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Slammed in 2005 by Katrina, tornado victims hold fast to faith

February 9th, 2017 Posted in Featured, National News Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

NEW ORLEANS — Vergie and Roger Davis of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, have been through natural disasters of near biblical proportions before.

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

Vergie and Roger Davis, parishioners of Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in New Orleans East, assess the damage to their home, which was destroyed by a tornado Feb. 7. Their home is about five blocks from the church. The Davises have endured a house fire in 1982 and flooding from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but say their faith is intact. (CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald)

In 1982, an electrical fire broke out inside their three-bedroom home five blocks from the church, sending smoke billowing through the interior. The cleanup took 18 months.

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina breached poorly constructed federal levees, their house, for which they had just made their last mortgage payment, took on 4 and a half feet of water. They got back into their house in 2007.

And, then Feb. 7, a massive tornado swept through the neighborhood while Vergie took cover inside an interior closet.

“I’ve known this for the longest,where’s the best place for me to go,” she told the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. “I knew the inside closet, farthest away from the interior walls. I saw lightning, and I knew it was time to jump in. I knew I had to hold on tight — you could feel it shake.”

After about a minute, when the noise stopped, she was able to pry the door open despite the debris pile at the bottom of the door.

She looked up and saw the sky. Their house had been destroyed.

The Davises were among 250 families in New Orleans East whose houses were either heavily damaged or destroyed by the powerful tornado, relatively rare in southeast Louisiana. Despite the wide swath of damage, officials reported no fatalities and only about a dozen injuries.

As the Davises assessed the damage Feb. 8 with their pastor, Father Geoffrey Omondi Muga, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Hope, they reflected on the trials they have endured over the last 35 years.

“Well, I’m a little numb,” said Roger, 74, grand knight of Resurrection’s Knights of Columbus Council 4547. “The only consolation I have is that we’ve been through this before, maybe not in the same way. (After Katrina) we had a house we could still rebuild and still had the structure, but this is a little bit different. I’m just glad everybody’s OK. There were no fatalities. That’s the biggest thing.”

Father Muga, pastor for 14 months, walked through the neighborhood to assess the devastation. He stopped at the heavily damaged brick home of parishioner Carol Adams, who told him the doorbell had rung mysteriously before the tornado hit.

“I went to the door and nobody was there,” she said. “My husband went to the front and I went to the back. All of a sudden I heard a ‘shhhhh.’ I told my husband, ‘What is that?’ We closed the door and came and laid down in the hall. Thank God.”

Asked how she could put this into perspective after sustaining 5 feet of flooding during Katrina, Adams said: “By the will of God. Start all over. Life goes on.”

“As I walk around, I think they are pretty shaken, but they are kind of absorbing it,” Father Muga said. “I didn’t see them in a frenzy. The police and firemen were here. Since they have gone through Katrina, I think they are not so much overwhelmed. But it’s a lot of damage.”

Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans was among several agencies partnering with the Red Cross and city officials to establish an overnight shelter at a facility in a nearby park and offer case management and counseling services.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, operated by the archdiocese, dropped off 700 prepared meals and set up distribution of water and snacks at the park. It was considering setting up a distribution site closer to the damage zone.

“We’re still trying to get a handle on it,” said Jay Vise, director of communications for Second Harvest. “Every time I see more footage of it, it just seems bigger and bigger. Meteorologists tell us they’ve never seen this type of tornado. This is a Midwest, giant wedge tornado. You don’t see that down here.

“By the grace of God, no one was killed,” he added. “When you see the destruction from the air that’s 2 miles wide, it looks like somebody came through with a giant pencil eraser and wiped it out.”

As the Davises walked over felled beams, ribbons of pink insulation and shattered glass in their living room, they said they were not sure what they would do next. They do have insurance, but they may not want to rebuild a third time.

The couple said they’ll have to make a decision about coming back and rebuilding, the house will have to be torn down, or finding a house or condo in another part of the city.

The Davises said they will continue to hold fast to their faith. Vergie is continuing to recover from an aneurysm last summer, and their daughter had a recent battle with cancer.

Vergie wore a light blue shirt with a patch honoring Mother Henriette Delille, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family, a congregation of African-American sisters founded in pre-Civil War New Orleans who educated slaves and cared for the elderly at a time when teaching slaves was against the law. Roger wore his Knights of Columbus cap and shirt.

Vergie got her name because she was born March 24, the eve of the feast of the Annunciation of the Mary.

“Ask God to guide me as to which way to go,” Vergie said.

Before leaving their home, Father Muga joined hands with the Davises and offered a prayer.

“Almighty Father, we thank you for life,” he said. “We thank you for the gifts that you’ve given us to be your sons and daughter. … We lift Vergie and Roger up to you today and thank you for their lives, for sparing them.

“We pray that this tornado, this event, may bring us together as a family, as a community and may also bring us closer to you.”

 

Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Verbal attacks on Hispanics in church followed by support from Portland community

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — Father Raul Marquez had never seen anything like it. Eight men walked to the front door of St. Peter Church in Southeast Portland Jan. 29 and began bellowing during the Spanish Mass.

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Dressed like hunters, they accused worshippers of not being true Christians, questioned the sexual morals of the women and harangued the congregation for being made up of immigrants.

The group, which calls itself “Street Preachers,” has been setting up counter-protests at events criticizing President Donald Trump, including a late January demonstration at Portland International Airport.

The St. Peter community, already living in fear because of federal immigration policy proposals, was shocked.

“All that Sunday I felt upset and didn’t understand,” said Father Marquez, a Colombian native who has been pastor of St. Peter for five years. “How I was going to be happy while I heard and remembered the verbal insult? I was looking for an answer.”

The Gospel reading of the day said, in part, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you.”

The following Sunday, Feb. 5, an answer to the priest’s question came and the fear was soothed as more than 300 people formed a human shield in front of St. Peter Church during Masses. News of the previous week’s attack had gone out on social media, drawing the crowd that stood in silence, holding signs.

“I didn’t expect this outpouring of love for us,” said Alberto Gonzalez, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, who has been a member of St. Peter for 18 months. “This time is very difficult for us and here we are surrounded by love of all of the American people, who came to show they are here, we are one, we are one community.”

With tears in his eyes, Gonzalez said he has not felt supported until now. At first, he thought the large group of white people had come to hurl more invective, but then he saw they had come to protect their brothers and sisters.

“This is solidarity,” Gonzalez told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese. “This is love.”

Parishioners got a lesson in nonviolent response to harassment. A table of coffee and sweets was put up near the front door of the church for protectors who came out despite chilly rain.

Joining Father Marquez in a sign of support were Father Ron Millican from nearby Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Rev. Elizabeth Larson from St. Mark Lutheran Church.

“I wanted to come here and hug each person,” Rev. Larson said.

Father Millican invited his parishioners to come and show support. “We need to be together,” he said. “It is very sad that it takes something like this to make us come together. But it is beautiful, the outpouring of support for the dignity of everyone.”

Nona Carrasco was one of those outside who got completely wet. “This is my community,” Carrasco said. “I don’t stand for bigotry. I will stand for my community and this is what we do.”

Father Marquez received hundreds of messages of support. The first was a letter from Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, who told the people of St. Peter Parish he stands with them.

“I was saddened beyond words to learn of the terrible experience that many of you encountered as you came to church last weekend,” the archbishop said in his letter. “It is so tragic that you were coming to celebrate God’s love and mercy and yet you experienced cruelty and hatred at the hands of severely misguided protestors.

“I am especially upset to learn of the verbal abuse heaped upon members of our Hispanic community” and also what was “directed against women in your community,” he said, calling it “vile behavior.” Archbishop Sample also noted that the same group was targeting other churches as well.

“Please be assured that I, as your archbishop and shepherd, stand firmly with you in the face of such ignorant and hateful words,” the archbishop told parishioners. “You are our brothers and sisters, and as members of the same family of faith, we must hold fast to our unity in Christ. … Be assured of my love.”

After the Feb. 5 Mass, Father Marquez walked out to thank supporters. He could barely move as people hugged him and asked for his blessing.

“This is the time to live the Gospel radically by praying for those men and their few sympathizers and to intentionally forgive them,” the priest said.

By Rocio Rios, editor of El Centinela, the monthly Spanish-language newspaper of the Portland achdiocese.

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New gender policy won’t affect Catholic Scouting groups, says committee

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IRVING, Texas — The Boy Scouts of America’s new policy to accept members based on their gender identity will have no impact on Scouting units sponsored by the Catholic Church, said the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Read more »

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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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