Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Protect the Refugees – It’s the Law

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

There were the Peter Pan children from Cuba. Between December 1960 and October 1962, more than 14,000 Cuban youth fled Cuba for the United States. They traveled alone, sent by their parents to avoid having them become pawns in the Marxist-Leninist revolution that turned Cuba into a one-party socialist state. A few went on to lives of fame and one, Felipe J. Estévez, became bishop of St. Augustine, Florida.

There were the boat people from Vietnam, who escaped their post-Vietnam War nation via rickety watercraft. Many died in the journey and some sank their own boats when reluctant would-be host countries tried to tow them back to the open seas. As I watched pictures of them reaching places like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and other Asian southeastern coastal nations, I thought if they could survive that journey, they have a lot to offer any country. In response to an international humanitarian crisis, the U.S. accepted about 823,000 of these estimated 1.5 million refugees. On August 6, Viet Luong, who was resettled in the United States at age 10, will be promoted from colonel to brigadier general. He becomes the U.S. Army’s first general who was a refugee from Vietnam.

Now there are the child refugees from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, sent by families to a new world to escape the daily gang violence and threat of death at the hands of drug dealers. What they will become and contribute to the United States remains to be seen.

And despite anti-immigration protesters who claim to demonstrate in the streets for the sake of order, this latest influx of people to our shores has the law on their side. Both U.S. law and international law protect them. Under both, a refugee is someone from outside his or her own country with a well-founded fear of persecution in that country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

The 1951 Geneva Convention, the main international instrument of refugee law, defines who a refugee is and what legal protections and other assistance they should receive. In 1980, Congress created the United States Refugee Act to provide permanent and orderly procedures for admitting refugees and to address lasting solutions such as resettlement of the refugees within the United States for humanitarian reasons. Among such refugees certainly could be poor people targeted or forcibly recruited to be drug mules or girlfriends of gang members.

Under U.S. law, protection of unaccompanied alien children, the legal term for unaccompanied migrant children, was codified in the 2002 Homeland Security Act. The Homeland Security Act makes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for the care and placement of unaccompanied alien children. The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 established standards for care and placement of such children, including the call for transfer of unaccompanied children within 72 hours from Customs and Border Protection to HHS care. Then while in HHS care, these children are placed in immigration proceedings and assessments are made about whether they can reunify with family while they await their immigration proceeding.

All of which is to say these refugee children have international and U.S. rights, and protesters may want to get out of the way or join the other citizens providing welcome to people in need. It will feel great to be on the right side of history.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh is Director of Media Relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Five Things To Remember On July 30

1. Make sure you read the Unaccompanied Migrant Children toolkit.

2. Find out how the Catholic Church is helping unaccompanied minors during the immigration crisis.

3. Vatican Radio reports: "In an effort to promote peace, the Vatican Secretary of State issued a “nota verbale” to all the embassies accredited to the Holy See. "

4. Father John Crossin says humility is a key to ecumenical relationships.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Humility: A Key to Ecumenical Relationships

By Father John Crossin

“This Sacred Council exhorts…all the Catholic faithful …to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism.” (Second Vatican Council, Decree on Ecumenism, #4)

Humility stands as a virtue essential to active participation in ecumenism. To enter into productive conversations and projects with Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican friends, we need to be like Christ “who humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8)

In being part of intelligent ecumenical relationships, Catholics have both something to share and something to learn. As the Council puts it “Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification.” (#4)

Sometimes we who grew up before the Council have “to die a little” to accept this more comprehensive way of thinking about the faith. We find that the distance of the past now gives way to the friendships of the present.

Now we recognize that our way of thinking was incomplete. We have deepened our “theology of return” to include the work of the Spirit in other Christian communities. We are all returning to Christ and seeking a deeper conversion to his way of life.

This deeper conversion comes with some humiliation. St. Francis de Sales discusses this deeper degree of humility in his Introduction to the Devout Life. He says that we are called to “love our abjection.”

To do this, we need to acknowledge honestly our responsibility for the divisions in Christianity. We have been selective in recounting past history; we have committed sins in the service of the truth; we have fought against one another and killed one another. We can read more of this painful litany in St. John Paul II’s “Service Requesting Pardon” conducted March 12, 2000, as found in Origins, March 23, 2000 (Vol. 29. No. 40, p. 645, 647-480).

As with the current pedophilia crisis, I find it hard to remain at this level of humility/humiliation. I/we want to flee mentally – not to think very much about all this since it happened so long ago or to pretend it didn’t happen or to deny that it was so bad or to excuse such evil because “everyone” was doing it.

With the guidance of the Spirit, we and our Christian friends are seeking together the truth of the past, acknowledging our wrongs, expressing our need to give and receive forgiveness and beginning a healing process in our communities. We see this, for example, in the work of the International Catholic Mennonite Dialogue [1998-2003]. There, in a process that included acknowledging that Catholics persecuted and killed their forbearers at the time of the Reformation, we have come to a deep and quite moving reconciliation.

Francis de Sales concludes his section on “loving our abjection” by saying:

“I have suggested certain things to you which have perhaps been difficult to hear, but, believe me, they will be sweet to practice.” [Part III, Chapter 6]

The sweetness of course is in the reconciliation and in the humble joy of doing God’s will.


Father John W. Crossin, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, is director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat for Ecumenical and interreligious Affairs.

Five Things To Remember On July 29

1. Over 1,200 Spanish Bibles donated by the American Bible Society and the publishing house Verbo Divino have gone to unaccompanied minors from Central America.

2. Pope Francis said this week: "Never war! Never war! I think most of all about children, whose hopes for a dignified life, a future are dashed, dead children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who have the leftovers of war for toys, children who don't know how to smile. Stop it, please! I beg you with all my heart! It's time to stop!"

3. One of Africa's fastest-growing Catholic communities needs our help to flourish.

4. The U.S. State Department said 2013 was the bleakest year globally in terms of religious freedom in recent memory.

5. God loves you.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Five Things to Remember on July 28

1. Argentine Cardinal Leonardo Sandri said July 27 that “no religion can accept to kill God’s children in the Name of the same God” during a homily at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Peter in San Diego, California. Cardinal Sandri, the Prefect for the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, is visiting Eastern-Rite Catholic communities in California this month. Most members of the Chaldean Church come from Iraq, where there is persecution of Christians, especially at the hands of the Islamist ISIS group which has driven the Catholic community from the city of Mosul.

2. July 26 marked the
First Anniversary of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Video: What did it all mean in Rio last July? What is the lasting significance of World Youth Days for the Church?  Video: One year ago tonight tons of cardinals & bishops partied on Copacabana beach Video: Warm-up for Concluding World Youth Day 2013 Mass - Brazil
Text: What did we learn from World Youth Day in Rio?

3. First Vietnamese Refugee to become general in U.S. Army in August. Thirty-nine years ago, the Immigration & Refugee Division of Catholic Charities LA (then named the Catholic Welfare Bureau) ensured that Major Duong Xuan Luong, his wife, and their eight children, found a safe home in the United States. Major Luong’s only son, Viet Luong, was ten when his family was resettled by Catholic Charities Los Angeles. He attended the University of Southern California and joined the U.S. Army after graduation. After 20 years in the Army, he will be promoted from the rank of Colonel to the rank of general, making him the first Vietnamese refugee to become a General in the US Army. Credit: Loc Nguyen, Director of Immigration and Refugee Department, Catholic Charities Los Angeles.

4. Bishop Richard Pates urged National Security Advisor Susan Rice to provide humanitarian assistance and work with other governments to stop violence in Iraq.  The United States should help Christian communities and other Iraqis plagued by violence through humanitarian assistance and international collaboration, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a July 25 letter to National Security Advisor Rice. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, had written to her June 19 about the escalating violence in Iraq and wrote that the situation had only deteriorated. “The Islamic State has taken control of large swaths of territory in northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction, burning and looting ancient churches and mosques, homes and businesses,” Bishop Pates wrote. “Thousands have fled with little more than the clothes on their backs, often being robbed of their few personal possessions as they ran.” Full text of the letter is available online:

5. God loves you.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Things To Remember On July 25

1. USCCB/MRS is one of two agencies authorized by the Department of State to help children who enter the U.S. without a legal guardian.

2. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, called upon President Obama and the Central American presidents to protect and care for children and families fleeing violence in the region. On July 25, Presidents Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala, Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador, and Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras are slated to meet with President Obama at the White House to discuss the current humanitarian challenge.

3. Wednesday's order by the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado enjoining the state from enforcing its laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman follows recent decisions on marriage by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver. The U.S. District Court temporarily stayed its order. The U.S. Bishops’ Chairman of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, said, “Recent court decisions on marriage in no way deter our efforts to promote the truth about marriage – a truth that no court decision can ever undo.”

4. Imagine going to the cafeteria line, looking to the right and seeing Pope Francis ordering fish.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Five Things To Remember On July 24

1. The U.S. cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of many thousands of unaccompanied minors journeying to the U.S. border from root causes in Latin America, many generated by U.S. policies, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace in a July 24 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, followed the bishops’ June 24-July 2 travels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

2. Meriam Ibrahim, the woman who was sentenced to death in Sudan for refusing to renounce her Christian faith, met with Pope Francis in the Casa Santa Marta today.

3. Catholic News Service has a new documentary on the last legacy of World War I.

4. As Americans mark the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church has launched a 50th anniversary Initiative, to encourage the faithful to reflect on how the lessons and legacy of the civil rights era continue to shape us today as Catholics and faithful citizens.

5. God loves you.