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Saving lives must be first concern of immigration policy, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The defense of the life, dignity and human rights of migrants and refugees must come before any other question when enacting migration policies, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis meets refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, in April 2016. In an interview with an Italian government journal, the pope said his visit to Lesbos and his 2013 visit to Lampedusa, Italy, were meant to show that all religions want "to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land." (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis meets refugees at the Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, in April 2016. In an interview with an Italian government journal, the pope said his visit to Lesbos and his 2013 visit to Lampedusa, Italy, were meant to show that all religions want “to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land.” (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The defense of human beings knows no limits,” the pope said in an interview with the journal of the Department for Civil Liberties and Immigration of the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

“Those in power,” he said, “must be both far-sighted and coherent in watchful respect for fundamental human rights, as well as in trying to end the causes which force civilians to flee.”

Of course, he said, a safe and humane approach to handling the current global migration crisis requires international cooperation and policies that “respect both those who welcome and those who are welcomed.”

Newcomers must respect the laws of their host countries and be assisted in integrating into the life of their new communities, he said in the interview published April 7. And members of the receiving community must be educated to understand the real causes of migration and the desperate situations of those who feel forced to flee their homes.

The news media play a big role, Pope Francis said. They should explain the human rights violations, violence, poverty and catastrophes that lead so many people to flee.

But, especially, he said, the media must report responsibly and not simply “indulge in negative stereotypes when talking about migrants and refugees.”

“Just think of the unfair terms often used to describe migrants and refugees,” the pope said. “How often do we hear people talk of ‘illegals’ as a synonym for migrants? This is unfair. It is based on a false premise, and it pushes public opinion toward negative judgments.”

Asked about his 2016 trip to refugee camps in Lesbos, Greece, with leaders of the Orthodox Church, Pope Francis said it was a sign of “fraternal responsibility.”

“We are all united in wanting to ensure a dignified life for every man, woman and child who is forced to abandon his or her own land,” the pope said. “There is no difference of creed that can outweigh this wish, in fact, quite the contrary.”

Pope Francis said he wished the political leaders of every nation would show the same kind of joint concern for “the cries of the many innocents who ask only for a chance to save their own lives.”

As for anti-immigrant feelings and fears among some Europeans, the pope urged people to remember what Europe was like after World War II.

Millions of Europeans immigrated to South America or the United States, he said. “It was not an easy experience for them, either. They had the burden of being seen as foreigners, arriving from afar with no knowledge of the local language.

“The process of integration wasn’t easy, but for the most part it ended in success,” Pope Francis said.

Countries that have grown and thrived over the centuries by accepting and integrating newcomers cannot forget that experience or pretend it will not be repeated today, he said.

For example, “Europeans contributed greatly to the growth of trans-Atlantic societies,” those in North and South America. “This is always the case: Any exchange of culture and knowledge is a source of wealth and should be valued as such.”

Members of the Catholic Church have an even greater obligation to recognize the value of welcoming newcomers, Pope Francis said. “We can see the peaceful integration of people from other cultures as a kind of reflection of its Catholicism. A unity which accepts ethnic or cultural diversity constitutes a dimension of church life, which in the spirit of Pentecost is open to all. open to embracing everyone.”

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After a year of setbacks, uncertainty looms for immigrants in 2017

December 21st, 2016 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , ,

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — At a Mass packed mostly with immigrants, Washington’s Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville tried to get the crowd to focus on the plight of the Holy Family.  Read more »

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After a year of setbacks, uncertainty looms for immigrants in 2017

By

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — At a Mass packed mostly with immigrants, Washington’s Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville tried to get the crowd to focus on the plight of the Holy Family.  Read more »

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Church leaders seek to calm fears for migrants worried about Trump

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — At a Nov. 14 news conference in Baltimore, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez talked about the reaction, following the recent outcome of the U.S. presidential election, in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles — home to a large number of immigrants, including many Latinos but also immigrants from places such as the Philippines, China, Korea and Vietnam.

An immigrant mother and daughter are seen in Los Angeles June 23. (CNS photo/Eugene Garcia, EPA)

An immigrant mother and daughter are seen in Los Angeles June 23. (CNS photo/Eugene Garcia, EPA)

“I think the reaction was, especially for the ones that have issues of immigration, of fear,” said the Los Angeles archbishop, about the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, echoing what some church leaders who work with immigrant communities said during the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“They were nervous, they don’t know what to make of it, especially many of them who have been here for a long time,” he said. “They have families. So, it is a challenge for them, for the family just even to think that the parents, or one of the parents, are going to be deported.”

President-elect Trump campaigned by saying he would build a wall on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, enact a “massive deportation force,” and end birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., no matter the immigration status of the parents.

Trump’s comments during the campaign are exactly what makes those like Nancy Reyes, a senior at Jesuit-run Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, worry and fear an upcoming Trump presidency. The weekend after the election, Reyes was in a room full of youths expressing their anxieties and worries at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice, a Catholic social justice conference held in Crystal City, Virginia, where they discussed the president-elect and how his immigration views or future policies could affect them.

Her mother, Reyes said, is “going through the legal process” of obtaining legal status in the U.S. She entered the country without legal documentation when she was five months pregnant with Reyes.

“As of Tuesday (Election Day), the little bit of hope we had went downhill,” said Reyes, adding that “come January, I don’t know if my mom is going to be here or not.”

Christopher Kerr, executive director of the Ignatian Solidarity Network, the group that organizes the social justice conference, which includes Jesuit institutions and youth, said he and others at Jesuit schools have been hearing the concerns, which for some of the students includes their legal status provided by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. In 2012, President Barack Obama created the policy by executive action, which allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

“We’re concerned about DACA recipients because the government knows everything about them,” including where they live and about their relatives, said Kerr.

Some worry that when Trump becomes president, he could overturn DACA, and there are questions about the future of those 750,000 who signed up and whether they could be deported. As a candidate, Trump opposed DACA and also another policy known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. DAPA grants a work permit and allows some non-U.S. citizens to remain in the country temporarily.

Until there’s more information of what a Trump administration will do regarding immigration, the Ignatian Solidarity Network is trying to keep people informed about potential policies, trying to educate people that their involvement in influencing policy does not end at the voting booth and that they need to maintain relationships with their elected officials year-round, as well as urging others to express solidarity with affected communities, Kerr said.

In Texas, anxiety about a what a new administration will or won’t do, or may do, also is in the air, said Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, in an interview with Catholic News Service in Baltimore, where he was attending the bishops’ meeting. He said he has tried to reassure those who are worried that “we, as a church … we’re paying attention and we’ll be with you. We’ll walk with you as an immigrant community and defend your rights.”

But it’s too early to tell what will happen, Bishop Flores said. Some are wondering what the church will do and can do. Some asked Archbishop Gomez in the general meeting in Baltimore whether the Los Angeles Archdiocese would open sanctuary churches.

“That’s a hypothetical question,” Archbishop Gomez answered. “I don’t know what is going to happen in the future.”

In Texas, especially near the border, dealing with the difficulties that may arise for immigrants has long been part of daily life. Where some see despair, others have seen spiritual opportunity, said Bishop Flores. Catholics from the Brownsville, McAllen, Pharr and other areas, along with people from nearby cities and of various faiths, have been caring for recent arrivals who come through their cities and towns.

Some parishioners, noticing the influx of families and of mothers with young children fleeing violence from Central America, began organizing ways to transport them to their churches, feeding them, and giving provisions for those who had just finished their journeys crossing the border, said Bishop Flores.

“They helped them with food, with clothing, including little tennis shoes for the children, formula for babies,” who have made the dangerous trek north, he said. Then they give them a backpack with supplies for those who set out for other parts of the country seeking relatives to take them in.

“Sometimes, I get a call to the bishop’s office, ‘Why are you helping those illegals?’” said Bishop Flores, but those calls are few. “People have responded in a beautiful way.”

Some of those who have been helping include those who are poor, those who may not have a stable immigration situation to remain in the country themselves, he said.

“This is part of our culture. We’re not scared of the human reality,” said Bishop Flores.

Though church leaders have in the last few days shouted their support for immigrants and refugees, this could be a spiritual opportunity for other church members as well, Bishop Flores said.

“In this sense, this moment in history presents the church in the United States an opportunity to intensify personal conversion,” he said.

Church leaders opposed the record number of deportations under the Obama administration: 2.4 million since 2009, when he took office.

“People have already suffered the separation of families,” said Bishop Flores. “From the point of view of the church, the social fabric of society depends on the family, and when you tear apart children from their parents … they are vulnerable.”

Sister Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, who is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Brownsville Diocese and works near the border, said even though there’s anxiety and uncertainty, it’s important to try to lift the spirits of others.

“It’s sad,” she said at the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice. “But my hope never dies.”

She said she hopes as president, Trump will take into account “that these are not bad people, they’re not criminals. These are a people who are hurting.” Her concerns extend also to the situation of those seeking refuge in the U.S. from other parts of world, she said.

“I believe very much in the human person, that (he or she) can be touched and change,” she said. “We have to use our voice but not (to fight)” but help others see the humanity of the vulnerable, to see them as humans and not as burdens.

 

Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

 

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Chinese Catholics in New York protest Xi, welcome pope

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Chinese Catholics in the United States planned to protest outside the Chinese consulate in New York Sept. 22, the first day of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s U.S. visit.

UCanews.com reported that the immigrants, who live in New York, said they are discontent with the deteriorating religious situation in China.

“Our action is to show our solidarity to the Christian brothers and sisters in China,” Xu Kewang, one of the Chinese Catholics, told ucanews.com.

More than 1,200 church crosses had been removed in Zhejiang since late 2013. Though the cross-removal campaign shows signs of easing, provincial authorities have begun a crackdown on lawyers and church leaders seeking to put a stop to the campaign through legal means.

At the same time, authorities want to introduce administrative punishments for so-called offenses carried out by Christians in Zhejiang, where there are an estimated 2 million Catholics.

The Chinese immigrants have prepared placards demanding the “release of detained clergy,” and an end to religious persecution.

“Our protesting group is just a small one because some Chinese parishioners are timid. They fear retaliation when they return to China,” Xu said.

Besides Xu and his fellow parishioners, other concerned groups are also pressuring the U.S. government to address China’s crackdown on human rights activists and lawyers and political prisoners, including Bishop James Su Zhimin of Baoding.

The Catholic bishop, who has been missing since 1997, is one of the 20 dissidents and religious figures featured in the “Free China’s Heroes” campaign spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, head of the U.S. congressional commission on China.

At least 1,300 political and religious prisoners are believed to be detained in China, according to a database compiled by the commission.

Xu also told ucanews.com he and the other Chinese Catholics will greet Pope Francis during the pontiff’s Sept. 24-25 visit to New York.

“We are happy to have the chance to see the pope. But we will not make an appeal to him. It is not necessary. We know he is concerned about China,” Xu said.

Pope Francis was to arrive in Washington Sept. 22 after his visit to Cuba. He will arrive in New York Sept. 24 just as Xi arrives in Washington from Seattle. Both men are expected to address the United Nations’ 70th General Assembly in New York, but on different days.

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In Ireland, U.S. cardinals praise role of immigrants

By

Catholic News Service

KNOCK, Ireland — Two American cardinals of Irish descent praised the role of immigrants, especially Irish, in building the United States.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York stands with Franciscan University of Steubenville students who came to see the cardinal open the novena in Knock, Ireland, Aug. 14. (CNS photo/Sarah Mac Donald)

The United States is “a nation of immigrants and we are proud of that,” New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Catholic News Service at the Marian shrine of Knock, where he delivered a keynote opening a novena.

He said that while everybody was talking about the so-called immigrant problem, “We in United States would say the immigrants are not a problem, the immigrants are a gift.

“If there is one thing we have done well, it is to welcome the immigrant. Every person in the United States, unless you are Native American, is a descendant of an immigrant,” he told CNS.

Recalling that his own great-great-grandfather came to America from Ireland, he commented, “We didn’t have this intense anti-immigrant sentiment back then; America was known as a land of welcome, and there weren’t these restrictions.”

Rebuffing this anti-immigrant mentality he said: “There is an unfortunate inaccurate uncharitable stereotype of the immigrant. Some of the most patriotic and loyal Americans are immigrants because they love their adopted country. They are more patriotic and loyal than we are.”

Discussing Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, he said the pope was particularly concerned about the treatment of immigrants and had suggested that America “might be a light to the rest of the world, showing it how to welcome and embrace and assimilate the immigrant.”

Cardinal Dolan said Pope Francis expressed a desire to see the work of American Catholic charities helping immigrants because New York is synonymous with the Statue of Liberty. He also wanted to see an inner city Catholic school, so he is scheduled to visit Our Lady Queen of Angels in Harlem, and there he will also meet about 150 immigrants and some of the charities working with them. He is also scheduled to meet with immigrants in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Dolan said that during his week in Ireland, more than 160 Americans had visited ancient places of pilgrimage, and many of the people they met expressed gratitude to the U.S. bishops and Catholic leaders for their “call for sound and fair immigration reform” in the United States.

Separately, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston led 1,500 people commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed Into Heaven and St. Nicholas in Galway Aug. 14. Boston Cardinal Richard Cushing represented Blessed Paul VI at the dedication of the cathedral in 1965.

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke of the deep historic links between the United States and Ireland and particularly between his city of Boston and Galway.

He noted that Massachusetts was a Puritan colony that was historically hostile to Catholicism, where Catholics were forbidden residence, priests imprisoned, and an effigy of the pope was burned every November on Boston Common.

But all of this changed following the 19th-century famine in Ireland that sent millions of Irish across the sea to start a new life and to send help back to those who stayed behind.

“As a young seminarian, I was here in Ireland when John F. Kennedy, the first Irish Catholic president of the United States, came to visit the land of his ancestors. He received the cead mile failte, the 100,000 welcomes of the Irish people,” he recalled.

“In Boston, we are very proud of our Irish heritage,” he said.

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