope told the two youths. “That is why your faith is so strong.”
The pope urged the young people to find positive challenges in the negative events of their lives, to trust Jesus to transform their suffering into joy and to turn to Mary when experiencing pain, just like a child runs to his or her mother after falling and getting hurt.
In the early evening the pope visited the House of Charity in Kampala’s Nalukolongo neighborhood; the Good Shepherd Sisters run a home there for 102 elderly and people with severe disabilities. The residents range in age from 11 years to 107 years, said Bishop Robert Muhiirwa of Fort Portal, chair of the Ugandan bishops’ health commission.
“Our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s patient and merciful love, not only for our children and elders, but for all those in need,” the pope said. “Our parishes must not close their doors or their ears to the cry of the poor. This is the royal road of Christian discipleship.”
Meeting with Uganda’s priests, religious and seminarians 11 hours after his day had begun, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of remembering the martyrs by witnessing to the faith like they did, by remaining faithful to their vocations and by praying.
The pope publicly thanked the Good Shepherd Sisters for the “example of fidelity” they showed him at the House of Charity, “fidelity to the poor, the infirm and the disabled because Christ is there.”
Ugandan soil, “bathed by the blood of martyrs,” always will need new witnesses to faith, he told the priests and religious.
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.
Catholic News Service
KAMPALA, Uganda — Witnessing to what is true, good and beautiful, even if that witness is motivated by different faiths, brings people together and strengthens a nation, Pope Francis said.
Arriving in Uganda from Kenya Nov. 27, Pope Francis was greeted by a number of dance troupes playing drums as well as traditional horns and stringed instruments. Many of the dancers wore rattles on their calves, and some of the men wore the skins of the spotted hyena around their waists.
While the pope fulfilled the protocol duty of reviewing the military troops, he could not pass by the dance troupes without thanking them, especially the children.
Pope Francis went from the airport to the State House in Entebbe, where he immediately drew people’s attention to the Ugandan Martyrs — 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics — executed by King Mwanga II of Buganda between November 1885 and January 1887.
“They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played and continue to play in the cultural economic and political life of this country,” the pope told President Yoweri Museveni, other government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.
The martyrs, he said, “also remind us that despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation and to respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family.”
On the third evening of his three-nation trip to Africa, Pope Francis said he wanted to draw attention to Africa as a whole, and not just to the continent’s problems. He praised Uganda particularly for welcoming refugees and allowing them to work.
“Our world, caught up in wars, violence and various forms of injustice is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples,” he said. “How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need.”
As he did earlier in Kenya, the pope also urged African leaders to dedicate themselves to ensuring education and employment for their young people, the majority of the continent’s population.
Pope Francis said his prayer was that all Ugandans “will always prove worthy of the values which have shaped the soul of your nation.”
The exuberance of the dancers at the airport was only a tiny hint of the welcome Uganda had in store for the pope: Hundreds of thousands of people waited for hours along the entire 27-mile stretch of road leading from the State House to the Munyonyo neighborhood of Kampala.
Munyonyo is the place where King Mwanga condemned the martyrs to death. As the dark of night settled in outside a shrine run by the Conventual Franciscans, Pope Francis greeted hundreds of catechists holding candles.
He told the representatives of Uganda’s 14,000 catechists, many of whom administer remote communities that have no priest, that theirs is a holy work.
“Thank you for the sacrifices which you and your families make,” he told them. It is particularly beautiful that they teach children to pray and help parents raise their children in the faith.
To be effective, Pope Francis said, a catechist must be an example of love, faith and mercy and not just a good and eloquent teacher.
The pope told the catechists to be strong like the martyrs, “go forth without fear to every town and village in this country to spread the good seed of God’s word.”
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.
Catholic News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — The wealth of residents of the poorest neighborhoods ringing big cities around the world will never be quoted on the stock exchange, even though their wealth gives life and joy to millions of people, Pope Francis said.
The pope began his day Nov. 27 in Nairobi’s Kangemi neighborhood, usually referred to as a slum. It features tiny dwellings made of cinder block, tin or reclaimed boards. The homes are jumbled together with dirt roads and paths running between them.
Residents were thrilled not only that the pope would take time to visit them, but that the government fixed several of the roads, installed some street lights and unblocked some water pipes in preparation for the pope’s visit.
Exact figures vary, but between 55 percent and 65 percent of Nairobi’s population live in the slums. Many have no drinking water, electricity, sewage system or regular garbage collection.
Irish Mercy Sister Mary Killeen, who has ministered in Kenya for three decades, told Pope Francis that fires, especially from kerosene lamps and stoves, and floods are a danger. Evictions are frequent since the people do not own the land on which their shacks are built.
At a meeting in the Jesuit-run St. Joseph the Worker Church, Pamella Akwede, a resident, told the pope, “People in informal settlements live together as family, in unity and solidarity,” which is evident in the celebrations of births, weddings and funerals.
“Any resident of any informal settlement survives on less than a dollar a day,” she said, but fresh fruits are available and “one can get their stomach full on a cup of tea and doughnut” for the equivalent of 19 cents.
Most of the people in Kangemi and the other slums of Nairobi work in factories, Akwede said, but they do not earn enough to pay for rent in a better neighborhood.
Pope Francis told the people gathered in the church that he had an obligation to denounce the injustices that keep the slum dwellers living in such desperate circumstances, but he also urged the people to recognize the values they have and that the world needs: Solidarity, celebration, taking care to bury the dead, making more room at one’s simple table and taking in the sick all are characteristic of people in the world’s poorest neighborhoods.
Such values, he said, are “grounded in the fact that each human being is more important than the god of money. Thank you for reminding us that another type of culture is possible.”
While those values “are not quoted in the stock exchange,” Pope Francis said, they are the true “signs of good living.”
But the problems faced in the makeshift communities “are not a random combination of unrelated problems,” he said; they are “the consequence of new forms of colonialism,” which see African countries as “cogs on a gigantic wheel” and a storehouse of natural resources to plunder.
African nations, he said, “are frequently pressured to adopt policies typical of the culture of waste, like those aimed at lowering the birth rate.”
Pope Francis denounced the ridiculously high rent that absentee landlords charge for “utterly unfit housing” in the slum. He also insisted that governments have an obligation to ensure their citizens have “toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity” and access to schools, hospitals and open space for recreation.
To a strong round of applause, the pope also insisted that access to drinking water be provided in the slums. “Access to safe, drinkable water is a basic and universal human right,” he said.
The pope gave special recognition to the women of Kangemi and the other informal settlements. They make heroic efforts not only to feed their children, but to protect them from violence, crime and addiction, all plagues common in the slums. The corrupt, he said, use young people “as cannon fodder for their ruthless business affairs.”
From Kangemi, Pope Francis went to Nairobi’s Kasarani Stadium for a meeting with the nation’s young people. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and infectious celebration; the Kenyan bishops started line dancing after the youths did. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife arrived, going to the head of the line, dancing as they went to their seats.
A young woman and young man asked Pope Francis questions and, as they spoke, the pope took notes. In the end, he set aside his prepared text and answered their questions, particularly regarding the problems of tribalism and corruption.
“Tribalism destroys a nation,” he said. “Tribalism is keeping your hands behind your back and holding in each hand a rock to throw at others.”
“The ear, the heart and the hand” are needed to overcome tribalism, the pope told the young people, including many who were dressed in the traditional costumes of the Masai and other ethnic groups.
People need to listen to each other, ask each other about their history and customs, open their hearts to one another and extend a hand in friendship.
He called his young questioners to the podium and took their hands. Then he asked the estimated 70,000 young people who filled the stadium to hold hands as well. “We are all a nation,” he had them say. “No to tribalism.”
As for corruption, the pope compared it to sugar: It tastes good at first and it’s easy to get, but it also can make people sick.
All institutions have people tempted by corruption, the pope said, “including the Vatican.”
He urged the young people to have nothing to do with cheating or corruption; “don’t develop a taste for it,” he said.
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.
Crossing the thresholds of mercy: Bishop Malooly announces eight diocesan Holy Doors for pilgrims to visit during Year of Mercy
and Catholic News Service
Bishop Malooly will open the observance of the special jubilee Year of Mercy in the Diocese of Wilmington on Dec. 13. by opening the Holy Door at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Easton, Md.
The door opened by the bishop at the 10:30 a.m. Mass that Sunday in Easton will be one of eight the bishop has selected as Holy Doors at parishes in the diocese’s regional deaneries. Read more »
Parishes have been raking in the benefits of their contributions to the Sustaining Hope for the Future capital campaign this fall, as a portion of their Sustaining donations returns to local communities throughout the diocese.
New roofs, repaired parking lots, refinished floors, remodeled rest rooms and new stained-glass windows are among the many renovations in parishes that have been completed and are yet to come.
The work is being financed by the $11.2 million designated for parish projects from the more than $28 million goal of the Sustaining Hope for the Future capital campaign. Read more »
Catholic News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — The international community is facing a stark and serious choice, “either to improve or to destroy the environment,” Pope Francis said, referring to the Paris Climate Conference.
“It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were special interests to prevail over the common good,” the pope said Nov. 26 during a visit to the headquarters in Nairobi of the U.N. Environment Program and U.N. Habitat, an agency concerned with urban planning.
Under the auspices of the United Nations, the Paris conference Nov. 30-Dec. 11 has the aim of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement on measures to stem climate change and protect the environment.
Pope Francis spoke at length about the importance of the conference during his visit to the U.N. offices, and his top aides had a meeting the evening before with Kenya’s environment minister and other officials to discuss their hopes and strategies for the Paris meeting.
On his way into the meeting with U.N. officials and diplomats accredited to the two U.N. agencies, Pope Francis planted a tree.
While his speech contained ample quotes from his June encyclical on the environment, the pope also referred several times to the significance of planting trees and borrowed several lines from a speech he made in Bolivia in July to a variety of grass-roots movements advocating for justice for the poor.
In fact, just as in the encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” the pope insisted in Nairobi that there is a close connection between environmental destruction and unjust economic and political policies that penalize the poor.
“We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development,” he said, especially because of their emphasis on exploiting natural resources, but not sharing the benefits with local communities.
Planting a tree, he said, is an “invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification,” as well as “an incentive to keep trusting, hoping and above all working in practice to reverse all those situations of injustice and deterioration which we currently experience.”
The Paris conference, the pope said, “represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content.”
Pope Francis told those gathered at Nairobi’s U.N. offices that he hopes the Paris conference will result in a “global and ‘transformational’ agreement based on the principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation; an agreement which targets three complex and interdependent goals: lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.”
To achieve a comprehensive and fair agreement, he said, real dialogue is necessary among politicians, scientists, business leaders and representatives of civil society, including the poorest sectors of those societies.
Pope Francis insisted that human beings are capable of changing course, choosing what is good and making a fresh start. The key, he said, will be to put the economy and politics at the service of people, who are called to live in harmony with the rest of creation.
“Far from an idealistic utopia, this is a realistic prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything,” he said.
A new respect for human dignity and for the environment are part of the same attitude of giving value to all that God made, he said.
Pope Francis called for “the adoption of a culture of care —care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment — in the place of a culture of waste, a throwaway culture where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment.”
The idea of a “throwaway culture” is not simply a strong figure of speech, he said, pointing to “new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution and trafficking in organs.”
“Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day,” the pope said. “We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right.”
Catholic News Service
NAIROBI, Kenya — With security concerns looming over his visit, Pope Francis arrived in Kenya Nov. 25 urging tolerance and respect among people of different religions and different ethnic groups.
During the less than seven-hour flight, Pope Francis told reporters the only thing he was worried about were the mosquitoes, and after greeting each of the 74 reporters individually the pope took the microphone again and said, “Protect yourselves from the mosquitoes.”
Speaking to a small group of reporters as he made his way around the plane, the pope also confirmed he would visit four cities, including Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexican border, when he visits Mexico in February.
In his brief remarks to the whole group, the pope did not mention the security concerns or the travel advisories issued by many governments after the terrorist attacks Nov. 13 in Paris.
Pope Francis was greeted at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by a small group of dancers, women ululating and President Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the nation’s first president, for whom the airport is named. After the brief arrival ceremony Pope Francis traveled past hundreds of offices and factories where employees came out and lined the road to greet him.
The formal welcoming ceremony took place at Kenya’s State House, where the pope met with the president, government and civic leaders and members of the diplomatic corps.
In his speech, the pope focused on the values needed to consolidate democracy in Kenya and throughout Africa, starting with building trust and cohesion among members of the different ethnic and religious groups on the continent.
“Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust and the despair born of poverty and frustration,” he said. “To the extent that our societies experience divisions — whether ethnic, religious or economic — all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing.”
Kenyatta told the pope that colonization left Africa with artificial borders dividing communities, which has created tensions, but war and violence on the continent also has been fueled by “our own selfish politicization of our ethnic and religious identities.”
As the U.N. Climate Conference was about to begin in Paris, Pope Francis also spoke of the traditional African value of safeguarding creation and of the need to find “responsible models of economic development” that will not destroy the earth and the future.
“Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources,” the pope said.
Kenyans recognize them as gifts of God and have a “culture of conservation,” which they are called to help others embrace as well, the pope said.
“The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature,” he said. “We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received.”
On a continent where the population is predominantly young, but unemployment among young adults is high, Pope Francis also urged the Kenyan government officials and representatives of other countries to recognize that the young, too, are a gift from God to be assisted with care.
“To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people,” the pope said.
Knowing that he was speaking in front of the country’s political and economic leaders, Pope Francis reminded them that the Gospel insists that “from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded.”
“Show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country,” he told them.
Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — The extensive vetting process that all refugees undergo before arriving in the United States “screens out any possible threat of terrorism,” said the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services.
“We believe the risk is nil and certainly when we look at this (process) under a microscope, these are the most vetted people that come into our country,” William Canny told Catholic News Service.
The director said the State Department screening procedure, which the White House posted on its website Nov. 20, is comprehensive and makes security its highest priority.
“We’re highly confident that it’s well done, that it screens out any possible threat of terrorism. Based on that, we’re very comfortable receiving these families, which by the way, are mostly women and children,” Canny said.
Questions about the possible entry into the U.S. by extremists tied to Islamic State militants who control large swaths of Syria and Iraq have been raised since a string of violent attacks in Paris Nov. 13 and the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt’s Sinai desert Oct. 31, all claimed by the organization.
Members of Congress, presidential candidates, state legislators and at least 31 governors have called for the federal government to stop the resettlement of Syrians, saying they feared for Americans’ security.
Republicans in the House of Representatives Nov. 19 secured a veto-proof majority, 289-137, on the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act that would block Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering the U.S. unless they undergo strict background checks. The Senate was expected to vote on the bill the week of Nov. 30.
MRS helped resettle 376 Syrians nationwide between Aug. 15, 2012, and Nov. 24. The agency reported that it also has resettled 13,110 Iraqis since 2008.
The agency is under contract with the State Department to resettle about 30 percent of the 70,000 refugees the country accepts annually. In 2014, MRS resettled 20,875 refugees from around the world in the U.S. It is the largest nongovernmental resettlement agency in the world.
Simon Henshaw, principal deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said at a Nov. 19 media briefing that the U.S. resettled 1,682 Syrian refuges in year ending Sept. 30.
Overall, more than 4 million Syrian refugees have fled their homeland since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011.
President Barack Obama has directed the State Department to prepare to admit at least 10,000 Syrian refugees during fiscal year 2016, which ends Sept. 30.
Henshaw called the effort a “modest but important contribution to the global effort to address the Syrian refugee crisis.”
Streams of Syrians have fled to Europe this year as their country’s civil war showed no signs of ending. Hundreds of thousands of people have made their way to Germany while other European nations have opened their borders, but to lesser numbers. Other countries, however, have denied entry to the refugees.
Religious and civil rights leaders in the U.S. have prevailed on federal officials to realize that providing humanitarian assistance to the refugees, including their resettlement, is a moral obligation.
The concerns raised by some U.S. elected officials focus almost exclusively on security. They point to the possibility that an extremist could get through the vetting process and eventually team up with other like-minded people to attack innocent civilians.
Henshaw said the refugee resettlement program prioritizes admitting the most vulnerable Syrians, including female-headed households, children, survivors of torture and people with severe medical conditions.
“We have, for years, safely admitted refugees from all over the world, including Syrian refugees, and we have a great deal of experience screening and admitting large numbers of refugees from chaotic environments, including where intelligence holdings are limited,” Henshaw said.
Jane E. Bloom, head of the U.S. office of the International Catholic Migration Commission, told CNS that many of the refugees her agency is resettling are severely injured and have been devastated by the war.
“We’re seeing a high number of cases that are burn victims, lost limbs, shrapnel injuries needing operations,” she said. “Most of the Syrians are traumatized by an act of war. They’ve lost family and friends.”
Refugees initially are selected for resettlement by the staff of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The ICMC, based in Geneva and with its U.S. office at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is one of the worldwide agencies working with UNHCR in processing people chosen for resettlement.
ICMC has worked in two refugee support centers in Istanbul and Beirut during the Syrian crisis. Another agency, the International Office of Migration, works with refugees at support centers in Jordan and Egypt.
Before the ICMC gets involved with any Syrians, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security conducts its own screening, Bloom said. After that step ICMC staff members begin vetting under State Department rules, collecting biographical and family information, and learning why a family fled their home in the first place, she explained.
“When it comes to vetting, refugees, and in particular Syrian refugees, are the most vetted I have come to work with in the last 30 years,” Bloom told CNS.
“Resettlement is the most powerful protection tool that we’ve got in our toolbox. So ICMC uses that very wisely and very preciously for those that are very vulnerable, those who are not officially protected within Lebanon and Turkey,” Bloom added.
In 2014 ICMC helped resettle 7,365 refugees to the U.S. from the support center for Turkey and Middle East, according to the agency’s annual report. The agency did not provide data on how many of those refugees were Syrians.
The screening process for any refugee can take 18 to 24 months or more to complete, according to the State Department. It involves gathering identifying documents, personal information and an explanation why a person or family fled in addition to a series of interviews. Iris scans and biometric data are gathered for Syrians and other Middle East people, the White House graphic showed.
Refugee families are fingerprinted and undergo a security screening that involves four U.S. agencies including the National Counterterrorism Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and State Department. Any one agency can deny entry for any reason.
Medical checks also are completed.
Once cleared, applicants are required to complete cultural orientation classes. They then are assigned to a U.S.-based nongovernment organization for resettlement. One such NGO is the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, which works in turn with local diocesan resettlement agencies, commonly run by Catholic Charities.
Locations selected for permanent resettlement are based on family reunification needs or the presence of an existing community of people from a given country, Canny said.
In total, the Syrian-born U.S. population stood at about 86,000 people in 2014, representing about 0.2 percent of the nation’s 42.4 million immigrants, according to a fact sheet released Nov. 24 by the Migration Policy Institute.
Using U.S. Census data, the institute found that the Syrian population grew by about 43 percent between 2010 and 2014. It attributed the increase primarily to the country’s civil war.
Information about the resettlement work of Migration and Refugee Services is online at http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-and-refugee-services/index.cfm. Information about the International Catholic Migration Commission is online at www.icmc.net. The federal process for screening refugees is outlined at 1.usa.gov/1OYqOfD.
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY — Italian journalists standing trial in a Vatican court defended their right to freedom of the press, while the Vatican prosecution said the way they acquired confidential information was illegal.
All five people accused of involvement in leaking and publishing confidential documents about Vatican finances were present at the opening of the criminal trial in a Vatican courtroom Nov. 24.
The accused are: Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, secretary of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See; Francesca Chaouqui, a member of the former Pontifical Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic-Administrative Structure of the Holy See; Nicola Maio, who served as personal assistant to Msgr. Vallejo Balda when he worked on the commission; and the journalists, Gianluigi Nuzzi, author of “Merchants in the Temple,” and Emiliano Fittipaldi, author of “Avarice.”
Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Chaouqui and Maio were accused of “committing several illegal acts of divulging news and documents concerning fundamental interests of the Holy See and (Vatican City) State.” Nuzzi and Fittipaldi were accused of “soliciting and exercising pressure, especially on (Msgr.) Vallejo Balda, in order to obtain confidential documents and news.”
The Vatican court granted Fittipaldi’s request to address the courtroom at the trial’s opening session. He expressed his “disbelief” at finding himself being tried by a non-Italian court system when he wrote and published a book in Italy.
He said the charges against him were not “for publishing false or defamatory news, but simply for publishing news, an act protected by the Italian Constitution,” as well as European and universal human rights conventions.
Article 10 of the Vatican criminal code states that whoever “illegitimately obtains or reveals news or documents” that are confidential can face a fine between 1,000 and 5,000 euros and possible imprisonment from six months to two years. Classified information dealing with diplomatic relations or “fundamental interests” of the Holy See or Vatican City State carry more severe penalties, including a maximum eight-year prison sentence.
The Vatican criminalized the release of “news and documents” in July 2013. The move came in the wake of the first so-called “VatiLeaks” trial in 2012 when Pope Benedict XVI’s butler was charged with “aggravated theft” for giving Vatican documents and papal correspondence to Nuzzi.
The updated criminal laws were approved by Pope Francis.
At the first session of the trial, Emanuela Bellardini, Msgr. Vallejo Balda’s court-appointed attorney, objected that there was not enough time to examine and prepare a proper defense.
Fittipaldi and his Vatican-appointed defense lawyer argued that the court summons did not specify the documents he stands accused of releasing and therefore makes his defense impossible.
The Vatican’s assistant prosecutor, Roberto Zannotti, responded to Fittipaldi’s objection, arguing that the trial is not meant to infringe on freedom of the press and is not about the publication of documents, but that he was to “be held accountable” for the illegal way he allegedly obtained the documents published in his book “Avarice.”
All five defendants were represented by Vatican court-appointed attorneys. Msgr. Vallejo Balda, Chaouqui, and Nuzzi requested the Vatican’s appellate court to allow them to be represented by their own lawyers. However, shortly after the proceedings, Nuzzi tweeted that the appellate court denied his request.
Nuzzi told the pool reporters present in the courtroom, “We are not martyrs, we are journalists,” who were just doing their job and that certain principles needed to be upheld.
Giuseppe Dalla Torre, head of the tribunal for the Vatican City State, along with three Vatican judges deliberated about the introductory motions privately for 45 minutes. The judges overruled Fittipaldi and Bellardini’s objections and scheduled the next trial date for Nov. 30.
The Vatican judges said Msgr. Vallejo Balda would be the first to take the stand, followed by Chaouqui and the other defendants over the course of a week.
Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz at the Vatican.