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Catholic News

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Junno Arocho EstevesVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Migrants seeking a better life inother countries must not be viewed with suspicion but rather defended andprotected, no matter their status, Pope Francis said.International cooperation is needed "at every stage ofmigration," especially for countries where higher influx of migrants"often exceeds the resources of many states," the pope said June 14in a message to participants of the Holy See-Mexico Conference on InternationalMigration at the Casina Pio IV, a villa located in the Vatican Gardens."I would like to point out that the issue of migrationis not simply one of numbers, but of people, each with his or her own history,culture, feelings and aspirations. These people, our brothers and sisters, needongoing protection, independently of what migrant status they may have,"he said in the message read by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreignminister. Among the attendees at the conference were Cardinal Piet...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Migrants seeking a better life in other countries must not be viewed with suspicion but rather defended and protected, no matter their status, Pope Francis said.

International cooperation is needed "at every stage of migration," especially for countries where higher influx of migrants "often exceeds the resources of many states," the pope said June 14 in a message to participants of the Holy See-Mexico Conference on International Migration at the Casina Pio IV, a villa located in the Vatican Gardens.

"I would like to point out that the issue of migration is not simply one of numbers, but of people, each with his or her own history, culture, feelings and aspirations. These people, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of what migrant status they may have," he said in the message read by Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican foreign minister.

Among the attendees at the conference were Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Luis Videgaray Caso, Mexican secretary for foreign affairs; and Miguel Ruiz Cabanas, Mexican sub-secretary for foreign affairs.

Thanking participants for their work "on behalf of the needy and the marginalized in our society," the pope said the current challenges in confronting the migration crisis "demand a change in mindset."

"We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society," he said.

He also called on the international community to defend the rights of migrant children and their families who are "victims of human trafficking rings and those displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution."

"All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of 'comfortable and silent complicity' that worsens their helplessness; they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion," he said.

In his address at the conference, Cardinal Parolin said that while most U.N. member states are continuing "paths of dialogue and negotiation" on the protection of migrants and refugees, the changing political climate "has made the issue more complex."

The steps taken so far, he added, can hopefully "reverse the logic of the globalization of indifference, replacing it with the globalization of solidarity that attends to the needs and the just expectations of people and know how to help those in the human family who find themselves in need and in situations of vulnerability."

However, the cardinal also said that people's rights to live in their land must also be protected to "avoid the flow of uncontrolled migration."

Among the concerns raised by Videgaray was the anti-migration efforts taken by the U.S. government, including the separation of families and the Trump administration's decision to abandon the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, an agreement that sought to improve the global flow of migration and refugees.

Although dismayed by the U.S. government's decision "to abandon the conversation," Videgaray said Mexico remained "undeterred" in its commitment to protect the rights and dignity of migrants.

He also expressed concerns regarding the separation of families, saying "there are 2,000 cases of children separated from their parents" in the United States.

"We understand the legal foundation of this action. However, we cannot agree to actions of this nature," he said.

After the conference's first session, Cardinal Parolin told journalists that the Vatican shared Mexico's concerns regarding policies that are "violations of rights of peoples and families."

"Unfortunately, the general atmosphere isn't the most positive, and that is why I insisted on a change of image regarding migration; from a solely negative image to a positive image."

Regarding the United States' decision to exit the Global Compact for Migration, Cardinal Parolin told journalists that "it wasn't good" and that "everyone must participate" in finding a solution to the migration crisis.

The issue of migration, he said, is a challenge that the international community cannot afford to ignore.

"It is a problem, or rather a global phenomenon, that needs everyone's participation. Nobody can turn their back," Cardinal Parolin said.

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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.

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By Dennis SadowskiFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A newdocument focused on guiding the American church in addressing the pastoralneeds of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics was approved by the U.S. Conferenceof Catholic Bishops during their annual spring assembly.Adopted 187-2 with two abstentions, "Encountering Christ inHarmony" is described as a "pastoral response" meant to providesupport and to offer ideas for ministry to the nation's nearly 3 million Asian and Pacific IslandCatholics.Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt LakeCity, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, told the assembly a day before the vote that the document addresses thefastest growing minority community in the United States church and includes."Asian and PacificIslanders are ready for pastoral engagement in the church's mission ofevangelization," he said."Ourapproval of this document is indicative of an essential pastoral outreach tothe mission of the church in the United States...

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- A new document focused on guiding the American church in addressing the pastoral needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during their annual spring assembly.

Adopted 187-2 with two abstentions, "Encountering Christ in Harmony" is described as a "pastoral response" meant to provide support and to offer ideas for ministry to the nation's nearly 3 million Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, told the assembly a day before the vote that the document addresses the fastest growing minority community in the United States church and includes.

"Asian and Pacific Islanders are ready for pastoral engagement in the church's mission of evangelization," he said.

"Our approval of this document is indicative of an essential pastoral outreach to the mission of the church in the United States. It's a response to the call of Pope Francis to go to the peripheries to proclaim the Gospel," he added.

The document has been in the works for more than two years. It follows a report by a team of social scientists based on a nationwide questionnaire and online survey that asked the Asian and Pacific Island community about their pastoral needs and concerns.

It also serves as a follow-up to the USCCB's 2001 pastoral statement "Asian and Pacific Presence: Harmony in Faith," which outlined the cultural, social and ethnic diversity in the Asian and Pacific Island communities and at the same time recognized and celebrated the gifts and values common to the communities.

"The goal of this response is to make Asian and Pacific Island Catholics feel at home, both in the church and in the United States, while being able to reserve the richness of the spiritual and cultural background that they bring as contributing members to the body of Christ," the document said.

The Asian and Pacific Island community is the fastest growing in the United States, according to document.

One of every five Asian and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. is Catholic. Filipinos comprise the largest segment of the community followed by Vietnamese, Chinese and Koreans.

By design, the document does not address members of the Eastern Catholic churches except for the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholics with roots in India.

Scalabrinian Sister Mryna Tordillo, assistant director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, told Catholic News Service that "Encountering Christ in Harmony" addresses four central concerns that surfaced in the responses: identity, generations, leadership and culture of encounter and dialogue.

The document is the product of collaboration between the bishops' Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church and the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs.

Originally it was thought that "Encounter Christ in Harmony" would be a formal pastoral plan for ministry, but that as work continued, those involved decided to issue it as a pastoral response instead to guide dioceses and parishes in ministry to Asians and Pacific Islanders, Sister Myrna explained.

"The hope is that this document will assist dioceses, pastoral leaders, and other Catholic entities and Asian and Pacific Island Catholics in the pastoral care of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics wherever they are, and continue to welcome and integrate them," Sister Myrna said.

The 71-page document offers suggestions for action at the national, diocesan and parish levels.

"We the Catholic bishops of the United States, offer this pastoral response to assist diocesan and parish leaders and all the faithful in welcoming and integrating our Asian and Pacific Island brothers and sisters as they strive to live a faith-filled life in the Catholic Church," the document said in its introduction.

It acknowledged that the communities continue to confront "racial discrimination, stereotyping and the clash of values with mainstream United States culture."

Citing the call of Pope Francis to encounter Christ in one another, the document said "the cultural diversity of a community, therefore, is necessarily an integral factor in the encounter with the Gospel."

The document explained that harmony is a "very common theme in Asian and Pacific Island cultures, and therefore it makes sense that in the encounter with the Gospel, the Holy Spirit would transform this jewel of Asian and Pacific Island cultures and make it a blessing to the church."

Being Catholic is part of being Asian and Pacific Islander and it becomes important when ministering within these communities to "recognize how religion and culture are so intimately intertwined," the document said.

It also noted the challenges confronting Asians and Pacific Islanders, among them racism. It cited the Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II as examples of racist actions. Because of these incidents, it said, for many Asian and Pacific Islanders, "the reality of being linguistically or physically different from the larger U.S. population is a constant reminder of their marginalized status."

It encourages the church at all levels to "include and invite" Asian and Pacific Islanders who may be geographically or socially isolated into ministry and church leadership. It also calls for active encouragement of religious vocations.

Suggestions for outreach include establishing resource centers, recognizing "local gifts." It encourages Asian and Pacific Islanders to seek opportunities to teach native languages and customs, share music at liturgies, decorate worship spaces or pastoral centers with native textiles and fabric and raise funds for national and international Catholic organizations that benefit the communities.

"Encountering Christ in Harmony" also acknowledges the importance of Marian devotions within the communities and urged the incorporation of Asian and Pacific Island traditional celebrations at parishes and within diocese.

Noting that family life is central to the communities, the pastoral response urges intergenerational dialogue to help the communities work through challenges posed by interfaith and intercultural marriages. It also calls for celebrating liturgies "with an ear to the youth," supporting young adult Catholic communities and planning ecumenical, interreligious and intercultural gatherings.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPABy Dennis SadowskiFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops June 13decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision that asylum seekersfleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States."At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve theright to life," the bishops' statement said. They urged the nation'spolicymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode, the potentialof our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."Sessions' decision "elicits deep concern because itpotentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection,"it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extreme dangersof domestic violence in their home country."The statement from the bishops came on the first day oftheir June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo ofGalveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, rea...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision that asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States.

"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," the bishops' statement said. They urged the nation's policymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."

Sessions' decision "elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection," it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country."

The statement from the bishops came on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.

Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read the statement from the dais, and the bishops voiced their support.

Announced by Sessions at a June 11 news conference, the decision "negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeting domestic violence," it said. "Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors."

The attorney general reversed an immigration court's decision granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband. He said U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune," including violence someone suffers in another country or other reasons related to an individual's "social, economic, family or other personal circumstances."

In his remarks, Cardinal DiNardo also said he joined Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, "in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexican border as an implementation of the administration's zero tolerance policy."

"Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma," the cardinal said. "Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.

"While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, said the new policy "is consistent with cardiosclerosis" or a hardening of the American heart. He called for a widespread discussion among bishops on how to more vocally respond to the practice.

He asked the bishops to consider sending a delegation to inspect the detention facilities holding children "as a sign of our pastoral response and protest against what is being done to children."

Other bishops called for stronger outreach to members of Congress as it struggles to address comprehensive immigration reform and extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program covering 800,000 young adults who were brought to the U.S. as children.

"They need to hear from us," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn told the assembly. "There is an element of restrictionism, somewhat based on racism. It's hard for people to decide what they think about it. But in fact that is what we are seeing. This is a crisis situation."

Several bishops said it was imperative to do a better job of sharing church teaching on migration and welcoming the stranger, as Christ taught.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California, expressed concern about a "very deliberate effort being made on the part of the administration, particularly the Department of Justice to put in regulations that actually defy the implementation of immigration law."

He urged the entire body of bishops to become more active in pushing Congress and the courts to understand long-standing American values and practices regarding the welcoming of immigrants.

"It just seems nefarious how the immigration system is being undone by more and more restrictive regulations that are being put in place," he said.

One bishop asked about the possibility of "canonical penalties" being enforced on Catholics who cooperate with unjust immigration policies. Bishop Edwin J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona, said such penalties are put in place to heal and "therefore, for the salvation of these people's souls, maybe it's time for us to look" at such action.

Beyond that, added Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, should be steps to offer broader pastoral care for immigration enforcement officials, some of whom he has heard from questioning the need to carry out "these unjust policies."

During the morning session, the U.S. bishops also heard a report from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

He talked about the need of church leaders to not just hear young people but to really listen to them, emphasizing that this is what Pope Francis often talks about it.

The nuncio talked about the encuentro process currently underway in the U.S., using it as a strong example of the church listening to the faithful

Regional encuentros are taking place all over the country. There delegates outline priorities that will shape Hispanic ministry for years to come. The regionals lead to the National Fifth Encuentro, or V Encuentro, to be held in Texas in September. Archbishop Pierre also talked about the church's upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

"Young people need to be a priority of the church" today, the nuncio said, "not just for the future of the church. ' Young people express a desire of an intentional knowing encounter in Christ rather than a faith reduced to ' moralism."

"I believe many young people desire wholistic formation. They want the church to facilitate an encounter with Jesus," he said. Such an encounter "provokes the question 'What interests me in life' and leads to works of justice and mercy and to live life ' with great intensity while loving their neighbor."

"Young people want to engage in reality" but do not want to be on that journey alone, he added. "They are searching for a strong sense of belonging."

Also on the agenda for their first day were reports from Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its formation, and from Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

Other reports covered the V Encuentro and the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which will take place at the Vatican in October.

The bishops also heard preliminary presentations on several action items they will be voting on, including:

-- Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships the audits. The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the document that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.

-- A new document described as a "pastoral response" to the growing Asian and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States. "Encountering Christ in Harmony" offers pastoral suggestions to address the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

-- Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults." The changes offer more specific language in several areas. Article 4 has been revised to protect the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Changes in Articles 6 and 12 specifically state that all people who have contact with minors rather than those in positions of trust "will abide by standard of behavior and appropriate boundaries." In all, seven changes have been proposed for a vote by the bishops.

- - -

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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPABy Dennis SadowskiFORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) --The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decisionthat asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection inthe United States."At its core, asylum is aninstrument to preserve the right to life," the bishops' statement said. Theyurged the nation's policymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode,the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."Sessions' decision "elicits deepconcern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequateprotection," it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extremedangers of domestic violence in their home country."The statement from the bishopscame on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.Just after opening prayers,Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops, read ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA

By Dennis Sadowski

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops June 13 decried U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision that asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence cannot find protection in the United States.

"At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," the bishops' statement said. They urged the nation's policymakers and courts "to respect and enhance, not erode, the potential of our asylum system to preserve and protect the right to life."

Sessions' decision "elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection," it said. "These vulnerable women will now face return to extreme dangers of domestic violence in their home country."

The statement from the bishops came on the first day of their June 13-14 spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale.

Just after opening prayers, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, read the statement from the dais, and the bishops voiced their support.

Announced by Sessions at a June 11 news conference, the decision "negates decades of precedents that have provided protection to women fleeting domestic violence," it said. "Unless overturned, the decision will erode the capacity of asylum to save lives, particularly in cases that involve asylum seekers who are persecuted by private actors."

The attorney general reversed an immigration court's decision granting asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband. He said U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune," including violence someone suffers in another country or other reasons related to an individual's "social, economic, family or other personal circumstances."

In his remarks, Cardinal DiNardo also said he joined Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Migration, "in condemning the continued use of family separation at the U.S./Mexican border as an implementation of the administration's zero tolerance policy."

"Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma," the cardinal said. "Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.

"While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral."

During the morning session, the U.S. bishops also heard a report from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States.

He talked about the need of church leaders to not just hear young people but to really listen to them, emphasizing that this is what Pope Francis often talks about it.

The nuncio talked about the encuentro process currently underway in the U.S., using it as a strong example of the church listening to the faithful

Regional encuentros are taking place all over the country. There delegates outline priorities that will shape Hispanic ministry for years to come. The regionals lead to the National Fifth Encuentro, or V Encuentro, to be held in Texas in September. Archbishop Pierre also talked about the church's upcoming Synod of Bishops on young people.

"Young people need to be a priority of the church" today, the nuncio said, "not just for the future of the church. ' Young people express a desire of an intentional knowing encounter in Christ rather than a faith reduced to ' moralism."

"I believe many young people desire wholistic formation. They want the church to facilitate an encounter with Jesus," he said. Such an encounter "provokes the question 'What interests me in life' and leads to works of justice and mercy and to live life ' with great intensity while loving their neighbor."

"Young people want to engage in reality" but do not want to be on that journey alone, he added. "They are searching for a strong sense of belonging."

Also on the agenda for their first day were reports from Father David Whitestone, chair of the bishops' National Advisory Council, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its formation, and from Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

Other reports covered the V Encuentro and the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment, which will take place at the Vatican in October.

The bishops also heard preliminary presentations on several action items they will be voting on, including:

-- Revised guidelines governing Catholic and non-Catholic health care partnerships the audits. The revisions are limited to Part 6 of the "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the document that governs moral questions related to the delivery of health care.

-- A new document described as a "pastoral response" to the growing Asian and Pacific Island Catholic community in the United States. "Encountering Christ in Harmony" offers pastoral suggestions to address the concerns and needs of Asian and Pacific Island Catholics.

-- Revisions in language to clarify seven of the 17 articles in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young Adults." The changes offer more specific language in several areas. Article 4 has been revised to protect the seal of the sacrament of reconciliation. Changes in Articles 6 and 12 specifically state that all people who have contact with minors rather than those in positions of trust "will abide by standard of behavior and appropriate boundaries." In all, seven changes have been proposed for a vote by the bishops.

- - -

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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, ReutersBy Rhina GuidosWASHINGTON (CNS) -- Asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violenceneed not apply for protection in the United States, said the country's top lawenforcement official at a June 11 news conference explaining why he reversed an immigration court's decision that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said shehad been abused by her husband. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that while a personmay suffer threats of violence in another country, "for any number of reasonsrelating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances," U.S.asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune."Various organizations, including some Catholic groups, quicklycondemned the attorney general's ruling."No longer will the United States of America welcome andprotect our vulnerable and abused brothers and sisters who are experiencingpersecution and brutality," said Lawrence E. Couch, director of the NationalAdvocacy Center of the ...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Asylum seekers fleeing domestic or gang violence need not apply for protection in the United States, said the country's top law enforcement official at a June 11 news conference explaining why he reversed an immigration court's decision that granted asylum to a Salvadoran woman who said she had been abused by her husband.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that while a person may suffer threats of violence in another country, "for any number of reasons relating to her social, economic, family or other personal circumstances," U.S. asylum laws cannot be used to remedy "all misfortune."

Various organizations, including some Catholic groups, quickly condemned the attorney general's ruling.

"No longer will the United States of America welcome and protect our vulnerable and abused brothers and sisters who are experiencing persecution and brutality," said Lawrence E. Couch, director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Couch said in a statement that Sessions' decision was "inherently hostile and cruel."

"I believe that the American people are a hopeful and welcoming people, but our government is out of sync with our values. The soul of our nation is being tested," he said.

Last year, in remarks posted on the Department of Justice's website Oct. 12, 2017, Sessions insinuated that an influx of people was entering the country on false asylum grounds, and said there was "rampant abuse and fraud."

Sessions made clear in June that violent threats were not enough to be granted asylum, even if a country's authorities could not help victims.

The ruling could affect adults and children coming from what's known as the Northern Triangle -- El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras -- a region plagued by gang violence, drug trafficking and other social ailments causing people to flee because authorities cannot control the violence nor guarantee safety.

"The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes -- such as domestic violence or gang violence -- or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim," Sessions said in the decision.

Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., said Sessions' ruling "sets a dangerous precedent for other victims of violence, including those who are targeted for their religious beliefs."

Asylum law, she said, "has long recognized that persecution can occur at the hands of entities that a national government is 'unable or unwilling to control' including by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Tamil Tigers."

But that's exactly what Sessions says in the ruling, she pointed out, when he says that "claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by nongovernmental actors will not qualify for asylum."

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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.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul HaringBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Theworst enemies in a young person's life aren't the problems they may face, PopeFrancis said.The biggest dangers are beingunwilling to find a way to adapt, mediocrity by settling for the status quo,and fear, he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13."It is necessary toask the heavenly father for the gift of healthy restlessness for today's youngpeople, the ability to not settle for a life without beauty, without color. Ifyoung people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity endup?" he said.As the pope spoke to thecrowd of 15,000 people, he was flanked on either side by 10 children wearingbright yellow baseball caps. He had invited them to temporarily leave behindtheir parish group pilgrimage in the square and follow him to the platform infront of the basilica to be part of his VIP entourage for the morning. The pope said he wasbeginning a new series of audience talks on the Ten Com...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worst enemies in a young person's life aren't the problems they may face, Pope Francis said.

The biggest dangers are being unwilling to find a way to adapt, mediocrity by settling for the status quo, and fear, he said at his general audience in St. Peter's Square June 13.

"It is necessary to ask the heavenly father for the gift of healthy restlessness for today's young people, the ability to not settle for a life without beauty, without color. If young people are not hungry for an authentic life, where will humanity end up?" he said.

As the pope spoke to the crowd of 15,000 people, he was flanked on either side by 10 children wearing bright yellow baseball caps. He had invited them to temporarily leave behind their parish group pilgrimage in the square and follow him to the platform in front of the basilica to be part of his VIP entourage for the morning.

The pope said he was beginning a new series of audience talks on the Ten Commandments and how Jesus leads people from the law to its fulfillment.

He asked people to reflect on the reading from the Gospel of Mark and Jesus' response to a young, wealthy man who asked what was needed to inherit eternal life. This question reflects the burning human desire for a full and dignified life, the pope said, but the challenge is "how to get there? What path to take?"

Unfortunately, the pope said, some people believe this restlessness, this desire to live a better life is too dangerous and should be tamped down.

"I would like to say, especially to young people, our worst enemy is not concrete problems" no matter how serious or tragic they may be.

"The biggest danger in life is a bad spirit of adapting that is not meekness or humility, but is mediocrity, pusillanimity," that is, cowardice or fear, and making the excuse for doing nothing by saying, "that's just the way I am."

"Where will humanity end up with young people who are tame (and) not restless?" he asked.

Referring to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati's insistence that it is better to live fully than to just get by, the pope asked the crowd whether a kid who is "mediocre has a future or not." The pope agreed with their answer, "No. He just sits there. He doesn't grow" and mature.

Reaching maturity, he said, is coming to realize and accept one's limits, and it is also seeing what is lacking in one's life, just as Jesus said the rich young man: "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."

This invitation to leave behind everything and follow the Lord, is "not a proposal of poverty, but of riches," the real treasure of everlasting life, he said.

If told to choose between having "the original" or just a copy, who would choose just a copy, the pope asked.

"Here's the challenge: to find the original, not the copy. Jesus doesn't offer substitutes, but offers real life, real love, real wealth," he said.

It is difficult to see why young people would choose then to follow those Christians who are not choosing "the original, if they see us putting up with half measures. It is terrible to encounter Christians (who only go) halfway, dwarf Christians who only grow a certain height and have a tiny, closed heart," he said.

Young people need the example of Christians who invite them to grow, "to go beyond" and look for more.

"We have to start from reality," with the way things are, "in order to take that leap into what is lacking. We have to scrutinize the ordinary in order to open ourselves up to the extraordinary."

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, ReutersBy SANSALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discardany plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poorcould not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity.Ina terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poorto die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis'encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Accessto potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human rightbecause it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition forthe exercising of all other rights."Thebishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of ourpeople, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if(water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces."ElSalvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislationis proving controversial beca...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters

By

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNS) -- El Salvador's bishops urged lawmakers to discard any plans for privatizing water in the Central American country, saying the poor could not afford to pay the cost of a vital necessity.

In a terse statement, issued June 12 and titled, "We will not allow the poor to die of thirst," the Salvadoran bishops' conference cited Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," which said, "Access to potable and secure water is a basic, fundamental and universal human right because it determines the survival of people and therefore is a condition for the exercising of all other rights."

The bishops continued: "As pastors, we are witnesses to the outcry of our people, who ask for potable water in all homes and could not pay the costs if (water) is turned into a good, which is subject to market forces."

El Salvador's legislature is starting debate on a national water law. The legislation is proving controversial because some lawmakers favor increased private-sector participation in water management.

The bishops' conference preferred that public oversight of water resources be maintained.

"If a law is approved that grants a private entity the right to decide over distribution of water in the nation, denying the state this function, we would be facing an absolutely undemocratic law, which lacks legitimacy," the bishops said.

"An unjust law that violates the rights of the people cannot be admitted."

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IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Father Sean RaftisBy Carol ZimmermannWASHINGTON(CNS) -- A group of Catholic high school friends has kept in touch -- literally-- since graduating more than 30 years ago from Gonzaga Preparatory School inSpokane, Washington.The way they've stayed connected-- through essentially continuing a version of tag they started in high school-- has received mixed reaction from people over the years, but that all changedfive years ago when The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about them. The piece gave the group almostinstant notoriety, as it was followed up by an ESPN segment and a slew of otherinterviews. The group of 10, who call themselves the "tag brothers," hiredan agent and started talking about movie potential.Fast forward years later and now,they're "it" -- to use a tag expression -- because the story of the elaborateways they've sneaked up on each other, sometimes in disguise, for one month of theyear -- as per their signed agreement -- is now on...

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Father Sean Raftis

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A group of Catholic high school friends has kept in touch -- literally -- since graduating more than 30 years ago from Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington.

The way they've stayed connected -- through essentially continuing a version of tag they started in high school -- has received mixed reaction from people over the years, but that all changed five years ago when The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about them.

The piece gave the group almost instant notoriety, as it was followed up by an ESPN segment and a slew of other interviews. The group of 10, who call themselves the "tag brothers," hired an agent and started talking about movie potential.

Fast forward years later and now, they're "it" -- to use a tag expression -- because the story of the elaborate ways they've sneaked up on each other, sometimes in disguise, for one month of the year -- as per their signed agreement -- is now on the big screen in the movie "Tag," which releases nationally June 15.

The movie takes the story of this group and runs with it, so to speak, with a fictionalized account. The original 10 friends -- nine graduated in 1983 and one in 1984 -- includes one priest, Father Sean Raftis, pastor of St. Richard's in Columbia Falls, Montana. At a reunion, the group was talking about their competitive high school tag and came up with a plan to continue it long distance every February.

In the movie, the group is made up of five friends who have been together since elementary school played by Ed Helms, Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Jake Johnson and Hannibal Buress. Like real life, the movie tags occur at unlikely places including a funeral home and the hospital delivery room.

The tag game, like what kids play at recess, involves tagging someone and making them "it" until they tag someone else. This grown-up version isn't so much running around as it is sneaking up on people who live in different states and have careers, families or ministries. The last person tagged at the end of February is "it" for the year.

The Wall Street Journal story that made this group famous points out that "players get tagged at work and in bed. They form alliances and fly around the country. Wives are enlisted as spies and assistants are ordered to bar players from the office."

The story highlighted one of the tags in the 1990s that involved Father Raftis hiding in the trunk of a Honda Accord waiting for Joe Tombari, who lived in California at the time but now teaches math and physics at Gonzaga Prep where the game began.

Mike Konesky, another tagger, drove the car over to Tombari's with the idea of showing him new golf clubs in his trunk. When the trunk opened, the priest reached his hand out to tag Tombari but didn't realize he actually reached his friend's wife who was shocked to see a hand reach out of the trunk, fell backward and hurt her knee.

When everyone attended to Tombari's wife, Tombari, of course, was tagged.

In a June 10 interview with Father Raftis from Montana days after he returned from the premiere of "Tag" in Los Angeles, the priest told Catholic News Service that the 15 minutes or so he was in the trunk felt like hours. He also felt bad that it involved an injury.

A decade or so later after this tag, Tombari and Konesky went to Montana to nab Father Raftis at church. The two sat in the front row and when the priest saw them he ended up mentioning the game in his homily, stressing the importance of friendship. His friends waited until Mass was over to tag him and then they went out for coffee and doughnuts with parishioners after.

The best tag Father Raftis remembers was when his friend since first grade, Mark Mengert, dressed up like Gonzaga's mascot, except in the high school's costume, and tagged Brian Dennehy with a note while he was attending a Gonzaga University basketball game with his wife, all while the real mascot looked over and raised his arms in confusion and security questioned the fake mascot.

All of this sneaking around, at its core, is about friendship and staying connected, said Father Raftis, adding that our whole faith is based on friendship with the communion of saints and angels.

The movie, he said, "gets the friendship thing right." He notes that it has an age-appropriate R rating for language but the "overwhelming arc of the movie is on the beauty of friendship and staying friends."

The movie has not yet been rated by CNS. The end features a clip of the original group. But this moment of fame isn't stopping them. Father Raftis said they plan to keep playing "indefinitely, as long as we can."

All of the tag brothers attended the movie's premiere in Los Angeles June 7 and they joined several members of the cast the night before at a dinner at Renner's home.

This has all been pretty surreal for the Montana priest, who was surprised to see "Tag" on billboards and bus advertisements in Los Angeles. When there was initial talk about a movie about the group, he said he thought it would be for DVD release or on the Hallmark Channel, which is fine, he added.

The movie openings, including one June 12 in Spokane where the original tagging began, is providing a rare chance for the group of tag brothers to be together.

And that's where the movie comes full circle because, as he put it, the point is: "Get a hold of someone you haven't been in touch with for a long time and rekindle the friendship."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr, Clarion HeraldBy Peter Finney Jr.NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Despitegroundbreaking steps the U.S. Catholic Church has taken to prevent the sexualabuse of minors in the past 16 years, a potential "complacency" in followingsafety protocols could pose a challenge to those hard-won advances.Francesco Cesareo, chairman ofthe National Review Board, shared that view with diocesan safe environment andvictims' assistance coordinators attending the Child and Youth ProtectionCatholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans.The 13-member lay board advisesthe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on safe environment protocols forchildren in Catholic parishes, schools and organizations.In his talk June 6, Cesareo thatbecause a large percentage of abuse claims deal with incidents that happenedmany years and even decades ago, the issue may appear now to be less urgent."The church has responded veryconcretely to this question and very proactively, but one of the issues now isth...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Peter Finney Jr, Clarion Herald

By Peter Finney Jr.

NEW ORLEANS (CNS) -- Despite groundbreaking steps the U.S. Catholic Church has taken to prevent the sexual abuse of minors in the past 16 years, a potential "complacency" in following safety protocols could pose a challenge to those hard-won advances.

Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, shared that view with diocesan safe environment and victims' assistance coordinators attending the Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans.

The 13-member lay board advises the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on safe environment protocols for children in Catholic parishes, schools and organizations.

In his talk June 6, Cesareo that because a large percentage of abuse claims deal with incidents that happened many years and even decades ago, the issue may appear now to be less urgent.

"The church has responded very concretely to this question and very proactively, but one of the issues now is that because it is now historical -- you have newly ordained priests who were children when this broke out -- the urgency of it is not there," he said. "You have bishops who are new. They weren't there in 2002. The urgency is not there."

Cesareo, who is president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he was pleased the church has shifted its conversation about sexual abuse of minors "from a legalistic approach to a more pastoral approach, which is very helpful in the process of healing and reconciliation and also in getting the church to understand the real pain that victims have felt and have experienced through the abuse."

But, he said, because the church has done such a good job dealing with sexual abuse in the past 16 years, "there is this notion that this is a problem in the past, 'we've dealt with it, we don't have to put as much attention on it, we have the policies in place.'"

"That's where the complacency comes in," Cesareo said. "It's like a hospital. You have the protocols in place and then suddenly someone dies in the operating room. All the protocols were followed, so why did this happen?

"We need to create a culture whereby the church is doing the same thing. Why did this happen? How do we prevent it? How do we strengthen what we're already doing? That's where the complacency issue is becoming problematic."

Cesareo cited encouraging statistics from the most recent audit of how individual dioceses are performing under the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People": outreach and support was provided to 1,905 victims/survivors; training on abuse prevention and safe environment was provided to more than 4.1 million children and more than 56,000 priests, deacons and candidates for ordination; and background checks have been administered to 97 to 99 percent of all adults serving in ministry with children.

"That's no small feat," Cesareo told the conference. "Yet, we are not finished. We can never be finished."

While some dioceses are going "above and beyond" the charter's guidelines, Cesareo said, "a number have fallen into a pattern of complacency regarding victim/survivor assistance and child protection efforts."

He said some dioceses had not completed background checks in a timely fashion and some had kept poor records, "which could potentially lead to unscreened individuals interacting with children."

Cesareo said accurate parish and school audits are vital in assessing compliance with the charter and also with diocesan policies. He suggested that individual diocesan review boards, which are called on to evaluate allegations of sexual abuse by clergy, should meet regularly -- at least annually and ideally four times a year -- even if no allegations have come forward.

Bishops can learn a lot by meeting regularly with the experts on the local review boards, Cesareo said.

"It is the belief of the (National Review Board) that diocesan review boards mitigate the risk that allegations will be mishandled and that possible offenders remain in ministry," Cesareo said.

No other organization in the U.S. has done a better job than the Catholic Church has in setting up safeguards to protect children, he said.

"Absolutely and without any doubt, even though we don't get the credit," Cesareo said. "That is clarified, No. 1, by the charter; No. 2, by the audit process that's in place; No. 3, by the policies and procedures that are in place. All the background checks, all the training that has taken place. There's no other organization that's doing what we're doing.

"Catholics in the pew should feel very confident that their children are safe in our schools and in our parishes, that the church is doing everything it can to ensure that kind of culture of safety and healing and that we are being proactive and not forgetting that this has to be always at the forefront of everything we do within the church."

The 13th annual conference, held June 3-6, drew more than 150 people from across the U.S. working in areas of safe environment, victims' assistance and pastoral care.

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Finney is executive editor/general manager of the Clarion Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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IMAGE: CNS photo/ReutersBy Carol GlatzVATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Talks between the leaders of theUnited States and North Korea are "truly historic" and bring hope forthe start of a new era of peace, said Pope Francis' ambassador to Korea.A "very important" new page has been turned, ArchbishopAlfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican NewsJune 12. "It marks the beginning of a still long and arduousjourney, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, verygood," he said. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President DonaldTrump met on Singapore's Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It wasthe first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.Afterward, Trump said Kim would work to end North Korea'snuclear program. Trump promised to end joint military exercises with SouthKorea.After the summit, CardinalAndrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, North Korea, cele...

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Talks between the leaders of the United States and North Korea are "truly historic" and bring hope for the start of a new era of peace, said Pope Francis' ambassador to Korea.

A "very important" new page has been turned, Archbishop Alfred Xuereb, apostolic nuncio to South Korea and Mongolia, told Vatican News June 12.

"It marks the beginning of a still long and arduous journey, but we are hopeful because the start has been very positive, very good," he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump met on Singapore's Sentosa Island for the historic summit June 12. It was the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

Afterward, Trump said Kim would work to end North Korea's nuclear program. Trump promised to end joint military exercises with South Korea.

After the summit, Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul, South Korea, and apostolic administrator of Pyeongyang, North Korea, celebrated Mass in Myeongdong Cathedral to pray for prompt execution of the summit agreement.

"When I heard the news that there was a meaningful agreement between the two summits in their first meeting, I deeply thanked God to remember our prayers for reconciliation and union of the Korean people," Cardinal Yeom said in his homily. "I sincerely wish that the agreement can be promptly executed to achieve the common good not only for Korean people but for all people on the globe."

He also added prayers for the believers in North Korea to have the freedom of religion and be able to lead humane lives as soon as possible.

Archbishop Xuereb told Vatican News the rhetoric has gone from unleashing "fire and fury" against North Korea to more moderate language "that speaks of peace, of relations based on understanding, therefore, we are truly full of hope and confidence."

"You can imagine how anxiously the Korean people and the church here in Korea are experiencing this truly historic moment," the papal nuncio said.

"The Holy See wants to support whatever possible initiative that promotes dialogue and reconciliation" while also taking advantage of being able to take the Gospel message to everyone, he said.

Pope Francis led thousands of people in St. Peter's Square in prayer June 10, expressing hopes the summit would lead to lasting peace.

"May the talks," he said, "contribute to the development of a positive path that assures a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world."

 

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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.

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