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Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

The U.S. Catholic Church will focus attention on the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria with a day of prayer Nov. 26 and a weeklong observance to raise awareness and educate people about their situation.
 
The effort is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need.
 
A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians Nov. 26 initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs through Dec. 3.
 
The prayer day falls on the feast of Christ the King, which "is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers," said a USCCB announcement.
 
"To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president. "Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."
 
He made the comments in his presidential address Nov. 13 during the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore. He asked the U.S. church to "come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering."
 
The special awareness week "is an opportunity to inform people about the dire situation facing Christians in places like Iraq and Syria where our faith has been present since the time of the Apostles, but could soon disappear," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "It is a time to pray, and to offer help and crucial hope to those who have lost everything but their faith for their faith."
 
To help educate Catholics and others about the persecution of Christians, the Knights have organized several events during the week, including a roundtable discussion and talks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
 
The Knights also are sponsoring an evening memorial Mass for victims of Islamic State genocide to be celebrated Nov. 28 by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington. The archbishop, who will be in the United States for the week, also will hold a morning news conference Nov. 28.
 
On Nov. 30 Archbishop Warda will speak at a conference at the United Nations on "Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region," sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Vatican's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.
 
Since IS invaded Northern Iraq in 2014, the vast majority of Christians in that country have resided within the Archdiocese of Erbil, where Archbishop Warda has overseen a massive humanitarian operation to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and care for this displaced community and those of other faiths also in the church's care.
Since the defeat of IS in the Nineveh region of Iraq earlier this year, Archbishop Warda has helped oversee the return of displaced people back to their recently liberated homes.
 
During the awareness week, Knights of Columbus councils throughout the country will work with their parishes to share information about persecuted Christians and the Knights' efforts on their behalf, including a $2 million initiative to rebuild Karamles, a predominately Christian town in Nineveh that was previously under the control of IS.
 
A section of the USCCB's website -- www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians -- has a wide array of resources available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries related to the Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians and Week of Awareness and Education.
 
Resources include homily notes, intercessions, education materials; background on Catholic Churches in the Middle East and on Christians of the Middle East; a video titled "Religious Freedom and Christians in the Middle East": and logos for the observance in English and Spanish.
 
For social media, the hashtag is #SolidarityInSuffering.
 
  • Published in World

Thanksgiving Day Appeal for Protection of the Vulnerable

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation with special gratitude for the gift of immigrants and refugees. 

Full statement follows:

“As we do every year, we will pause this coming Thursday to thank God for the many blessings we enjoy in the United States. My brother bishops and I, gathered last week in Baltimore, were attentive in a special way to those who are often excluded from this great abundance—the poor, the sick, the addicted, the unborn, the unemployed, and especially migrants and refugees.

My brothers expressed a shared and ever-greater sense of alarm—and urgency to act—in the face of policies that seemed unthinkable only a short time ago: the deportation of Dreamers, young hard-working people who should be the lowest priority for deportation; the anxiety and uncertainty of those with Temporary Protected Status from countries like Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras, which are still recovering from natural disasters and remain ill-equipped to humanely receive and integrate them; and an unprecedented reduction in the number of people we will welcome this year into our country who seek refuge from the ravages of war and religious persecution in their countries of origin. 

One common feature of all these developments is their tendency to tear apart the family, the fundamental building block of our, or any, society. These threats to so many vulnerable immigrant and refugee families must end now. My brothers have urged me to speak out on their behalf to urge the immediate passage—and signature—of legislation that would alleviate these immediate threats to these families.

Another common feature of these policies is that they are symptoms of an immigration system that is profoundly broken and requires comprehensive reform. This is a longer-term goal, one that the bishops have advocated for decades to achieve, and one that must never be overlooked. Only by complete reform will we have the hope of achieving the common goals of welcoming the most vulnerable, ensuring due process and humane treatment, protecting national security, and respecting the rule of law. We are committed to such reforms and will continue to call for them.

So this year, I give thanks for the gift and contributions of immigrants and refugees to our great nation. I also pray that next year, families now under threat will not be broken and dispersed, but instead will be united in joy around their tables, giving thanks for all the blessings our nation has to offer. 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving all!”
  • Published in Nation

U.S. Bishops urge extension of Temporary Protected Status for Haiti

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services (USCCB/MRS), released its report today, entitled Haiti’s Ongoing Road to Recovery: The Necessity of an Extension of Temporary Protected Status, recommending the U.S. government extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haiti. 

Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, in a letter introducing the report, states: “[W]hile conditions in Haiti are improving, the country is not yet in a position where it can adequately and safely accept return of the estimated 50,000 Haitian nationals who have received TPS.”

A delegation from USCCB/MRS traveled to Haiti, from September 4-7, 2017, to examine the progress Haiti had made since its initial designation for TPS in 2010 and the challenges that remain. The delegation also assessed the ability of the country to safely accept and reintegrate returned nationals should TPS for Haiti be terminated. USCCB/MRS Committee Member, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida, led the delegation and was accompanied by Bishop Launay Saturné of Jacmel, Haiti, as well as staff from MRS and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.

Currently, there are an estimated 50,000 Haitians living in the U.S. with TPS. Through its work in Haiti and in the United States, the Catholic Church knows these individuals to be hardworking contributors to American communities, Catholic parishes, and our nation. Unfortunately, Haitian TPS recipients are living in a state of uncertainty and flux as Haiti’s current TPS designation is set to expire on January 22, 2018, with the Administration required to make a decision to extend or terminate the status by November 23, 2017.

Bishop Vásquez states in his introductory letter: “We urge the Administration to provide an 18-month extension of TPS for Haiti to ensure recipients’ continued protection while their country rebuilds. We further urge Congress to work in a bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for TPS recipients who have been in the United States for many years.”

This report and other resources related to TPS are available on the Justice for Immigrants website. Resources include a backgrounder on TPS, a toolkit for Catholic leaders that offers ideas on how to show their support and solidarity with TPS recipients, and the USCCB/MRS report on TPS for El Salvador and Honduras.

Read the full text of the Haiti report.

 
  • Published in Nation

U.S. Bishops call for prayers, care for others after shooting in Las Vegas

On October 2, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed “deep grief” after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. 
 
The full text of the statement follows:
 
“We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas.  At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering.  In the end, the only response is to do good – for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.  May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil, and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

“I join with Cardinal DiNardo in offering my prayers for the victims, their families, and for the first-responders," said Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of the Diocese of Burlington, "and I invite all those of the Catholic community in Vermont to do so as well.”

 
  • Published in Nation

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It is expected to come to the House floor the first week of October. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), proposes a ban on abortions starting at 20 weeks after fertilization.

In a Sept. 29 letter to the House, Cardinal Dolan wrote, “All decent and humane people are repulsed by the callous and barbarous treatment of women and children in clinics…that abort children after 20 weeks.”

“Planned Parenthood’s callous and disturbing practices of harvesting fetal body parts from late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions, and the deplorable actions of late-term abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell…, have shocked our nation and led many Americans to realize that our permissive laws and attitudes have allowed the abortion industry to undertake these procedures,” Cardinal Dolan said, calling the 20-week ban a “common-sense reform.”

The Cardinal offered reasons why “the proposed ban on abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization is a place to begin uniting Americans who see themselves as ‘pro-life’ and as ‘pro-choice’.” The first centers on the expanding range of fetal ‘viability’. “The Supreme Court’s past insistence that unborn children must be ‘viable’ to deserve even nominal protection is not meaningful or workable…[M]edical technology is moving the point of viability earlier in the pregnancy putting Roe on a collision course with itself.” Second, there are life-threatening dangers to women undergoing abortions beyond 20 weeks. Finally, addressing the proposal to perform late-term abortions in “mainstream” clinics, he notes that those clinics generally refuse to perform the risky procedures. “What does it say about us as a nation, if we will not act against abortions that even full-time abortionists find abhorrent?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Cardinal Dolan reaffirmed the right to life of humans at every stage of development, and clarified that the Church remains committed to advocating for the full legal protection of all unborn children: “[E]very child, from conception onward, deserves love and the protection of the law…. [T]he real problems that lead women to consider abortion should be addressed with solutions that support both mother and child.”

For the full text of Cardinal Dolan’s letter to the House of Representatives, visit: usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/abortion/upload/CdlDolan-HR36-House-Ltr-09-29-2017.pdf.
  • Published in Nation

Support for Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, Mass., and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, urged Members of Congress to support passage of the Federal Disaster Assistance Nonprofit Fairness Act of 2017. An almost identical bill passed the House in 2013 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
 
In Sept. 27 letters to the House and Senate, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski asked representatives and senators to support the legislation, which would ensure the fair and equal treatment for houses of worship damaged in natural disasters by enabling them to seek aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
The letters noted that the “legislation is consistent with Supreme Court jurisprudence, which recognizes the right of religious institutions to receive public financial aid in the context of a broad program administered on the basis of religion-neutral criteria.” The letters pointed to the 2017 Trinity Lutheran Church case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which provides a firm legal foundation for such assistance.
 
Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski explained that “houses of worship often play an irreplaceable role in the recovery of a community" after a natural disaster. 
 
“Discrimination that treats houses of worship as ineligible for federal assistance in the wake of a natural disaster, beyond being a legal violation, hurts the very communities most affected by the indiscriminate force of nature,” said Archbishop Lori and Bishop Rozanski.
 
Links to each of the letters can be found here:
 
usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-House-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf
 
usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Letter-of-Support-to-Senate-for-Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-of-2017.pdf
 
More is available at: usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/upload/Federal-Disaster-Assistance-Nonprofit-Fairness-Act-2017-Fact-Sheet.pdf 

 
  • Published in Nation

Share the Journey

A prayer here, a share on social media there, a voice of support in a letter to the editor, even a get-to-know-others potluck.
 
Supporting refugees and migrants can take many forms, and Pope Francis is hoping Catholics around the world will act over the next two years to encounter people on the move.
 
In the U.S., the Church's leading organizations have developed a series of activities, including prayers, that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope is set to open Sept. 27 at the Vatican.
 
Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies. It is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homeland.
 
In addition to Pope Francis' formal announcement at his weekly general audience, key church representatives, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, were to conduct a media conference the same day.
 
U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.
 
The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.
 
"Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs," she said.
 
Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.
 
"The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter. That's what the church is calling us to. That's what the pope is calling us to," she said.
 
The coalition of Catholic organizations has developed a toolkit in English and Spanish that includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney.
 
"We're giving people clear direct ideas, not just in their neighborhood but to mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is critical especially at this time," Witte said.
 
Mark Priceman, communications for the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 22 million people are on the move around the world, making the Christian community's awareness and response to their situation critical.
 
The number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. was capped at 50,000 by President Donald Trump for fiscal year 2017, which was to end Sept. 30. It is less than half of the ceiling of 110,000 set by President Barack Obama. A presidential determination on the number of refugees to be accepted for fiscal year 2018 was due by Sept. 30.
 
Since 1996, the number of refugees admitted has fluctuated between 70,000 and 90,000 annually. The number of refugees to be accepted each year is determined by the president under the Refugee Act, which was signed into law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. The act amended earlier law, created a permanent and systematic procedure to admit refugees, and established a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies.
 
Share the Journey looks to mobilize people quickly. Soon after the opening, the campaign is calling for a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees Oct. 7-13.
 
Special prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, simulation exercises, school announcements, lesson plans and speaking events are among the activities suggested as ways to learn about people on the move.
 
Similar activities will be taking place worldwide throughout the campaign, Rosenhauer said.
 
"It is a reflection of the Holy Father's leadership, but it's also a reflection of the commitment of leaders around the church around the world," she explained.
Nearly three dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops as of Sept. 25 have pledged to participate in the campaign, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
 
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an op-ed column Aug. 28 in the Sun Sentinel in Broward County, Fla.
 
"'Share the Journey' invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye," he wrote. "As Pope Francis says, 'Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop. And don't just say, 'What a shame, poor people,' but to allow ourselves to be moved by pity.'"
 
The campaign will take advantage of specially designated days throughout the year to raise awareness, including the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12; Lent; the church's observance of National Migration Week in January; World Refugee Day June 20 and the September 2018 United Nations meeting to consider two global compacts on refugees and migration.
 
There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and refugees and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee.
 
Together with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live.
 
"We're mobilizing the worldwide Catholic Church to serve," Witte said. "There are so many networks that the Catholic Church already has that we can infuse an opportunity allow them to live their baptismal call and to stand up for the most vulnerable."
 
  • Published in World

U.S. Bishops encourage prayer, support in response to hurricanes

In the wake of two devastating hurricanes in just two weeks, the Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released the following statement:

“With lives and livelihoods still at risk in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean, we pray for the safety and care of human life in the wake of two catastrophic hurricanes. The massive scale of the dual disasters and the effect it has on communities, families and individuals cannot be fully comprehended or adequately addressed in the immediate aftermath of the storms.

At this time of initial recovery, we mourn the loss of life, homes and other property, and the harm to the natural environment, and we pray for all those affected and in need of assistance. We also pray for the safety of, and in thanksgiving for, the first responders who are risking their lives at this very moment in care for their neighbors, especially those who are elderly, sick, homeless, or otherwise already in need of special assistance.

We share Pope Francis’ trust that the Catholic faithful here in the United States will respond to the needs presented by these disasters with a ‘vast outpouring of solidarity and mutual aid in the best traditions of the nation.' We encourage the faithful to respond generously with prayers, financial support, and for those who have the opportunity, the volunteering of time and talents in support of those in need.”

More information on how you can help can be found on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Emergency Collections for Disaster and Crisis Relief webpage.
  • Published in Nation
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