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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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Jerusalem’s Latin patriarchate condemns Israeli law allowing seizure of Palestinian lands

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Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem warned of “serious consequences” from a new law that allows the government to seize private Palestinian lands where unauthorized Israeli settlements have been built.

Heavy equipment is seen as workers clear an area for the construction of a new home Feb. 7 in the Israeli settlement of Shilo, West Bank. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem warned of "serious consequences" from a new law that allows the government to seize private Palestinian lands where unauthorized Israeli settlements have been built. (CNS photo/Jim Hollander, EPA)

Heavy equipment is seen as workers clear an area for the construction of a new home Feb. 7 in the Israeli settlement of Shilo, West Bank. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem warned of “serious consequences” from a new law that allows the government to seize private Palestinian lands where unauthorized Israeli settlements have been built. (CNS photo/Jim Hollander, EPA)

“Such a law undermines the two-state solution, further eliminating hopes of peace,” the patriarchate said in a Feb. 8 statement. “The Latin Patriarchate strongly condemns this unjust and unilateral law that allows the de facto annexation of Palestinian private land for the benefit of Israeli settlements.”

“Strongly concerned about the future of peace and justice in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarchate calls on leaders to take decisive decisions in favor of peace, justice and dignity for all,” the statement said.

The Israeli Knesset passed the law Feb. 6. It will affect settlements or outposts built in good faith or on instructions of the government and will deem those lands as government property.

The legislation was quickly passed in the wake of the evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona in the West Bank. The Feb. 1-2 evacuation took two days and was first ordered by the Israeli Supreme Court in 2014, but repeatedly had been pushed back because of legal appeals, until a final deadline of Feb. 8 was set in December.

The outpost consisted of mobile homes and log cabins and was built on privately owned Palestinian land. Some settlers had lived on the land for 20 years. The outpost’s buildings were either removed whole or demolished.

It is unclear whether the Palestinian owners will be permitted to return to farm there because the land abuts another Jewish settlement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to found a new settlement for the Amona evacuees on nearby land.

The Ha’aretz newspaper reported that a group of Palestinian civil and human rights organizations filed an appeal against the new law with the Supreme Court.

U.S. and European church leaders have spoken out against the settlements.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace told U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the settlements were an obstacle to peace.

“Settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands undermines a two-state solution, destroying the homes and the livelihoods of Palestinians as well as the long-term security and future of Israelis,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, wrote Feb. 1.

Bishop Cantu also reminded Tillerson that 2017 marked 50 years of “a crippling occupation” by Israel of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Bishops from the U.S., Canada and Europe who participated in the Holy Land Coordination Jan. 14-19 said the half-century of occupation “demands action” and expressed opposition to settlement construction.

“This is a scandal to which we must never become accustomed,” said the group of 12 prelates, including Bishop Cantu, after their visit.

“This de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians in areas such as Hebron and East Jerusalem but, as the U.N. recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace,” the statement said.

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U.S. bishops’ official urges Tillerson to back two-state solution in Mideast

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. government should continue to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and avoid actions that would undermine results, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The brother and relatives of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Rajabi weep during his Jan. 7 funeral in Hebron, West Bank. Rajabi was killed by Israeli forces. A prominent U.S. bishop urged the U.S. government to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (CNS photo/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)

The brother and relatives of 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Rajabi weep during his Jan. 7 funeral in Hebron, West Bank. Rajabi was killed by Israeli forces. A prominent U.S. bishop urged the U.S. government to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (CNS photo/Abed Al Hashlamoun, EPA)

Drawing on his observations from a January trip to the Holy Land, Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, committee chairman, wrote Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and urged him to continue to work for a peace agreement “that respects the human dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians and advances justice and peace for all.”

Bishop Cantu told Tillerson that Israeli settlements were an obstacle to peace.

“Settlement expansion on occupied Palestinian lands undermines a two-state solution, destroying the homes and the livelihoods of Palestinians as well as the long-term security and future of Israelis,” he said.

The bishop spoke of his Jan. 14-19 visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with bishops from Canada and Europe. In a statement at the end of the visit, the bishops said Christians have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, because “this de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians … but, as the U.N. recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace.”

In his Feb. 1 letter, Bishop Cantu reminded Tillerson that 2017 marked 50 years of “a crippling occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, crippling for both peoples.”

He also spoke of problems created by the Israeli security barrier, a series of cement slabs, barbed wire fences and security roads snaking across part of the West Bank. If completed as planned, the separation wall would stretch nearly 400 miles and restrict the movements of 38 percent of residents of the West Bank.

“The Cremisan Valley is home to a Salesian monastery, convent and school, and the agricultural lands of 58 Christian families who live in nearby Palestinian towns,” Bishop Cantu said in his letter. “The building of the wall constricts residents’ movement, impairs access to their lands, separates Christian institutions from those they serve, and encourages Christian emigration.

“The Cremisan Valley is emblematic of the alarming number of Palestinians who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Settlement expansion, confiscation of lands and the building of the separation wall on Palestinian lands violate international law and undermine a diplomatic solution,” he said.

Bishop Cantu also mentioned President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would erode the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution and is a threat to pursuing peace and ending conflict. Its impact would incite and destabilize the area, compromising U.S. security,” Bishop Cantu said.

The 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act authorized funding for the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem by 1999. However, the act contained a provision to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv if it was in the best interests of U.S. national security. U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush pledged to move the embassy, then kept it in Jerusalem so as not to inflame tensions.

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, said Jan. 23 that the administration is studying the situation.

Bishop Cantu told Tillerson the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops would continue to engage the State Department on international issues, but that getting a peace agreement for Israel and Palestine would “require arduous work.”

“It has been 50 years of tumult and turbulence, of egregious injustices and random acts of violence. However, the United States has always provided leadership and support to the peace process,” Bishop Cantu said.

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Bishops visiting Holy Land say Christians must oppose Israeli settlements

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JERUSALEM — Christians have a responsibility to oppose the construction of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, said bishops from the U.S., Canada and Europe.

“This de facto annexation of land not only undermines the rights of Palestinians in areas such as Hebron and East Jerusalem but, as the U.N. recently recognized, also imperils the chance of peace,” said bishops who participated in the Holy Land Coordination Jan. 14-19.

Bishops from the U.S, Canada and Europe walk through a street Jan. 16 in Hebron, West Bank. (CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops' Conference of England and Wales)

Bishops from the U.S, Canada and Europe walk through a street Jan. 16 in Hebron, West Bank. (CNS photo/Marcin Mazur, Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales)

“So many people in the Holy Land have spent their entire lives under occupation, with its polarizing social segregation, yet still profess hope and strive for reconciliation. Now, more than ever, they deserve our solidarity,” said the statement, issued Jan. 19, at the end of the visit.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, was among the 12 bishops who signed the statement. Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec, represented Canadian bishops. The statement also was signed by representatives of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community and the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as bishops from the United Kingdom and other European countries.

During their visit, the bishops visited Hebron, West Bank, where the main market area is closed off to accommodate the security needs of some 800 Israeli settlers. Afterward, Bishop Cantu told Catholic News Service, “It becomes clearer that (the settlements) are not just about outlying settlements but something more systematic; more about infiltrating Palestinian land and forcing Palestinians out by making them so uncomfortable with such limited freedom they don’t want to continue living there.”

Three of the bishops also visited the Gaza Strip, where an Israeli blockade has made it difficult to get supplies for reconstruction of buildings destroyed by Israeli shelling. Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, Scotland, one of the bishops who visited Gaza, said he left feeling “sad and helpless” at the poverty and lack of basic commodities.

In 2006, a government led by Hamas was elected in Gaza. Israel, the United States and the European Union have listed Hamas. an Islamic political party with an armed wing, as a terrorist organization and have imposed economic sanctions against Gaza.

In their statement, the bishops said Christians had a responsibility to help “the people of Gaza, who continue to live amid a man-made humanitarian catastrophe. They have now spent a decade under blockade, compounded by a political impasse caused by ill-will on all sides.”

They also said Christians must continue to encourage nonviolent resistance, as encouraged by Pope Francis.

“This is particularly necessary in the face of injustices such as the continued construction of the separation wall on Palestinian land, including the Cremisan Valley,” the statement said.

The barrier is a series of cement slabs, barbed wire fences and security roads snaking across part of the West Bank. If completed as planned, the separation wall would stretch nearly 400 miles and restrict the movements of 38 percent of residents of the West Bank. Israel maintains that the barrier contributed significantly to a decrease in the number of terrorist attacks, while Palestinians contend that the barrier is simply another Israeli land grab, imprisons them and imposes travel limitations.

The bishops said that each year since 1998, they have called for justice and peace, “yet the suffering continues.”

“So this call must get louder,” their statement said. “As bishops, we implore Christians in our home countries to recognize our own responsibility for prayer, awareness and action.”

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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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Supreme Court tie vote blocks temporary plan to stop deportations

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — With a tie vote June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Obama administration’s plan to temporarily protect more than 4 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Read more »

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New Mexico deacon, 92, mugged for $20,000 in collection money

December 29th, 2015 Posted in National News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A 92-year-old deacon at an Albuquerque church was recovering after being mugged by three individuals who stole the Christmas offerings from his car’s trunk.

Sgt. Sean Frick, Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said Deacon Ruben Barela was walking across the snow-shrouded parking lot of Queen of Heaven Parish Dec. 28 carrying a bag with Christmas offerings when a man approached him from a Jeep asking directions. After providing the man an answer, Deacon Barela put the bag in the trunk of his car.

“As he was backing out the Jeep drove up and blocked him in,” Frick said.

Frick said one of the three male suspects, all in their 20s, reached into the vehicle and took the keys out of the ignition. He then went to the trunk and stole the bag of money.

Deacon Barela sustained a minor injury in the altercation and later sought medical attention at a local hospital, Frick added.

Father William Young, Queen of Heaven pastor, estimated that up to $20,000 was taken by the thieves.

An angered Father Young did not couch his feelings when speaking with KOB-TV.

“I don’t have a high opinion of these losers,” Father Young said. “These people are really cowardly to do that to an elderly man.”

Father Young also expressed disappointment in a society that failed to embrace the spirit of Christmas.

“Generally speaking, the values of our society (are) crumbling to the point where, sadly for some people, nothing or no one is safe and sacred,” he said.

Fueling parishioners’ frustration is the fact that the church was robbed of a symbolic artifact during the Thanksgiving holiday. Two crowns valued at $7,000 were stolen from the heads of statues of Mary and the infant Jesus.

— By Joseph Kolb

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New Mexico bishops urges vigilance after explosions at churches

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. — Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces has asked pastors, deacons and parish leaders in the diocese “to exercise increased vigilance in our parish surroundings and activities.”

The bishop’s message, posted early Aug. 4 on the diocese’s Facebook page, was prompted by a small explosion that occurred Aug. 2 outside Holy Cross Catholic Church during the 8 a.m. Mass.

Earlier that morning, by about 20 minutes, a small explosion took place a few miles away at Calvary Baptist Church.

Minor damage was reported at both churches, but there were no injuries or deaths.

Federal and state authorities were investigating what explosives were used and trying to identify who was responsible for the blasts and whether they were connected.

At Holy Cross, the explosion occurred during the eucharistic prayer, according to Bishop Cantu.

Msgr. John Anderson, the pastor, told the Las Cruces Sun-News newspaper: “I was right in the middle of saying the words ‘take and eat, this is my body,’ and there was a pow! I mean, I knew it had to be more than a gunshot.’”

The priest said he “just kept on saying the words.”

Several minutes later, police arrived on the scene and ordered the church evacuated, according to Bishop Cantu.

Msgr. Anderson went to the other side of the street with his parishioners, he said, and “there offered prayers for peace and safety.”

Bishop Cantu said that over the next 24 hours, law enforcement authorities searched the premises for other explosive devices and to gather evidence.

“I was impressed with their thoroughness and professionalism,” the bishop said. “It will surely take some time for the authorities eventually to find the perpetrator(s) and discover the motives of these criminal and violent acts.”

Bishop Cantu said the diocese extended “prayers for and solidarity with” the Baptist congregation.

The AP reported that the explosive device at Calvary Baptist Church had been placed in a mailbox near the entrance to the church’s offices. Police said several congregants were inside the church at the time, but services had not yet started.

“They will remain in our prayers,” he said, adding that Msgr. Anderson and his parishioners also remained “in our thoughts and prayers, as they recover from the trauma of having their most sacred moments violently disrupted. … We pray that, though with increased vigilance, the parish community will return to its routines of worship, formation, service, and community building.”

Bishop Cantu urged parish communities to be aware of “any suspicious activity and report it to proper authorities. Let us do this with heightened awareness, but without alarm.”

He added: “It is important that as much as possible we all return to our routines of parish, school, and community activities, yet with prudent caution and awareness.

The bishop said that he and pastors held an Aug. 3 meeting and realized there is a need for emergency preparedness training in the parishes.

“We will certainly do so in order that our parish and Catholic school leaders can be prepared to respond to any emergencies that may arise,” he said.

“Let us pray for each other. Let us pray for peace,” he said in closing. “Let us pray for the perpetrator(s), that they might discover the joy of peace and forgiveness and leave behind the frustration of hatred and violence.

“We pray for our first responders and those who work to maintain the peace. We pray for strength and healing.”

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Washington Letter: U.N. inaction on nuclear weapons disappoints Catholic advocates

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Catholic News Service

A month-long review of a key nuclear weapons treaty saw the nuclear powers stepping back from an opportunity to alter the status quo, much to the disappointment of Catholic peace advocates.

The disappointment stems from the failure of the nuclear weapons states to heed the arguments of the advocates, nongovernmental organizations and non-nuclear nations on the moral imperative to more rapidly shrink weapons stockpiles because of the threat they pose to humanity.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in New York April 27. Catholic peace advocates expressed disappointment with the lack of progress during the conference to shrink the arsenals of nuclear weapons-possessing nations. (CNS photo/Peter Foley, EPA)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in New York April 27. Catholic peace advocates expressed disappointment with the lack of progress during the conference to shrink the arsenals of nuclear weapons-possessing nations. (CNS photo/Peter Foley, EPA)

“Just the lack of political will all the way around, It’s discouraging,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service May 26, four days after delegates from more than 150 nations concluded the Ninth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations in New York.

Perhaps sensing a lack of progress during the conference, Bishop Cantu, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry May 12 calling him to step up efforts to ensure the credibility of the treaty lest there be “catastrophic consequences for all countries and for the future of humanity as a whole.”

However, the conference ended without a final statement being issued, signaling a step back from the minimal progress toward the abolition of nuclear weapons at earlier review conferences, said Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, distinguished professor of ethics and global development at Georgetown University.

“The fact that there hasn’t been any (agreement) the last two conferences means that the binding power of the (treaty) is weakening,” he said.

The conference got hung up near its end as the draft of a final statement was being discussed. The United States, joined by the United Kingdom and Canada, rejected a draft resolution from Egypt that had the backing of the majority of participating nations calling on Israel to dismantle any nuclear weapons it may have as a step toward a weapons of mass destruction-free Middle East.

Israeli leaders have neither confirmed nor denied that the country possesses nuclear weapons.

In a statement from the floor the final evening of the conference, Rose E. Gottemoeller, U.S. undersecretary of state for arms control and international security and a Catholic, announced there was “no agreement” and charged that Egypt and other Arab states were demanding “unrealistic and unworkable conditions” in the negotiations.

Without a final statement, nuclear-armed states will be able to keep their arsenals intact, much to the frustration of nations trying to rid the world of such weapons.

Bishop Cantu called for disarmament advocates to “keep pushing forward and encourage particularly our (U.S.) government to move forward to fulfill the treaty.”

“There’s a moral need for (nuclear) disarmament,” he said. “Unfortunately, nobody’s moving on it.”

He suggested that if Americans better understood the security dangers and enormous social and economic costs of maintaining a nuclear arsenal they might be motivated to join the call for abolition.

“It’s amazing just the general public, if you walk on the street, if you ask people about nuclear weapons, they’d say ‘No, that’s an old thing.” People assume that went away when the Cold War went away.

“If the public only knew how we spend on them and for what? This deterrence doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, advocates for nuclear disarmament are not giving up on the goal of nuclear weapons-free world.

Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International, attended the conference during its first week. She told CNS May 27 that despite the setback, enthusiasm remains high among advocates to work toward worldwide disarmament.

She cited widespread support for the elimination of nuclear weapons that emerged in December during the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.

“So many countries have expressed their insistence that we move beyond this extremely dangerous status quo,” she said. “I think it gives good impetus to the likelihood that we will begin to negotiate a (weapons) ban treaty.”

The Vatican made clear its stance in support of abolition at the Vienna conference through two statements, including one from Pope Francis.

“The time has come to embrace the abolition of nuclear weapons as an essential foundation of collective security,” the Vatican said in a paper presented at the conference.

The church held firm to its stance in the paper that any use of nuclear weapons was immoral and argued that the time has come to abandon nuclear deterrence — the principle that such weapons might be used and they exist to deter another country from using them. Previously, the Vatican conditionally accepted deterrence as a step toward “progressive disarmament.”

Sister Mary Ann McGivern, a member of the Sisters of Loretto who serves on her order’s Committee for Peace, joined the Pax Christi delegation at the treaty review conference, but came away feeling “there were no surprises.”

She has placed hope, instead, on the growing effort to build on the humanitarian message that emerged from the Vienna conference and explaining how the high cost of maintaining and upgrading nuclear arsenals harms support for health care, education and preserving the environment.

“I think we don’t understand the close calls (of near nuclear weapons launches) that have happened,” Sister Mary Ann explained. “We don’t understand the imminence of them, that they’re poised along the wheat fields of Colorado and North Dakota. And the accessibility of them.”

The disarmament call gained additional support as the U.N. conference ended from the Catholic bishops of Belgium. The bishops said they backed the Vatican’s stance on deterrence and quoted Pope Francis in calling for progressive disarmament on the part of the nuclear weapons nations.

“A peaceful society is not created on the basis of threats, fear or deterrence, event at the international level,” the bishops said.

“The ethical responsibility for the abolition of nuclear weapons lies not only with the countries that develop these weapons, produce and stockpile them, but also in countries that tolerate this. Belgium is part of that,” the bishops wrote

 

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Utah bishop named to head Santa Fe archdiocese

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WASHINGTON — Pope Francis has accepted the retirement of Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and named Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah, to succeed him.

Archbishop Sheehan, who has headed the Santa Fe Archdiocese since1993, turned 75 last year, the age at which bishops are required under canon law to submit their resignations to the pope.

Bishop Wester, 64, is a San Francisco native who has since 2007 headed the Salt Lake City Diocese, which encompasses the entire state of Utah. He is a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples and chairs the U.S. bishops’ Communications Committee.

The changes were announced in Washington April 27 by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Archbishop Sheehan was appointed to the Santa Fe Archdiocese initially as its apostolic administrator, when former Archbishop Robert F. Sanchez resigned amid allegations of improper conduct with several young women. Archbishop Sheehan was named successor to Archbishop Sanchez three months later.

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