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Verbal attacks on Hispanics in church followed by support from Portland community

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — Father Raul Marquez had never seen anything like it. Eight men walked to the front door of St. Peter Church in Southeast Portland Jan. 29 and began bellowing during the Spanish Mass.

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Father Raul Marquez of St. Peter Parish in Portland, Oregon, thanks people who came to stand vigil outside his church Feb. 5. The crowd formed a human shield a week after a group of eight men stood outside the front door of the church during a Spanish Mass and yelled insults about Catholicism, immigrants and the morals of the parish women. (CNS photo/Francisco Lara, Catholic Sentinel)

Dressed like hunters, they accused worshippers of not being true Christians, questioned the sexual morals of the women and harangued the congregation for being made up of immigrants.

The group, which calls itself “Street Preachers,” has been setting up counter-protests at events criticizing President Donald Trump, including a late January demonstration at Portland International Airport.

The St. Peter community, already living in fear because of federal immigration policy proposals, was shocked.

“All that Sunday I felt upset and didn’t understand,” said Father Marquez, a Colombian native who has been pastor of St. Peter for five years. “How I was going to be happy while I heard and remembered the verbal insult? I was looking for an answer.”

The Gospel reading of the day said, in part, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you.”

The following Sunday, Feb. 5, an answer to the priest’s question came and the fear was soothed as more than 300 people formed a human shield in front of St. Peter Church during Masses. News of the previous week’s attack had gone out on social media, drawing the crowd that stood in silence, holding signs.

“I didn’t expect this outpouring of love for us,” said Alberto Gonzalez, a native of Oaxaca, Mexico, who has been a member of St. Peter for 18 months. “This time is very difficult for us and here we are surrounded by love of all of the American people, who came to show they are here, we are one, we are one community.”

With tears in his eyes, Gonzalez said he has not felt supported until now. At first, he thought the large group of white people had come to hurl more invective, but then he saw they had come to protect their brothers and sisters.

“This is solidarity,” Gonzalez told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Portland Archdiocese. “This is love.”

Parishioners got a lesson in nonviolent response to harassment. A table of coffee and sweets was put up near the front door of the church for protectors who came out despite chilly rain.

Joining Father Marquez in a sign of support were Father Ron Millican from nearby Our Lady of Sorrows Church and the Rev. Elizabeth Larson from St. Mark Lutheran Church.

“I wanted to come here and hug each person,” Rev. Larson said.

Father Millican invited his parishioners to come and show support. “We need to be together,” he said. “It is very sad that it takes something like this to make us come together. But it is beautiful, the outpouring of support for the dignity of everyone.”

Nona Carrasco was one of those outside who got completely wet. “This is my community,” Carrasco said. “I don’t stand for bigotry. I will stand for my community and this is what we do.”

Father Marquez received hundreds of messages of support. The first was a letter from Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, who told the people of St. Peter Parish he stands with them.

“I was saddened beyond words to learn of the terrible experience that many of you encountered as you came to church last weekend,” the archbishop said in his letter. “It is so tragic that you were coming to celebrate God’s love and mercy and yet you experienced cruelty and hatred at the hands of severely misguided protestors.

“I am especially upset to learn of the verbal abuse heaped upon members of our Hispanic community” and also what was “directed against women in your community,” he said, calling it “vile behavior.” Archbishop Sample also noted that the same group was targeting other churches as well.

“Please be assured that I, as your archbishop and shepherd, stand firmly with you in the face of such ignorant and hateful words,” the archbishop told parishioners. “You are our brothers and sisters, and as members of the same family of faith, we must hold fast to our unity in Christ. … Be assured of my love.”

After the Feb. 5 Mass, Father Marquez walked out to thank supporters. He could barely move as people hugged him and asked for his blessing.

“This is the time to live the Gospel radically by praying for those men and their few sympathizers and to intentionally forgive them,” the priest said.

By Rocio Rios, editor of El Centinela, the monthly Spanish-language newspaper of the Portland achdiocese.

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Retired Archbishop Gerety of Newark, NJ, dies at 104

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TOTOWA, N.J. — Retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark died Sept. 20 while in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor at the order’s elder-care facility in Totowa. He was 104.

Retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark, N.J., the world's oldest Catholic bishop, died at age 104 Sept. 20 at St. Joseph's Home for the Elderly in Totowa, N.J. He is pictured in a 2010 photo. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark, N.J., the world’s oldest Catholic bishop, died at age 104 Sept. 20 at St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Totowa, N.J. He is pictured in a 2010 photo. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

According to a remembrance of Archbishop Gerety posted Sept. 21 by the Archdiocese of Newark on its website, Archbishop Gerety was the world’s oldest Catholic bishop at the time of his death. By 2007, when he was 95, he was already the oldest living U.S. bishop.

Archbishop Gerety’s body will be received at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart the afternoon of Sept. 25 for the viewing, which will last until 6:30 p.m. local time.

On Sept. 26, a 3 p.m. funeral Mass will follow a four-hour period for viewing. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers will be the main celebrant of the Mass, to be followed immediately by internment in the crypt of the cathedral basilica.

Archbishop Myers in a Sept. 21 statement called Archbishop Gerety “a remarkable churchman whose love for the people of God was always strong and ever-growing.”

“He served as shepherd of this great archdiocese during a time of spiritual reawakening in the years after the Second Vatican Council, and a time of deep financial difficulties,” he added. “He very carefully led the church, her people and institutions through those challenges.”

Archbishop Gerety had been retired as head of the Newark Archdiocese for 30 years at the time of his death. He was Newark’s archbishop for 12 years. Before that he spent five years as the bishop of Portland, Maine; he had been coadjutor bishop of the statewide diocese for three years prior.

During his tenure in Newark, Archbishop Gerety helped create Renew International, the parish renewal program still in wide use among U.S. parishes today. Renew also has created several other parish renewal programs, including one that has been used in more than two dozen countries outside the United States.

Because Renew’s use was so widespread, Archbishop Gerety asked the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine in 1988 to evaluate it. Some groups in dioceses where it was being used were publicly critical of it.

The committee’s report praised many aspects of Renew, but said participants needed to be given a more complete understanding of Catholic faith and doctrine, and small-group leaders were to be more than just facilitators who accepted all the participants’ contributions as equally valid. Revisions suggested by the committee were made.

In a 2007 interview with The Catholic Advocate, Newark’s archdiocesan newspaper, he noted how he had been ordained a bishop shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council. He noticed one important change was a shift from the “top-down” mentality that had prevailed at that time in the church.

Archbishop Gerety said the liturgy “improved tremendously” at that time, centering on increased participation among laypeople. Another major change he saw was the formation of parish councils and similar programs. In fact, he said one of his prized possessions was a stone tablet inscribed with a pledge he made in his early days in Newark when he said in a speech on April 18, 1975: “I am totally committed to parish councils by April 15, 1976.”

Born July 19, 1912, in Shelton, Conn., Leo, as his parents called him, won academic honors at Shelton High School and was captain of the football team. He was the eldest of nine sons.

His mother and father, Peter L. and Charlotte Daly Gerety, “had a tremendous religious faith, and a tremendously optimistic view of life. They loved life very much. They taught us we could do almost anything,” the archbishop once said.

After working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Transportation Department, the future archbishop entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn., and was chosen for study abroad at St. Sulpice Seminary in Issy, France. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn., in 1939 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris.

One hallmark of his service in the Archdiocese of Hartford was ministry to black Catholics in New Haven. He founded an interracial social and religious center, the St. Martin de Porres Center, which gained parish status in 1956 with then-Father Gerety as its first pastor. In the 1960s, he founded the New Haven chapter of the Urban League and was a member of the Connecticut State Committee on Race and Religion and the National Catholic Conference on Interracial Justice.

As bishop of Portland, Archbishop Gerety was active in pro-life and social justice causes, led campaigns to protest state legislative efforts to legalize abortion, and defended the rights of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam War.

In Newark, Archbishop Gerety expanded outreach to black and Hispanic Catholics, and shored up a deteriorating archdiocesan financial base. On a national stage, he was known for his work with the Call to Action Committee, formed at the time of the U.S. bicentennial celebration in 1976 to address and discuss the needs U.S. Catholics.

The eldest of nine brothers, Archbishop Gerety outlived all of them. He is survived by many nephews and nieces, as well as their children.

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‘Unite suffering’ with those grieving victims of shooting, archbishop tells Oregon Catholics

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Catholic News Service

PORTLAND, Ore. — St. Joseph Parish in Roseburg hosted an emotional Mass the evening of Oct. 1 for 10 people who died in a shooting that morning at Umpqua Community College. Auxiliary Bishop Peter Smith traveled from Portland for the liturgy.

Authorities in Roseburg, in green rolling hills 180 miles south of Portland, identified the shooter Oct. 2 as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer, but did not give details about him. The names of those he fatally shot had not yet been released. Nine others were wounded.

Women console one another during a candlelit vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

Women console one another during a candlelit vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

FBI investigators say the gunman brought six legally purchased weapons to the small college and was wearing a flak jacket. A witness reports he asked students what their religions were before he began shooting.

One student at the college and the sister of a second student both told news organizations that Mercer 26, told people in classrooms to stand up and declare whether they were Christian. If they responded yes, they were shot in the head. If they answered no or gave some other answer, they were shot elsewhere.

The attack ended when the gunman shot himself on campus.

At a Roseburg news conference Oct. 2, after Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin refused to answer more questions, a foreign reporter called out, “Why does this keep happening in America?”

Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample rushed a letter to the people of Roseburg hours after the shooting.

“I am saddened beyond words over the tragedy that has struck your local community,” the archbishop wrote. “Even though I am unable to be physically present with you at this particular moment, know that I am very much united with all of you in spirit and in prayer. We are one body in Christ, and when even one member suffers, we all suffer with them. My heart is indeed very heavy with sorrow as I grieve with all of you.”

The archbishop went on to say he cannot begin to make sense of the tragedy.

“Why such shooting tragedies continue to happen is hard to understand,” he wrote. “Sadly, we live in the midst of a culture that does not value the dignity and sacredness of every human life as it once did.”

The archbishop told Catholics in Roseburg to “unite their suffering” with those directly affected and to pray for healing and strength of those who lost loved ones.

Some of the injured were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg. More critically injured patients were transferred to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene. Of those transferred patients, two were in critical condition and one is serious, a PeaceHealth spokeswoman said.

Many Catholic parishes in Oregon are sending what organizers call “Posters of Hope” to St. Joseph Church in Roseburg. Teens have been writing messages of encouragement and love for Roseburg residents.

Comments have come from around the nation.

“There’s another community stunned with grief, and communities across the country forced to relieve their own anguish, and parents across the country who are scared because they know it might have been their families or their children,” President Barack Obama said at the White House Oct. 1.

He added, “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun. … I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these (gun) laws and to save lives and to let young people grow up, and that will require a change of politics.”

“What should have been a sanctuary for education and a symbol of bright futures will now become the latest memorial of victims lost to America’s gun violence epidemic,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“All of our faith traditions abhor violence, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has joined the National Council of Churches in calling for action to prevent gun violence,” said Jan Elfers, interim executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. “Our prayers go out to all whose lives have been impacted by this terrible tragedy; to the victim’s families and friends, and to the entire Roseburg community. We are grateful to those who responded to the emergency and undoubtedly prevented the loss of even more lives.”

“Mass shootings like this happen too often and Oregon has not been immune,” said the Rev. Chuck Currie, director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University in Oregon. “Today we offer our prayers for those killed and injured. We also lift up the families of those impacted. Still, we must also work to take steps that reduce gun violence this day so that there are no more days like this.”

“We pray for the victims and their families, and we call for reasonable gun violence control measures to save more innocent lives from meeting the same tragic ends,” said an Oct. 2 statement by the Jewish Committee on Public Affairs. “What’s more, it appears this crime may have been motivated by anti-Christian bias. Crimes based on prejudice and hatred are deplorable and are anathema to the fundamental values of democracy upon which this nation is founded.”

The statement added, “The overwhelming carnage from the endless stream of mass shootings is utterly unacceptable. Comprehensive and fully enforced gun regulation and violence prevention is needed to restore the safety of our schools, communities, and public spaces. While no single solution will prevent all future tragedies, we are committed to supporting efforts to save lives.”

Pax Christi USA said it “a profoundly sad reality that gun violence … is now so commonplace that it is difficult to remember and recall all of the mass shootings which have taken place in our nation over the past few years.”

“It is time that we shake off our collective lethargy and root ourselves in a deep, sustaining and holy anger which will fuel a movement to end this insanity once and for all,” the statement added.

 

Langlois is a staff writer at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland. Contributing to this story was Mark Pattison in Washington.

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Anti-Christian animus said to be behind Oregon college shooting spree

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ROSEBURG, Ore. — The gunman behind the Oct. 1 massacre at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg reportedly asked students whether they were Christian.

Umpqua Community College alumna Donice Smith, left, is embraced after learning one of her former teachers was killed in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

Umpqua Community College alumna Donice Smith, left, is embraced after learning one of her former teachers was killed in Roseburg, Ore., Oct. 1. (CNS photo/Steve Dipaola, Reuters)

One student at the college, and the sister of a second student, both told news organizations that the apparent shooter, Chris Mercer, 26, told people in classrooms to stand up and declare whether they were Christian. If they responded yes, they were shot in the head. If they answered no or gave some other answer, they were shot elsewhere.

Nine people were killed and nine others wounded before Mercer died in an exchange of gunfire with officers at the scene.

Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland sent a message Oct. 1 to worshippers gathered at St. Joseph Church in Roseburg.

“I am saddened beyond words,” Archbishop Sample said. “We are one body in Christ, and when even one member suffers, we all suffer with them. My heard is indeed very heavy with sorry as I grieve with all of you.”

He added, “Along with you, I cannot begin to make sense of the tragic loss of life of our fellow community members and the many wounded in this terrible and violent attack. Why such shooting tragedies continue to happen is hard to understand. Sadly, we live in the midst of a culture that does not value the dignity and sacredness of every human life as it once did.”

President Barack Obama, at a White House briefing Oct. 1, asked how anyone could argue that more guns will make people safer.

“I hope and pray that I don’t have to come out again during my tenure as president to offer my condolences to families in these circumstances,” Obama said. “But based on my experience as president, I can’t guarantee that. And that’s terrible to say.”

The president added, “It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun. … I’d ask the American people to think about how they can get our government to change these (gun) laws and to save lives and to let young people grow up, and that will require a change of politics.”

Two Catholic hospitals, Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, treated some of those wounded in the shooting.

“We pray for the victims and their families, and we call for reasonable gun violence control measures to save more innocent lives from meeting the same tragic ends,” said an Oct. 2 statement by the Jewish Committee on Public Affairs. “What’s more, it appears this crime may have been motivated by anti-Christian bias. Crimes based on prejudice and hatred are deplorable and are anathema to the fundamental values of democracy upon which this nation is founded.”

The statement added, “The overwhelming carnage from the endless stream of mass shootings is utterly unacceptable. Comprehensive and fully enforced gun regulation and violence prevention is needed to restore the safety of our schools, communities, and public spaces. While no single solution will prevent all future tragedies, we are committed to supporting efforts to save lives.”

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Judge rejects request to question Vatican officials in abuse case

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PORTLAND, Ore — A federal judge in Portland has declined to order face-to-face questioning of Vatican officials in a lawsuit claiming that the Vatican was the employer of an abusive priest in the 1960s.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman ruled Dec. 1 that attorneys for the plaintiff in the case, John V. Doe v. Holy See, had not proven the need for an exception to the immunity given to foreign nations under U.S. law.

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