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Trump comments 'harsh, offensive,' Vatican newspaper says

IMAGE: CNS/Bob Roller

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In its continuing coverage of the U.S. immigration debate, the Vatican newspaper noted media reports that President Donald Trump "used particularly harsh and offensive words about immigrants" from several countries.

"No agreement on Dreamers" was the headline on the lead story for L'Osservatore Romano's edition dated Jan. 13 and published late Jan. 12.

In the past few days, the paper reported, "the tension on the theme of immigration has risen noticeably" with Trump and a bipartisan group from Congress meeting Jan. 11 to discuss a measure that would keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program intact, but also include Trump's demands for a border wall.

The program, known by its initials DACA, protects from deportation between 700,000 and 800,000 young people illegally brought to the United States as children.

Based on media reports about the meeting, L'Osservatore said, "Trump used particularly harsh and offensive words about immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and some African countries. The expressions immediately gave rise to controversy and indignation."

The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that, according to people present at the meeting, Trump questioned "why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and '(expletive) countries'" in Africa.

While the Vatican newspaper noted that the White House did not immediately deny the remarks, Trump later tweeted, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."

The Vatican newspaper also noted that a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked Trump's decision to rescind DACA and that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Jan. 8 that it was ending a provision called Temporary Protected Status for some 200,000 citizens of El Salvador currently in the United States.

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Update: Pope faces challenge of restoring trust in wake of Peru, Chile scandals

IMAGE: CNS photo/Pablo Sanhueza, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis embarks on his fourth visit to South America, he will face the enormous task of restoring trust and encouraging healing after scandals in Chile and Peru left many wounded and angry at the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis planned the Jan. 15-21 trip as an opportunity to take a message of hope and comfort to people on the margins of society, particularly the indigenous people.

However, the challenges facing the church in both Chile and Peru will make this visit different from his previous trips to South America.

In Peru, young members of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement, were subjected to psychological and sexual abuse by group leaders, including the founder, Luis Fernando Figari. An internal Sodalitium investigation confirmed the abuse of children, teens and young adult members of the movement.

Less than a week before the pope's visit to Peru, the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life named a Colombian bishop to be the trustee of the scandal-plagued movement.

The Vatican said Jan. 10 that Pope Francis followed the case "with concern" and "insistently requested" the congregation to act.

Despite his actions to address the issue of sexual abuse in Peru, his decision to appoint a bishop accused of turning a blind eye to abuse drew outrage in Chile.

The pope's appointment of Bishop Juan Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno in January 2015 sparked several protests -- most notably at the bishop's installation Mass -- due to the bishop's connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor.

Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told reporters Jan. 11 that Pope Francis' formal schedule for Chile and Peru does not include a meeting with sexual abuse victims or with the people still protesting Bishop Barros' appointment. Sexual abuse is "clearly an important theme," Burke said, adding "the best meetings are private meetings."

The Associated Press Jan. 11 published what it said was a letter from Pope Francis to members of the permanent committee of the Chilean bishops' conference just three weeks after Bishop Barros' appointment to Osorno was announced. The Vatican would not comment on the letter.

In it, Pope Francis thanked the committee members for expressing their "concern" over the appointment as well as for their "prudent and constructive" suggestions made to him in February 2014.

According to the letter, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, the nuncio to Chile, asked Bishop Barros to resign as military ordinary and take a sabbatical. The nuncio, the letter said, told Bishop Barros' that two other bishops connected to Father Karadima would be asked to do the same. "The nuncio's comment complicated and blocked any eventual path to offering a year's sabbatical," the pope wrote without further clarification.

Bishop Barros was installed as bishop of Osorno March 21, 2015.

The protests against the appointment gained steam when a video of Pope Francis defending the appointment was published in September 2015 by the Chilean news channel, Ahora Noticias. Filmed during a general audience a few months earlier, the video showed the pope telling a group of Chilean pilgrims that Catholics protesting the appointment were "judging a bishop without any proof."

"Think with your head; don't let yourself be led by all the lefties who are the ones that started all of this," the pope said. "Yes, Osorno is suffering but for being foolish because it doesn't open its heart to what God says and allows itself to be led by all this silliness that all those people say."

Many were outraged by the pope's assessment of the situation, including several of Father Karadima's victims, who organized an event to coincide with Pope Francis' arrival in the country.

The conference, titled "Sexual Abuse in an Ecclesiastical Context," is sponsored by the Foundation for Trust and will feature several notable speakers, including Peter Saunders, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"The fact that the pope is coming and we are having this seminar is because many people are coming to show their commitment to the rights of children as well as their anger at the lack of reaction and the mistaken words the pope gave," Jose Andres Murillo, director of the foundation for people who suffered abuse at the hands of Father Karadima, said in an interview with Chilean news website, El Mostrador.

Protesters from the Diocese of Osorno are also expected to be in Santiago, calling on the pope to remove Bishop Barros.

Meanwhile, in an open letter published on Jesuit news blog Reflexion y Liberacion, a group of Chilean students said they hoped Pope Francis' visit would bring about true change "not just in our holy and sinful church but also the world."

"We hope that you will be courageous, that you give a face to the invisible men and women of Chile, that you confront the true reality of the country and not allow yourself to be hoodwinked by the lies sold by the business community, political authorities and even many of our ecclesiastical authorities," the students wrote.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholic Charities in Iowa archdiocese ends refugee resettlement program

IMAGE: CNS photo/Dan Russo, The Witness

By Dan Russo

DUBUQUE, Iowa (CNS) -- Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque is preparing to end its refugee resettlement program after 77 years in operation.

The primary reason the program is closing down is because the numbers of refugees are down.

The U.S. Department of State decreased the number of refugees who can legally seek refuge in the United States from 110,000 to 45,000 annually. Also, the department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration recently announced that all refugee resettlement sites across the country will be required to resettle at least 100 refugees annually to stay open.

These federal changes are happening when the needs of local refugees also are being met by other groups, and as a result Catholic Charities will not be able to meet the new minimal threshold required.

"Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque has been resettling refugees from all over the world in eastern Iowa since 1940, primarily in Cedar Rapids and Waterloo," said Tracy Morrison, the agency's executive director, in a Dec. 18 statement. "It's a loss for our entire community."

"Our faith guides us to believe in the dignity of all persons and the need to protect the most vulnerable, especially refugees and migrants. It is with a heavy heart that we announce the ending of this ministry," added Dubuque Archbishop Michael O. Jackels.

Catholic Charities' refugee resettlement program employed three full-time staff and two AmeriCorps members. There also were other staff members at the agency who didn't work in the program directly, but their jobs will be impacted.

"Some employees will be laid off, others will be transitioned into other ministries," Morrison told The Witness, Dubuque's archdiocesan newspaper.

Catholic Charities will continue to help newcomers to the country through the agency's legal aid program for immigrants.

Morrison said the demand for legal services is so high that the charity is looking into hiring another attorney.

Mary Ready, refugee resettlement manager at the agency, said the "ultimate reward" for her in working with the program has been "seeing families reunited."

"We worked (with those who had) U.S. ties. The refugees who arrived here always had family," she said.

One particularly heartwarming scene Ready said she'll always remember was an airport arrival where a father got to meet his son for the first time because his wife was pregnant when they were separated.

"Getting to witness those moments and to hear families say they finally feel at home and they're happy to be back with their family, that's the most memorable," she said, adding that she hopes other groups will be able to continue this service.

Catholic Charities has been providing key assistance to refugees for a 90-day period after they arrive as part of an agreement with the U.S. government. They received federal funds for this purpose as one of several approved refugee resettlement providers in Iowa. In December, they began assisting a family and another individual, and will stay with these cases until the 90-day period is concluded. After that, the agency's resettlement program will end. In the past year, they assisted 49 refugees, down from 94 the previous year.

"Prior to these December arrivals, we had not resettled a family since June and so our program has been slowed down substantially by these decreasing numbers," said Morrison.

Catholics from the communities where refugees were settled have played an important role in recent years, doing everything from mentoring refugees to providing material support, according to Ready. "The volunteers are really the ones that help them go from surviving to thriving and becoming comfortable in the community," she said.

Morrison said Catholic Charities also would consider reopening the resettlement program should conditions change. For now, it remains committed to supporting refugees and immigrants through its Immigration Legal Services ministry available in several Iowa locations.

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Russo is editor of The Witness, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

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Ending DACA will lead to 'humanitarian crisis,' says Archbishop Gomez

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By

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Congress must separate "the conversation about DACA" from the "larger issues" about U.S. immigration policy, because allowing the program to expire will lead "to a humanitarian crisis," especially in Los Angeles, said Archbishop Jose H. Gomez.

"As a nation, we have a moral and humanitarian obligation to the 'Dreamers.' These young people have done nothing wrong. And their futures hang in the balance of these debates," he wrote in a column. "So, I hope you will join me in urging our leaders in Congress to help them in a spirit of generosity and justice."

He urged Americans "to tell our leaders that fixing DACA should be the first step in the systematic immigration reform that has long been overdue in our country."

Archbishop Gomez's column, dated Jan. 9, was posted on the websites of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and Angelus News, its multimedia platform.

"Once again, we begin a new year with uncertainty and fear over immigration, and this year our leaders in Congress face a hard deadline" to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said Archbishop Gomez.

Within the borders of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, he said, there will be a humanitarian crisis if DACA ends because an estimated 125,000 young people protected by the program live there. DACA protects between 700,000 and 800,000 young people.

"The story of these young people ' is well-known. Brought to this country as children by undocumented parents or family members, they are not 'illegal' through any fault of their own," Archbishop Gomez wrote. "The 'Dreamers' have lived their whole lives in this country -- many are now in their 30s.

"And during their lifetime, leaders in Washington have not been able to reach an agreement to fix the broken immigration system that allowed them to enter in the first place."

In September, President Donald Trump announced that in March, he would end DACA, which President Barack Obama created by executive order in 2012. At the same time, Trump called on Congress to come up with a legislative solution by then to keep the program in place.

Obama instituted the program to protect young people whose parents brought them into the country as minors when they entered the U.S. without legal permission. DACA has allowed them to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and get a work permit.

Advocates around the country have rallied to urge passage of the DREAM Act -- the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA beneficiaries.

On Jan. 9, Trump and a bipartisan group from Congress met to discuss a measure that would keep DACA intact and include Trump's demands for a border wall and other security measures.

The same day, a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked Trump's decision to rescind DACA, saying the U.S. government must start accepting renewal applications again from current beneficiaries of the program. The ruling, which is certain to be appealed, also said the government does not have to accept applications from those not currently covered by DACA.

"Today, the 'Dreamers' are the 'poster children' for how broken our system is and how unhealthy and unproductive our political discourse has become," Archbishop Gomez wrote. "By any measure, these are the kind of young people that our country should be encouraging.

"Nearly everyone -- 97 percent -- is either in school or in the workforce. About 5 percent have already started their own business; 15 percent have bought their first homes," he continued. "These are good kids and we should want to help them to develop their God-given potentials, to keep their families together and to make their own contribution to the American dream."

The archbishop said U.S. business leaders feel DACA recipients "are vital to our economic future."

"In a letter to congressional leaders in September, more than 800 executives representing every sector of the economy agreed that DACA youths contribute more than $460 billion to our economy and another $24 billion in taxes," he said.

Since so many Americans agree on their contributions to the country, fixing the program that protects them "should be easy," he said, but instead "these young people find themselves stuck in the middle of a much broader debate about border walls, national security and the inner workings of our visa system."

"This debate is passionate and partisan, as it should be," Archbishop Gomez said. "Systematic reform of our immigration policy is absolutely vital to our nation's future. And we need to have this conversation."

The nation's immigration system "has been broken for too long and there is too much that is wrong," he added, saying that "a serious debate about border security" is also important.

"No one disagrees that we need to secure our borders and protect ourselves from those who would do harm to us," he explained, but he urged the larger debate about border security and other immigration reforms be handled separately from the DACA issue.

"Congress should take the time to debate the issues properly and to truly fashion an immigration system that reflects the global realities of the 21st-century economy," the archbishop said.

Besides discussing various proposals for protecting the border, he said, other issues to be debated should include how the country grants visas; what types of guest-worker programs are needed to provide workers, especially for the agricultural industry; and an honest examination of assumptions that immigrants take jobs from Americans.

Also, "we need to think more clearly about our labor needs in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement," Archbishop Gomez said.

"The point is that we need a total reform of our immigration system, and it should not be tied to the current debate over DACA and the 'Dreamers,'" he added.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Don't rush through silence at Mass, pope says at general audience

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The silence that precedes the opening prayer at Mass is an opportunity for Christians to commend to God the fate of the church and the world, Pope Francis said.

Departing from his prepared text at his weekly general audience Jan. 10, the pope urged priests "to observe this brief silence and not hurry."

"I recommend this to the priests. Without this silence, we risk neglecting the reflection of the soul," he said.

Continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, Pope Francis spoke about the Gloria and the opening prayer.

After the encounter between "human misery and divine mercy" experienced in the penitential rite, the faithful are invited to sing the ancient hymn of praise that was sung by the angels after Christ's birth, the pope said.

"The feelings of praise that run through the hymn," he said, "are intertwined with the confident pleading of divine benevolence" that characterizes the entire liturgy and "establishes an opening of earth to heaven."

After the hymn, the priest invites the assembly to pray and observes a moment of silence so that the faithful may be conscious of the fact that they are in God's presence and formulate their petitions, the pope explained.

This silence, he said, is not just an absence of words but a time to listen "to other voices: that of our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit."

"Perhaps we come from days of toil, of joy, of sorrow and we want to tell the Lord, to invoke his help, to ask that he be near us; we have family members and friends who are ill or who are going through difficult trials," the pope said.

The priest's posture -- with hands outstretched in supplication -- is also an important sign as it is an imitation of Christ with his arms open on the cross, the pope said.

"In the crucifix, we recognize the priest who offers pleasing worship to God; that is, filial obedience," he said.

Pope Francis said that pondering the prayers and gestures, which are "rich in meaning," Christians can make "many beautiful meditations" that can benefit their spiritual lives.  

"To go back and meditate on the texts, even outside of Mass, can help us to learn how to turn to God, what to ask, which words to use," the pope said. "May the liturgy become for all of us a true school of prayer."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.