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Jesuits defend embattled Honduran priest ‘Padre Melo’

January 2nd, 2018 Posted in International News Tags: ,

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MEXICO CITY (CNS) — The Society of Jesus has denounced threats made against an outspoken Honduran Jesuit who has highlighted accusations of widespread irregularities in the Central American country’s recent presidential election.

The Conference of Provincials in Latin America and the Caribbean said in Dec. 30 statement that the social media hostilities against Father Ismael Moreno Coto — better known as “Padre Melo” — were “reminiscent of the death threats which circulated in El Salvador before the murder of Jesuit Father Rutilio Grande,” a Salvadoran Jesuit murdered in 1977. The Jesuits also defended eight other regional activists being threatened.

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U.S. bishops back extension of protected migrant status

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WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration said some migrants from Honduras and El Salvador cannot safely return to their home countries in the near future and should have a special immigration permit extended. Read more »

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Texas parish welcomes immigrant children ‘with a lot of love’

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Catholic News Service

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Almost every Sunday, more than 100 immigrant children under 18 years of age attend Mass at San Felipe de Jesus Church in Cameron Park.

Carmen Alvear and other parishioners from San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Brownsville, Texas, prepare a special meal for unaccompanied children from Central America who attend Mass at their church July 10. (CNS photo/Rose Ybarra, The Valley Catholic)

Carmen Alvear and other parishioners from San Felipe de Jesus Parish in Brownsville, Texas, prepare a special meal for unaccompanied children from Central America who attend Mass at their church July 10. (CNS photo/Rose Ybarra, The Valley Catholic)

The children, who are mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, entered the United States unaccompanied and are housed in shelters, or “centros de refugio,” for several weeks while arrangements are made to reunite them with relatives living in the United States or back in their country of origin.

So far, in 2016, more than 26,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America have been apprehended according to figures released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied minors have crossed into the United States in the last five years.

Marist Father Anthony O’Connor, pastor of San Felipe de Jesus Church, which is in the Brownsville diocese, said most of these children are fleeing from poverty and violence in their home countries. They come to the United States in search of a better life, but that journey is fraught with its own dangers.

“Most of them face some sort of difficulty on the way,” said Father O’Connor, who visits four different centros de refugio to hear confessions and visit with the children. “They often pass through moral and physical danger to get here.

“These kids have had to grow up fast,” he told The Valley Catholic, Brownsville’s diocesan newspaper.

“What they have been through, we can’t even imagine,” said Barbara Martinez, a parishioner of San Felipe de Jesus Church.

Father O’Connor and his parishioners have responded to the call to make the children feel welcome. A section of the church is reserved for them as they have to be seated together. The children have been attending Mass here for about a year.

“Everybody respects that space,” said parishioner Miguel Lopez, who serves as an usher. “People will stand in the back of the church rather than sit there.

“We are not afraid to admit we give them special treatment because we want them to feel special. … I see some of them crying as they pray. We know they are going through a lot. We feel their pain.”

“They are received with a lot of love and you can feel the presence of God’s love when they are here,” said parishioner Yolanda Castillo. “We feel blessed to have them be a part of our community.”

The immigrant children attending Mass at San Felipe de Jesus Church for the first time also receive a small gift of welcome, said parishioner Sergio Martinez.

“They are provided with a cross to hang around their necks and they wear them every week when they come to Mass,” he said. “I think it is remarkable how they come here with an open spirit.”

At Christmastime, the parishioners hosted a posada for the children and in July, they invited them over for a special meal featuring dishes from their home countries. Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores was present for the meal and celebrated Mass.

Carmen Alvear, one of the cooks, researched the cuisine from Central America, hoping to, “get it right.” She said some of the children cried tears of joy and sadness when they saw the food.

“They told us they were happy and moved that we took the time to prepare the foods they like but it also made them miss home and their families,” she said. “I’ll admit, we cried with them.”

Guadalupe Gonzalez, another cook, said the children really enjoyed the food and many of them had “seconds and thirds.”

“The food is made with a lot of love,” said Claudia Gutierrez, a volunteer cook. “We wanted them to eat as much as they wanted.”

“I feel very happy and honored to be part of this community of faith,” said parishioner Francisca Rodriguez. “We’ve always been a very united community and having the children here has brought us even closer together because we all want the children to feel at home and we are doing everything we can for them.

“We know they are suffering and we hope hearing the word of God carries them through the week ahead.”

“We put ourselves in their shoes,” said parishioner Guillermo Castillo. “All their worries, all the obstacles they have overcome, their fears about living in a new country, missing their family … it is a sad reality, but we support them as best as we can by giving them love and understanding.”

Parishioner Marcos Garcia is relatively new to San Felipe de Jesus Church, having only joined the parish about four years ago.

“I am in awe of this community, of how generous and welcoming everyone is and I believe it comes from Our Lord, first of all and also from Father Tony,” he said. “He inspires us to serve and we pray for him constantly, that he will continue to have the strength to minister to these children.”

When asked if they had any reservations about the children joining them for Mass, the parishioners all replied, “No,” in unison.

“This is the house of God,” parishioner David Gomez said. “Everyone is welcome. On the rare occasion the children don’t come to Mass, we really miss them. We feel like a part of us is missing.”

 

Ybarra is assistant editor of The Valley Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Brownsville.

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World financial system built as ‘new idolatry,’ cardinal tells forum

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — The world financial system “has been built as a new idolatry,” charged Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, at a June 3 forum in Washington sponsored by The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies.

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis, gives his keynote address during a conference at the Bread for the World headquarters in Washington June 3. During the conference, Catholic experts looked at libertarianism and why it is incompatible with Catholic social teaching. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

During his keynote address, Cardinal Rodriguez, the chairman of the group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reform of the Roman Curia, issued a ringing endorsement of the church’s competency to critique economic systems.

Some of the church’s critics ask, “What is the hierarchy of the church doing in the economy? They know nothing about the economy,” Cardinal Rodriguez said in his remarks at the forum, “Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case Against Libertarianism.”

The church knows about the economy because “we know about the human being,” the cardinal said. “The human being was not made for the economy, but the economy was made for the human being.” Pastors “smell like the sheep,” he added, borrowing a phrase from Pope Francis, and said libertarians and economists could benefit by being closer to the people.

Cardinal Rodriguez was introduced by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Trumka, a Catholic, described during the introduction his father and grandfather’s life in a coal mining company town. Workers were paid in scrip redeemable only at the “company store,” he said. His dad and granddad were clubbed by the “coal and iron police” as they were chased up the steps of the Catholic church in town, the only parcel of land not owned by the company, for trying to start a union, until the parish pastor, crucifix in his hands, stepped between his parishioners and the police, declaring, “This is sanctuary.”

Upon hearing these travails, Cardinal Rodriguez said to Trumka, “I thought you were describing the mining situation in my country in the 1900s.”

Libertarian philosophy over federal budget discussions is “really distorting the debate,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, the Christian citizens’ anti-hunger lobby whose headquarters, a few blocks from the Capitol, hosted the forum.

Bread for the World is a member of the Circle of Protection, as is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The “circle” is an alliance of faith-based organizations that has been pushing Congress this decade to spare the poor from the brunt of budget cuts.

However, in the fiscal year 2015 budget proposed by the House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., programs benefiting low-income Americans would be on the receiving end of 69 percent of the budget cuts, according to an analysis by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Ryan, a Catholic, had once been an ardent follower of libertarian philosopher and author Ayn Rand, although in 2012 he rejected Rand’s philosophy as atheistic. But Ryan has since come under criticism from some Catholic academics for misstating Catholic social teaching when issuing federal budget proposals.

Libertarians argue for maximum individual autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgment.

While dialogue between Catholics and libertarians should not be ruled out, it can be “difficult,” said Meghan Clark, an assistant professor of theology and religious studies at St. John’s University in New York, “because you don’t share the same vocabulary.”

While libertarians may say they embrace the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions are best made by the smallest or least centralized competent authority, they are silent on the subject, Cardinal Rodriguez said, “when it comes to banks and corporations.”

“Many of the libertarians do not read the social doctrine of the church,” he added, “but now they are trembling before the book of Piketty,” a reference to French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” examining wealth inequality around the world, has become a surprise best-seller.

“Adam Smith (the colonial-era U.S. essayist) never thought of this” when he came up with his “invisible hand” theory of the economy, Cardinal Rodriguez said. “The invisible hand has become (a) thief. That is the problem. The hand has become so invisible it started stealing everything, corruption.”

Despite the ills of the current system, Cardinal Rodriguez said political action may help change it. “Politics is often regarded as a dirty game,” he said. “Who else but committed Christians can clean it up?”

 

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