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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Pope offers prayers for Trump as he becomes 45th U.S. president

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis sent best wishes and prayers to incoming President Donald J. Trump shortly after he took the oath of office.

"I offer you my cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office," the pope's message said.

Saying that the human family faces "grave humanitarian crises" that demand "far-sighted and united political responses," the pope said he would pray that Trump's decisions "will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have the history of the American people and your nation's commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom worldwide."

The pope also said he hoped that America's "stature" continued to be measured by "above all its concern for the poor, the outcast and those in need who, like Lazarus, stand before our door."

The message concluded with the pope saying he would ask God to grant the new president, his family and all Americans "peace, concord and every material and spiritual prosperity."
  • Published in Nation

The need for unity among Christian churches

Disagreements among Christians have existed from the beginning, but there is a way to live in unity until disagreements can be resolved, said a U.S. theologian speaking about the need for unity among Christian churches around the world.
 
"We will have disagreements, that is predictable, but must we have divisions?" asked Michael Root, a member of the U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue, in a reflection during a Jan. 17 prayer service in Washington on the eve of the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
 
"There are real disagreements among those who claim the name of Christ, disagreements about sacraments, about how we live out the Christian life, about how the church reaches decisions. Some differences may mean that we cannot do together some things Christians must do together to be one church," Root said. "The ecumenical quest is about overcoming those differences, but also about how we live with them in meantime."
 
Catholic Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of Springfield, Mass., presided over the event attended also by Bishop Richard Graham of the Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Rozanski is chairman of the bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.
 
The event was similar to others around the world where religious leaders gathered to mark the annual event, taking place Jan. 18-25 this year.
 
Pope Francis Jan. 18 said he believes unity and reconciliation among Christian churches is possible.
 
"We look more to that which unites us rather than that which divides us," said the pope during his weekly general audience while referencing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
 
The pope traveled in October to Sweden to an event commemorating the Reformation. The 16th-century Protestant Reformation began when in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany, separating from the Catholic Church. The event subsequently gave rise to a variety of Christian churches. It also led to violence on both sides.
 
On Jan. 18, the Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York in England, while mentioning the blessings of the Reformation, also said the events surrounding it had caused "lasting damage done five centuries ago to the unity of the church, in defiance of the clear command of Jesus Christ to unity in love."
 
Root, the theologian at the Washington event, said that over the last century, Christian churches have experienced "a renewed commitment to the pursuit of a deeper unity with one another." While it's yielded fruits, it's also important to learn how to "live with the limitations of our pursuit of greater unity. The call to unity is not a call to ignore realities," he said.
 
Franciscan Father Larry Dunham, guardian of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, where the event was held, said the week's theme "Reconciliation: The Love of Christ Compels Us" is not only appropriate given current world and international events but also because this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
 
"How far we've come in these past 500 years and how far we have yet to go," Father Dunham said.
 
 
  • Published in World

Ecumenical week to focus on overcoming division

When a group of German Christians was asked in 2014 to prepare materials for the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, their choice of a "wall" as a symbol of sin, evil and division explicitly referred to the Berlin Wall.

The German reflections on the power of prayer to bring down walls and the Gospel call to reconciliation were adopted by the World Council of Church's Faith and Order Commission and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and proposed to Christians worldwide for the Jan. 18-25 octave of prayer.

"The image of the wall is very current today -- now more than when they wrote the reflection," said Father Anthony Currer, who coordinates the Vatican contribution to the week of prayer.

The U.S. political discussion of extending the wall along the border with Mexico, Pope Francis' frequent admonitions about building bridges rather than walls, the global refugee crisis -- all of that makes the powerful symbol of a wall even more potent, said Father Currer, an official at the Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The expanding symbolism of the wall also shows the kind of dynamic that the World Council of Churches and the Vatican are looking for when they ask one very small group of Christians to try to design prayers and reflections for the global Christian community.

The Faith and Order Commission and the pontifical council alternate identifying communities to choose the Week of Prayer theme, draft a worship service, come up with sub-themes and Bible readings for each day of the octave and describe the ecumenical situation in their local community.

With input from international representatives and then approval from the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, the material is sent around the world.

"We deliberately produce the booklet in a boring format because we do not expect anyone to pray from it directly," Father Currer said. "It is not a prescribed text because adaptation signifies engagement -- it is creative and spiritual."

The local reflections are meant to be universally accessible and eminently adaptable, he said. "When you do a Google search for the Week of Prayer you should get material prepared locally," not just links to the text sent out.

The theme for 2017 is: "Reconciliation -- The love of Christ compels us."

Even before the celebrations began, work was underway to finalize materials for the 2018 Week of Prayer with input from an ecumenical group from the Caribbean, and Churches Together in Indonesia already has been asked to prepare materials for the octave of prayer in 2019.

The long lead time gives Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants around the world time to translate and adapt the materials to their own local situations, cultures and styles of worship.

The German group was chosen to write the reflections for 2017 because this year marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, an event that tore apart the Christian community in the West.

But, Father Currer said, "this commemoration of the Reformation acknowledges very much that our history is not just a history of conflict; from the Second Vatican Council and the last 50 years of ecumenical dialogue, it is also a story of coming back together in communion."

As Pope Francis showed when he traveled to Sweden in October for ecumenical events kicking off a yearlong commemoration of the anniversary, ecumenical prayer and dialogue "is focused on Christ, which is where we unite," he said.

The pope participated in other major ecumenical events of prayer and witness in 2016: He met in February with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow; traveled to Greece in April to visit refugees with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople; and, along with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, in early October, he commissioned pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops to work and pray together in their home regions.

"The things Catholics see the pope doing encourage them to participate," Father Currer said.

The papal events also support the kind of prayer and hope that Germans displayed on both sides of the Berlin Wall throughout the Cold War.

"The wall separating Christians seems to be equally immovable and entrenched," Father Currer said. But the continued prayer of Christians is "a way to show our hope and faith that God will bring his church to unity."
  • Published in World

Poor but ‘never alone’

At a Mass packed mostly with immigrants, Washington, D.C., Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville tried to get the crowd to focus on the plight of the Holy Family.

They had no home, he said. Many closed their doors to them when they were seeking shelter and running from persecution, he said. But he reminded them also of God’s promise.

“We might be poor, but we’ll never be alone,” Bishop Dorsonville said to those in the pews, some who were likely facing similar situations.
At a weekend Mass to mark the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he assured them that God and the Catholic Church would be with them “in these difficult moments.” Millions, he acknowledged, are waiting for relief in the form of immigration reform. But with a president-elect who made campaign promises to form “deportation forces” and remove 11 million immigrants, many faced 2017 with trepidation.
 
The landscape for immigrants in 2016 already had been a rough one. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court States deadlocked on a case dealing with plans by President Barack Obama to shield 4 million from deportation through executive action. Without being able to break the 4-4 tie, the high court essentially left in place an injunction blocking the immigration policy from being implemented.

Various polls also reflected an increasing reluctance by some groups in the country to welcome immigrants from the Middle East. The Brookings/Public Religion Research Institute Immigration Survey, released in June, showed that while 58 percent of Americans surveyed opposed a temporary ban on Muslims from other countries entering the U.S., non-white Americans were the ones most opposed.

“Close to half (46 percent) of whites express support for a temporary ban on Muslims coming to the U.S.,” the survey said, “while only 30 percent of Hispanics and 25 percent of blacks support a ban.”

Some say these views in part helped President-elect Donald Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, win, since they were able to mobilize those who felt fears and concerns about immigrants from Latin America and Muslims.

But just what will happen after Trump takes over the presidency remains a mystery. In a TV interview shortly after his election, he said he would deport 2 million to 3 million “people that are criminal and have criminal records” but didn’t mention the 11 million in the country without legal permission that he had originally quoted as deportation targets. He also removed his call for a “Muslim ban” from his website shortly after winning the presidency.
In a recent Time magazine interview, after the publication chose him as “Person of the Year,” Trump said he is “going to work something out” on childhood arrivals, young people who were brought into the U.S. as children by their parents but have no legal documentation.

Using executive action, Obama in 2012 created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA, which allows certain undocumented young people to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

More than 720,000 have been approved for the program. In November 2014, Obama took executive action to expand DACA to allow more young people to benefit from its provisions. He also implemented a program for parents of citizen children — the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program, or DAPA.

Trump said he would end these policies. Some who meet the qualifications to apply for the DACA have not done so, fearful of what the new administration could do to them and those who already have enrolled. But in the December Time magazine interview, Trump said some of the youths were good students, some have wonderful jobs.

“And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said, adding that “we’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud.”

Trump also correctly noted during the campaign that President Obama’s administration has been fierce on deportations. The Department of Homeland security, which tracks the number of people deported each year, says from fiscal years 2009 to 2014, there have been more than 2.4 million “removals.”
But Catholics groups that work with immigrants, such as Washington’s Faith in Public Life, say they are concerned about what Trump said as a candidate and they vowed in a statement to continue “advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, and will continue to work with leaders of both parties to ensure that all migrants, regardless of their status, are treated with dignity and respect.”

Others joined the organization in the statement, including Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, who said: “We are deeply concerned by threats and proposals — such as the increased use of detention and deportation.”

Such attitudes, he said, sow fear, and “threaten the unity and well-being of families and communities. Instead, we call on the Trump administration and Congress to develop and uphold humane policies that honor the dignity and contributions of those among us who live at the margins of society.”
The U.S. Catholic bishops have not directly spoken out against Trump and what he said while campaigning, but they have voiced their support for immigrants. They declared the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a day of prayer with a focus on the plight of refugees and migrants.

“To all those families separated and far from home in uncertain times, we join with you in a prayer for comfort and joy this Advent season,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recognizing in a statement addressing the uncertain future many are fearing.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., addressed a letter to those “who at the present time find themselves in a miserable condition because of a change of the administration of our nation which has threatened many with deportation.” Walls are not solutions, he said, and deportations do not guarantee the country’s security.

California Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton also called attention to similar fears and to racism.

“The journey of life is difficult at this time for Hispanics in the United States,” he said. “Many have friends and family members who are without papers. Many are without papers themselves. Children in school are being bullied and young immigrants who signed up for DACA are anxious that they might lose their opportunity to work and their protection from deportation.”

Racism, too, “has raised its ugly head in many communities,” Bishop Blaire continued.

“I wish to say loudly and clearly to all of you that as your bishop I am with you,” he said. “You are the Church. I will walk with you no matter how hard it gets.”

“I also wish to say to our Muslim brothers and sisters, and to our Jewish elder brothers and sisters, and to all our interfaith friends that the hate which destroys the unity and solidarity of the human family cannot be tolerated in any way,” he said. “The way of God is the way of love.”

Alejandra Catalan, a parishioner at Our Lady Queen of the Americas in Washington, said she felt the support the Archdiocese of Washington and the Church in general was trying to convey during Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The reality for immigrants is difficult as Bishop Dorsonville pointed out, she said, but as she stood Dec. 10 with her husband, Francisco, and son Samuel at Washington’s Marian basilica, all dressed in indigenous clothing to honor the Virgin, she said she could only depend on one thing: faith.
 
 
  • Published in Nation
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