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Let Jesus be your personal trainer, L.A. archbishop urges teens

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LOS ANGELES — Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told 1,600 Catholic teens gathered for the “City of Saints” conference that their faith and love for Jesus was an inspiration.

“Your desire to live your faith and share your faith; it is so beautiful to witness. And it is so inspiring,” he said in an Aug. 5 homily at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez hears confession Aug. 4 during the third annual City of Saints youth conference on the campus of University of California, Los Angeles. The three-day event offered teens an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship as they participate in workshops presented by renowned speakers, including youth leaders. (CNS photo/Victor Aleman, Angelus News)

The archbishop and the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles hosted the third annual “City of Saints” conference for teens, offering them an encounter with Christ through fellowship, praise and worship.

Teenagers attended from 80 parishes and schools throughout Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, the three counties that make up the archdiocese.

The Aug. 4-6 event featured speakers as well as music with contemporary Catholic-Christian band WAL.

Attendees had an opportunity to participate in facilitated group time and the sacrament of reconciliation. Archbishop Gomez celebrated an afternoon Mass Aug. 4 to welcome the teens, then led them in an outdoor eucharistic procession to open a area designated as “Sacred Space,” where spiritual directors described different paths of prayer for the weekend..

“I want to say, as we heard St. Peter say in the Gospel passage tonight, ‘It is good that we are here, Lord!’ Thanks be to God!” the archbishop said in his homily at the Aug. 5 Mass closing the full day of the conference.

“Our Gospel tonight, leads us up the high mountain, the mountain of God,” he continued. “It is almost like we are chosen witnesses to go up with Jesus. Just as he chose the three apostles to go with him in the Gospel — St. Peter, St. James and St. John.”

“We have the privilege tonight in this Gospel to see what they saw, to hear what they heard, the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Gomez said.

That scene was amazing, he said, with the face of Jesus “shining like the sun,” his clothes turning into “white light,” and the prophets Moses and Elijah appearing “out of nowhere.”

Imagining what they saw “reminds us that our lives are part of a great mystery, a cosmic reality, the loving plan of the living God. My young friends, you and me, we are part of the plan,” the archbishop told the teens.

“The purpose of our lives is to be transformed and transfigured. To become more like Jesus every day of our lives. Until one day we will shine like the sun, just like we saw his face shine like the sun in the Gospel today,” Archbishop Gomez explained. “This is God’s plan for your lives — to be his sons and daughters. Just as Jesus was his beloved Son.”

“Jesus is the answer” as to how to do this, he said. “Listen to him. This is the best advice you will ever receive, because it comes from God himself. Let Jesus be your teacher — your ‘life coach,’ your ‘personal trainer.’ Enter into his plan for your life. It is a plan of love, a plan that will lead you to happiness.”

Archbishop Gomez told the teens about two practical things in his life that he said have helped him listen to Jesus — prayer and reading the Gospels. He urged them to make those two things a habit in their own lives.

He suggested they download a Bible app onto their smartphones, so “you will have the Gospels with you everywhere you go.”

“When you get a minute, you can read a passage from the Gospel,” Archbishop Gomez said. “It is way better than checking your Instagram feed.”

“The more we pray, the easier it becomes to open our hearts to God,” Archbishop Gomez said. “The more we reflect on the Gospels, the more we begin to see Jesus alive and working in our lives and in the world.”

“The more we try to listen to Jesus, the easier it becomes to hear him,” he said. “The more we want to be with him in the Eucharist, in the sacrament of reconciliation.”

By following these practices, Archbishop Gomez said, “slowly, we have a ‘transfiguration’ in our lives. That is how it works.”

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Knights of Columbus plan to replace plumes, tuxedos and capes with berets and blazers

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Catholic News Service

PHOENIX — The Knights of Columbus, long associated with swords, capes and chapeaus, will be going through a significant uniform change.

Members of the Knights of Columbus are seen in their new uniforms Aug. 1 during the international fraternal organization's 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis. The new uniform is replacing the traditional regalia worn by fourth-degree Knights, announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Aug. 1 during the convention. (CNS photo/Knights of Columbus)

Members of the Knights of Columbus are seen in their new uniforms Aug. 1 during the international fraternal organization’s 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis. The new uniform is replacing the traditional regalia worn by fourth-degree Knights, announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Aug. 1 during the convention. (CNS photo/Knights of Columbus)

The traditional regalia worn by fourth-degree Knights will be replaced, announced Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Aug. 1 during the international fraternal organization’s 135th annual Supreme Convention in St. Louis.

Throughout the years, the regalia of the Knights’ fourth degree, known as the patriotic degree, has gone through changes, Anderson said, noting that when this degree was first established, the uniform included white ties, top hats and tails.

In place of a tuxedo with a black bow tie, members will be wearing a blue blazer, an official Knights of Columbus tie and a beret, all with the fourth-degree emblem on them, along with a white shirt and dark gray slacks. There was no mention if the swords would remain part of the uniform.

“The board of directors has decided that the time is right for a modernization of the fourth-degree uniform,” Anderson said. “On a limited basis, assemblies may choose to continue using the traditional cape and chapeau for color corps at public events and honor guards in liturgical processions. However, the preferred dress for the fourth degree, including color corps and honor guards, is the new uniform of jacket and beret.”

Robert Earl, a member of the Father Novatus Assembly 23, which serves Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Daniel the Prophet parishes in Scottsdale, welcomes the new changes.

“I feel it is significant that the order changes to respond to changing times. The new uniform evokes an image of elite military corpsmen in my mind, and I believe this is the intent behind the change,” Earl told The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.

“Our former regalia was reminiscent of Navy officers and consistent with the nautical theme in the patriotic degree, but it perhaps did not have currency in the minds of the general public,” he added, noting that in addition to the tuxedo, the other items collectively could cost approximately $500. “I think the new uniform creates a positive and striking image of ‘soldiers for Christ,’ which is, after all, what we are meant to be.”

Many members are not as thrilled about the pending changes, which generated some controversy among the membership. Joseph Meyer from Msgr. Bernard G. Collins Assembly 2899, which serves St. Bridget and Christ the King parishes in Mesa, said the new uniforms lose a sense of the pageantry associated with the Knights’ fourth-degree level.

“I have been a fourth-degree Knight since 1978 and we have always had this regalia,” said Meyer, who was a color corps commander in Toledo, Ohio. for 13 years before moving to Arizona. “We all looked great in the fourth-degree outfits. These (new) outfits look bad.”

Meyer also expressed concern for members who own the current uniform and have to spend money on the new one.

“If we get a new uniform like this, you will see a lot of Knights leave the degree. A lot of your Knights are retired and don’t have over $500 to spend,” he said.

Paul Lee, a member of the Iowa delegation who spoke to The Catholic Sun from St. Louis, said the reaction on the ground was “mixed.”

“The largest concern is people don’t feel that they have answers for the question of why the need for the change. They want something beyond a more modern look,” said Lee.

Lee said many members he’s interacted with are excited about the changes because it brings the uniform “more in line with other military service organizations because it connects us as patriotic organizations.” There also are members who “don’t like change, so they’re already up in arms,” he added.

“Then you have the sect of folks that feel that their voice was not consulted, (that) this sort of change should have taken place as discussion at the state council level and then brought concerns to the Supreme level,” said Lee, who countered that notion by saying conversations have been happening at all levels of the order about the need for change.

Representatives of the Arizona State Council said it was too early to comment as program details and guidelines for implementing the new uniforms were still unavailable.

By Tony Gutierrez, editor of The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Phoenix.

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Catholic groups ask Congress to reject ‘discriminatory’ RAISE Act

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Calling a proposed piece of legislation “discriminatory,” the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration called on the president and Congress to reject a bill that seeks to drastically cut legal immigration levels in half over a decade and which also would greatly limit the ability of citizens and legal residents to bring family into the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement on the introduction in the Senate of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE, with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., at the White House Aug. 2. (CNS photo/Zach Gibson, pool via EPA)

U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement on the introduction in the Senate of the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act, or RAISE, with Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and David Perdue, R-Ga., at the White House Aug. 2. (CNS photo/Zach Gibson, pool via EPA)

Other Catholic groups also called for an end to the legislation.

“Had this discriminatory legislation been in place generations ago, many of the very people who built and defended this nation would have been excluded,” said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chair of the bishops’ migration committee.

In a news release late Aug. 2, he criticized the RAISE Act introduced earlier in the day by Republican Sens. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, and David Perdue, of Georgia.

In addition to cutting legal immigration, the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act, or RAISE Act, would create a system of legal immigration different from the current one that favors family ties. Instead, it would move toward a system under which points would be awarded for a person’s ability to speak English, level of education, age, as well as “high-paying job offers, past achievements, and entrepreneurial initiative,” according to a White House statement praising the proposal.

Other limitations proposed by the RAISE Act would permanently cap the number of refugees allowed safe passage, “thereby denying our country the necessary flexibility to respond to humanitarian crisis,” said Bishop Vasquez.

“As a church, we believe the stronger the bonds of family, the greater a person’s chance of succeeding in life. The RAISE Act imposes a definition of family that would weaken those bonds,” he said.

Kevin Appleby, senior director of international migration policy at the Center for Migration Studies of New York, said the bill “is a nonstarter from a Catholic perspective, as it weakens the family unit and favors the rich over the poor. It also is part of a larger strategy by the administration to reduce the ethnic diversity of the immigrant population in this nation.”

The proposed bill was largely criticized and caused an uproar shortly after the president’s televised support early Aug. 2, saying it would reduce poverty, increase wages and save taxpayer money, adding that many current legal immigrants are low-skilled and many receive welfare benefits.

Later in the day, senior White House adviser Stephen Miller further added to the controversy over the bill after he seemed dismissive during a news briefing of the Statue of Liberty’s “”The New Colossus” poem and the line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and in defending the bill’s ability-to-speak-English requirement.

Even some of the president’s fellow Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who said he has supported “merit-based” immigration, said he would not support the bill.

Bishop Vasquez said the bill would be detrimental to families and negates contributions of past immigrants to the U.S., and he called on Congress and the administration instead “to work together in a bipartisan fashion to enact into law comprehensive immigration reform.”

“I believe that such reform must recognize the many contributions that immigrants of all backgrounds have made to our nation, and must protect the lives and dignity of all, including the most vulnerable,” said Bishop Vasquez.

Christopher G. Kerr, executive director of the Ohio-based Ignatian Solidarity Network, a national social justice education and advocacy organization, said from a faith perspective, it’s hard to back the RAISE Act if you reflect on the words of the pope, who called on Americans during his 2015 apostolic visit “to not turn their backs on their neighbors.”

But the RAISE Act does just that by creating “obstacles to family unity for immigrant families and block access to safety for tens of thousands of refugees,” he said.

“We continue to call for immigration policies that support family unity, provide pathways to citizenship, and promote humane and just treatment of immigrants — the RAISE Act does not respond to this call,” said Kerr.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Knights to send $2 million to restore Christian town in Iraq

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — In 2014, the Islamic State removed hundreds of families of religious minorities from their homes in Karamdes, a mostly Christian town on the Ninevah Plain in Iraq. Just over two years later, the town, also known as Karemlash, was liberated.

A Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest following the predominantly Christian town's 2016 liberation. (CNS photo/Archdiocese of Irbil)

A Catholic church destroyed by Islamic State militants in Karamdes, Iraq, is examined by a priest following the predominantly Christian town’s 2016 liberation. (CNS photo/Archdiocese of Irbil)

The Knights of Columbus will raise $2 million to assist these families in returning to their homes, according to Knights CEO Carl Anderson, who announced their pledge at the Knights’ 135th annual Supreme Convention being held Aug. 1-3 in St. Louis.

“The terrorists desecrated churches and graves and looted and destroyed homes,” Anderson said in his annual report, which was livestreamed from the convention. “Now we will ensure that hundreds of Christian families driven from their homes can return to these two locations and help to ensure a pluralistic future for Iraq.”

The Knights are following the example of the Hungarian government, whose new spending bill allowed for $2 million to be sent to the Archdiocese of Irbil in Iraq, assisting with the rebuilding of a Christian community near Mosul, Iraq.

Families who were previously displaced from their homes were able to return to their homeland because of the government of Hungary. This example served as proof to the Knights of the impact of returning families to their homes.

The cost of resettling one family is around $2,000, the amount the Knights are encouraging councils, parishes and individuals to donate.

“These Christian communities are a priceless treasure for the church,” Anderson said to the Knights attending the convention. “They have every right to live.”

The Knights have actively sought to provide humanitarian aid to Christians in Iraq, as well as Syria and the surrounding areas, donating over $13 million. In June, Anderson joined Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, in speaking in a news conference to urge the Senate to pass legislation that would provide U.S. humanitarian aid to the Archdiocese of Irbil, after the House unanimously voted in favor of the bill.

Pope Francis commended the Knights for their work in the Middle East in a letter sent to the Knights at the convention from Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. The pope professed his “gratitude for the commitment of the Knights to supporting our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East,” according to the letter.

Pope Francis also described the Knights’ relief fund as “an eloquent sign of your order’s firm commitment to solidarity and communion with our fellow Christians.”

In a news conference July 27, Secretary of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert reaffirmed the use of the word “genocide” to describe the situation of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

“When we look at Iraq and we look at what has happened to some of the Yezidis, some of the Christians, the secretary (Rex Tillerson) believes, and he firmly believes, that that was genocide,” Nauert said.

In March 2016, then-Secretary of State John Kerry first declared that that ISIS militants’ actions in Iraq and Syria against minority Christian, Yezidi and Shiite Muslim groups was genocide.

The Knights of Columbus also will join the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a “Week of Awareness” for persecuted Christians, which will begin Nov. 26 with a day of prayer for persecuted Christians.

In his annual report, Anderson urged each council of Knights to mark this day with “highest priority.”

“Our work has truly changed history,” Anderson said.

The work to rebuild Karamdes will begin the first week of August and any funds raised will go directly to the project.

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Catholic group asks U.S. government to drop appeal in HHS mandate case

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The Catholic Benefits Association has filed a motion with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver over a three-year-old appeal by three Cabinet departments in a case involving the “HHS mandate” that says all employers must provide contraceptive coverage.

President Donald Trump shows his signed Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during a National Day of Prayer event at the White House in Washington May 4. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

President Donald Trump shows his signed Executive Order on Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty during a National Day of Prayer event at the White House in Washington May 4. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA)

The association, which counts 1,000 Catholic institutions and privately run companies among its membership, including dioceses and hospitals, filed suit in 2014, seeking elimination of the mandate. The court granted a preliminary injunction because it believed the government’s action violated RFRA.

The government promptly appealed the injunction and since then has asked for several delays to argue its appeal. Defendants in the case are the Cabinet departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services, which issued the mandate in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act. 

The CBA wants the court to force the departments to meet a July 31 deadline the court set for them to address the association’s arguments.

In a filing made July 21, the CBA, based in Castle Rock, outside Denver, said the federal government does not need to ask for yet another extension in the matter.

The CBA motion cited four reasons the court should dismiss the appeal: “The parties agree that the mandate substantially burdens religious exercise. The parties agree that the mandate does not further a compelling interest. The parties agree that the departments have less restrictive means of advancing their interests. The parties agree that the mandate is illegal under RFRA,” the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

Since the preliminary injunction, “the departments have filed status reports in the CBA appeals on 10 separate occasions” — two in 2015, five in 2016 and three thus far this year – “each asking the court to delay ruling on the merits,” said the association’s motion for summary judgment in the case.

“There is a possibility, given the current climate, we agree and we’re going to drop this thing,” CBA executive director Doug Wilson told Catholic News Service, adding his confidence this would happen was “not terribly high.”

“We’re still fighting this despite what’s come out of our own agencies,” Wilson said July 28, referring to the Trump administration, which is seen as friendlier to the CBA’s stance. “It would be very hard to explain that (legal) position, but it’s certainly possible,” he added. “Unfortunately, despite the fact that the court was very clear that they wanted a specific response to our filing and not another request for a time extension, they could come back and say, ‘We’re close to a new regulation, could we please have one more extension?’”

Wilson cited President Donald Trump’s May 4 Rose Garden address at which he unveiled his “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” executive order, when he told members of the Little Sisters of the Poor, another plaintiff fighting the mandate: “Your long ordeal will soon be over. … We are ending the attacks on your religious freedom.”

Almost a month later, on May 31, an HHS draft rule was leaked to the press. The 125-page draft would exempt religious groups from the contraceptive mandate. It still has not been formally issued, the CBA noted. It remained under final review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the White House Office of Management and Budget, according to the office’s website.

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Senate bills fail but need to reform health care remains, says bishop

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WASHINGTON — After the Senate Republicans failed to get enough votes to pass a “skinny” repeal to remove parts of the Affordable Care Act in the early hours of July 28, a U.S. bishop said the “task of reforming the health care system still remains.”

The U.S. Capitol is seen prior to an all-night round of health care votes on Capitol Hill July 27 in Washington. The Senate rejected legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. (CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein,

The U.S. Capitol is seen prior to an all-night round of health care votes on Capitol Hill July 27 in Washington. The Senate rejected legislation to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act. (CNS photo/Aaron P. Bernstein,

The nation’s system under the Affordable Care Act “is not financially sustainable” and “lacks full Hyde protections and conscience rights,” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

It also “is inaccessible to many immigrants,” he said in a statement.

“Inaction will result in harm for too many people,” Bishop Dewane added.

The failed repeal bill was a pared-down version of earlier bills. It would have repealed both the individual mandate that says all Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty and the requirement all large employers offer health insurance to their workers. It would have expanded health savings accounts, delayed a tax on medical devices and increased funding for community health centers.

The vote was 51 against, and 49 in favor. All the Democrats voted “no.” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, joined two other GOP senators in rejecting the measure, Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had pushed the latest version forward in hopes it would be passed and lead to a conference with the House, which May 4 passed the American Health Care Act to replace the ACA, to hammer out a compromise measure.

The Senate vote is over, but the need to reform health care remains, said Bishop Dewane, who urged the two political parties to get past their divisions and work for “the common good.”

“A moment has opened for Congress, and indeed all Americans, to set aside party and personal political interest and pursue the common good of our nation and its people, especially the most vulnerable,” he said.

He laid out four action items he said are essential to any bill to be considered in the future:

  • “Protect the Medicaid program from changes that would harm millions of struggling Americans.”
  • “Protect the safety net from any other changes that harm the poor, immigrants, or any others at the margins.”
  • “Address the real probability of collapsing insurance markets and the corresponding loss of genuine affordability for those with limited means.”
  • Provide full Hyde Amendment provisions and much-needed conscience protections.”

 “The greatness of our country is not measured by the well-being of the powerful but how we have cared for the ‘least of these,'” Bishop Dewane said. “Congress can and should pass health care legislation that lives up to that greatness.”

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Catholic governor nominated for religious freedom ambassador post

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback got emotional about international religious freedom in a news conference livestreamed July 27 from his home state.

“At noon today, I went and did something that is simple and done by millions of Americans every day,” Brownback said. “But other people in different parts of the world, they risk their lives or could face death, and some have faced death for doing it.”

President Donald Trump nominated Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas as an ambassador of for religious freedom July 26. Brownback, a Catholic, is pictured in a 2007 photo. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

President Donald Trump nominated Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas as an ambassador of for religious freedom July 26. Brownback, a Catholic, is pictured in a 2007 photo. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

“I took Communion. And people face death around the world, for this simple act.”

President Donald Trump nominated Brownback to the position of ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom, according to a White House announcement July 26.

The governor tweeted Wednesday night, “Religious freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause.”

The governor has a long record of upholding religious freedom, since his support of the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 as a U.S. Senator. This is the act which created office for which he was just nominated. In 2002, Brownback became a Catholic.

If approved by the Senate, Brownback will work with foreign policy makers to preserve religious freedom worldwide as the head of the office of international religious freedom in the U.S. State Department.

According to World, an online magazine, Brownback said, “The level of persecution continues to grow,” and that since the office was created, not enough has been done.

Senate approval is unlikely to occur prior to lawmakers leaving for their summer recess. His position cannot be confirmed without Senate approval.

With his predicted resignation from governorship if the nomination is confirmed, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a fellow Catholic and two-time running mate of Brownback, will assume the role as governor.

Brownback has served on the Hill in various capacities including as congressman for Kansas’ second congressional district in 1994 and as U.S. senator for 14 years. In 2010, Brownback was elected governor of Kansas.

His record has been far from favorable due to his experimental tax cuts, with a 2016 New York Times survey naming him the most unpopular governor, with only 26 percent approval rating. His tax cuts, which were implemented in 2012, severely cut back Kansas’ revenue to the point of threatening its schools and other programs. The Kansas Legislature, with a Republican majority, reversed these tax cuts in early June, returning tax rates to their levels prior to Brownback’s term.

But despite his tax policy failure, Brownback said in the July 27 news conference that he is most proud of the pro-life legislation that has passed under his governorship. He said that he has signed 19 pro-life bills.

“The one thing I am most pleased about is that we have really moved as a culture of life state,” Brownback said. “And we are not going back.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, who is chairman of the House panel on global human rights, said Brownback has the experience to effectively promote religious freedom around the world.

“He is a man of deep religious faith and will work tirelessly to combat religious persecution and extremism,” Smith, a Catholic, said in a statement. “I congratulate him on his recent nomination and urge the Senate to move quickly on his confirmation — religious minorities abroad depend on it.”

Brownback spoke about his run as governor, senator and congressman throughout the years for the state of Kansas. But also about how his experience with the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 has prepared him for this potential new role.

“International religious freedom is going the wrong way, its getting worse,” Brownback said. “It hasn’t improved. We passed a bill in 1998 and the situation hasn’ improved. You could argue that it has gotten worse.” 

The governor confirmed that he has not spoken with anyone within the Senate and so a timeline on his nomination vote is unknown.

By Josephine von Dohlen

 

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World ‘sorely needs’ Scouts’ values of generosity, service, says nuncio

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GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Scouting develops generosity, service and fraternity, which are all values “our world sorely needs,” the papal nuncio told Catholic Scouts gathered for a July 23 Mass during the annual Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree.

“These values are the antidote to the selfishness and individualism of our society,” Archbishop Christophe Pierre said in his homily. “Scouting also encourages you to work together as a team, to share adventures, and to have a greater vision of life and creation.”

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, poses for a photo with Scouts following Mass July 23 at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va. (CNS photo/Michael Roytek, courtesy Boy Scouts of America)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, poses for a photo with Scouts following Mass July 23 at the Boy Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va. (CNS photo/Michael Roytek, courtesy Boy Scouts of America)

The archbishop was the principal celebrant of the outdoor Mass celebrated in Glen Jean at the Summit Betchel Reserve in the New River Gorge area of West Virginia. The July 19-28 jamboree drew 25,000 Scouts and troop leaders from around the country; about 7,500 attended the Mass.

Concelebrants included two officials of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, both of whom are Eagle Scouts: Msgr. John J.M. Foster, vicar general and moderator of the curia, and Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer, episcopal vicar for Europe and Asia. More than a dozen priests also concelebrated.

As he began his homily, Archbishop Pierre thanked Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston for hosting the Mass and acknowledged Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone of Charleston, S.C., who is episcopal liaison for the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. He also assured everyone of Pope Francis’ prayers and his “personal closeness to all gathered here.”

The French-born archbishop recalled his own years as a Scout and how Scouting has benefited members of his family.

“This jamboree brings back a flood of memories from my youth. I was a Scout for five years, right up until I entered the seminary,” he said in his homily. “I know the value of Scouting in my own life as I have traveled all over the world serving as a diplomat, and I have seen the real fruits of Scouting in my own family, especially in the lives of my nephews and nieces.”

Turning to the spiritual, he said that “amid the beauty of creation, Scouts ponder the God who made all things and who invites us to a relationship with Him. Scouting demands that we do our duty toward God, including worshipping him.”

Drawing on the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, he told the Scouts: “We have a God who cares for us” and he sent his Son to be born, not in power and majesty, but in poverty and weakness — as a child.”

Jesus “wanted to be close to the people and to teach them about the kingdom of his father,” Archbishop Pierre said. “It was not a kingdom of power or violence, but one of justice, love, and truth. To teach the crowds, Jesus told parables — stories — just like we share stories in Scouting. Jesus’ stories point us to something new, something beyond this world.”

With God, “our lives are filled with joy, blessing, and fruitfulness,” he said.

“Before we can make known to others this joyful message of the kingdom, we must first attend to the field of our hearts,” he said, urging them also to be vigilant in safeguarding “the seed of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit” sown within each of them.

“Jesus reminds us of the need to be vigilant — to stay awake, to be vigilant and keep watch, to be ready to preserve the grace we first received in baptism,” Archbishop Pierre continued. “Scouts know about staying awake and keeping vigil by the camp fire; about being ready and alert; about watching for danger. We need to do the same with our souls, guarding them from the enemy.

“After keeping watch over our souls, we can look to the needs of others, as a church that goes forth,” he said. “Our own commitment to holiness, to our neighbor, to the environment, and to being honest and decent can be an antidote for our culture and world.”

He quoted Pope Francis: “An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds.”

“The Holy Father is asking you, the Scouts, to be vigilant, to look out for your brothers and sisters and to be patient,” Archbishop Pierre said. “The important thing is to persevere, to not give up in your mission and to not give up on others, hoping that they might have new life.”

He said the pope “constantly refers to all the baptized as missionary disciples.”

“Scouts cultivates in young people a real spirit of adventure, a zeal for exploration and for mission. The Lord is counting on you,” he added.

Archbishop Pierre said the Scouts are called to be “leaven” in a world today that “is plagued by isolation, selfishness and individualism. In contrast, Scouts know something about being together, including others, and teamwork. Everyone must contribute something.”

He said he has always been impressed by Scouts’ spirit of “commitment and generosity.” He closed his homily with “a prayer for generosity,” the Scout Prayer, “which I learned many years ago.” He asked the Scouts to make the prayer there own reciting it first in French and then in English:

“O Lord, teach me to be generous; To serve you as you deserve; To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To labor and not to seek for rest; To toil and not to seek any reward; Except that of knowing that I am doing your holy will.”

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Now Hiring: Vatican ambassador is unique post in U.S. diplomatic corps

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — As the U.S. president’s personal envoy to the Vatican, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See has a unique role in building a bridge between the political center of the United States and the religious-spiritual center of the universal Catholic Church in Rome. Read more »

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Washington letter: 80 percent of U.S. immigrants with Temporary Protected Status have jobs

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Citing the significant economic contributions of immigrants under a federal program known as Temporary Protected Status, a new study says ending the program, as some in the Trump administration have suggested, would negatively impact the U.S. economy.

A teenage girl from El Salvador is embraced by a family friend before leaving Viva La Case refugee center with her family in Buffalo, N.Y., to file a claim July 5 with customs officials at the U.S.-Canadian border to remain in the United States. (CNS photo/Chris Helgren, Reuters)

A teenage girl from El Salvador is embraced by a family friend before leaving Viva La Case refugee center with her family in Buffalo, N.Y., to file a claim July 5 with customs officials at the U.S.-Canadian border to remain in the United States. (CNS photo/Chris Helgren, Reuters)

That’s because more than 80 percent of the approximately 325,000 immigrants in the country with the status known as TPS have jobs, many have mortgages, pay taxes and work in industries crucial to the economy, such as construction, child care and health care, and collectively have some 273,000 U.S.-born children, says a July report by the Center for Migration Studies in New York.

Kevin Appleby, the center’s senior director of international migration policy, said if extensions for the migrants are not granted or the program is terminated, crucial industries would see a shortage of workers, banks would see defaults in mortgages, and government coffers would lose out on tax revenues and consumer spending.

“Let’s hope the financial industry realizes that,” he said.

Deporting TPS recipient parents also would create thousands of orphans in the country, which would increase foster care costs, place a burden on local and state governments, and alienate the children affected, said Appleby. He was one of three officials from the center who explained the report “Statistical and Demographic Profile of the U.S. Temporary Protected Status Populations From El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti” in a July 20 video conference.

Demographer Robert Warren said TPS recipients have high participation in the U.S. labor force, 81 percent to 88 percent, well above the 63 percent rate for the total U.S. population; almost half of them have mortgages, and 11 percent are self-employed, creating jobs for themselves and others, the study says. They work in construction, food service, child care centers and the health care industry, said Warren, senior visiting fellow at the Center for Migration Studies.

The TPS program has been around for 27 years and provides a work permit and reprieve from deportation to immigrants from some countries recovering from conflicts or natural disasters. Immigrants from war-torn countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Haiti account for 90 percent of program’s beneficiaries in the U.S.

Donald Kerwin, the center’s executive director, said: “TPS has been a vitally important and successful protection and humanitarian program for 27 years. It’s definitely not a perfect program, but its imperfections have more to do with who it doesn’t cover than who it does.” 

The program also doesn’t provide a path toward a more permanent status for migrants since the Department of Homeland Security has to periodically grant extensions.

A TPS beneficiary from Haiti, for example, who was granted protections following the devastating earthquake in 2010 has to see if the U.S. government will grant extensions to the program to determine whether she or he can legally remain the U.S. The extensions can go on for years and, in the meantime, TPS beneficiaries get jobs, get married, have children, buy homes and become involved in the community.

Though recently a six-month extension was granted to Haitians, Homeland Security on its webpage tells Haitian TPS recipients to use the time before Jan. 22, 2018, to prepare for and arrange departure from the United States. DHS also will look at what to do with TPS beneficiaries from El Salvador and Honduras in early 2018.

Kerwin said many are deeply embedded in the U.S. communities and have long contributed to the country, adding that roughly half of Salvadorans and Honduran TPS recipients have been in the country 20 years or more.

“The concern is that the Trump administration could terminate the TPS designations for these nations, which our paper concludes is the worst option,” Kerwin said. “It’s really not just a lose-lose option. It’s a lose-lose-lose option because, as the report shows, it would be bad for the U.S., for its communities, for families, for the housing market, for certain industries in particular and for the economy overall.”

It also would be detrimental to the migrants’ countries of origin, said Kerwin, because they already have said they can’t safely accommodate returning populations. Some migrants may not leave and even those who do may attempt a return to be with family in the U.S. in the future, he said. Termination of TPS would only create yet another group of residents in the United States without legal permission, Kerwin said.

Immigrant advocate groups are urging more extensions, knowing that under a Trump administration more permanent options, and even legislative options, are simply not a reality.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration has repeatedly advocated for the extensions and, in May, its chairman, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, thanked DHS for the TPS extension for Haitians.

Other groups, such as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, said even though the extension was a positive development, it was a temporary fix. Countries such as Haiti, whose citizens benefit from the program, need more stability before masses of people are sent back, CLINIC officials said. Some say that destabilizing these countries with the influx of people is only going to result in even more people trying to leave their homelands for the U.S.

“Extension of TPS is not the perfect option but it looks to be the best available option at this point,” said Kerwin, adding that legislative options would be more difficult to bring to fruition.

Many advocates worry that the worst possible option, ending the program altogether, is under consideration by the Trump administration.

DHS Secretary John Kelly “has already indicated a posture of the administration not to extend TPS to these countries. … It’s becoming clear that the administration wants to end TPS to these countries and if at all possible … end it altogether,” Appleby said.

“This administration was elected to implement policies that are in the best interest of this nation and it’s clear from our report that extending TPS will be in the best interest of the nation,” said Appleby. “Many within the administration want to end it for ideological reasons, but that is not in the best interest of the country and does not best serve the U.S. citizenry.”

Advocates, including many faith communities, are getting ready battle in defense of the program and of the migrants affected. After all, faith communities were instrumental at the beginning of the TPS program in the late 1980s, early 1990s, said Appleby, recalling that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, New York, who was then the head of the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, was involved in getting the program to become a reality under the Immigration Act of 1990.

“We anticipate the faith community to be involved in this fight, if not outright leaders of it,” Appleby said.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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