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U.S. bishops’ official urges Tillerson to back two-state solution in Mideast

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government should continue to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and avoid actions that would undermine results, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The brother and relatives of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Rajabi weep during his Jan. 7 funeral in Hebron, West Bank. Rajabi was killed by Israeli forces. A prominent U.S. bishop urged the U.S. government to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (CNS photo/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)

The brother and relatives of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Rajabi weep during his Jan. 7 funeral in Hebron, West Bank. Rajabi was killed by Israeli forces. A prominent U.S. bishop urged the U.S. government to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (CNS photo/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)

Drawing on his observations from a January trip to the Holy Land, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman, wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and urged him to continue to work for a peace agreement “that respects the human dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians and advances justice and peace for all.”

Bishop Cantu told Tillerson that Israeli settlements were an obstacle to peace.

“Settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands undermines a two-state solution, destroying the homes and the livelihoods of Palestinians as well as the long-term security and future of Israelis,” he said.

The bishop spoke of his Jan. 14-19 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with bishops from Canada and Europe. In a statement at the end of the visit, the bishops said Christians have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, because “this de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians … but, as the U.N. recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace.”

In his Feb. 1 letter, Bishop Cantu reminded Tillerson that 2017 marked 50 years of “a crippling occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, crippling for both peoples.”

He also spoke of problems created by the Israeli security barrier, a series of cement slabs, barbed wire fences and security roads snaking across part of the West Bank. If completed as planned, the separation wall would stretch nearly 400 miles and restrict the movements of 38 percent of residents of the West Bank.

“The Cremisan Valley is home to a Salesian monastery, convent and school, and the agricultural lands of 58 Christian families who live in nearby Palestinian towns,” Bishop Cantu said in his letter. “The building of the wall constricts residents’ movement, impairs access to their lands, separates Christian institutions from those they serve, and encourages Christian emigration.

“The Cremisan Valley is emblematic of the alarming number of Palestinians who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Settlement expansion, confiscation of lands and the building of the separation wall on Palestinian lands violate international law and undermine a diplomatic solution,” he said.

Bishop Cantu also mentioned President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would erode the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution and is a threat to pursuing peace and ending conflict. Its impact would incite and destabilize the area, compromising U.S. security,” Bishop Cantu said.

The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act authorized funding for the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. However, the act contained a provision to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv if it was in the best interests of U.S. national security. U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush pledged to move the embassy, then kept it in Jerusalem so as not to inflame tensions.

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, said Jan. 23 that the administration is studying the situation.

Bishop Cantu told Tillerson the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would continue to engage the State Department on international issues, but that getting a peace agreement for Israel and Palestine would “require arduous work.”

“It has been 50 years of tumult and turbulence, of egregious injustices and random acts of violence. However, the United States has always provided leadership and support to the peace process,” Bishop Cantu said.

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Spiritual success measures quality of American life, Trump says at prayer breakfast

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — “Spiritual success” is a more accurate measure for the United States than wealth, according to likely billionaire President Donald Trump in remarks Feb. 2 at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump prays during the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 2 in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump prays during the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 2 in Washington. (CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters)

“America is a nation of believers,” Trump said. “In towns across the land, we see what we so easily forget: The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success but by our spiritual success. I speak that as someone who has had great material success and who knows many people who have had great material success. … Some of them are very miserable, miserable people.”

Compared to people to have money but no happiness, the people who have no money but happiness “are the successful people, let me tell you,” Trump said at the 65th annual breakfast, attended by 3,000 politicians, religious leaders and dignitaries, including King Abdullah of Jordan.

Trump spoke about having gone to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware the previous day for the return of the remains of William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL killed in a firefight with al-Qaida in Yemen. “Greater love has no man than that a man lay down his life for his friends,” the president said. “We will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform, believe me.”

Freedom is not “a gift of government” but “a gift of God,” Trump added. “It was the great Thomas Jefferson who said that the God who gave us life gave us liberty.” But the nation’s 45th president questioned whether “the liberties of the nation will be secure if we remove the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God.”

“That is why I will get rill get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment, and allow our religious representatives to speak freely without fear and without retribution,” Trump said. The amendment, attached by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson to a 1954 bill, bans federally recognized nonprofits from making political endorsements. “Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is a right under threat all round us,” said the president.

In his speech, Trump alluded to the executive memorandum he issued Jan. 27 that bans refugees hailing from seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. His action suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days.

“Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world. But there are those who would exploit that generosity,” he said.

“We want people to come into our nation but we want people to love us and to love our values, not to hate us and hate our values. We will be a safe country, we will be a free country, where people can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility and without fear of violence.”

Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast lasted one minute longer than his 18-minute presidential inaugural speech.

“Five words that never fail to touch my heart,” Trump said at the breakfast, are “I am praying for you.” “I hear it so often” ‘I am praying for you, Mr. President.’”

He lauded the keynote address given by the Rev. Barry Black, a Seventh-day Adventists who is chaplain of the Senate. The speech was so good, he told Rev. Black, “I’m going to appoint you for another year, the hell with it.” Chaplains are appointed by their respective house of Congress.

Trump also talked about how he “had to leave” his job hosting “The Celebrity Apprentice” after he announced his presidential bid. “They hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out: The ratings went right down the tubes, it was a disaster. Pray for Arnold, if we can, for those ratings.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Bishops troubled: Trump retains policy banning bias based on basis of sexual orientation, gender identity

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WASHINGTON — The chairmen of two bishops’ committees expressed disappointment Feb. 1 over President Donald Trump’s decision to retain a 2014 executive order by his predecessor, Barack Obama, that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors.

Trump’s action is “troubling and disappointing” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump's action to retain a 2014 executive order  that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors. Trump’s “troubling and disappointing  (CNS filePaul Haring)

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput called President Trump’s action to retain a 2014 executive order that bans federal discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity against federal employees and workers for federal government contractors “troubling and disappointing.” (CNS filePaul Haring)

The executive order, they said in a joint statement, is “deeply flawed.” In a July 21, 2014, statement, Archbishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput’s predecessor as committee chair, Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, labeled the executive order “unprecedented and extreme and should be opposed.”

In the 2014 statement, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Malone said the term “sexual orientation” was “undefined,” and that “gender identity” was “predicated on the false idea that gender is nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality that can be chosen at variance from one’s biological sex.”

They added, “Even contractors that disregard sexual inclination in employment face the possibility of exclusion from federal contracting if their employment policies or practices reflect religious or moral objections to extramarital sexual conduct.”

The two prelates urged Obama to include a religious exemption. Fourteen other religious leaders also asked for such an exemption in a letter to Obama so that “protection for one group would not come at the expense of faith communities” who religious beliefs motivate them to serve.

Father Larry Snyder, then Catholic Charities USA president, was one of the 14 leaders who signed a letter to the president. He told Catholic News Service he was among religious leaders who then met with White House staff to discuss the executive order before it was issued. The priest said later the order upheld “already existing religious exemptions, that will allow us to maintain fidelity to our deeply held religious beliefs.”

In their Feb. 1 statement, Archbishops Chaput and Lori said, “The church steadfastly opposes all unjust discrimination, and we need to continue to advance justice and fairness in the workplace,” but the Obama executive order “creates problems rather than solves them,” adding that it instead “creates new forms of discrimination against people of faith.”

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Judge Gorsuch nominated to fill Supreme Court vacancy

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February.

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Jan. 31 at the White House in Washington. If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the seat that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump nominated him to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Jan. 31 at the White House in Washington. If confirmed, Gorsuch will fill the seat that has been empty since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Gorsuch is a man the country needs, Trump said in announcing his nominee the evening of Jan. 31. He added that his pick for the high court already has had bipartisan support. “Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline,” he said.

When Trump announced his choice at the White House, in the audience was Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of the late justice. One of the couple’s children also was present: Father Paul Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

In his remarks, Gorsuch said he was thankful for friends, family and faith giving him balance. He also said he was honored and humbled to be chosen as a nominee to the nation’s highest court. He described Scalia as “lion of the law” and said he misses him.

He said he respects the fact that Congress, not the courts, writes new laws. “It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives. A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge, stretching for results he prefers rather than those the law demands.”

Several news outlets reported that hundreds of demonstrators held a rally outside the Supreme Court building to protest Trump’s choice of Gorsuch. Pro-life organizations, however, were quick to praise the president’s selection of someone who they said will “carry on the legacy” of Scalia.

Gorsuch, judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, is 49, making him the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years. He was born in Denver. He currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two daughters, he lived in the Washington area as a teenager when his mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Gorsuch attended the Jesuit-run Georgetown Preparatory School where he won a national debate championship.

Gorsuch has the typical qualifications of a high court justice. He graduated from Columbia, Harvard and Oxford, clerked for two Supreme Court justices and also worked for the Department of Justice.

He also is an adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado and he wrote a 2009 book arguing against the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Gorsuch hasn’t written a ruling specifically on abortion but he has strong views on religious liberty. He sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their challenge of the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. And in Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, in June 2013, the 10th Circuit ordered the federal government to stop enforcement of the federal mandate against Hobby Lobby, the Oklahoma-based Christian chain of retail arts and crafts stores. In his concurrence, Gorsuch said the contraception mandate substantially burdened the company’s religious exercise, a decision the Supreme Court later upheld.

Gorsuch is an Episcopalian. Scalia, who had been one of six Catholic members of the court, was often described as its most conservative voice and known for his strict interpretation of the Constitution’s intent.

“All too often, our efforts to protect unborn children and other vulnerable humans have been overridden by judges who believe they have a right to impose their own policy preferences,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said in a statement.

“We are heartened that Judge Gorsuch appears to share Justice Scalia’s view that federal judges are constrained to enforce the text and original intent of constitutional provisions, and on all other matters should defer to democratically elected lawmakers,” Tobias added.

Priests for Life, the American Life League, the Susan B. Anthony List and other groups echoed those sentiments.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, called Gorsuch “an exceptional choice.”

“In the coming days, we will mobilize the pro-life grass-roots nationwide and in key Senate battleground states to urge the Senate to swiftly confirm” she said in a statement. “Should pro-abortion Democratic Senators choose to filibuster this immensely qualified nominee, they do so at their own political peril.”

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Bishop Barres, installed in Rockville Centre, thanks people of Wilmington diocese

January 31st, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News, Our Diocese

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Dialog Editor

When Bishop John O. Barres was installed Jan. 31 as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., after serving as Bishop of Allentown for more than seven years, he thanked the people of the Wilmington diocese, where he was ordained a priest in 1989. Read more »

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Trump’s banning of refugees called chaotic and cruel by church leaders – update

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This update to a story posted earlier adds comments from the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

People in New York City participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,” “chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders, lawful permanent U.S. residents, be allowed into the country.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops late Jan. 30 praised fellow prelates for “their witness” in speaking out against Trump’s actions and “in defense of God’s people,” and called on “all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, in a joint statement.

“The church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

“The refugees fleeing from ISIS (Islamic State) and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom,” they said. “Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith.”

Like all families, refugees “are seeking safety and security for their children,” they said. The U.S. “should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil” and also “must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm.” But the country “must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends,” the prelates said.

“Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present,” Cardinal DiNardo and Archbishop Gomez said.

In Chicago, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement that the past weekend “proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history.”

“The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values,” he said. “Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States,” Cardinal Cupich said. “They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the Muslim ban that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded.”

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination,” he said.

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Church leaders call Trump’s refugee restrictions ‘cruel’ and ‘devastating’

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President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum intended to restrict the entry of terrorists coming to the United States brought an outcry from Catholic leaders across the U.S.

People in Hamtramck, Mich., participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump's travel ban. (CNS photo/Jim West)

People in Hamtramck, Mich., participate in a Jan. 29 protest against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. (CNS photo/Jim West)

Church leaders used phrases such as “devastating,” “chaotic” and “cruel” to describe the Jan. 27 action that left already-approved refugees and immigrants stranded at U.S. airports and led the Department of Homeland Security to rule that green card holders, lawful permanent U.S. residents, be allowed into the country.

“This weekend proved to be a dark moment in U.S. history,” said Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said in a Jan. 29 statement. “The executive order to turn away refugees and to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values. Have we not repeated the disastrous decisions of those in the past who turned away other people fleeing violence, leaving certain ethnicities and religions marginalized and excluded? We Catholics know that history well, for, like others, we have been on the other side of such decisions.

“Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States,” he said. “They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the 11th hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.”

“The Protection of the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days, bans entry from all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries — Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia — for 90 days. It also establishes a religious criteria for refugees, proposing to give priority to religious minorities over others who may have equally compelling refugee claims.

“We are told this is not the ‘Muslim ban’ that had been proposed during the presidential campaign, but these actions focus on Muslim-majority countries,” said Cardinal Cupich. “Ironically, this ban does not include the home country of 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Yet, people from Iraq, even those who assisted our military in a destructive war, are excluded.”

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.’”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” he said in a statement Jan. 29.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

“We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones,” he said.

He also reiterated the bishops’ commitment to protect the most vulnerable, regardless of religion. All “are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington called attention to the USCCB statement and the executive action and noted that “the legal situation is still fluid and news reports are sometimes confusing.”

“The political debate, which is complex and emotionally highly charged, will continue, but we must do our best to remain focused on the pastoral and very real work we undertake every day for the vulnerable and most in need … for the strangers at our doors,” he said.

Around the country, people gathered at airports to express solidarity with immigrants and green card holders denied admission, including an Iraqi who had helped the 101st Airborne during the Iraqi war. More than 550 people gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House Jan. 29 to celebrate Mass in solidarity with refugees.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

In a separate statement, Jesuit Refugee Services-USA said the provisions of the executive action “violate Catholic social teaching that calls us to welcome the stranger and treat others with the compassion and solidarity that we would wish for ourselves.”

Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said: “Welcoming those in need is part of America’s DNA.

“Denying entry to people desperate enough to leave their homes, cross oceans in tiny boats, and abandon all their worldly possessions just to find safety will not make our nation safer. The United States is already using a thorough vetting process for refugees, especially for those from Syria and surrounding countries. CRS welcomes measures that will make our country safer, but they shouldn’t jeopardize the safety of those fleeing violence; should not add appreciable delay nor entail unjust discrimination,” he said.

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Jubilant crowd gathers in Washington for annual March for Life

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands of pro-lifers filled the grounds near the Washington Monument and marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 27 as both a protest of legalized abortion and a celebration of successful pro-life efforts across the country.

Students from the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., holds signs during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Students from the Diocese of Lansing, Mich., holds signs during the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

In years past, the March for Life, which takes place on or near Jan. 22 to mark the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton that legalized abortion virtually on demand, has been almost a battle cry for the uphill and constant fight faced by those in the pro-life movement hoping for more abortion restrictions and ultimately an end to abortion.

This year’s March for Life, under mostly sunny skies and 40-degree temperatures, was decidedly more upbeat, in part because one of the first speakers was Vice President Mike Pence: the first time a vice president attended the rally.  (See story below.)

Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, and the first on the speakers’ list to address the group, holding aloft placards but none of the usual giant banners, which were banned for security reasons, similarly got plenty of cheers when she said: “This is a new day, a new dawn for life.”

The scheduled presence of the vice president, only announced the day before, required the rally perimeter to be fenced in and the crowd to enter through long lines that had formed at security checks. Participants seemed unfazed by the required wait, taking it in stride with the day. Some pulled out their pre-packed lunches and started eating, others prayed the rosary. These marchers are used to hardships from weather conditions alone at the annual march.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, noted that the group has been marching in all types of bad weather over the years. She also pointed out that amid recent discussion about crowd size at events in Washington, it was hard to measure the number of people that day or for the total who have come out for the annual march over the past four decades. “The only number we care about is the 58 million” lost to abortion since it was legalized, she said.

As in years past, the crowd was primarily young, with a lot of high school and college-age groups. It was something the speakers took note of, saying this generation would not only keep the pro-life movement going but bring about changes.

Mary Ann Vann, a retiree who made the trip from Trussville, Alabama, for her sixth march, said the most exciting thing for her each time she has taken part is seeing the young people.

Vann, a parishioner at Holy Infant of Prague Parish in Trussville, said she hoped the energy at the march could be channeled into everyday support for the pro-life movement, something she is involved with on a regular basis with sidewalk counseling, volunteering at crisis pregnancy centers and helping young mothers with basic needs. She also said she is disheartened by hearing those who say pro-lifers are only concerned about babies because she and her fellow volunteers not only bring pregnant women to their doctor’s appointments but also help pay their medical costs.

Jim Klarsch, a member of St. Clement Parish in St. Louis, who came with a busload of eighth-graders, also is  involved with pro-life work with the Knights of Columbus at his parish. In Washington on his second march, he said the experience was “empowering.”

Standing alongside Constitution Avenue waiting for the march to begin, he said the crowd, which was already filling the street to each side and behind him as far as the eye could see, reinforced his feeling that “this is not just a day but a lifelong mission.”

“You’re part of a pilgrimage. You take that experience home and you live it,” he added.

Some noted that the march had a distinctly different tone than the Women’s March on Washington six days before. Two sisters who stood on the sidelines with some of the few handmade signs at the march, described themselves as feminists and said they found the pro-life march more positive and less angry.

“This is a message of love,” said Bridget Donofrio, from Washington, holding aloft a poster-board sign with words written with a black marker: “Respect all women born and unborn.”

Many of the march signs were pre-made placards with messages such as “I am pro abundant life” or “Defund Planned Parenthood” and “I am the pro-life generation.”

On the Metro, when two older women asked a young woman for directions and pointed to the group with signs that they wanted to join, the woman looked up from her phone and asked if there was a protest today.

“It’s the March for Life,” one woman said. A few seconds later she added: “It’s not a protest; it’s more of a celebration.”

     

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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‘Life is winning in America,’ Pence tells March for Life rally

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence told pro-life advocates from across the U.S. Jan. 27 that “life is winning in America, and today is a celebration of that progress.”

Pence addressed the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington, making him the highest government official to address the annual event in person. As a member of Congress, he had addressed the March for Life in previous years, including 2002, 2003 and 2007.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a rally at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a rally at the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters)

“More than 240 years ago, our founders declared these truths to be self-evident, that we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said. “Forty-four years ago, our Supreme Court turned away from the first of these timeless ideals, but today, generations hence, because of all of you and the many thousands who stand with us in rallies across this country, life is winning again in America.”

Pence said President Donald Trump had asked him to address the March for Life rally. “He asked me to thank you for your support, for your stand for life and your compassion for the women and children of America.”

“Our president is a man with broad shoulders, a big heart,” Pence said. “His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless, and I know he will make America great again. From his first day in office, he has been keeping his promises to the American people. Over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we’re in the promise-keeping business.”

He pointed to Trump’s Jan. 23 executive action reinstating what’s called the Mexico City Policy, which bans tax dollars from funding groups that promote or perform abortion in other countries. He said the administration would work with Congress to stop taxpayer funding of abortion “and devote those resources to health care services for women across America.”

On Jan. 24, the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, making the 41-year-old Hyde Amendment permanent. The amendment, which has had to be approved each year as part of the budget for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, prohibits tax dollars from paying for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or threat to the woman’s life. The Senate has yet to act on a companion bill, but Trump has said he will sign it into law when the measure reaches his desk.

“I urge you to press on,” Pence told the March for Life rally-goers. “Let your gentleness be evident to all. Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness. I believe we will continue to win the minds and hearts of the rising generation if our hearts first break for mothers and their unborn children and meet them where they are with generosity, not judgment. To heal our land and restore a culture of life, we must continue to be a movement that embraces all and shows the dignity and worth of every person.”

Pence’s wife, Karen, introduced her husband. She noted this March for Life was not the first for the Pence family; they have attended the event for the past 16 years, “but it is the warmest,” she jddoked. By midday, the temperature in Washington was in the low 40s. Previous marches have taken place in frigid temperatures. Last year’s turnout was affected by a blizzard.

Karen Pence said of her husband that she had never met anyone “who has more compassion for women, for children and for the American people. He’s one of the kindest people that I know.”

Before Pence spoke, Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to Trump, took the podium.

“I am a wife, a mother, a Catholic, counselor to the president of the United States of America, and yes, I am pro-life,” Conway said. “It is such an honor to stand with the vice president of the United States and so many leaders, families and students from places near and far (today).”

“Your courage, your conviction and your faith are impressive and consequential,” she told the crowd. “This is a new day, a new dawn for life. Why are we here? What does it mean to stand together to be part of this incredible movement, to face criticism, ridicule, and laws and lawmakers (against life)? It means to protect and promote the most precious gift in the world, the gift of life. It means to stand up stand tall and stand together against the indifference and the indefensible and on behalf of babies in the womb.

“This is a time of incredible promise for the pro-life and pro-adoption movement,” she continued. “Women who face troubled pregnancies should know they are not alone, that they are not judged, they are protected and cared for and celebrated.”

Conway told pro-life supporters: “Allow me to make it very clear; we hear you, we see you, we respect you, and we look forward to working with you, and yes, we march, we walk, we run and endeavor forward with you.”

At midday, there was no official crowd count from the March for Life organization. A CNN reporter said there were attendees “as far as the eye could see.”

After a lineup of speakers, rally participants planned to march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

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Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.

“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his homily during the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which takes place on the National Mall.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which beckons us, where we are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet strong embrace, where the Creator himself assures us of protection and life itself, a sanctuary God has designed for us to protect our lives now and in eternity.”

He summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history, including those used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries from violence, and the United States, first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing religious violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but “clinging within to that pearl of great price, their faith,” and today’s immigrants and refugees.

When life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Shrine officials estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass, which was shown on three cable channels and broadcast on two radio networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians, 90 deacons, 320 priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance procession.

The faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the left transept were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should be completed by next year’s March for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss of “several hundred” seats, according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.

Auxiliary Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received applause when he announced near the end of the Mass that the starting times for three pre-March for Life Masses elsewhere in Washington the next morning would be moved up an hour to allow for longer lines in security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those speaking at it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.” No name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person. After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

The weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the Jan. 26 Mass to a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff winds before a Jan. 27 morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary.

Archbishop Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal Dolan’s in terms how acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other disrespect for life at various stages, citing assisted suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty and the rejection of immigrants. Quoting from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them come to me, let them come to me.’”

He received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when he cited the results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in the United States has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop Aymond said the study speculated on various reasons for the decline, but one was not mentioned.

That reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said. “Youth and young adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church,” he added to applause. “You are making a difference in the United States. You are changing our culture from a culture of death into a culture of life,” the archbishop said to more applause.

During the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes and neighborhoods, Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness, and with God’s help, we will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human life.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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