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U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

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WASHINGTON — Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board.

The damaged entrance of St. Mary's Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

“A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians,” said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” the statement said. “Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

“It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities,” the bishops said in their statement.

The bishops called on Americans to accept “our nation’s fair share” of vulnerable families, regardless of religion and ethnicity, for resettlement as refugees. They called for special consideration of the victims of genocide and other violence.

They urged the U.S. to encourage the Iraqi government and the regional government in Irbil, Iraq, to “strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all.”

U.S. aid should assist local and national efforts to improve policing and the court system and encourage local self-governance, the bishops said. Similar efforts are needed in Syria as well, they said.

The U.S. also can provide “generous” humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced people and Iraqi and Syrian communities as they rebuild, the statement said. Such funding can be directed in part to “trusted faith-based nongovernmental agencies” such as Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies, the bishops said.

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Catholic panelists discuss ‘Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic panelists gathered to discuss “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump” said it is difficult to get over some of the words the president-elect said during the campaign, and even before he was a candidate. But as his presidency nears, many of them said it’s important to find ways to work with him for the common good.

“When Donald Trump says things about women … I have a hard time stomaching those comments,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We can still find a way, though, to listen and say, ‘How do we find common ground?’”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Msgr. Enzler was one of five panelists Jan. 12 who addressed the role the Catholic faith can play as the country gets ready for the incoming Trump administration. Some Catholics such as Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, expressed great optimism.

“We can have a lot of hope that he will protect life the way we want him to do … defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting life,” Rooney said. “Things like the insurance mandate can be brought into harmony of First Amendment rights.”

Yet others such as panelist Jessica Chilin Hernandez expressed uncertainty and apprehension of the days ahead. Chilin works at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, thanks to a work permit she has through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. President Barack Obama, through executive action in 2012, created a policy that allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

Chilin is one of more than 750,000 people who signed up for DACA. During the campaign, Trump said he would kill the program and threatened mass deportations, sending those like Chilin into panic.

“I felt a fear unlike any other fear I have had before,” she said about the moment she learned Trump won the election. “The fear was visceral. … one thought that occupied my mind was that homeland security knows exactly where I live. It was hard to imagine myself having a future in 2017.”

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services, said now is a good time to review the principles of Catholicism and social justice, explaining that they don’t divide people and don’t say refugees or immigrants are enemies or a burden on society.

“What we have to do is lift up our principles,” Rosenhauer said. “The problem is deeper because our own Catholic people do not know those principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said the country is showing a high level of ambiguity, fear, dysfunction and chaos.

“I think that challenges all of us as people of faith,” she said.

Now is the time to stand up for the stranger, the working poor, and anyone who needs of our kindness or help, and Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about it, Sister Campbell said.

Msgr. Enzler noted it is also important to understand that individuals can do much by performing kind actions toward others. People can start by asking: “What did I do today? It’s not an agency that can make things better but people,” he said.

Chilin said it’s important to keep in mind language that we use in daily conversation.

“Be conscientious of language,” she said. “Illegal is a racial slur. No human being is illegal and yet, in many circles, they use it to describe us.”

Panel moderator John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which sponsored the event, asked how Catholics can build bridges in “an angry country, a divided country.” There are a lot of people who feel under attack, he said.

“It’s important to see what role (Catholics) can play in divisions that have been created over the past year,” Rosenhauer said. “I was really struck by Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin and his homily at his installation where one of his key points was that our kindness must be known to all.”

It’s important to stand up for beliefs even when others disagree with them, she said, “but we have to find a way to do it with kindness.”

“We want to protect children in the womb. That’s something we can work with this (the Trump) administration and Congress on. … Senator (Jeff) Sessions said there would be no Muslim ban. That’s something we would support and work together on … then let’s be clear about the areas for disagreements.”

Msgr. Enzler said Catholics, particularly the church’s leaders, must also speak and raise their voices for the vulnerable, and strongly speak the church’s message.

Moderator Carr asked Sister Campbell whether she could offer any lessons about building bridges that she learned during the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, a 19-day trip that a group of women religious undertook from Wisconsin to the national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Its aim was to learn what people around the country were thinking about just before the presidential election.

Sister Campbell used the bus as a metaphor for the country. Some said the bus had made them feel as if they were welcome back into a community, a feeling they had not had in a long time, because everyone was welcome on the bus. She said she heard stories about poverty, lack of jobs and lack of access to health care that resulted in the deaths of loved ones.

“No one can be left out of our care,” Sister Campbell said. “We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.”

As Pope Francis has said, it’s about the people, and when people feel loved, they flourish and when they flourish so does the country, she said.

 

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Viewpoint: Thinking about God, the giver of all gifts at Christmas

December 24th, 2016 Posted in Opinion, Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Last month, I went on a weeklong silent retreat to address a nagging concern. I felt heavy guilt for how I could be enjoying my life when there are profound deprivations and unspeakable suffering.

Catholic Relief Services serves people who do not have enough nutrition, sometimes no decent shelter nor water, little access to proper medical care and, often crippling insecurity from violent conflicts and lost livelihood. Read more »

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Hackett reflects on his three years as U.S. ambassador to Vatican

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Ken Hackett, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, is gearing up to try retirement for the second time. The retired president of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas aid agency, is leaving his ambassadorial post three years and three months after presenting his credentials to Pope Francis. Read more »

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Longing for Christmas peace in the Holy Land

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During this wonderful time of the year, when Christians throughout the world focus minds and hearts on the coming of God upon the earth as one of us, our attention naturally turns to the place where the incarnation occurred.

While all the Earth is a holy creation of the almighty, Bethlehem and the surrounding lands that Jesus walked upon, taught upon, miraculously acted upon, suffered and died upon, and gloriously resurrected upon are uniquely holy and thus deserving of the title Holy Land.

In the Holy Land the Prince of Peace taught humanity the way to true peace.     Read more »

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Catholic leaders call on Congress to increase humanitarian aid in budget

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BALTIMORE — The head of Catholic Relief Services and the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees have urged congressional leaders to approve additional funding for humanitarian relief and recovery operations as part of a comprehensive budget measure for fiscal 2017.

The Catholic leaders wrote a letter Nov. 28 in support of a request by the Obama administration for Overseas Contingency Operations funds to address the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world or as a result of the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants.

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

They urged action before the Dec. 9 deadline that Congress faces on the federal budget. The government is funded through that date because of a continuing resolution the House passed, and President Barack Obama signed, at the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

“More than 50,000 people have already fled Mosul, joining the approximately 3.3 million Iraqis who have been internally displaced since ISIS began occupying parts of Iraq in 2014,” stated the letter, released by Baltimore-based CRS Nov. 29. “(We) believe that as the world’s wealthiest nation, we have an obligation to help the innocent who fall victim to war, to protect the marginalized and to lift people out of poverty.”

It was signed by Carolyn Woo, outgoing president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Addressing the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, the Catholic leaders also pointed to increased suffering in other places besides Iraq, such as Southern Africa, which is suffering a severe drought.

They also named South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Lake Chad Basin, a region that comprises parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Ongoing violence and military conflicts in those places have displaced whole populations and exacerbated food insecurity, resulting in acute malnourishment for many. According to a recent report from the U.S. Agency for International Development, an estimated 9.2 million people, primarily in northeastern Nigeria, require humanitarian assistance.

Additional funding from Congress, the Catholic leaders said, will help ensure CRS can continue to respond “to crises like these that don’t make the headlines.”

They acknowledged Congress’ steadfast commitments to humanitarian and development needs around the globe” and urged lawmakers to incorporate the administration’s amendment request for humanitarian relief and recovery activities” in their final appropriations bill.

September’s short-term measure included full funding for military construction and Veterans Affairs for the new fiscal year, but left undecided were 11 remaining annual appropriations bills for various federal agencies.

Woo and Bishops Vasquez and Cantu praised the current proposals before Congress for funding “key humanitarian accounts” — $3.2 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance; $2.8 billion for International Disaster Assistance; $1.6 billion for Food for Peace; and $60 million for Emergency Refugee and Migrant Assistance.

But they asked Congress also appropriate new Overseas Contingency Operations funds. The Obama administration has requested $14.9 billion.

“We urge you to respond generously to the administration’s request of Nov. 11 for additional humanitarian and recovery assistance,” they wrote.

“As we have already learned in Iraq, individuals, communities, and countries divided by war face significant challenges amidst their suffering,” Woo and the bishops continued. “They must rebuild their communities, and establish inclusive governance that protects majorities and minorities.

“We must provide them with humanitarian help and durable solutions to their plight because it’s the right thing to do, and because their security and prosperity is critical to the stability of the entire region,” they added.

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Miami archdiocese prepares to help hurricane Matthew victims

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Catholic News Service

MIAMI — Like the rest of South Florida, the Archdiocese of Miami was carefully watching the path of Hurricane Matthew, a Category 4 storm that began pounding Haiti and Cuba Oct. 4 and was expected to hit Florida’s Atlantic coastal area late Oct. 6.

Residents stand outside their homes Oct. 5 in Cite Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew swept through the island nation. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/courtesy Malteser International)

Residents stand outside their homes Oct. 5 in Cite Soleil, a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after Hurricane Matthew swept through the island nation. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/courtesy Malteser International)

Chief among the preparations was prayer. Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski asked all South Florida parishes to include prayers for those affected in their daily Masses in the days ahead.

About 1.5 million Floridians were already fleeing the coast to take shelter elsewhere.

The archdiocese also was preparing to provide aid to the Caribbean nations hardest hit by Matthew, especially Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas.

According to Deacon Richard Turcotte, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities, the archdiocese established contact with Catholic Relief Services’ Caribbean representative, who is stationed in Honduras and has responsibility for Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti.

“CRS has prepositioned supplies in the Dominican Republic (tarps, hygiene and cooking kits) that can be moved to Cuba or Jamaica if needed,” Deacon Turcotte told the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Miami archdiocese.

Although the island avoided a direct hit, Jamaica experienced serious flooding caused by Matthew’s outer bands. Haiti, meanwhile, felt the full impact of the storm.

It left southwestern Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, in shambles after slamming into the country’s Caribbean coast Oct. 4. The cities of Les Cayes, on the southwest coast, and Jeremie, in the northwest, were said to be particularly hit hard by the strongest storm to strike the Caribbean region in a decade.

Haitian officials said at midday Oct. 6 that at least 108 people had been killed, and more casualties were expected.

In Miami, Father Reginald Jean-Mary, pastor of Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission in Little Haiti, has been in touch with Haiti’s Cardinal Chibly Langlois, who heads the Diocese of Les Cayes.

After striking Haiti and Cuba, the slow-moving storm continued on a northward path to batter the Bahamas. From there it was headed to the Florida coast.

“We have spoken with Archbishop (Patrick) Pinder of Nassau and representatives from the Archdiocese of Kingston, indicating to each that we are on standby to assist with post-storm recovery,” Deacon Turcotte added.

He said Catholic Charities also had communicated with a food supply wholesaler who could have rice, beans and cooking oils put on pallets and be ready to deliver to a freight forwarder by Oct. 7 or 8 to go to the islands.

Regarding Haiti, the immediate need is for cash donations to purchase water and nonperishable food items, as well as to aid in the cleanup.

All Miami archdiocesan aid would be funneled through church organizations such as Caritas Cuba; CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency; and Amor en Accion, a lay missionary group that works with Miami’s sister Diocese of Port-de-Paix in Haiti’s northwest region — the poorest in that nation.

Teresita Gonzalez, executive director of Amor en Accion, noted that because the Catholic Church is already present in every one of the affected nations, its agencies offer the best and most effective way of providing relief.

That is especially true in northwestern Haiti, where “there are no NGOs (nongovernmental organizations), only the church,” Gonzalez said.

As Matthew moved closer to South Florida, the archdiocesan Office of Building and Property also reminded pastors and those in charge of parish plants to review their hurricane preparedness plans.

Archdiocesan schools planned to follow the lead of public schools in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties on school closures.

The archdiocese also will notify local radio and television stations regarding school closings or relief efforts.

Rodriguez-Soto is editor of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Hurricane Matthew tears through Haiti, how to help storm survivors

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Catholic News Service

Wind-whipped rains from Hurricane Matthew shattered Haiti’s southwest peninsula, downing trees, ripping open makeshift wooden homes and causing widespread flooding Oct. 4 as aid workers waited for the storm to subside before mobilizing.

Destroyed homes are seen Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Jeremie, Haiti. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

Destroyed homes are seen Oct. 5 after Hurricane Matthew swept through Jeremie, Haiti. Rescue workers in Haiti are struggling to reach parts of the country cut off by Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Caribbean storm in nearly a decade. (CNS photo/Carlos Garcia Rawlins, Reuters)

The city of Les Cayes and coastal towns and villages in South Department were experiencing the most destruction as the storm made landfall at dawn with 145-mile-an-hour winds.

Forecasters expected Matthew to dump up to 30 inches of rain in most communities, with some locales receiving up to 40 inches.

Les Cayes and surrounding areas were the focus of concern for Catholic Relief Services. Kim Pozniak, communications manager, told Catholic News Service that the potential for landslides was high because of the geography of the region.

She said CRS staff also was troubled over the well-being of residents who decided to stay in their homes despite calls to evacuate.

“I was told by staff in Les Cayes yesterday (Oct. 3) that the government was going around with megaphones to alert people. But many decided to stay put to protect their homes and belongings. We’’ve heard that some people did not think the storm would be as severe as predicted,” Pozniak said.

She said Chris Bessey, CRS country director, had been in contact with CRS staff in Les Cayes, despite disruptions in electrical and internet service.

“Trees were knocked down and also there was some flooding already,” she said. “We’re unable to communicate with the staff in Les Cayes because everything is down.”

The agency had positioned relief supplies, including food, sanitation and kitchen kits and emergency shelter materials in warehouses in the area, and workers were prepared to begin delivering aid once the storm moved north. Engineers were stationed in three locales and were preparing to begin assessing damage to homes and to help people with the shelter materials, Pozniak said.

In the hours before the storm made landfall, CRS staff had assisted Haiti’s Civil Protection Agency by offering vehicles and fuel for use to help with evacuation, she added.

Accepting donations

CRS and at least one other Catholic agency had begun accepting donations for their emergency responses in Haiti:

  • Catholic Relief Services online at donate.crs.org/hurricane-matthew-crs; via mail to P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Maryland, 21297-0303 and indicate Hurricane Matthew in the memo; or call toll-free 877-435-7277 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Catholic Medical Mission Board online at www.cmmb.org/donations/hurricane-matthew/.

Heavy rains also pounded the capital of Port-au-Prince, causing some flooding in low-lying areas, but winds were not as severe, Jacques Liautaud, Haiti manager for the church rebuilding project known as PROCHE, told Catholic News Service Oct. 4.

“We’re seeing mostly rain and a few gusts of high winds. Otherwise, it’s been relatively calm,” said Liautaud, who was in the country monitoring construction projects underway to help the Catholic Church rebuild after the country’s powerful 2010 earthquake.

“The city is pretty shut down today. Everybody is sheltering in place,” he said.

Liautaud added that Haitian media reported that at least three people had died because of the storm. The reports could not be immediately confirmed.

The center of Matthew was expected to continue on a northward path through the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba. Heavy rains were expected in eastern Cuba, and hurricane warnings were issued for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands. Weather forecasters in the United States were keeping an eye on the storm’s path and expected it to pass just offshore from Florida and the southeast coast. Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the entire state Oct. 3.

 

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Catholic Relief joins with other agencies to pledge $1.2 billion to help 65 million refugees

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries and it is particularly hard for those countries to meet refugees’ needs and provide them an education and a livelihood, according to a senior policy and legislative specialist at Catholic Relief Services.

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 20 in New York City. Speaking for the last time at the United Nations as president, Obama said that while the world has become safer and more prosperous, nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East.  (CNS/ Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 20 in New York City. Speaking for the last time at the United Nations as president, Obama said that while the world has become safer and more prosperous, nations are struggling with a devastating refugee crisis, terrorism and a breakdown in basic order in the Middle East. (CNS/ Reuters)

Overall, 65 million people are displaced worldwide, the highest number since World War II, according to the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees.

“After World War II, many of the refugees at that time were living in camps for a certain amount of time, then would be resettled or helped to be repatriated” in their home country, Jill Marie told Catholic News Service.

Today, she said, it is not unusual for refugees to live 20 years in a country that is not their own, she said, citing the 5 million Afghan refugees who have lived in Pakistan for “a very long time,” many for almost their entire lives.

Millions of Afghans have fled their homeland during waves of civil war spanning more than three decades.

Marie made the comments to CNS Sept. 16 in advance of the special summit that U.S. President Barrack Obama convened Sept. 20 at the United Nations to address the global refugee crisis.

Before the summit, CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency, joined 30 other nongovernmental organizations in pledging a total of $1.2 billion to help address the refugee crisis over a three-year period.

All the groups made the pledge as members of InterAction, the largest U.S. alliance of international NGOs.

The funds will provide urgent medical assistance, food and nutrition, security, shelter, education and other essential services to displaced populations, according to CRS.

Each entity will manage its own money but report to InterAction as to how it is used, said Marie.

She also told CNS that in addition to its monetary pledge, CRS hopes the U.S. Congress would “put more pressure on the U.N. to update its humanitarian architecture,” which currently is more the model addressing what World War II refugees faced than what today’s refugees confront.

“Refugees are no longer in camps but move into cities, with an uncle or a brother,” Marie said.

Some are “paying rent to put a tent up in somebody’s front yard and paying for their facilities,” she said, which means it is “much harder to get access to these people, harder to find them” to assess their needs and help them.

“That’s where the Catholic Church comes in,” using its networks to find people, Marie said. Coordination and implementation of assistance to refugees is “better left to agencies like CRS,” she added. “We have the agility. We work with local partners and we can move with them.”

According to CRS, the Baltimore-based agency has assisted more than a million war-affected Syrians across the Middle East and Europe since the armed conflict in their home country began almost five years ago. Among its other assistance efforts, the agency has aided Afghans living in Pakistan; displaced people in Somalia; those fleeing the Muslim militant group Boko Haram in West and Central Africa; and those forced from their homes by the impact of climate change in Bangladesh.

Marie praised the Obama administration for its response to the Syrian refugee crisis in particular; on Sept. 13, the administration said the U.S. would accept 110,000 Syrians over the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, a boost from the original number of 85,000.

The U.S. “historically has settled more refugees than anybody,” Marie noted, but “we would like to see more being resettled globally, because there are so many more refugees.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power, too, recently commented that, to date, “a small number of countries have been carrying a disproportionate share of the refugee opportunity and burden.”

By the close of Obama-convened summit, a number of countries represented there “committed to admit significant numbers of refugees into their countries for the first time in recent history,” said a statement issued by the White House in late afternoon Sept. 20.

The 32 governments participating in the summit, it said, had contributed “roughly $4.5 billion additional dollars to U.N. appeals and international humanitarian organizations than in 2015.”

The statement added that the summit sought “to provide longer-term solutions for refugees stranded in exile, whose lives are on hold.”

“Governments participating here today have come together, with different types of commitments, to approximately double the global number of refugees resettled and afforded other legal channels of admissions and to improve asylum systems,” it said.

In addition, some participants “committed to starting or significantly expanding new UNHCR-facilitated third-country resettlement programs and others have greatly increased the numbers of refugees admitted through family reunification or humanitarian admission visas.”

On Sept. 19, U.N. member states held a high-level plenary meeting to reaffirm their shared responsibility for refugees and migrants. At the same time, Catholic and other leaders held a side event on the role of religious organizations responding to migrant and refugee movements, with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin as a keynote speaker.

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CRS announces agency veteran as new CEO

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A six-month search for a new president and CEO for one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world ended at its doorstep, with Catholic Relief Services announcing Sept. 16 that it is hiring a veteran employee, the agency’s No. 2, Sean Callahan, as its new president and CEO.

Sean Callahan, the new CEO of Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world, is seen greeting children in an undated photo in El Salvador.  His new position begins Jan. 1, when he succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016. (CNS photo/Oscar Leiva, Silverlight for CRS)

Sean Callahan, the new CEO of Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world, is seen greeting children in an undated photo in El Salvador. His new position begins Jan. 1, when he succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016. (CNS photo/Oscar Leiva, Silverlight for CRS)

“We looked all across the nation and found that the best person for the job was Sean, already working for us,” said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, head of the CRS Board Search Committee, in a statement announcing Callahan’s new position, which begins Jan. 1, 2017. He succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016.

Callahan began his career with CRS 28 years ago and has served as director of Human Resources, regional director for South Asia, head of its Nicaragua program and executive vice president for overseas operations. Four years ago he was appointed as the agency’s chief operating officer.

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the CRS board, said in a statement that all that experience is what makes Callahan eminently qualified for the top spot.

Callahan said mission, not climbing the corporate ladder, is what has motivated him in his almost three decades at CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency based in Baltimore. In his new leadership position, he said he wants to inspire and motivate staff and CRS partners around the world to be united in humanitarian efforts, incorporating different elements of the Catholic Church to help humanity.

That means emphasizing the sanctity of life and how charitable efforts to help those suffering around the world is part of that Christian mission.

“Sacredness of life is key,” Callahan said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service from Montreal. “We need to be aware of the situation of the least among us. We have a responsibility.”

That means teaching others about situations that bring suffering and snuff out lives around the world. It means finding a way, whether by prayer, voting, volunteering or giving financially, to become involved with finding a solution to the hardship of others.

In Pope Francis and the recently canonized St. Teresa of Kolkata, whom Callahan met while working for CRS in Asia, the church has great models and inspiration to meet that mission and understand that Christians have a call to help those in distress, including the poor, refugees and migrants, Callahan said.

As head of CRS, he said he wants to help connect those in the United States to see “brothers and sisters in other parts of the world … connect those who have more with those who have less.”

It also means helping others understand that leaving one’s country is not the preferred option for those who leave their homelands, which is why CRS has programs to help people not emigrate.

“Many of these people, what they want is safety and security,” he said. CRS tries to provide a livelihood, health care, education, but sometimes they still are faced with having to leave their homelands.

“Once they do migrate, it’s our responsibility that they’re safe and protected. … That’s where we have been inspired by the Holy Father” in reaching out, teaching those who may not be comfortable with foreigners, whether migrants or refugees, understand that Jesus was a migrant, he was a refugee, too, Callahan said.

While Americans are rightly proud of their homeland, not all immigrants who are here have chosen to leave what’s familiar to them by choice and they would stay in their home countries if they had had safe and secure places to live, he said. That’s where organizations such as CRS step in to put mechanisms in place that build stronger communities and try to alleviate some of the hardship.

Callahan, 56, has master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Tufts University, and is president of Caritas North America. He also is on the board of trustees for Catholic Charities USA and has served on the Executive Committee and Representative Council of Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations.

When he takes over in January, he will be leading an agency of 5,400 worldwide. In a statement, CRS said its operating expenditures will reach almost $900 million in fiscal year 2016, the highest in its history, rising from $585 million in fiscal year 2013.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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