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Assisted suicide, abortion, school aid among issues tackled by states

April 6th, 2018 Posted in National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Assisted suicide, abortion restrictions, health insurance coverage of abortion, financial aid for nonpublic schools and some tax relief for low-income families are among the issues being tackled by state legislatures across the country.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 state legislatures have adjourned, 31 state legislatures are still in session and four others have not yet convened their session. Read more »

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Donald Trump tells marchers every unborn child ‘a precious gift from God’

January 19th, 2018 Posted in National News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration “will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.”

He invoked the theme of this year’s march, “Love Saves Lives,” and praised the crowd as being very special and “such great citizens gathered in our nation’s capital from many places for one beautiful cause” — celebrating and cherishing life.

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Since 2002, strict protocols in place to address abuse in U.S.

December 22nd, 2017 Posted in National News

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WASHINGTON (CNS) — The death of Cardinal Bernard F. Law opened “a lot of old wounds,” causing “much pain and anger in those who have suffered so much already,” Boston Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said Dec. 20, the day the Vatican announced Cardinal Law’s death.

The passing of the cardinal in Rome has put the spotlight once again on Boston as the epicenter of a clergy sex abuse scandal that has affected the whole U.S. church. The scandal erupted in 2002 and Cardinal Law resigned a year later amid allegations of mishandling clergy sex abuse cases.

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Bishops: ACA repeal bill puts ‘insufferable burden’ on the poor

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The latest version of a Republican measure in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act must be amended to protect poor and vulnerable Americans, said the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees.

The U.S. flag flies in front of the Capitol dome Sept. 12 in Washington. The latest version of a Republican measure in the Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act must be amended to protect poor and vulnerable Americans, said the chairmen of four U.S. bishops’ committees.(CNS/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

“As you consider the Graham-Cassidy legislation as a possible replacement for the Affordable Care Act, we urge you to think of the harm that will be caused to poor and vulnerable people and amend the legislation while retaining its positive features,” the bishops said in a letter to all senators released Sept. 22.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana have co-sponsored the legislation.

“Without significant improvement, this bill does not meet the moral criteria for health care reform outlined in our previous letters and must be changed,” they said. That criteria includes respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.

The bishops criticized the measure’s Medicaid “per capita cap” because it puts an “insufferable burden” on poor and vulnerable Americans. They did praise the bill for correcting “a serious flaw” in the ACA by ensuring “no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it.” They called on senators to amend the bill to address it flaws but retain the pro-life provisions.

The Graham-Cassidy bill would repeal the ACA and replace it with block grants for the states to spend as they see fit. The block grants’ size, though, would shrink over time and disappear altogether in 2027. The Senate is working under a Sept. 30 deadline to pass the bill.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration.

“The Graham-Cassidy bill includes a Medicaid ‘per capita cap’ that was part of previous bills, which have been rejected,” the bishops wrote. “The Medicaid caps will fundamentally restructure this vital program, which supports the medical needs of those most in need. Over time, these modifications will result in deep funding cuts and lost coverage for millions of people.

“The Senate should only proceed with a full report concerning just how many people will be impacted,” they said. “Our nation must not attempt to address its fiscal concerns by placing an insufferable health care burden on the backs of the poor.”

The bishops said the proposal does “correct a serious flaw” flaw in the ACA by making sure “no federal funds are used for abortion or go to plans that cover it.”

“This improvement is praiseworthy, and it is essential that any improved final bill retain these key provisions which would finally address grave moral problems in our current health care system,” they said. “We also applaud that Graham-Cassidy redirects funds from organizations that provide abortion.”

But they took the bill to task for giving block grants to states “in place of premium tax credits, cost-sharing subsidies and the Medicaid expansion,” saying that arrangement will only harm the poor.

“While flexibility can be good at times, these block grants will result in billions of dollars in reductions for those in health care poverty,” they said. “States already face significant deficits each budget cycle, and these block grants mean dollars intended for low income individuals and families will suddenly face competition from many other state priorities.”

The country “can ill afford to put access to health care for those most in need in jeopardy this way” because, the bishops continued, “the costs to our communities, including public and private organizations at all levels, will be too high.”

“Decisions about the health of our citizens, a concern fundamental to each of us, should not be made in haste simply because an artificial deadline looms,” they said.

“The far-reaching implications of Congress’ actions are too significant for that kind of governance,” the committee chairmen said.

They told senators that “the common good should call you to come together in a bi-partisan way to pass thoughtful legislation that addresses the life, conscience, immigrant access, market stability and affordability problems that now exist.”

“Your constituents, especially those with no voice of their own in this process, deserve no less,” they concluded.

Earlier this year, as Senate Republicans drafted and debated an ACA repeal measure, the U.S. bishops in letters and statements repeatedly urged Congress to craft a bill meeting the moral criteria of respect for life and dignity; honoring conscience rights; access for all; and a high-quality plan that is affordable and comprehensive.

When the Senate failed to get enough votes to pass what was being called a “skinny” repeal to remove parts of the Affordable Care Act in the early hours of July 28, Bishop Dewane in a statement said the “task of reforming the health care system still remains.”

The nation’s health care system under the ACA “is not financially sustainable” and “lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights,” he said at the time. He also noted the health care system “is inaccessible to many immigrants,” he said in a statement.

The U.S. bishops have advocated for universal and affordable health care for decades and they supported the general goal of the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, but the bishops ultimately opposed the law because it expanded the federal role in abortion and failed to expand health care protections to immigrants.

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Bishop Dewane: House’s budget resolution puts the poor in jeopardy

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House budget resolution “will place millions of poor and vulnerable people in real jeopardy” because it reduces deficits “through cuts for human needs” and by trying to slash taxes at the same time, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ domestic policy committee.

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

The U.S. Capitol dome is seen behind the entrance to the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington. (CNS photo/Larry Downing, Reuters)

“A nation’s budget is a moral document,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development. “Congress should choose a better path, one that honors those struggling in our country.”

Bishop Dewane’s July 20 statement was issued in response to the budget resolution that was voted out of the House Budget Committee along party lines July 19.

The nonbinding Republican measure is a 10-year budget blueprint that calls for $621.5 billion in national defense spending, provides for $511 billion in nondefense spending and ties cuts to a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

It makes at least $203 billion in cuts over a decade in Medicaid, food stamps, tax credits for the working poor and other programs that help low-income Americans. The bill also would change Medicare into a type of voucher program for future retirees.

“The USCCB is monitoring the budget and appropriations process in Congress very carefully, and is analyzing the proposed House budget resolution in more detail,” Bishop Dewane said. “We note at the outset that the proposal assumes the harmful and unacceptable cuts to Medicaid from the American Health Care Act.”

The House May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act. The Senate effort to repeal and replace the health care law collapsed late July 17.

In the House budget resolution, “steady increases to military spending … are made possible by cutting critical resources for those in need over time, including potentially from important programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that provide essential nutrition to millions of people,” Bishop Dewane said.

“This would undo a bipartisan approach on discretionary spending from recent years, that, while imperfect, was a more balanced compromise given competing priorities,” he added.

Catholic Charities USA also rejected the measure’s “dramatic cuts in key social safety net programs.”

Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of the national Catholic Charities network, urged House members “to prioritize and protect programs that support and uplift the poor and vulnerable in our country.”

“While CCUSA supports the responsible use of our nation’s fiscal resources and has worked consistently to improve effectiveness in anti-poverty programs, reforms that seek only to cut our nation’s social safety net will further strain efforts to meet individual needs and risk pushing more Americans into poverty,” Sister Markham said July 20.

She made the comments in a letter to Rep. Diane Black, R-Tennessee, who is chair of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, ranking member.

Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, also wrote to Black and Yarmuth expressing her opposition to the budget resolution.

“As an organization guided by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, we firmly believe that the federal budget should be informed by moral principles and offer special protections for the poor and vulnerable,” she wrote July 18, the day the measure was unveiled.

“A budget must be fair and just and cannot be balanced on the backs of those among us who least can afford it,” Sister Keehan said. “We recognize that the proper role of federal spending programs should be to lift up the neediest among us enabling them to active participants in society.

“Unfortunately, the deep cuts in programs and services assumed by this budget proposal will severely reduce or eliminate access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care, education and other social supports that help lift families and individuals out of poverty and improve their health outcomes,” she said.

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Bishops: 22 million people losing insurance under GOP plan ‘simply unacceptable’

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the Senate health care bill, said late June 26 the measure would leave 22 million more people without insurance.

“This moment cannot pass without comment,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

A protester demonstrating against the Senate health care bill is escorted away by police outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's constituent office in Washington June 22. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

A protester demonstrating against the Senate health care bill is escorted away by police outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s constituent office in Washington June 22. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“Today, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the ‘discussion draft’ of the Senate health care proposal, indicating that millions of people could lose their health insurance over time,” he said in a statement issued in response to the just-released analysis.

“As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable,” the bishop said, noting he would continue to study the full CBO report. “These are real families who need and deserve health care.”

He added, “We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right.”

Meanwhile, the bill prompting the CBO review, called the Better Care Reconciliation Act, drew opposition from Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA. In a letter to senators June 26, Sister Markham urged senators to reject the bill and “craft a health care bill which truly expands coverage, reduces costs and respect human life and dignity.”

The bill in its current form “will have a devastating impact on the poor, marginalized and vulnerable in our country,” Sister Markham wrote.

While welcoming provisions in the bill to protect human life and increase flexibility to states in paying for health care, “a bill that rolls back gains in health care for the poor and vulnerable is deeply regretful,” the letter said.

“It is deeply shameful that instead of improving our health care system, the bill provides tax cuts for people making over $200,000 per year while at the same time demanding dramatic cuts or eliminating programs which help those most in need and most unlikely to afford health care,” the letter said.

The Senate released its Better Care Reconciliation Act in
“discussion draft” form June 22.

In a statement the same day, Bishop Dewane said the Senate version contains “many of the fundamental defects” that appeared in the House-passed American Health Care Act “and even further compounds them.”

“As is, the discussion draft stands to cause disturbing damage to the human beings served by the social safety net,” Bishop Dewane said. “It is precisely the detrimental impact on the poor and vulnerable that makes the Senate draft unacceptable as written.”

One part of the bill cuts the federal government’s share of funding for Medicaid to 57 percent of its cost over the next seven years. States have picked up the balance of the funding to date.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the government had guaranteed that its funding for adults newly eligible for Medicaid would fall to no lower than 90 percent of their costs. Many states expanded Medicaid coverage for all adults ages 18-65 with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Bishop Dewane criticized the “per-capita cap” on Medicaid funding, which would no longer be an entitlement but have its own budget line item under the Better Care Reconciliation Act. The effect, he said, “would provide even less to those in need than the House bill. These changes will wreak havoc on low-income families and struggling communities, and must not be supported.”

He indicated the Better Care Reconciliation Act at least partially succeeds on conscience rights by “fully applying the long-standing and widely supported Hyde Amendment protections. Full Hyde protections are essential and must be included in the final bill.”

However, the bishops “also stressed the need to improve real access for immigrants in health care policy, and this bill does not move the nation toward this goal,” Bishop Dewane said in his June 22 statement.

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Vatican makes gravitational waves an opportunity to support science and truth

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Science and religion are not at odds but are united in the continuing search for truth in unlocking the mysteries of the cosmos.

An artistís rendition of a supermassive black hole found at the center of many galaxies is seen in this April 16, 2015, European Southern Observatory image. (CNS photo/European Southern Observatory via EPA) See VATICAN-OBSERVATORY-CONFERENCE May 8, 2017.

An artistís rendition of a supermassive black hole found at the center of many galaxies is seen in this April 16, 2015, European Southern Observatory image. (CNS
photo/European Southern Observatory via EPA) See VATICAN-OBSERVATORY-CONFERENCE May 8, 2017.

The scientific conference titled, “Black Holes, Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities,” is an opportunity to show that “the church supports good science,” said Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory.

“We are hoping that this meeting will also be an encounter of people with very different opinions but very close friendships that come from having the same common desire to understand the truth of the universe and how we can understand that truth,” he told journalists May 8.

Renowned experts from around the world were to meet at Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo for the May 9-12 conference, which seeks to bring together science and religion in the continuing search for truth in understanding the mysteries of the universe, he said.

The 2016 discovery of the existence of gravitational waves, predicted nearly 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, was to be one of the topics of discussion. The discovery could open a new chapter in understanding celestial events and black hole regions in the universe, something that previously could only be hypothesized.

The conference also will celebrate the scientific legacy of Msgr. George Lemaitre, one of the fathers of the theory that the expanding universe could be traced to an origin point, also known as the “Big Bang theory.”

As historic as Msgr. Lemaitre’s theory was, Brother Consolmagno said, the Belgian priest was also mindful that the God’s creation of the universe wasn’t just a one-time occurrence but an event “that occurs continually.”

“If you look at God as merely the thing that started the Big Bang, you reduce God to a nature god, like Jupiter throwing lightning bolts,” he said. “That is not the God we as Christians believe in. We must believe in a God who is supernatural and we then recognize God is who is responsible for the existence of the universe and our science tells us how he did it.”

Dr. Alfio Bonanno, an Italian cosmologist at the National Institute for Astrophysics, told journalists that the conference also aims to dispel the “myth” that religion fears science, because the search for truth “will bring us to God.”

“We should not be afraid. Fear is not from God. Rather, we should go in search of this truth because truth, if we have this attitude of humility which was (Msgr.) Lemaitre’s attitude — we can also change our ideological preconceptions,” he said.

“The search for truth is what unites us,” Brother Consolmagno added. “Those of us who are religious will recognize in the truth the presence of God, but you don’t have to make that theological leap to have a desire to know truth.”

“The first step in recognizing the truth is that you don’t already have it,” he said, adding that people cannot consider themselves good scientists nor good religious people “if we think that our work is done.”

Regarding intelligent design, Brother Consolmagno said that its original intention as a way of looking at the universe and seeing “the design of a good God” has been misused.

“If you mean that you can use our scientific ignorance as a way proving the existence of God, that would not be a God I would want to believe in,” he said.

God, he continued, is not something one arrives to at the end of scientific research, but rather its starting point. In that way, “we then can see the hand of God in how we observe the universe.”

“I am afraid of a God that could be proved by science because I know my science well enough to not trust it,” the director of the Vatican Observatory said.

Brother Consolmagno said it was important for scientists who are believers to make their science known to their fellow parishioners and remind them that “science was an invention of the medieval universities that the church founded.”

“The logic of science comes out of the logic of theology and if there is a rivalry, it’s a sibling rivalry,” he said. “We need to know that it’s a crime against science to say, ‘only atheists can do it’ because that would eliminate so many wonderful people from so many different religions who could contribute so much to science.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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U.S. bishops ask Catholics ‘to accompany’ migrants, refugees seeking better life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.”

Titled “Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times,” the reflection was issued “in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands,” said a news release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

People in San Diego demonstrate in support of migrants and refugees Feb. 18. The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can "to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States." (CNS photo/David Maung, EPA)

People in San Diego demonstrate in support of migrants and refugees Feb. 18. The U.S. bishops in a pastoral reflection released March 22 called all Catholics to do what each of them can “to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.” (CNS photo/David Maung, EPA)

“To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the Resurrection,” said the reflection, which was approved by the USCCB Administrative Committee on the first day of a two-day meeting in Washington.

The 50-member committee is made up of the executive officers of the USCCB, elected committee chairmen and elected regional representatives. It acts on behalf of the nation’s bishops between the twice-yearly general meetings.

“To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear,” it continued. “Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.”

The bishops urged Catholics to pray for an end to the root causes of violence and other circumstances forcing families to flee their homeland to find a better life; to meet with newcomers in their parishes and “listen to their story, and share your own”; and to call, write or visit their elected representatives to ask them to fix our broken immigration system “in a way that would safeguard the country’s security and “our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The statement opened with a passage from Chapter 19 of the Book of Leviticus: “The word of God is truly alive today. When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt.”

The bishops urged Catholics to “not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future.”

“As shepherds of a pilgrim church,” they wrote, “we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.”

Those families could include “a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence,” they said, adding that “it is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.”

The bishops said that “intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well.”

“When we look at one another, do we see with the heart of Jesus?” they asked.

Their pastoral reflection comes at a time when the Trump administration’s rhetoric and its policies on national security, refugees and immigration are in the headlines almost daily. Those policies have sparked almost nonstop protests in various parts of the country since President Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. In some cases, the anti-Trump demonstrations have turned violent.

The latest action on the refugee issue came March 16 when two federal judges blocked Trump’s new executive order banning for 90 days the entry into the U.S. of citizens from six Muslim-majority nations and suspending for 120 days the resettlement of refugees. Two federal judges, one in Hawaii and one in Maryland, blocked the order before it was to take effect March 16 at midnight.

The Department of Justice announced March 17 it will appeal the Maryland ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which is based in Richmond, Virginia.

In their reflection, the bishops said that all in this country find “common dreams for our children” in their “diverse backgrounds.”

“Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, ‘out of many, one,’” they said. “In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all his children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.”

Christ, as the word made flesh, “strengthens us to bring our words to life,” they said, and suggested three ways Catholics, “in our own small way,” can “bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life”: by praying, welcoming newcomers and writing to their elected representatives urging them to support humane immigration policies.

“Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children,” the bishops said.

They asked Catholics to meet with newcomers in their parishes, and to “listen to their story and share your own.” The bishops noted parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees “both to comfort them and to help them know their rights.”

They also urged Catholics to “to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.”

Finally, Catholics should call, write or visit their elected officials urging they “fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.”

The reflection ended with a quote from Pope Francis: “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey toward our heavenly homeland.”

 

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Catholic Relief joins with other agencies to pledge $1.2 billion to help 65 million refugees

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries and it is particularly hard for those countries to meet refugees’ needs and provide them an education and a livelihood, according to a senior policy and legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services.

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 20 in New York City. Speaking for the last time at the United Nations as president, Obama said that while the world has become safer and more prosperous, nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East.  (CNS/ Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 20 in New York City. Speaking for the last time at the United Nations as president, Obama said that while the world has become safer and more prosperous, nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East. (CNS/ Reuters)

Overall, 65 million people are displaced worldwide, the highest number since World War II, according to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees.

“After World War II, many of the refugees at that time were living in camps for a certain amount of time, then would be resettled or helped to be repatriated” in their home country, Jill Marie told Catholic News Service.

Today, she said, it is not unusual for refugees to live 20 years in a country that is not their own, she said, citing the 5 million Afghan refugees who have lived in Pakistan for “a very long time,” many for almost their entire lives.

Millions of Afghans have fled their homeland during waves of civil war spanning more than three decades.

Marie made the comments to CNS Sept. 16 in advance of the special summit that U.S. President Barrack Obama convened Sept. 20 at the United Nations to address the global refugee crisis.

Before the summit, CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, joined 30 other nongovernmental organizations in pledging a total of $1.2 billion to help address the refugee crisis over a three-year period.

All the groups made the pledge as members of InterAction, the largest U.S. alliance of international NGOs.

The funds will provide urgent medical assistance, food and nutrition, security, shelter, education and other essential services to displaced populations, according to CRS.

Each entity will manage its own money but report to InterAction as to how it is used, said Marie.

She also told CNS that in addition to its monetary pledge, CRS hopes the U.S. Congress would “put more pressure on the U.N. to update its humanitarian architecture,” which currently is more the model addressing what World War II refugees faced than what today’s refugees confront.

“Refugees are no longer in camps but move into cities, with an uncle or a brother,” Marie said.

Some are “paying rent to put a tent up in somebody’s front yard and paying for their facilities,” she said, which means it is “much harder to get access to these people, harder to find them” to assess their needs and help them.

“That’s where the Catholic Church comes in,” using its networks to find people, Marie said. Coordination and implementation of assistance to refugees is “better left to agencies like CRS,” she added. “We have the agility. We work with local partners and we can move with them.”

According to CRS, the Baltimore-based agency has assisted more than a million war-affected Syrians across the Middle East and Europe since the armed conflict in their home country began almost five years ago. Among its other assistance efforts, the agency has aided Afghans living in Pakistan; displaced people in Somalia; those fleeing the Muslim militant group Boko Haram in West and Central Africa; and those forced from their homes by the impact of climate change in Bangladesh.

Marie praised the Obama administration for its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in particular; on Sept. 13, the administration said the U.S. would accept 110,000 Syrians over the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, a boost from the original number of 85,000.

The U.S. “historically has settled more refugees than anybody,” Marie noted, but “we would like to see more being resettled globally, because there are so many more refugees.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, too, recently commented that, to date, “a small number of countries have been carrying a disproportionate share of the refugee opportunity and burden.”

By the close of Obama-convened summit, a number of countries represented there “committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history,” said a statement issued by the White House in late afternoon Sept. 20.

The 32 governments participating in the summit, it said, had contributed “roughly $4.5 billion additional dollars to U.N. appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015.”

The statement added that the summit sought “to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold.”

“Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems,” it said.

In addition, some participants “committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas.”

On Sept. 19, U.N. member states held a high-level plenary meeting to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants. At the same time, Catholic and other leaders held a side event on the role of religious organizations responding to migrant and refugee movements, with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin as a keynote speaker.

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Former Our Sunday Visitor publisher named CNS director, editor-in-chief

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Greg Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, has been named director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service (CNS), effective Sept. 12.

Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the appointment July 20.

Greg Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, has been named director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, effective Sept. 12. (CNS /courtesy Greg Erlandson)

Greg Erlandson, former president and publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, has been named director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, effective Sept. 12. (CNS /courtesy Greg Erlandson)

“Greg brings a remarkable combination of management expertise, journalism skills and demonstrated service to the church at the national and international level. I am confident he will prove to be an important resource to clients of CNS,” Msgr. Bransfield said in a statement.

Erlandson, 62, stepped down from his position at OSV in Huntington, Indiana, after nearly 27 years with the company. He was named OSV editor in 1989 and was promoted to editor-in-chief of its editorial operations in 1992. He was named president and publisher in 2000.

“CNS is one of the gifts of the U.S. church to the rest of the Catholic world,” Erlandson said in response to an email asking for comment. “It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of so many great directors of the news service, and I am humbled by the opportunity to join our colleagues at the bishops’ conference in serving our fellow Catholics.”

“Catholic News Service has for decades been the backbone of the Catholic press,” he said. “It has enabled diocesan media to have a dependable source of national and international news, of great columnists and great features. It has also provided timely and trustworthy reporting to a wide variety of Catholic publications and organizations as well as to bishops and communicators around the world.”

Erlandson worked for CNS from 1986 to 1989. After a brief time in the Washington office, he worked at the CNS Rome bureau until he left to become editor at OSV.

“So I expect to feel a little deja vu,” he said, calling his time with CNS in Rome “life-changing.”

“My years in Italy changed the way I viewed both my church and my country, and I will always be grateful for the opportunity Richard Daw (then-CNS editor-in-chief) made available to me,” Erlandson said.

Erlandson succeeds Tony Spence, who resigned in April after 12 years as editor-in-chief. James Rogers, USCCB chief communications officer, took over CNS administrative duties while a search process took place for a successor.

Msgr. Bransfield thanked CNS staff “for their focus and hard work during this period of transition” and thanked Rogers and the search committee for their work.

Erlandson studied journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism of the University of California at Berkeley. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Early in his career, he was editor of the National Catholic Register.

Erlandson has had an active role as an advocate for the Catholic press. He served as president of Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada from 2011 to 2013 and continued on the organization’s board after his term.

He has been appointed twice as a consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Communications, and he has been a consultant for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He completed a stint in 2015 on a committee working to reform the Vatican’s communications arm that led to the creation of the new Vatican Secretariat for Communications.

In June, he received the Bishop John England Award from the CPA during the Catholic Media Conference in St. Louis. Last February, he was inducted into the Association of Catholic Publishers Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement. In 2015, he received the St. Francis de Sales Award, the CPA’s highest honor.

He and his wife, Corine Bischetti Erlandson, have four children.

 

 

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