Pope calls for new attitude on migration

Immigration

Pope Francis in a message this week to the participants in the Mexico/Holy See Colloquium on Migration and Development stated that “A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization.” Describing such attitudes as “typical of a throwaway culture,” he called for a change “towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter; the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

Addressing directly the child migrants from Central America, the pope said, “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”

Calling the migration crisis the principal manifestation of globalization and “one of the ‘signs’ of this time we live in,” the pope said, “We should be reminded of Jesus’ question … ‘Why do you not know how to interpret the preset time?’ ”

Migration, he continued, “is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges. Many people who are forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically. Many of their rights are violated. They are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

Finally, the Holy Father concluded, “this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.”

Image Credit: CNS/Reuters

 

Have you registered your children for religious education?

Religious Education

Registration has already begun in many of our parishes for religious education programs that begin in the fall. I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of registering your children early because space is limited in some parishes. I encourage you to call your parish to begin the process.

Participation in religious education programs is essential for sacramental preparation for First Reconciliation, First Communion and Confirmation. Children may not receive these important sacraments without proper preparation. Because of the importance, sacramental preparation must be done through the parish.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis continually emphasizes that knowing Jesus and following in his footsteps is the essence of our Catholic Faith. Saint Jerome, the great scripture scholar, believed that ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. We are disciples, followers of Jesus, and we must know Him to be His disciples. It is also important to keep in mind that religious education is more than sacramental preparation; it is part of a lifelong faith formation in discipleship.

We would look pretty silly if we tried to wear the same pants or dresses we wore at our First Communion or even Confirmation, but some of us are wearing our First Communion or Confirmation faith and it no longer fits us. We must continue to expand our faith.

Remember, what we learn as children at home and in religious education is only the beginning. Our life is a journey to God. Faith formation ends only when we reach the goal of our journey.

The irony we face this Independence Day

The irony we face this Independence Day

Isn’t it ironic that as we celebrate our freedom and independence as American citizens we are having to deal with an influx of children from Central American countries who have risked their lives in perilous journeys to share in what we celebrate.

In a sense they are not unlike the millions who set out for America in the hope of finding freedom and independence. They also risked their lives in perilous journeys and, when they arrived, faced hostility and discrimination because of their religion or ethnicity. I wonder how many of those who are so outraged at the number of children seeking refuge had ancestors who experienced the same type of unwelcome when they arrived.

It occurs to me that a special patron of these children is Jesus the immigrant, whose family fled to Egypt to protect him from terrorism of the time.

Something must be done to address the cause of this influx and make it manageable. In the meantime, we must look after these children with love and compassion and not hostility and hatred.

Let us thank God for the sacrifices of our forefathers and that we are blessed to live in a country so great that people risk life and limb to try to live here. Let us also pray that our Heavenly Father will guide our leaders, keep our men and women in the Armed Services safe and bring peace and comfort to our veterans and their families. May God always bless America!

 

 

Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby: A Victory for Religious Freedom

Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby: A Victory for Religious Fr

Today’s Supreme Court decision upholding the right of the owners of two corporations, Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation to refuse to provide forms of contraception that they consider forms of abortion is very significant.  While very narrow, the decision establishes the principle that requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are subject to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.

In my most recent blog, I quoted Pope Francis’ statement that “religious freedom is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly.” The decision reflects and implements the U.S. bishops’ consistent support for litigants from the non-profit and for-profit sectors alike who have challenged the HHS mandate in court.

On January 28, 2014 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the plaintiffs in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius.

Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, stated that “Catholics believe that the right to religious freedom proceeds from the inherent dignity of each and every human person, and that includes people who run businesses. They should not be specially excluded from the freedom to practice their faith in daily life.”

Policies of the Department of Health and Human Services implementing the ACA are not only onerous but impinge upon religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Christian persecution continues unabated

A Coptic Orthodox bishop surveys a damaged church in late August in Minya, Egypt

Almost 1,700 years after the Edict of Constantine granted freedom of worship to Christians, persecution of the followers of Christ continues unabated. Speaking before an international conference on religious freedom in Rome, Pope Francis observed that “persecution of Christians is stronger than it was in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs than in that time.”

Coptic Christians in Egypt are under siege. The Nigerian terrorist group known as Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds of school girls in an effort to close Christian schools. Christian families in Pakistan have recently been freed from two decades of slavery in a Muslim-run brick kiln. Meanwhile, Christians in areas of Iraq overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syrian fighters are in fear for their lives. And, China continues to harass and suppress Christians.

Last January, a Pew Report on Religious Hostility showed that Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group with persecution against them reported in 110 countries.

Religious freedom,” the Holy Father emphasized, “is not simply freedom of thought or private worship. It is the freedom to live according to ethical principles, both privately and publicly.”

“Reason,” Pope Francis said, “recognizes that religious freedom is a fundamental right of man, reflecting his highest dignity, that of seeking the truth and adhering to it, and recognizing it as an indispensable condition for realizing all his potential.”
We must never take our religious freedom for granted, but be constantly vigilant lest it be taken from us bit by bit.

Image credit:
A Coptic Orthodox bishop surveys a damaged church in late August in Minya, Egypt.(CNS photo/Louaf i Larbi, Reuters) (Dec. 9, 2013)

 

 

Pope and Patriarch

 Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople
Media coverage of the recent visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land tended to play up the political aspects of the Papal Pilgrimage over the religious significance. The visit was made not for political purposes, but at the invitation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians. Patriarch Bartholomew attended the installation of Pope Francis last year, becoming the first Ecumenical Patriarch to attend a Papal Inaugural Mass since the Great Schism in 1054.

On that occasion, the patriarch invited the pope to meet with him in Jerusalem in 2014 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first steps toward reconciliation between the two churches. The initial step occurred when Pope Paul VI met with Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. During the recent Holy Land visit, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew met four times. This was the fourth official meeting of popes and patriarchs¬ – the first being the 1964 meeting by Pope Paul VI, the second was by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and the third was Pope Benedict’s meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew during his trip to Turkey in 2006. What made the event significant was that it was the result of the Patriarch’s initiative.

Patriarch Bartholomew is no stranger to the Catholic Church or to the United States. The patriarch did postgraduate studies at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome and later became a lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University. From 1973 until 1990 he served as Orthodox Metropolitan of Philadelphia.

When Pope Francis invited the presidents of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to meet with him in Rome to pray for peace, he also invited Patriarch Bartholomew. The patriarch has proposed an ecumenical synod in 2025 to mark the 1700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed. Such a synod is not, in the words of a Vatican spokesman, a “fait accompli.” Nevertheless, it is a further sign that there exists not only a mutual respect, but also a growing friendship between the pope and the patriarch.

Does this mean that reunification of the Catholic and Orthodox churches is close? Not likely. There are many wounds that need healing. There are theological, structural and historical issues that need to be addressed and resolved before that occurs. It does mean, however, that important new steps toward an ultimate reunion have been taken.

Image Credit: Catholic News Service

On This World Refugee Day Unaccompanied Minors Seek Refuge

 

Unaccompanied migrant children

Hope of refuge drives people to take incredible risks. For most us, the idea of sending a child alone on a trek of thousands of miles across a strange country is incomprehensible. However, thousands of parents in Central America are doing just that in hopes that their children will find a safer and better life than theirs.

So far this year, more than 40,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Central America, have entered the United States illegally. This deluge of refugee children has overwhelmed Border Patrol and Health and Human Services facilities and the flow is unceasing.

Obviously, the cause of this flood of refugee children — the unstable and unsafe conditions of some Central American countries — must be addressed, but the immediate problem is the children who are being warehoused in overcrowded and unsafe temporary facilities by the government.

I am working with Catholic Charities of Dallas to move quickly to work with the government and other non-governmental agencies to provide safe havens for these children. Catholic Charities has expertise in working with refugees from generations of experience, but the unaccompanied children present unique problems —both legal and protective.

Our diocese has no residential facility, but individual placements have already begun. We are gearing up to provide safe refuge for additional children pending judicial action. Already this calendar year, 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children were released to family members who reside in the Dallas Immigration Court jurisdiction.

This tragic situation must be addressed with prayer, wisdom and compassion. As we observe World Refugee Day today, I ask that you please join me in praying for the welfare of these youngsters and that leaders on both sides of the border will work to address this issue.

Image Credit: Unaccompanied migrant children seen at a U.S. government facility in south Texas (CNS photo/ handout, Reuters) (June 16, 2014)

 

What kind of Catholics are we?

One foot in ...

What kind of Catholics are we? In his homily recently, Pope Francis challenged us to ask ourselves if we may be a Catholic with only one foot in the Church? “Many people say they belong to the Church,” but the Holy Father said they, “have only one foot inside…for these people, the Church is not home.”

Listing three types of “one foot” Catholics he called them “uniformists,” “alternativists” and “businessists.”

Uniformists believe that everyone should be like them. Their doctrine is uniformity. In the words of the Pope, “They are rigid! They do not have that freedom the Holy Spirit gives.” He continued by saying that they “call themselves Catholics, but their rigid attitude distances them from the Church.”

In the second group, the alternatists, have “a partial belonging to the Church. These, too, have one foot outside the Church,” they fail to recognize that their alternative teachings and doctrines are not based on the Gospel of Jesus and apostolic tradition.

Businessists, the Pope said, “call themselves Christians but don’t enter into the heart of the Church.” For them belonging to the Church is good business. “We have all seen them in parish or diocesan communities and religious congregations; they are some of the benefactors of the Church,” the Pope said.

What motivates us to be a Catholic Christian? If it is less than what St. Paul professes, “The love of Christ motivates me,” (2 Cor 5:14), then we are neither hot nor cold and are courting the fate of the lukewarm in Rev. 3:16, “…because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Image credit: Gratisography.com