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Pope meets Sisters of Congregation founded by Mother Cabrini

Dec 9 2017

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini is an Italian-born saint who dedicated her life to helping thousands of Italian immigrants living in the United States during the late 19th century. She died in Chicago exactly one hundred years ago.

On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met members of the religious congregation she founded, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The congregation is present today on 6 continents and in 15 countries around the world.

Click below to hear the report by Seàn-Patrick Lovett

During his discourse in Italian, the Pope recalled the holiness of their Foundress and praised her tireless work with migrants and the poor. He held her up as an example for today, adding that the reality of migrants has evolved and is now “more current than ever”. Migrants, said the Pope, “need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied”. They need God, he said, “encountered in love that is freely given”. We must do as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini does, concluded Pope Francis: “be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person”.

 

Here is our English translation of the Pope’s address

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you, representatives of the Cabrini Family, who wish in this way to conclude the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of St Frances Xavier Cabrini. On December 17, 1917, this holy woman, who had crossed the ocean twenty-four times to assist migrants in the Americas, and who, untiringly, had gone as far as the Andes and Argentina, died suddenly in Chicago, and departed on her final journey.

Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini the Missionary

St Cabrini was a true missionary. She had grown up keeping before her the example of St. Francis Xavier, the pioneer of evangelization in the East. In his heart he had China and in that distant land he hoped to bring the proclamation of the Gospel. He did not think of the thousands and thousands of emigrants who, because of hunger, lack of work and the absence of a future, embarked with their scant belongings to reach America, driven by the dream of a better life. As we know - and as she said - it was the vision of Pope Leo XIII who, jokingly, made her change course: "Not to the east, Cabrini, but to the West!". The young Mother Cabrini, who had just founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, needed to see where God was sending her on mission. Not to where she wanted to go, but to where He had prepared the way for her, the path of service and holiness. Here is the example of a true vocation: to forget oneself in order to surrender oneself fully to the love of God.

Migrants then and now

After so many years, the reality of migrants, to whom St Frances Xavier Cabrini dedicated her entire life, has evolved and is more current than ever. New faces of men, women and children, marked by so many forms of poverty and violence, appear before our eyes, hoping to find outstretched hands and welcoming hearts, like those of Mother Cabrini, along their way. In particular, you are offered the responsibility of being faithful to the mission of your Holy Foundress. Her charisma is of extraordinary actuality, because migrants certainly need good laws, programs of development and organization but, above all, they always need love, friendship, human closeness; they need to be heard, looked in the eye, accompanied; they need God, encountered in the freely given love of a woman who, with her consecrated heart, is your sister and mother.

“I can do all things in Him who gives me strength”

May the Lord renew always in you the attentive and merciful gaze towards the poor who live in our cities and our countries. Mother Cabrini had the courage to look into the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed youth who were tempted to commit crimes, the men and women exploited for the humblest jobs; and therefore today we are here to thank God for her holiness. In each of those brothers and sisters, she recognized the face of Christ and was able to put to good use the talents that the Lord had entrusted to her. She had a strong sense of apostolic action; and if she had such great energy to accomplish extraordinary work in a few years, it was only because of her union with Christ, following the model of St. Paul, from whom she took her motto: "I can do all things in Him who gives me strength".

Grasping the moment of grace

Mother Cabrini lived the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Step by step, hers was an existence wholly intended to console and make the Sacred Heart known and loved. And this made her able to look at the hearts of those who approached her and to assist them in a coherent way. This important anniversary is a powerful reminder to us all of the need for a faith that knows how to grasp the moment of grace that is lived. As difficult as it may seem, she tells us that we must do as she does: be capable of responding to the signs of our time, reading them in the light of the Word of God and living them in such a way as to provide an answer that can reach the heart of every person.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Dec 8 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis left the Vatican on Friday afternoon, headed for Rome’s central Piazza di Spagna in order to pay homage to the statue of the Immaculate Conception there.

Listen to Seán-Patrick Lovett's report:

Surrounded by crowds of pilgrims, tourists and local Roman residents, the Pope recited a specially-composed Prayer to Our Lady in which he asked her, among other things, to help us “rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance and to recognize ourselves for what we really are: small and poor sinners” – but always Mary’s children.

The Pope’s visit to the memorial column dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, included the traditional blessing of a garland of flowers which Roman firemen placed on the statue of Our Lady which dominates the summit of the ancient marble column.

Visit to Basilica of Mary Major

On his way to Piazza di Spagna this year, Pope Francis also stopped to visit the Basilica of St Mary Major where he laid a floral wreath below the icon of Salus Populi Romani, depicting Our Lady and the Christ Child. This is the same image the Pope always prays at both before and after his apostolic journeys abroad.

Alphonse Ratisbonne

Before returning to the Vatican later in the afternoon, Pope Francis paid a private visit to the Rome Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.

It was here, 175 years ago, that a French Jew by the name of Alphonse Ratisbonne, experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary. At that moment, in the words of the Pope, “from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, he became a Christian”.

Even more so, following his conversion, Alphonse became a Jesuit priest and missionary and ended up cofounding his own religious Congregation dedicated to Our Lady of Sion.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis' prayer to Mary on the Immaculate Conception

Dec 8 2017

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis made his annual visit to Rome's Spanish Square on Friday to pray at the foot of the column and statue of the Immaculate Conception.

A litany of present-day viruses and their corresponding antibodies: this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ prayer, offered to Our Lady on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when he visited Rome’s Piazza di Spagna on Friday afternoon.

Dogma of the Immaculate Conception

The Pope recited the prayer before the column and statue of Mary, dedicated in 1857 to mark the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined by Pope Pius IX three years earlier. The dogma teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the moment of her conception, by a special grace of God, was preserved from all stain of original sin.

Mary accompanies us on our journey

The text of the prayer begins by thanking Our Lady for accompanying different categories of humanity of their respective journeys: families, religious, workers, the sick, the elderly, the poor, and those who have immigrated to Rome “from places where there is war and hunger”.

Viruses of our time

The Pope then goes on to identify a series of what he calls “viruses of our times”, which range from indifference to fear of the foreigner, from hypocrisy to the exploitation of others. These must be combatted, said Pope Francis, with the “antibodies that come from the Gospel”.

Here is the full translated text of the prayer:

Immaculate Mother,

For the fifth time I come to your feet as Bishop of Rome,
to pay you homage on behalf of all the inhabitants of this city.

We want to thank you for the constant care
with which you accompany us on our journey,
the journey of families, parishes, religious communities;
the journey of those who daily, and sometimes with difficulty,
pass through Rome on their way to work;
the journey of the sick, the elderly, the poor,
the journey of so many people who immigrated here from places where there is war and hunger.

Thank you, because as soon as we turn our thoughts,
or a fleeting glance, towards you,
or recite a quick Hail Mary,
we feel your maternal presence, tender and strong.

O Mother, help this city develop the "antibodies" it needs
to combat some of the viruses of our times:
the indifference that says: "It’s not my business";
the unsociable behavior that despises the common good;
the fear of the foreigner and those who are different from us;
the conformism that disguises itself as transgression;
the hypocrisy that accuses others while doing the same things;
the resignation to environmental and ethical degradation;
the exploitation of so many men and women.

Help us to reject these and other viruses
with the antibodies that come from the Gospel.
Let us make it a good habit
to read a passage from the Gospel every day
and, following your example, to keep the Word of God in our hearts,
so that, like a good seed, it may fruit in our lives.

Immaculate Virgin,

175 years ago, not far from here,
in the church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte,
you touched the heart of Alphonse Ratisbonne, who at that moment,
from being an atheist and enemy of the Church, became a Christian.

You revealed yourself to him as a Mother of grace and mercy.
Grant that we too, especially in times of trial and temptation,
may fix our gaze on your open hands,
hands that allow the Lord's graces to fall upon the earth.
Help us to rid ourselves of all pride and arrogance,
and to recognize ourselves for what we really are:
small and poor sinners, but always your children.

So, let us place our hand in yours
And allow ourselves to be led back to Jesus, our Brother and Savior,
and to our Heavenly Father, who never tires of waiting for us
and forgiving us when we return to Him.

Thank you, Mother, for always listening to us!
Bless the Church that is in Rome.
Bless this City and the whole world.

Amen.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at Angelus: ‘Mary is ever-green oasis of humanity’

Dec 8 2017

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis reflected on the mystery of the Immaculate Conception at his Angelus address on Friday, December 8th, as the Church celebrates the Marian Solemnity.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, Pope Francis said the words of the angel Gabriel in the Gospel of Luke contain the key to understanding the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Pope said Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace”, even before pronouncing her name.

In this way, he said, God “reveals the new name, which God has given her and which befits her more than the one given by her parents.”

The Holy Father said “full of grace” means that “Mary is full of the presence of God”.

“And if she is entirely pervaded by God, there is no place in her for sin. This is extraordinary,” he said, “because unfortunately the whole world is contaminated by evil.”

Mary alone, he continued, is the “ever-green oasis” of humanity. She is “the only uncontaminated person, immaculately created to welcome fully – with her ‘yes’ – God who came into the world”.

Pope Francis went on to say that, when we call Mary “full of grace”, we are paying her “the greatest compliment, which is the same offered her by God.”

Because Mary is without sin, he said, she is immune to ageing, since “sin makes one old, not age”, and worthy of the name tota pulchra, or “all fair” or “completely beautiful”.

“Since her youth depends not on age, her beauty consists not on external appearances. Mary, as the day’s Gospel shows, does not excel in appearance. She is from a simple family; she lived humbly in Nazareth, an almost unknown place.”

Finally, Pope Francis reflected on the secret of the “beautiful life” lived by Mary, “full of grace”.

“In many paintings [of the Annunciation] Mary is depicted as seated before an angel with a little book. This book is the Scriptures. So Mary often listened to God and reflected with Him. The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, He took on flesh in her womb.”

The Holy Father invited all to ask for the grace “to remain young by saying ‘no’ to sin and to live a beautiful life by saying ‘yes’ to God.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope thanks donors of St. Peter’s Square Christmas Crib and tree

Dec 7 2017

“The Nativity Scene is the suggestive place where we contemplate Jesus, who having assumed our wretchedness, invites us to do likewise through our acts of mercy.”  Pope Francis made the reflection on Thursday while thanking all those who donated this year’s Nativity Scene on the theme of works of mercy and the 28 meter tall ‎Christmas tree set up in the centre of St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The Pope wished that the birth of the Lord be an occasion for all to be attentive to the needs of the poor and all those who like Jesus don't’ find anyone to welcome them. 

Listen to our report:

The Pope met some 4000 people of various donor delegations at the Vatican’s audience hall.  They represented the southern Italian Benedictine Abbey of Montevergine that donated the Nativity Scene, Poland’s Warmia Archdiocese and Elk Diocese that donated the red fir tree and children undergoing cancer treatment in various Italian hospitals who made the various decorations.

Commenting on the Christmas tree, the Pope said it is a sign of the faith of the Polish people and the expression of their fidelity to the see of Peter.  Thanking the children he said they have conveyed to Jesus their dreams and desires through their decorations which, he said, will be admired by pilgrims from all over the world.  

Message of Crib, Christmas tree

The Pope said that each year the Christmas Crib and the Christmas tree become a symbol of the compassion of the heavenly Father, and his participation and closeness with humanity that feels it is not abandoned in the night of the times but is visited and accompanied amidst its difficulties. 

The tree pointing up, he said, urges us to stretch out "towards the highest gifts", and rise above the mist that clouds, to feel how beautiful and joyous it is to be immersed in the light of Christ. In the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God, manifested in that of the Child Jesus.

St. Peter's Christmas Crib and Christmas tree were to be inaugurated later on Thursday. 

(from Vatican Radio)

CNA Daily News

Ceasefire reached in Nicaragua crisis as Church-mediated talks resume

Jun 18 2018

Managua, Nicaragua, Jun 18, 2018 / 05:02 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Nicaraguan government and opposition groups agreed Friday to a truce during talks mediated by the Nicaraguan bishops, after nearly two months of protests that have left 170 dead.

Nevertheless, at least eight people died in violent incidents across Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, the following day.

The bishops of Nicaragua reconvened a national dialogue June 15 to make known the response of president Daniel Ortega to the proposals he was given in order to end the crisis. The talks (which began May 16) had been suspended May 23 for lack of consensus.

A 24-hour general strike had closed many businesses June 14, though some violent clashes were reported. Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega, Auxiliary Bishop of Managua, said a 15-year-old altar boy had been shot and killed by security forces.

Protests began April 18 after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors' complaints. Barricades and roadblocks are now found throughout the country, and clashes frequently turn lethal.

Participating in the talks June 15 were representatives of the government, private businesses, students, universities, civil society, workers, rural residents, evangelical ecclesial communities, indigenous communities, and people of African descent. They were overseen by Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes Solorzano of Managua.

The ceasefire agreement calls for the establishment of a truth commission, the presence of international observers from several groups, and the removal of roadblocks.

The truth and security commission is to “verify if an atmosphere of peace and security exists for all Nicaraguans,” according to a communique from the National Dialogue, and to investigate all deaths and violence, and to identify those responsible.

The commique added that “process of the the democratization of the country, which includes the agenda items presented to the President of the Republic by the Bishops' Conference on June 7” will be among the conditions of continuing dialogue.

Their June 7 statement had said that dialogue could not resume while Nicaraguans continue to be denied the right to demonstrate freely and are “repressed and assassinated.”

Despite the signing of the ceasefire, a family of at least six died in an arson attack on their home and business in Managua June 16. Opposition groups have said a pro-government militia was responsible for the blaze, a charge the government has denied.

Two more people in Managua were killed the same day in incidents “attributed to masked pro-government groups backed up by armed police,” the BBC reported.

Bishops and priests across Nicaragua have worked to separate protestors and security forces, and have been threatened and shot.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega's administration.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega's authoritarian bent.

Ortega has shown resistance to calls for elections to be held early. His term is scheduled to end in 2021.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

He was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

The Catholic vision of just immigration reform

Jun 18 2018

Denver, Colo., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA).- A Honduran woman says that federal immigration authorities took her daughter from her arms as she breastfed the child. When she reached out for her daughter, she says she was handcuffed; she stood powerless as her daughter was taken away.

The woman was in a detention center - a jail - in Texas. She was waiting to be prosecuted for illegal entry into the United States.

Her story, if true, is heart-wrenching. It cries out for justice.

Catholics see in every nursing mother an icon of our own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who nursed the infant Jesus at her breast.

We see in the bond between mothers and their children a reminder of the life-giving and nurturing love of God, and the first means through which God’s love brings us into being, guides us, and protects us.

“You drew me forth from the womb,” the Psalmist wrote to the Lord, “made me safe at my mother’s breasts.”

We don’t know what happened after that Honduran girl was taken from her mother’s arms.

We don’t know if she was taken to a warehouse, to be housed with hundreds of other children who had been separated from their immigrant parents. We don’t know if she sat strapped in a car seat, squalling for her mother, near the the big kids who let themselves cry only as they fall asleep on gym mats spread across the floor, behind a chain link fence.

We do know that policies that indiscriminately separate children from their migrant parents at our national border violate the sacred sovereignty of families. They need to be stopped.

But it’s not enough to condemn the treatment of a mother separated from her child without asking what should happen instead. There have been, unfortunately, too few solutions proposed to address a real problem: how should the identity of family members be verified at the border, to ensure that children are not being trafficked? That issue needs more than moralizing or grandstanding. It needs a real solution.

It’s also not enough to call for an end to family separation at the border without asking what led to this humanitarian crisis, and what kind of reforms will really make a difference.

For that reason, no matter how discouraged they are, Catholics need to lead efforts to develop comprehensive immigration reforms rooted in the principles of justice. Only serious reforms, which create a system that protects security and the right to migrate, will end humanitarian crises at the border, mass detentions and deportations, and the deaths of migrants crossing through the desert.

Among the principles of Catholic social teaching are five that seem particularly relevant to just immigration policy: That nations have a right to security; that families have the right to migrate for safety, freedom, or economic opportunity; that justice obliges countries who can receive immigrants without detriment to the welfare of their citizens to do so; that wealthy and stable nations ought to assist unstable and poor countries; and that the family is sacred, sovereign, and prior to the state.

The United States has the right to security: porous, unsafe, and uncontrolled borders do an injustice to those who cross them, and to our country’s citizens.

The United States also has the right to call on central and south American countries to reform their economies and to quell the violence and disorder that spurs emigration. The United States has the means, and the obligation, to help those countries work for stability, and to hold them accountable when they do not.

But the United States also has the capacity to receive legally many more immigrants than we do now. We’re facing a labor shortage that won’t be resolved by the restrictive caps and quotas we now place on immigration, or by the byzantine processes that make waiting times for legal migration longer than people’s lifetimes. And importing labor also expands our tax base and our domestic consumer base. Those benefits outweigh the costs - measured in the provision of social services - associated with increased immigration.

Beyond the economic reasons for making it easier to come to this country are the moral reasons. We are a wealthy and safe nation. Poor people, from poor countries, have the right to migrate for work and security. Our wealth and safety will not be fatally compromised by their arrival. This is not a matter of charity. It is a matter of justice. “The money you have hoarded,” St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century, “belongs to the poor.”

In 1948, Pope Pius XII wrote to the bishops of the United States. He said that he was “preoccupied” and following with “anxiety...those who have been forced by revolutions in their own countries, or by unemployment or hunger to leave their homes and live in foreign lands.”

“The natural law itself, no less than devotion to humanity, urges that ways of migration be opened to these people,” the pope wrote. “For the Creator of the universe made all good things primarily for the good of all. Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this.”

Seventy years later, the pope’s words remain true, and important. The United States needs a program of immigration reform that recognizes our moral obligation to allow broader participation in our economy. Catholics must lead the way toward this reform.

We cannot hoard our prosperity. We cannot exaggerate our national sovereignty. Our land, our jobs, our prosperity itself exists primarily for the good of all. God did not make the land on which we live, or bless the country we call home, so that we could live in comfortable security while those outside our gates suffer violence, chaos, and hunger.

The rule of law matters - it’s not reasonable or safe to expect that law-breaking at the border should continue unabated, or go unnoticed. But the justice of our laws matter too: no one can call for would-be immigrants to follow our nation’s laws without being sure that those laws are just. Our laws, measured against the Church’s criteria, are not just.

Comprehensive immigration reform, though, will be a long-time coming. It will require statesmanship, sober reflection, and serious analysis - these are not things we have come to expect from our national leaders. That both parties have reprehensible records on this matter demonstrates just how difficult our task will be. But we have to work for justice.

In the meantime, we need to insist that the sovereignty of the family is respected. There are times when parents and children should be separated - when parents have been abusive or neglectful, or when they pose a danger to their children or others. Adults who enter this country with children should be scrutinized - for the sake of the children, we should ensure that those adults really are their parents, that the children are not being trafficked or abused. But we need to do this without taking children from the arms of their mothers, or sending toddlers to live in detention facilities.

Using family separation as a deterrent for migration is an intolerable and contemptible injustice.

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Pius XII wrote, “living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are, for all times and all places, the models and protectors of every migrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind who, whether compelled by fear of persecution or by want, is forced to leave his native land, his beloved parents and relatives, his close friends, and to seek a foreign soil.”

Catholics are called to work for justice for the Honduran woman and her daughter, separated during the intimacy of nursing. We’re also called to work for a just system of migration to this country, to be its architects and champions. We are called, like Mary and Joseph, to be protectors of migrants, aliens, and refugees, especially those seeking peace as our neighbors.  

 

This commentary reflects the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily reflect an editorial position of Catholic News Agency.

 

What are the new border policies? A CNA explainer

Jun 18 2018

Washington D.C., Jun 18, 2018 / 03:57 pm (CNA).- In recent weeks, changes to the U.S. enforcement of immigration policy have made headlines, as an effort to pursue criminal prosecution has led to family separations.

What exactly are the new policies? How did the changes come about? And how have Church leaders responded?

 

 

In May 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy that seeks to criminally prosecute 100 percent of immigrants who are caught crossing the border illegally.

Until that policy was announced, people caught crossing the border illegally were sent to an immigration judge, who would determine whether they would be deported. While waiting for a hearing, they would be held in immigration detention centers, or – due to lack of resources or legal limits on how long certain types of immigrants could be detained – be given a court date and released.

The Trump administration’s decision to pursue criminal prosecution means that immigrants are held in a federal jail until they go before a federal judge, who must determine whether immigrants will receive prison sentences for crossing the border illegally.  

This shift to the criminal justice system is what leads to family separation, because children cannot be held legally in a federal jail with their parents.

The family separation policy has been described by Sessions as a deterrent to illegal immigration. “If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border,” he said May 7.

Once the children are separated from their parents, they are classified as unaccompanied minors and placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The children are kept in government facilities while arrangements are made to release them to a relative in the country, if one can be identified, or to place them in foster care, while their parents’ immigration case moves forward.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, some 2,000 immigrant children have been separated from their parents in recent months. They are held along with detained minors who crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult.

In total, it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly considering the construction of “tent cities” to hold the children.

The Bush administration had enacted a similar “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute illegal border crossings. However, it made an exception for unaccompanied minors or families with children. The Obama administration enacted zero tolerance for a short period, but did not separate families as a matter of policy.

Critics of previous administrations warned that legal exceptions for families, children, and asylum seekers created loopholes that could be abused by immigrants to cross the border without facing criminal prosecution, for example, that would-be migrants might travel with children unrelated to them and falsely claim to be a family. Critics also said that family loopholes could enable, or even encourage, child trafficking. President Donald Trump has said that he wants to close these loopholes.

However, immigration and human rights advocates say they are concerned that, like other families illegally crossing the border, asylum-seeking families are also being separated.  

The right to claim asylum is recognized by international law. To claim asylum in the U.S., one must show a well-founded fear of persecution in his home country, on the grounds of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group.

An individual can make an asylum claim at a U.S. port of entry. A judge will then determine whether to accept the asylum claim.

However, reports indicate that some people attempting to claim asylum legally at the border are turned away repeatedly, told that the system is unable to accept new applications to be processed. While prohibiting someone from making an asylum appeal is illegal under international law, delaying a claim, which essentially denies that it be made, is a legal grey area.

People can also claim asylum by crossing the border illegally and then turning themselves in to officials. While the act of crossing the border in this case is illegal, the right to claim asylum is still valid, under international law.

Immigration advocates and human rights groups say that legitimate asylum applicants are forced to cross the border illegally in order to make their claims, and are then separated from their children for breaking the law.

The United Nations has condemned the practice of family separation as “a serious violation of the rights of the child,” which “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life.”

The U.S. bishops have been vocally opposed to the new policy, as well as a recent move to remove gang violence and domestic abuse from the list of asylum claims that will be accepted as valid.

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on migration, has stressed that “Rupturing the bond between parent and child causes scientifically-proven trauma that often leads to irreparable emotional scarring.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston stressed that the U.S. government “has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma.”

Because families are “the foundational element of our society,” they “must be able to stay together,” he said. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety.”

 

In Western Europe, Christians who don't go to church outnumber those who do

Jun 18 2018

Rome, Italy, Jun 18, 2018 / 03:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Most Western Europeans identify as Christian, but say they do not, or seldom, attend church services – outnumbering those Christians who do attend church, a survey from the Pew Research Center has reported.

Released May 29, results found in 12 of the 15 surveyed Western European countries, non-practicing Christians (defined as those who self-identify as Christian but report attending church services less than once per month) made up the largest religious group, beating out both religious “nones” and churchgoing Christians.

The telephone survey was conducted in mid-2017 with more than 24,000 participants from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

The median percentage of the population of Western Europe identifying as Christian was 71 percent, though only 22 percent of Western Europeans attend church at least monthly. Across all 15 countries surveyed, the median percent of those who had been baptized was 91, and 81 percent reported they were raised Christian.  

Median percentages were analyzed across the 15 surveyed countries to gain a view of the region overall, though countries varied in total Christian identification by as much as 42 percentage points.

Countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Ireland reported total Christian identification around 80 percent, while Norway and Sweden reported Christian identification at slightly above 50 percent.

In every country surveyed except the Netherlands and Norway, where the religiously unaffiliated are the largest religious group, non-practicing Christians make up the majority of Europe’s Christians. Italy is also an exception, where non-practicing Christians and church-attending Christians are split.

Non-practicing Christians in Western Europe were also found to outnumber people of all other religions combined.

The 71 percent Christian identification of Western Europe matches up with Christian identification in the United States. Western Europe also parallels the United States' declining rates of Christians overall and the increase in “nones.”

Particularly in Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, the difference in the percentage of the population raised Christian versus the percentage of the population who still practices Christianity is a difference of 22 to 28 percent.

In the same countries, the percentage of people who now identify as religiously unaffiliated is between 21 and 28 percentage points higher than those raised without a religion.

In comparison to the U.S., however, religious fervor overall in Western Europe is significantly lower. While close to half of Americans say religion is “very important” in their lives, the median percentage of Western European adults who say the same is 11.

This difference becomes even more marked between American Christians and European Christians. Sixty eight percent of American Christians report religion is very important to them, compared with only 14 percent of Western European Christians.

The Pew survey on Western Europe also compared the attitudes of non-practicing Christians, church attending Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated on certain political, cultural, and religious issues, such as views toward immigrants, religious minorities, nationalist sentiment, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

On some issues, the views of non-practicing Christians were found to align more closely with religious “nones,” while on others they aligned more closely with church attending Christians.

Most non-churchgoing Christians reported belief in God or a higher power and had favorable views toward churches and other religious organizations.

On abortion, same-sex marriage, and the role of religion in government, a majority of both non-practicing Christians and the non-religious said they support legal abortion in all or most cases and support legalizing same-sex marriage. They also think religion should be kept out of government policies.

This program wants to help incoming college students keep their faith

Jun 18 2018

Springfield, Ill., Jun 18, 2018 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- For Catholic high school students on their way to college, faith runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle of new roommates, classes, studying, and activities.

Campus ministries are often available to students in college – if they can get connected. One group is doing just that: helping high school students make a smooth faith transition into college by connecting them to their college’s Catholic center, even before they arrive.

“We reach out into the Catholic high schools and parishes to identify graduating seniors and where they are going off to college,” said Matthew Zerrusen, director and co-founder of The Newman Connection.

“We then get that information and send it to their respective campus minister. The idea is that the campus minister can then reach out to the student even before they arrive on campus,” Zerrusen told CNA.

The Newman Connection is a non-profit organization that provides national brand and support structure for campus ministries, assisting them in outreach, programming and organization development, said Zerrusen. Their main program is high school outreach, in which they contact Catholic high school students and connect them with the campus ministers at the colleges they plan on attending.

“We are essentially providing a list of warm leads for them [campus ministers] to boost outreach efforts,” said Zerrusen.

“We are changing the culture from a throw-darts-at-the-wall outreach plan to a strategic outreach plan that can target students based on the information given to us during high school,” he continued.

According to Zerrusen, around 80 percent of students stop practicing their faith in college. With such a substantial number of young people drifting away from the Church during formative years of their lives, Zerrusen believed something needed to be done.

“We have to change this,” he said, calling Newman Connection’s high school outreach program “a good start” in helping campus ministers connect with students and help them keep their faith on campus.

With the Newman Connection model, Zerrusen said students will already have a real, personal Catholic connection on their campus and will not have to rely on pamphlets or handouts to hear about Catholic events nearby.

JoAnn Shull, the campus ministry director for the St. Thomas More Newman Center at the University of Missouri, said the Newman Connection has allowed its campus outreach to focus more on actually ministering to students instead of spending time searching for them.

“When high schools and parishes communicate to the campus ministries through the Newman Connection, they provide a seamless transition for students to find their faith home in college,” Shull told CNA.

“From the campus ministry side, I see Newman Connection as another team member, albeit outsourced, that helps us find out Catholic students on campus,” she continued.

Over the past few years, Shull said she has seen significant strides in student outreach and remains “incredibly impressed” with the Newman Connection’s ability to make outreach more efficient. The St. Thomas More Newman at Mizzou has credited the Newman Connection for tripling its outreach numbers – taking their ministry from 400 students 5 years ago to over 1,200 students today.

Looking forward, Shull hopes more youth ministries, parishes and dioceses will come to understand the “critical nature of the mission of Newman Connection,” and its impact on the future of the Church, saying college students “need the Church’s support to help them grow in their adult faith.”

“Newman Connection can be a conduit for that process if parishes and dioceses can understand the critical importance of connecting these young adults to campus ministry,” she said.

The Newman Connection has been endorsed by almost 80 different dioceses and has connected upwards of 150,000 students to campus ministries in the past two years, according to Zerrusen. Moving forward, Zerrusen hopes their program can expand to even more parishes across the nation.

“We have to get out into the parishes. There are over 15,000 Catholic parishes in the U.S. and we want to reach them all,” Zerrusen said.

“It is aggressive but we think its achievable. Every year our numbers grow considerably, but getting more support from the public would certainly increase the speed at which we are able to operate.”
 
 
 
 

 

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