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As partial travel ban nears, agencies worry about refugees in limbo


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Agencies and organizations that help refugees start new lives in the U.S. worry about the fate that awaits migrants in transit as well as those who will not be allowed into the country as the partial ban that the U.S. Supreme Court set in motion with its late June ruling goes into effect in early July.

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

An immigrant holds a U.S. flag during a naturalization ceremony in New York City June 30. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

“The immediate priority is the safety of those refugees who are en route, ensuring they reach their destination,” said Ashley Feasley, policy director for Migration and Refugee Services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. “We are also very concerned about the individuals who have assured cases that are scheduled for travel after July 6 who may not be able to arrive now due to the interpretation of the Supreme Court decision and the executive order.”

The Supreme Court announced June 26 it would temporarily allow the Trump administration’s plan to ban of refugees from six majority-Muslim countries, unless those refugees had “bona fide” relationships with parties in the United States, meaning certain family members, employees or universities.

In an executive order that underwent one revision and was blocked by lower courts, the administration has said it needs the time to review the refugee resettlement program and its vetting procedures for allowing refugees into the country, and also said it was necessary to limit the number of the refugees allowed into the U.S. to 50,000 for 2017. That number is expected to be reached July 6 in the evening.

“These people have travel documents, they are ready to go,” said Feasley. “They have relationships with the resettlement offices in the cities they were to be resettled in. It would be heartbreaking and administratively inefficient if they are not able to complete their journey of seeking refuge.”

But heartbreak and uncertainty is exactly what many of them, as well as the resettlement agencies and communities that already have a connection to the refugees may face, say officials from agencies pleading with the administration to involve them in the developments that are about to unfold.

“We urge the administration to issue more clarity on its interpretation of the executive order and the decision and work with the resettlement agencies to ensure as smooth and humane implementation as possible at this time,” said Feasley.

On June 30, representatives from Refugee Council USA, which included some faith groups that resettle refugees, cried out for involvement in the process.

Hans Van de Weerd, chairman of the Washington-based Refugee Council USA, said in a telephone briefing that targeting “vulnerable” populations, such as refugees, was “morally wrong” and it also was bad policy.

Some criticized the high court as well, which said it would review the constitutionality of the executive order in October. During the refugee council briefing, officials from refugee resettlement agencies said the court’s decision to allow a partial ban to be put in place amounts to slamming the door on the face of the vulnerable “for no good reason.” Though the partial ban will keep some refugees out, the court said that those with “bona fide” relationships in the U.S. could still enter, even if the 50,000 cap had been reached.

In a statement, Jesuit Refugee Service USA, said the administration, with its actions, was preventing the reunification of family, particularly the special relationship of grandparents and grandchildren, which along with aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, nephews, cousins and some in-laws, the State Department said does not count as being close enough to qualify as a bona fide familial relationships.

“As a result, many refugees, including the elderly, unaccompanied children, and those in need of medical treatment will be delayed in receiving U.S. protection for at least several additional months,” said the organization in the statement.

Some like Jordan Denari Duffner, of Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative research project that provides information about Islamophobia, said the danger of the ban extends beyond preventing people from entering the country. It’s also caused damage within the U.S. because it’s an extension of what the president promised when, during his campaign, he called for a “Muslim ban,” and promotes views seeking to paint Muslims as dangerous.

“Even if the travel ban seems more watered down today, it’s been the product of an administration that has played off of and promoted Islamophobia,” she said.


Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Irish archbishop: St. Patrick was an ‘undocumented migrant’


ARMAGH, Northern Ireland — The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland has urged Irish people and those of Irish descent celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to remember the plight of migrants.

Archbishop Eamon Martin, St. Patrick’s modern-day successor as archbishop of Armagh, used his message for the March 17 feast to recall that St. Patrick was first brought to Ireland as a slave by traffickers. Read more »

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Pope urges young people to use their freedom to share love, faith

August 6th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting 50,000 altar servers, Pope Francis urged young Catholics to make careful use of their freedom, treasure their dignity as sons and daughters of God and make time to pray each day.

“If you follow Jesus and his Gospel, your freedom will blossom like a plant in bloom and will bring good and abundant fruit,” the pope said Aug. 5. “You will find authentic joy, because he wants us to be men and women who are happy and fulfilled.”

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives for a meeting with altar servers in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 5. The pilgrimage to Rome, sponsored by the German bishops' conference, included tens of thousands of Germans ages 13 to 27, but also altar servers from Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania and northern Italy.  (CNS photo/ Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives for a meeting with altar servers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 5. The pilgrimage to Rome, sponsored by the German bishops’ conference, included tens of thousands of Germans ages 13 to 27, but also altar servers from Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania and northern Italy. (CNS photo/ Stefano Rellandini, Reuters)

The pilgrimage to Rome, sponsored by the German bishops’ conference, included tens of thousands of Germans ages 13 to 27, but also altar servers from Austria, Switzerland, Lithuania and northern Italy. The five-day pilgrimage included Masses and talks focusing on the freedom God gives to people and the challenge of using it well.

For the first time in his pontificate, the pope gave a short public homily in German, a language he learned in the late 1980s when he worked on his doctorate in Germany.

During evening prayer with the young people, he said, “God showed us that he is a good father. How did he do it? Through the incarnation of his Son, who became one of us.”

In Jesus, the pope said, “we can understand what God really wants. He wants human beings who are free because they always know they are protected like the children of a good father.”

Still preaching in German, the pope said God needed a human being to bring his plan to completion: Mary, who “was totally free. In her freedom, she said yes.”

Later, responding in Italian to questions three young people posed in German, Pope Francis asked the young people to be very attentive when serving Mass, a service that “allows you to be close to Jesus, the word and bread of life.”

“I’ll give you some advice: the Gospel that you listen to during the liturgy, read it again personally, in silence, and apply it to your life; and with the love of Christ, received in holy Communion, you can put it into practice,” he said.

The young people asked the pope what their role in the church should be, how they could reconcile church activities with other activities and responsibilities and how they could experience the freedom he is talking about when their lives are governed by family and school rules.

Pope Francis told them the world needs “people who witness to others that God loves them, that he is our father,” and that they are the ones who need to share that good news with their peers.

People are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and heal the sick, but “we disciples of the Lord have another mission as well: that of being channels that transmit the love of Jesus.”

Just as the hungry long for food, he said, many young people need someone to show them “that Jesus knows us, loves us, forgives us, shares our difficulties and supports us with his grace.”

Pope Francis told them that “time is a gift from God” but, like other gifts, it must be used well. “Perhaps many young people waste too much time in useless things: chatting on the Internet or with your mobile phone … the products of technology that should simplify and improve the quality of life, but sometimes take attention away from what is really important.”

As for time management, Pope Francis told the young people, “but you’re German and you do this well.”

No matter what people do each day, he said, “one priority must be that of remembering that Creator, who allows us to live, who loves us and accompanies us on our journeys.”

Responding to the question about freedom, Pope Francis said that if people do not use it well, it leads them far from God and “can make us lose the dignity with which he has clothed us,” which is why the church, one’s parents and schools make rules and give young people guidance.

A misuse of freedom “can transform into slavery, slavery to sin,” he said. “Dear young people, do not use your freedom unwisely. Don’t squander the great dignity of being children of God that has been given to you.”



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Pope Francis prays with 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome

June 2nd, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,


Catholic News Service

ROME — Meeting more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, Pope Francis admitted he was not always comfortable with the way they prayed, but he knelt onstage as they prayed for him and over him by singing and speaking in tongues.

“In the early years of the charismatic renewal in Buenos Aires, I did not have much love for charismatics,” the pope said June 1. “I said of them: They seem like a samba school.”

Pope Francis arrives for an encounter with more than 50,000 Catholic charismatics at the Olympic Stadium in Rome June 1. The pope knelt onstage as the crowd prayed over him by singing and speaking in tongues. During the event the pope acknowledged he had once been uncomfortable with the charismatic movement. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Little by little, though, he came to see how much good the movement was doing for Catholics and for the church, he told a gathering organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

50th anniversary in 2017

Pope Francis invited the crowd, which included charismatics from 55 countries, to come to St. Peter’s Square for Pentecost in 2017 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement. The Catholic charismatic movement traces its origins to a retreat held in 1967 with students and staff from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

“I expected all of you, charismatics from around the world, to celebrate your great jubilee with the pope at Pentecost 2017 in St. Peter’s Square,” the pope said.

The celebration in Rome’s Olympic Stadium began with the song, “Vive Jesus, El Senor,” (“Jesus, the Lord, Lives”) a Spanish-language song which Pope Francis, who claims he is tone deaf,  joined in singing with his hands open like many in the crowd. The pope said he likes the song, which charismatics in Argentina also sing.

“When I celebrated the holy Mass with the charismatic renewal in the Buenos Aires cathedral, after the consecration and after a few seconds of adoration in tongues, we sang this song with such joy and strength,” he said.

At another point, when the crowd prayed that the Holy Spirit would fill Pope Francis, he knelt on the bare floor of the stage, while they sang with their hands raised toward him. After the song, many in the crowd kept their hands raised as they prayed in tongues, speaking in unfamiliar languages.

Responding to a married couple, who spoke about the renewal’s positive impact on their family life, Pope Francis said the family is the domestic church, the place where Jesus’ presence grows in the love of spouses and in the lives of their children. “This is why the enemy attacks the family so hard; the devil doesn’t like it, and tries to destroy it.”

“May the Lord bless families and strengthen them during this crisis when the devil wants to destroy them,” the pope prayed.

‘A current of grace’

In a speech, Pope Francis told the charismatics that they their movement was begun by the Holy Spirit as “a current of grace in the church and for the church.”

He pleaded with charismatic groups not to try to organize everything or create a bureaucracy that attempts to tame the Holy Spirit.

The temptation “to become ‘controllers’ of the grace of God” is a danger, the pope said. Group leaders, sometimes without even meaning to, become “administrators of grace,” deciding who should exercise which gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t do this anymore,” Pope Francis said. “Be dispensers of God’s grace, not controllers. Don’t be the Holy Spirit’s customs agents.”

From the beginning, he said, charismatics were known for their love of and familiarity with the Scriptures; the pope asked those who lost the habit of carrying their Bible with them everywhere to “return to this first love, always have the word of God in your pocket or purse.”

Pope Francis also said Catholic charismatics have a special role to play in healing divisions among Christians by exercising “spiritual ecumenism” or praying with members of other Christian churches and communities who share a belief in Jesus as lord and savior.

A related video has been posted at http://youtu.be/xWcujx1II2w

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Pope Francis proclaims ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ — 50,000-word ‘exhortation’ is his vision for the church


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In his first extensive piece of writing as pope, Pope Francis lays out a vision of the Catholic Church dedicated to evangelization in a positive key, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

“Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), released by the Vatican Nov. 26, is an apostolic exhortation, one of the most authoritative categories of papal document.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei,” published in July, was mostly the work of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The pope wrote the new document in response to the October 2012 Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, but declined to work from a draft provided by synod officials.

Pope Francis’ voice is unmistakable in the 50,000-word document’s relatively relaxed style, he writes that an “evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral,” and its emphasis on some of his signature themes, including the dangers of economic globalization and “spiritual worldliness.”

The church’s message “has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary,” he writes. “In this basic core, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead.”

Inspired by Jesus’ poverty and concern for the dispossessed during his earthly ministry, Pope Francis calls for a “church which is poor and for the poor.”

The poor “have much to teach us,” he writes. “We are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voices to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.”

Charity is more than mere handouts, “it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor,” the pope writes. “This means education, access to health care, and above all employment, for it is through free creative, participatory and mutually supportive labor that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their lives.”

Yet he adds that the “worst discrimination which the poor suffer is the lack of spiritual care. … They need God and we must not fail to offer them his friendship, his blessing, his word, the celebration of the sacraments and a journey of growth and maturity in the faith.”

Pope Francis reiterates his earlier criticisms of “ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” which he blames for the current financial crisis and attributes to an “idolatry of money.”

He emphasizes that the church’s concern for the vulnerable extends to “unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us,” whose defense is “closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right.”

“A human being is always sacred and inviolable, in any situation and at every stage of development,” the pope writes, in his strongest statement to date on the subject of abortion. “Once this conviction disappears, so do solid and lasting foundations for the defense of human rights, which would always be subject to the passing whims of the powers that be.”

The pope writes that evangelization entails peacemaking, among other ways through ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. He “humbly” calls on Muslim majority countries to grant religious freedom to Christians, and enjoins Catholics to “avoid hateful generalizations” based on “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism,” since “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”

Pope Francis characteristically directs some of his strongest criticism at his fellow clergy, among other reasons, for what he describes as largely inadequate preaching.

The faithful and “their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies,” he writes: “the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them.”

The pope devotes several pages to suggestions for better homilies, based on careful study of the Scriptures and respect for the principle of brevity.

Pope Francis reaffirms church teaching that only men can be priests, but notes that their “sacramental power” must not be “too closely identified with power in general,” nor “understood as domination”; and he allows for the “possible role of women in decision-making in different areas of the church’s life.”

As he has done in a number of his homilies and public statements, the pope stresses the importance of mercy, particularly with regard to the church’s moral teaching. While lamenting “moral relativism” that paints the church’s teaching on sexuality as unjustly discriminatory, he also warns against overemphasizing certain teachings out of the context of more essential Christian truths.

In words very close to those he used in an oft-quoted interview with a Jesuit journalist in August, Pope Francis writes that “pastoral ministry in a missionary style is not obsessed with the disjointed transmission of a multitude of doctrines to be insistently imposed,” lest they distract from the Gospel’s primary invitation to “respond to the God of love who saves us.”

Returning to a theme of earlier statements, the pope also warns against “spiritual worldliness, which hides behind the appearance of piety and even love for the church, (but) consists in seeking not the Lord’s glory but human glory and personal well-being,” either through embrace of a “purely subjective faith” or a “narcissistic and authoritarian elitism” that overemphasizes certain rules or a “particular Catholic style from the past.”

Despite his censures and warnings, the pope ends on a hopeful note true to his well-attested devotion to Mary, whom he invokes as the mother of evangelization and “wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones.”


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