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Chicago cardinal bolsters programs to break city’s cycle of violence

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Catholic News Service

CHICAGO — Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich April 4 announced a new initiative to increase the work of anti-violence programs in parishes and schools and those run by Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, Catholic Charities and Kolbe House, the archdiocese’s jail ministry.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center.  (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago holds a letter from Pope Francis to the people of Chicago during an April 4 news conference where he announced an anti-violence initiative to increase the capacity and reach of current programs of the Chicago Archdiocese that address the root causes of violence. Pictured at right is Drew Hines, director of the Peace Corner Youth Center. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

The Chicago archdiocese also will seek out partnerships to increase programs that will help break the cycle of violence.

The cardinal announced the initiatives on the 49th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

With a $250,000 personal donation, Cardinal Cupich said the archdiocese will create the Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund that will provide funds for both new and existing neighborhood-based anti-violence programs. The money comes from donations he’s received to aid his personal charitable efforts.

In 2018, the archdiocese also will hold the first U.S. meeting of Scholas Occurrentes, a program active in 100 countries that brings young people together to meet and problem-solve. The gathering will involve young people from Cook and Lake counties.

The announcements came during a news conference at the Peace Corner Youth Center, which serves young people in Chicago’s violence-prone Austin neighborhood. As of April 5, 773 people were shot in Chicago in 2017 and there were 151 homicides, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Cardinal Cupich also invited people to join him on a Walk for Peace through the city’s Englewood neighborhood on Good Friday, April 14. Like Austin, Englewood is a neighborhood that sees frequent shootings and crime. During the walk, participants will take part in the Stations of the Cross and pause along the way to remember those who died by violence. Along the route, participants will read the names of those killed in Chicago since January.

The cardinal said he shared these plans with Pope Francis when he met him in Rome recently. Pope Francis was moved by the news and drafted a letter to the people of Chicago, which the cardinal read at the news conference.

“I assure you of my support for the commitment you and many other local leaders are making to promote nonviolence as a way of life and a path to people in Chicago,” the letter stated.

The pope said he will be praying for those who will participate in the Good Friday walk.

“As I make my own Way of the Cross in Rome that day, I will accompany you in prayer, as well as all those who walk with you and who have suffered violence in the city,” the letter said.

Cardinal Cupich’s announcement of new initiatives follows a yearlong process he initiated to learn about the scope of anti-violence programs already going on in the archdiocese.

While no program will completely eradicate violence from the city, the cardinal said, “just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something. It’s going to take one person at a time.”

During his process of learning about the efforts in the archdiocese, Cardinal Cupich said he heard of many ways parishes and groups want to respond but lack the funding to do more. The Instruments of Peace Venture Philanthropy Fund is for them.

“I see this as seed money for these local initiatives,” he said. “There really is no niche fund to support their efforts.”

He stressed the need for partnerships in these efforts.

“I can’t do it alone. I need the help of others,” Cardinal Cupich said.

Duriga is editor of the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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Catholics, Muslims urged to work together, learn from one another

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CHICAGO — Leaders in Catholic-Muslim dialogue called on members of both faith communities to find ways to accompany one another and work together at a moment when all religion is under threat from an increasingly secular and even anti-religious society.

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy, co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ West Coast Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, and Sherman Jackson, a professor of religion and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California Dornsife, both offered comments at a March 8 public session in Chicago.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago visits March 8 with Scott Alexander, associate professor of Islamic studies at Catholic Theological Union, and Saleha Jabeen, a 2014 graduate of the theological union. They spoke following a public session held during the March 7-8 National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, which had as its theme "Reflections on the Common Good and Hospitality in the Catholic and Muslim Traditions" and was held at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago visits March 8 with Scott Alexander, associate professor of Islamic studies at Catholic Theological Union, and Saleha Jabeen, a 2014 graduate of the theological union. They spoke following a public session held during the March 7-8 National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, which had as its theme “Reflections on the Common Good and Hospitality in the Catholic and Muslim Traditions” and was held at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Chicago Catholic)

The public session came during the March 7-8 National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue, co-sponsored by the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and held at the Catholic Theological Union.

Bishop McElroy said that theological dialogue and reflection is important, but the relationship between Catholics and Muslims in the United States must extend beyond theologians and take on a pastoral aspect.

“It is not enough to clarify our commonalities and differences on a deep theological level or even to publish these findings, if we do not take steps to broadly convey this deepened level of friendship and truth to Muslims and Catholics within our nation,” he said.

At the moment, Catholic and Muslim communities simply do not know one another well enough, the bishop said.

The U.S. bishops’ ecumenical and interreligious committee has co-sponsored three regional Catholic-Muslim dialogues for over two decades — mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West Coast. In February 2016, the committee announced the launch of a national dialogue.

Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich began his tenure as the Catholic co-chair of the national dialogue Jan. 1. The Muslim co-chair is Sayyid Syeed, director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances.

In his remarks, Bishop McElroy said ignorance “leads to problems between our two communities, but it is not merely or even primarily theological ignorance.”

“It is the ignorance of not knowing one another as brother and sister precisely in our religious identities,” he said.

“It is the ignorance of not having worked together as people of faith to confront secularism,” he continued, “(of) not having joined with one another to pass on religious faith to our children in a youth culture so hostile to faith, not working together to establish greater spheres for religious liberty within our nation so that we can live in fidelity to our traditions of faith and prayer and morality, not collaborating to bring the sacred understanding of sin and redemption into the heart of our society’s understanding of the human condition and human development.”

Jackson said the obstacle to greater friendship and cooperation goes beyond ignorance to fear.

“Part of what undermines the relationship between Muslims and anybody else in America, not just Catholics, is that it’s so easy to scare people about Islam,” he said. “Because of that fear, you can never get to the point of trust, and without trust there is no friendship, and without friendship, there is no real cooperation.”

Catholics faced similar suspicions in the United States of the 19th and early 20th centuries because they were believed to have a higher allegiance to Rome than to the country.

“The Jewish Question,” the phrase coined by German philosopher Bruno Bauer in the 19th century, was based on the idea that Judaism was a religion of laws that governed private and public conduct, and as such, was incompatible with the modern secular state, Jackson said.

“The present moment has prompted many of us to ponder whether America might be staggering toward a dreaded yet entirely avoidable ‘Muslim Question,’” he said,

Religion, whether Christianity or Islam, can be seen as opposed to the European enlightenment liberalism that American founding fathers relied on.

That liberalism “calls into question all forms of authority outside the individual self, especially religion,” Jackson said. “It insists that individuals must be free to choose their way of life, with the only restrictions being the extent to which their choices encroach upon the freely made choices of others.”

Religious traditions, including Islam and Christianity, set a much higher value on the common good, Jackson said, and call on their members to contribute to it. Muslims who embrace Shariah, Islam’s religious law — can contribute to and benefit from the common good in any number of ways, from following speed limits to keeping public spaces safe for all.

“While such Islamic virtues as fairness, mercy or hospitality may inform the spirit of these deliberations, concrete conclusions would draw upon such principles as efficiency, safety, economic cost, long­ term resource management and the like,” Jackson said. “And in none of this — Islam, Shariah or Muslim ‘God-consciousness’ — would pose an impediment to engaging with non-Muslims on a completely equal footing.”

The challenges of the current moment — including climate change, corporate greed, mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color, among others — could offer an opportunity, he said.

“In fact, given these contemporary challenges, now might be the time when religion in America, including Islam, is best positioned to demonstrate its value as a contributor to the common good,” Jackson said.

“For religion can stand up to the state, the market and the dominant culture,” he continued, “by equipping its followers with an independent moral identity with which to analyze and assess the activities of government, ‘the economy’ and the dominant culture, instead of looking upon the state as essentially the god of the nation, the economy as a divinely predestined order, or the dominant culture as the ultimate, supreme value that is too lofty to be subjected to critical examination.”

Bishop McElroy called on Catholics to take a more vocal stand against anti-Muslim discrimination in the United States and elsewhere.

“If the Catholic-Muslim dialogue is to mean anything at this current moment in our nation’s history, the Catholic community must in the context of this dialogue condemn unequivocally the anti-Muslim prejudice which is present in our midst, and more sadly, present within our own Catholic community,” he said.

“Our nation does face a threat from extremists who have distorted the tradition of Islam and bring violence against innocent victims, and we must be vigilant in identifying and combating that threat,” he said. “But in linking the Muslim community to that threat in a discriminatory manner, we undermine our national security and dishonor our national heritage.”

Bishop McElroy also called on Muslims to condemn the persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries, which, he acknowledged, many have already done.

“I have spoken at length with many Muslim leaders within the United States who have pressed for authentic religious toleration throughout the Middle East, and I know many who have placed their own lives and reputations at risk in this effort,” he said.

“But it is a work of the entire Muslim community within our nation, for building a society founded upon the principle of inclusion and religious liberty is a labor which will never be fully accomplished and will always have enemies,” Bishop McElroy added.

By Michelle Martin, a staff writer at the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

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U.S. bishops have varied stances on offering sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation

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WASHINGTON — The bishop of Sacramento, California, said Catholic churches in the diocese could offer sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation, while the archbishop of Washington cautioned that offering sanctuary does not legally guarantee protection if federal agents come calling.

Victoria Daza, a native of Peru and an immigrants' rights activist, holds her daughter during a rally in support of immigrants in Massapequa Park, N.Y., Feb. 24. The demonstration was held outside Republican Rep. Peter King's district office in an effort to urge the congressman to help protect unauthorized immigrants who currently have reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Victoria Daza, a native of Peru and an immigrants’ rights activist, holds her daughter during a rally in support of immigrants in Massapequa Park, N.Y., Feb. 24. The demonstration was held outside Republican Rep. Peter King’s district office in an effort to urge the congressman to help protect unauthorized immigrants who currently have reprieve from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento said his concern for immigrants revolved around the possibility of an order for mass deportation from President Donald Trump’s administration. He told The Sacramento Bee March 1 that offering protection to people would be something local parishioners could consider if such an order was issued.

“We have to be ready to respond if and when that happens,” he said.

Bishop Soto also said he hoped that “all the hysteria” in the country over unauthorized immigrants would lead to comprehensive immigration reform, which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has advocated for years.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington said in a March 2 interview with editors at The Washington Post that while the Catholic Church’s values mandate opposition to deportation of people already living in the United States, there is no certainty that immigrants staying on church grounds would avoid being arrested and eventually sent to their home country.

“When we use the word sanctuary,” Cardinal Wuerl said, “we have to be very careful that we’re not holding out false hope. We wouldn’t want to say, ‘Stay here, we’ll protect you.’”

Although a parish might offer sanctuary, it does not obligate federal agents to respect church property boundaries, he said.

“With separation of church and state, the church really does not have the right to say, ‘You come in this building and the law doesn’t apply to you.’ But we do want to say we’ll be a voice for you,” the cardinal explained.

Cardinal Wuerl said that providing food and legal representation for immigrants was among the Washington archdiocese’s top priorities.

Elsewhere, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago told priests and school officials in the archdiocese not to allow federal immigration agents onto church property without a warrant in a Feb. 28 letter.

He asked parish and school officials to immediately call diocesan attorneys if agents appear at their door.

At the same time, Cardinal Cupich wrote that he will not declare Catholic churches as sanctuary for immigrants. The letter also restated archdiocesan policy that forbids anyone other than assigned priests to live in a rectory or other church facility without written permission of the appropriate regional vicar.

The situation of immigrants seems to have divided the country’s Catholics. The majority of Catholics voted for Trump, according to polling data. However, bishops and leaders of Catholic nonprofit organizations have decried Trump administration policies regarding the suspension of refugee admissions to the U.S. and stricter enforcement of immigration laws even on people in the country for years.

Bishop Soto in his interview pointed to efforts in the 1980s by Catholic and Protestant churches to provide sanctuary for Guatemalans and Salvadorans who fled civil wars in their homelands for safety in the U.S. despite not being legally allowed in the country.

The Sacramento diocese provides services to immigrants and refugees through its Diocesan Immigrant Support Network, which includes Bishop Soto, Catholic Charities, parishes, legal experts and community organizations.

About 60,000 immigrants who are not authorized to be in the U.S. live in the 20 counties of the diocese, according to a diocesan official.

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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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