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New head of Knights of Malta to lead reform efforts

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The new lieutenant of the grand master of the Knights of Malta will lead efforts to reform the order following a tumultuous period that brought to light many of the ancient institution’s internal disputes.

Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, right, is seen during the oath ceremony at Santa Maria in Aventino in Rome April 30. He was elected April 29 to lead the Knights of Malta for a one-year period, and will work on a constitutional reform that "will address potential institutional weaknesses," the order said in a press release. (CNS photo/Order of Malta via EPA)

Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, right, is seen during the oath ceremony at Santa Maria in Aventino in Rome April 30. He was elected April 29 to lead the Knights of Malta for a one-year period, and will work on a constitutional reform that “will address potential institutional weaknesses,” the order said in a press release. (CNS photo/Order of Malta via EPA)

Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre, elected April 29 to lead the Knights of Malta for a one-year period, will work on a constitutional reform that “will address potential institutional weaknesses,” the order said in a press release following the election.

“The recent crisis has shown some weaknesses in the checks and balances in governance,” it said. “”The reform will take this into consideration.’”

Born in Rome, Dalla Torre has been a member of the order since 1985 and held several prominent roles in the order’s hierarchy. Following the death of the 78th grand master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, he served as lieutenant ad interim prior to the election of Fra’ Matthew Festing. 

Dalla Torre’s election closes a difficult chapter in the order’s history and tensions that lead to Festing’s resignation Jan. 24 at the behest of Pope Francis, who had established a commission to investigate his removal of the order’s grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

Festing refused to cooperate with the investigation and insisted the firing was a sovereign act outside the Vatican’s jurisdiction, although the knights take a vow of obedience to the pope.

Although Boeselager was reinstated as grand chancellor, the public spat drew unwanted attention to internal disputes rather than to the order’s priorities of providing humanitarian relief, encouraging dialogue and assisting migrants and refugees.

The Knights of Malta have 13,500 members, as well as 80,000 volunteers and 25,000 medical professionals providing relief and humanitarian aid in 120 countries.

Dominique de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, current grand hospitaller of the order, said the crisis “has been troublesome for our donors,” many of whom “decided maybe not to help us anymore because they thought we were fighting against the pope, which is not true.”

“So now we have to restore this trust,” he said Feb. 2 following Boeselager’s reinstatement.

The reform now led by Dalla Torre, the Knights of Malta said, will “also focus on strengthening the order’s spiritual life” and on efforts to increase the number of its professed members.

“Consultations have already begun and all members of the order have been invited to offer their suggestions,” the order said.

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Catholic leaders urge Israel to meet Palestinian hunger strikers’ demands

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Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — Catholic leaders in the Holy Land urged Israel to concede to demands of Palestinian political prisoners on a hunger strike since April 17.

The prisoners are seeking an improvement in their prison conditions and an end to administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold prisoners almost indefinitely without having to charge them with a crime.

A Palestinian protester in Beita, West Bank, moves a burning tire during clashes with Israeli troops April 28. Catholic leaders in the Holy Land urged Israel to concede to demands of Palestinian political prisoners on a hunger strike since April 17. (CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters)

A Palestinian protester in Beita, West Bank, moves a burning tire during clashes with Israeli troops April 28. Catholic leaders in the Holy Land urged Israel to concede to demands of Palestinian political prisoners on a hunger strike since April 17. (CNS photo/Mohamad Torokman, Reuters)

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said the prisoners are asking that their human rights and dignity be respected according to international law and the Geneva Convention.

“We urge the Israeli authorities to hear the cry of the prisoners, to respect their human dignity, and to open a new door toward the making of peace,” the bishops said in a statement released April 29. “The aim of this desperate act is to shed light, both locally and internationally, on the inhuman conditions in which they are detained by the Israeli authorities.”

The bishops affirmed the need to apply international law to the conditions of incarceration of political prisoners and condemned “the use of detention without trial, all forms of collective punishment, as well as the use of duress and torture for whatever reason.”

“Furthermore, we can never forget that every prisoner is a human being and his God-given dignity must be respected,” said the bishops.

Freeing prisoners will be a “sign of a new vision” which could mark a new beginning for Israelis and Palestinians, they said.

“As Christians, we are sent to work for the liberation of every human being, and for the establishment of a human society in which there is equality for all, Israelis and Palestinians,” they said.

According to reports in the Israeli press, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said 300 of the hunger strikers have agreed to start taking food, although none of their demands has been met. Palestinians maintain the 1,500 prisoners are continuing their water-and-salt only fast.

The political prisoners are demanding improved visitation rights for family members, better access to phone calls and medical care. Some 6,500 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails for alleged offenses ranging from murder to throwing stones.

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Pope calls for peace amid deadly protests in Venezuela

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As anti-government protests in Venezuela turned deadly, Pope Francis called for an end to the bloodshed.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to the government and all components of Venezuelan society to avoid any more forms of violence, to respect human rights and to seek a negotiated solution to the grave humanitarian, social, political and economic crisis,” the pope said April 30 before reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer.

Pope in Caracas, Venezuela, hold crosses April 29 during a vigil for those killed during protests against President Nicolas Maduro's government. (CNS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

Din Caracas, Venezuela, hold crosses April 29 during a vigil for those killed during protests against President Nicolas Maduro’s government. (CNS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

The country has descended into chaos after years of food shortages and economic turmoil under embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Despite expressing a willingness to negotiate with the opposition, he has been accused of tightening his grip on power and suppressing any threat to his rule.

Protests began after March 29, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled to dissolve the country’s parliament, in which the opposition had a two-thirds majority following the 2015 elections. The unprecedented ruling transferred legislative powers to the Supreme Court, which is comprised of judges nominated by Maduro.

Although the Supreme Court restored parliament’s authority after local and international outcry, protests against Maduro’s government escalated, resulting in nearly 30 deaths as of April 29.

The pope prayed for the victims and their families and entrusted to the Virgin Mary his “prayers for peace, reconciliation and democracy to that beloved country.”

Following requests by the former leaders of Spain, Panama and the Dominican Republic, a Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli tried to mediate an end to the conflict.

During a news conference with journalists on the flight to Rome April 29 after his visit to Egypt, Pope Francis said that while “there is something moving forward,” negotiations are “still very much up in the air.”

“Everything that can be done for Venezuela must be done. And with the necessary guarantees. Otherwise, we are just playing ‘tintin piruelo,’ which leads nowhere,” the pope said referencing a Latin American children’s game that also means to jump from one point to another without reaching a conclusion.

“We all know the difficult situation in Venezuela, which is a country I love very much,” he told reporters traveling with him.

 

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French cardinal deplores ‘democracy gone mad’ in nation’s presidential race

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Catholic News Service

France’s Catholic primate has condemned the current presidential campaign as his country’s “worst ever” and urged Christians to help prevent democracy from “losing its sense.”

“Left and right rivaled each other and had their radical wings, but there was also a center. Now, left and right have stepped back, and the main candidates are divided by other unclear criteria. I have the impression our voters are totally lost,” said Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, is pictured before the start of Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon, France, is pictured before the start of Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In an interview with Poland’s Catholic Information Agency (KAI), published April 26, Cardinal Barbarin said France was witnessing “the twilight of its existing political system” as citizens sought out “leaders closer to the people in their economic and social realities.”

“Democracy seems to be losing its sense and being cast adrift by media shabbiness,” Cardinal Barbarin added. “This has been our worst-ever election campaign, characterized by the unforgivable accusations, total critiques, violence, chaos and the misleading of voters.”

In the first round of French elections April 23, Emmanuel Macron, founder of En Marche!, a center-left political movement, and Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, emerged as the two top vote-getters. They will face off May 7, when voters will choose who will be president for the next five years. Candidates from the mainstream Socialist and Republican parties will not be in the final round.

Cardinal Barbarin said the success of Le Pen, who has vowed to take France out of the European Union and give French nationals priority over foreigners in jobs, welfare, housing and education, reflected a “destabilizing trend” also visible in other parts of Europe and the United States. He spoke of a “form of democratic terrorism,” which stripped candidates of their dignity by establishing a right “to know everything, whether proved or unproved” about them.

“It seems we’re dealing with a democracy gone mad,” the cardinal said. “Although statesmen still exist, they’re unable to get through today’s campaign mechanisms, where everything is decided by the art of winning. Those who win are just electoral animals, not competent, rational politicians.”

Catholics traditionally make up two-thirds of France’s 67 million inhabitants, although only a small proportion attends Mass.

In a book-length message last October, “Recovering the sense of politics,” the bishops’ conference said “weariness, frustration, fear and anger” in the country had fueled “profound hopes and expectations of change,” but also cautioned against “a search for facile, emotive options.”

Cardinal Barbarin told KAI the Catholic Church should appeal to citizens not to vote “for people with pretty eyes, who can make stars of themselves with media support.”

“This is a time of decadence, and decadence means certain forms and structures are nearing their end,” he said.

“As Christians, we yearn for social order, peace and harmony, a state based on principles of welfare and participation, where all can make contributions and citizens are subjects of the political community,” he said. “But the problem in today’s France is the rising disappointment and anger of those who feel ill-treated, rejected and forgotten.”

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‘Conflict minerals’ — Demand for cellphone metals fuels war in Congo, priest says

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Catholic News Service

Global demand for metallic ores used in cellphones is thwarting efforts to end war and violence in Congo, said an African priest.

Any person who possesses a cellphone or other electronic device with components derived from such “conflict minerals” is benefiting from bloodshed, said Father Richard Muembo, rector of a Congolese seminary firebombed earlier this year. Read more »

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Philippine archbishop rebukes faithful for rejecting church morals

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The head of the Philippine bishops’ conference expressed concern over what he perceived to be a growing trend “of rebuffing church morals and doctrine” in his country.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, gestures during a 2014 news conference in Manila. Archbishop Villegas expressed concern over what he perceived to be a growing trend "of rebuffing church morals and doctrine" in his country. (CNS/Simone Orendain)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, gestures during a 2014 news conference in Manila. Archbishop Villegas expressed concern over what he perceived to be a growing trend “of rebuffing church morals and doctrine” in his country. (CNS/Simone Orendain)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan opened his Easter message with a searing rebuke of the faithful in the Philippines, questioning their behavior.

“How many of our Catholics openly and blatantly declare, ‘I am a Catholic, but I agree that drug addicts must be killed; they are useless. I am a Catholic but I am pro-death penalty. … I am a Catholic, but I do not always obey my bishop, he is too old-fashioned. … I am a priest but my bishop’s circulars are optional for obedience. … I am a Catholic but … I am a Catholic but …’” Archbishop Villegas trailed off in the published message.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016 on a promise to eradicate crime and kill drug dealers and addicts, the archbishop has been a vocal critic.

Months later, more than 7,000 people, most of them impoverished, have died in either police anti-drug operations or in unexplained killings. And in early March, Duterte’s allies in the Philippine House helped pass a measure reinstating the death penalty, with the primary goal of executing drug offenders.

Archbishop Villegas’ criticism has grown more strident with the body count increasing and the latest steps toward restoring execution. The prelate has led prayer marches and authored letters and official conference documents decrying the “war on drugs” and the death penalty. Other church officials have also expressed dismay through various statements.

However, Duterte’s popularity ratings remain high, with supporters expressing strong backing online. In response to his church critics, Duterte has called priests hypocrites and accused them of being pedophiles or leading secretly married lives, among other scathing remarks.

In his Easter message delivered at St. John Cathedral in Dagupan City, Archbishop Villegas said it has become “fashionable” to make priests and bishops “the punching bags of public officials to the glee of our parishioners.”

“The church is ridiculed and her churchmen are rebuked. Christ’s teachings are relentlessly challenged. Human life is cheaper than a gun. God’s mercy is disdained and scorned,” he said, pointing out people’s apathy as they “walk not forward but backward, becoming, day by day, an angry society.”

Archbishop Villegas was particularly emphatic about bishop-bashing on the internet.

“We bishops have become martyrs in social media,” said the prelate. “We are killed a thousand times; our trolls are in the thousands. When we speak, they want us muted. When we oppose, they want us maimed. When we stand for life, they want us dead.”

The archbishop said if this type of behavior continued he expected to see “more and more priests and bishops dying as martyrs in the prime of their lives.”

“If this should happen: Stand up and take courage. Go to jail for the sake of the Gospel. Be ready to be killed for the sake of our faith. The church will not die when Christ’s believers are killed. The Catholic faith will bloom, grow and glow,” said Archbishop Villegas.

— By Simone Orendain

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Church bombings in Egypt won’t stop pope’s April 28-29 visit, says Vatican official

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Despite recent and repeated terrorist attacks against Egypt’s minority Christian communities, Pope Francis will not cancel his visit to Egypt.

“The pope’s trip to Egypt proceeds as scheduled,” Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, told Catholic News Service April 10. The pope is scheduled to meet governmental and interfaith leaders during an April 28-29 visit to Cairo.

Mourners attend the April 10 funeral for victims of a bomb attack the previous day at the Orthodox Church of St. George  in Tanta, Egypt. That same day, April 9, an explosion went off outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria, where Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was presiding over the Palm Sunday service. (CNS photo/Mohamed Hossam, EPA)

Mourners attend the April 10 funeral for victims of a bomb attack the previous day at the Orthodox Church of St. George in Tanta, Egypt. That same day, April 9, an explosion went off outside the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria, where Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was presiding over the Palm Sunday service. (CNS photo/Mohamed Hossam, EPA)

“Egyptians are looking forward to Pope Francis’ visit, although the atmosphere at present is heavy,” Father Rafic Grieche, spokesman for the Egyptian bishops, said April 10, the day after the attacks.

The pope’s mission is to be beside his brothers at the time of difficulty. Now is the real time that he can bring peace and hope to the Egyptian people as a whole and to the Christians of the East, in particular,” Father Grieche added.

He said people were uneasy entering churches with metal detectors and other security measures.

“It’s not like going to a normal church. But we need these measures to keep people safe,” he said.

He said after the attack, he celebrated a Mass with 2,000 people.

“The people knew already about the attack in Tanta, but they did not want to be afraid. In the evening, they also came for the prayers of the Holy Week,” Father Grieche said.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II was in the Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria April 9 for the Palm Sunday service, when an explosion went off outside the church. Security footage appeared to show a security officer direct a man who was seeking entry into the cathedral to go through a metal detector. The man took a step under the detector then backed up a step, followed by a huge explosion that cut off the camera feed.

Earlier, a bomb exploded 70 miles away inside the Church of St. George in Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo, during its Palm Sunday service. Estimates say at least 44 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the two attacks, making it one of the deadliest against the nation’s Christians in decades.

It was the single deadliest day for Christians in decades and the worst since a bombing at a Cairo church in December killed 30 people.

Pope Tawadros told the Italian national network Rai News April 9 the attacks would “not damage the unity and cohesiveness” of the Egyptian people.

“Egyptians are united before this terrorism,” he said, adding that “these vile attacks that hit people of peace in places of prayer demonstrate that terrorism lacks any religion.”

Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, also condemned the attacks, calling them a “despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents.”

Retired Coptic Catholic Bishop Antonios Mina of Giza, Egypt, said the incidents were an attack against the nation’s unity, its Coptic Christians, “to remind them that they have no rights, and against all Christian minorities of the country that anxiously await Pope Francis.”

“Despite it all, we will never lose hope. These atrocious gestures make us firmer in the faith and stronger,” he said. “Egypt’s Christians are warriors of hope.”

One Catholic leader highlighted his country’s failure to address the real causes behind the Palm Sunday massacres.

Speaking to “the officials and the wise of this country,” Coptic Catholic Bishop Botros Fahim Awad Hanna of Minya said that “you don’t fight terrorism with words or slogans, nor with security or armies alone.”

“What have you done for social, economic, health, political and human justice? What have you done for the poor and downtrodden? What have you done to reform thought, expression and religious discourse?”

In a posting on his Facebook page, Bishop Fahim said that when Pope Francis goes to Cairo, he “will come to say no to terrorism and evil, and yes to goodness and fraternity. Love will never fail.”

Around the world, religious leaders offered prayers.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the attacks on the churches were “unspeakable persecution.”

“In the midst of what should be peace, horrible violence yet again,” he said. On behalf of all U.S. bishops, the cardinal expressed “our deepest sadness” for all those killed and injured, and their loved ones.

“I also express our solidarity with the Coptic church in Egypt, an ancient Christian community that faces mounting persecution in its historic home from violent extremism. I also pray for the nation of Egypt, that it may seek justice, find healing, and strengthen protection for Coptic Christians and other religious minorities who wish only to live in peace.”

Egypt is 90 percent Sunni Muslim; Christians make up the remaining 10 percent, with that majority being the Coptic Orthodox church. The Catholic community in Egypt numbers about 272,000, less than 0.5 percent of the population.

 

Contributing to this story was Dale Gavlak in Amman, Jordan.

 

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Catholic leaders in Syria criticize U.S. missile strikes

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WASHINGTON — Two prominent Catholic leaders in Syria criticized the U.S. missile strikes against their nation, wondering why they occurred before investigations into the origins of chemical attacks reported April 4.

Iranian men shout anti-U.S. slogans after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, April 7, following U.S. missile strikes in Syria. (CNS photo/Abedin Taherkenareh, EPA)

Iranian men shout anti-U.S. slogans after Friday prayers in Tehran, Iran, April 7, following U.S. missile strikes in Syria. (CNS photo/Abedin Taherkenareh, EPA)

But U.S. President Donald Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad “launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians” and “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said April 6, announcing that he had ordered the strike against the air base from which he said the chemical weapons attack was launched.

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan called the attack an aggression and told Catholic News Service: “It is a shame that the United States administration didn’t wait until an honest United Nations investigation was thoroughly made into what is said to be a chemical air strike in Khan Shaykun.”

“The agglomerate media and the supremacist policy of the USA just want the killing and destroying conflict in Syria to continue, and this primarily to kill whatever attempt to resolve the bloody crisis,” added Patriarch Younan, who was born in Syria and served for 14 years as bishop of the New Jersey-based Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics in the United States and Canada.

Bishop Georges Khazen, who serves Latin-rite Catholics in Aleppo, told the Rome-based Fides news agency that he was baffled by “the speed with which it was decided and carried out, without any adequate investigation into the tragic massacre with chemical weapons which took place in Idlib province.”

He said the attack “opens new disturbing scenarios for all.”

The U.S. launched 59 missiles from the USS Ross and USS Porter in the Mediterranean early April 7 local time. U.S. officials said they targeted Shayrat Air Base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas.

In his statement, Trump said, “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”

The president said it was vital to U.S. security interests “to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” and he called on other nations “to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said. “As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

“We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed, and we hope that as long as America stands for justice, that peace and harmony will in the end prevail,” he said.

Syrian officials called the attack a “blatant aggression,” and the General Command of the Syrian army said it “confirms the continuation of the wrong American strategy and restricts the counterterrorist operation that the Syrian army is conducting.”

The Syrian state news agency SANA reported nine civilians, including four children, were killed in the U.S. attack. SANA said the civilians died in villages near the airbase and that seven more people were wounded.

It was not clear whether this figure included any of the six dead announced by the Syrian army earlier.

Patriarch Younan, who said he passed Shayrat Air Base after the strike, en route to celebrate a funeral in Hafar, noted the U.S. was accusing Syria, a U.N. member, of using chemical weapons, but had not investigated the charge.

“The Syrian army was fighting successfully to end the bloody conflict going on for long. It did not need any military intervention that would be condemned by international agencies, such as using chemicals,” he said. He added that Christians would suffer the consequences, and the final results of displacement and persecution would not be known for decades.

After the chemical attack was reported, Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo told Fides that although he understood things were not always what they seemed, he could not imagine the Syrian government “is so naive and ignorant to be able to do such ‘errors.’”

He said the Syrian government and opposition continued to blame each other for the 2013 chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus.

“Two days ago, U.S. President Donald Trump said that Assad is part of the solution of the Syrian problem. Now he makes statements that say the contrary,” Bishop Audo told Fides. “There are interests of regional powers involved in the war. We should always take this into account, especially when certain things are repeated with similar dynamics, and trigger the same reactions and the same effects already experienced in the past.”

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Venezuela’s bishops call for civil disobedience amid constitutional crisis

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CARACAS, Venezuela — In response to a renewed constitutional crisis in the country, the Venezuelan bishops’ conference has called for “peaceful civil disobedience” to restore constitutional order. Read more »

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Mexican archdiocese: Companies that work on border wall are ‘traitors,’ ‘immoral’

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Catholic News Service

CUERNAVACA, Mexico — An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as “traitors.”

“What’s regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border,” said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe.

A view of a section of the wall separating Mexico and the United States is seen March 7 from Tijuana, Mexico. An Archdiocese of Mexico City editorial condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors" and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)

A view of a section of the wall separating Mexico and the United States is seen March 7 from Tijuana, Mexico. An Archdiocese of Mexico City editorial condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as “traitors” and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. (CNS photo/Edgard Garrido, Reuters)

“Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump’s wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland,” the editorial continued. “Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot.”

President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border.

Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex, whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall, told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, “What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government’s economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies.”

Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump’s proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump “ignorant” and a “clown” and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as unpardonable.

Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, said some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump’s positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president.

“What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person,” Father Valdemar said.

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