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Faith leaders decry ICE deportations, say action causes anxiety, fear

IMAGE: CNS photo/ICE, Charles Reed via Reuters

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Many Catholic and other faith leaders noted that the Gospel reading for July 14 -- the day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was to carry out deportation orders for some immigrants -- was the parable of the good Samaritan from the Gospel of St. Luke.

The story admonishes people to put aside their differences and "help those who are in need of help," such as the immigrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, faith leaders said.

Among leaders criticizing the ICE actions was Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, who said July 13 that her organization strongly opposed "the reported plans of ICE raids this weekend."

"The threats of deportation and family separation are causing anxiety and fear within the vulnerable communities our agencies serve, endangering immigrant rights and safety. Most significant is the lasting psychological damage family separation inflicts upon children," she said. "Such cruel behavior will impact children for the rest of their lives."

"Our Catholic Charities agencies stand committed to providing legal and humanitarian assistance for our immigrant brothers and sisters," she said. "We support the pursuit of legal immigration but recognize that all immigrants, regardless of status, must be treated with basic human dignity and respect."

Sister Markham urged Congress and the Trump administration "to enact comprehensive immigration reform and address the root causes of migration rather than pursue enforcement raids on America's immigrant community."

In Texas, Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores called echoed the same concerns, saying: "The threat of mass deportation raids is psychologically cruel to families and children. The actual separation of parents from their children without even a chance for a court appearance is simply reprehensible. Laws ought to treat families and children differently than drug lords."

News reports estimated that about 2,000 people were going to be arrested for deportation. ICE actions were taking place in at least nine cities: New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and Miami. Some news reports reported that ICE actions also would take place in New Orleans.

Mayors in those cities announced they would not allow their law enforcement agencies to cooperate with ICE agents. Thousands across the country protested the agency's actions.

In New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan July 13 decried a general negative attitude toward refugees and immigrants that he said he sees among many in this country, a nation of immigrants. His remarks were not issued in direct response to the announced ICE deportations but came after he celebrated Mass that day in the chapel at the St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Shrine in New York City.

The saint, also called Mother Cabrini, is the patroness of immigrants and refugees. An Italian American, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious community that was a major support to the Italian immigrants to the United States.

"I was moved as I recalled her work among Italian immigrants in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century," Cardinal Dolan wrote in a blog post. "This work inspires me today as the church continues to welcome immigrants from so many different countries, particularly in these troublingly uncertain times."

"It saddens me to admit that many, some even in the church, opposed Mother Cabrini's work. It troubles me that today in too many places hate and malice are directed against immigrants and refugees -- in both words and actions," he added.

"As a pastor, I pray that understanding, respect and love might grow in dealing with newcomers to our land. I am proud of the welcoming that our parishes, schools, charitable, and health care ministries have and do provide," Cardinal Dolan said.

In a July 14 interview on Fox News Channel, Matt Albence, acting ICE director, said "using the term 'raid does everybody a disservice. We are doing targeted enforcement actions against specific individuals who have had their day in immigration court and have been ordered removed by an immigration judge."

"We are merely executing those lawfully issued judges' orders," he said.

Albence said he could not give details of what the agency was calling "Operation Perspective," but said individuals ICE was targeting came "to this country illegally, had the opportunity to make an asylum claim before an immigration judge, and most of them chose not avail themselves of that opportunity and didn't even show up for their first hearing."

Albence added that in February, ICE gave these individuals an opportunity to turn themselves and arrange "processes for leaving the country." Just 3%, he said, "actually responded, the rest ignored (the request)."

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the weekend action aligned with ICE's priority to remove criminals from the U.S.

"We've got compassionate, loyal ICE agents who are just doing their job," Mr. Cuccinelli said in a morning interview July 14 with CNN's Jake Tapper. "It shows you how far we've fallen in that it's become news that they would actually go deport people who have removal orders."

In other faith-based reaction, Katie Adams, domestic policy advocate for the United Church of Christ and co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, said July 12 that having "these raids" take place on a Sunday, "the Christian holy day," is "further proof that these actions are morally bankrupt."

"These raids come from a place of fear, suspicion, and hate; living in that kind of hate is antithetical to the Gospel that teaches love for humanity. Families are sacred, both those we are born with and those we find," Adams said.

The National Council of Churches, also in a July 12 statement, urged the Trump administration to call off the ICE actions, which it labeled as "unconscionable and immoral."

"This is a moment in which God is calling the church to do all it can to stand with those who have sought refuge within our borders and to resist these measures and show compassion toward persons threatened with deportation," the council said.

Back in June, when the Trump administration indicated it planned enforcement operation in major cities to remove thousands of migrant families with deportation orders, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' migration committee criticized the decision, saying broad enforcement actions "instigate panic in our communities and will not serve as an effective deterrent to irregular migration."

"We recognize the right of nations to control their borders in a just and proportionate manner," said Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, in a June 22 statement. ICE deportations were later postponed.

"We should focus on the root causes in Central America that have compelled so many to leave their homes in search of safety and reform our immigration system with a view toward justice and the common good," he said, adding the U.S. bishops were ready to work with the administration and Congress to achieve comprehensive immigration reform.

"During this unsettling time, we offer our prayers and support to our brothers and sisters," Bishop Vasquez said, "regardless of their immigration status, and recognizing their inherent dignity as children of God."

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

 

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Love of God, love of neighbor are tied together, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praying that Catholics would understand and act on "the inseparable bond" between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.

"We pray that the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties in conflict so that as soon as possible they arrive at an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region," the pope said July 14 after reciting the Angelus prayer.

In early June, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the violence, extreme poverty and lack of medicines in their country had reached 4 million since 2015.

In his main Angelus talk, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the story of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that "compassion is the benchmark" of Christianity.

Jesus' story about the Samaritan stopping to help a man who had been robbed and beaten after a priest and Levite just walked by, "makes us understand that we, without our criteria, are not the ones who decide who is our neighbor and who isn't," the pope said.

Rather, he said, it is the person in need who identifies the neighbor, finding it in the person who has compassion and stops to help.

"Being able to have compassion; this is the key," the pope said. "If you stand before a person in need and don't feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive."

"If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, 'That's the wine. He's a drunk,' ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice," the pope said.

Jesus' command to be like the good Samaritan, he said, "indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father's face."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

Update: Vatican discovers empty tombs as it searches for missing woman

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Opening the Vatican tombs of a princess and a duchess July 11 in a search for the remains of a young Italian woman missing for more than 30 years, the Vatican found no human remains at all.

"The search had a negative result," said Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office. "No human remains or funeral urns were found."

Now, Gisotti said, Vatican officials will go into the archives to study documents dealing with "structural interventions carried out in the area" of the Teutonic Cemetery at the end of the 1800s and again in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The cemetery, existing since the Middle Ages, is now reserved mainly for German-speaking priests and members of religious orders.

The side-by-side tombs had been marked as the final resting places of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the mother of King Frederick VII of Denmark, who died in 1840.

Gisotti said July 13 that investigators believe the remains of the noblewomen may have been moved more than 40 years ago when the Pontifical Teutonic College was expanded. They have sealed off two ossuaries -- vaults containing the bones of multiple persons -- in the floor of the college and plan to open them July 20. In Italy, to create space, it is common to move older remains from a tomb to an ossuary or common grave.

A Vatican City State court had ordered the opening of the tombs at the request of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared in Rome June 22, 1983, at age 15. She was a Vatican City resident and daughter of a Vatican employee.

In March, the Orlandi family's lawyer revealed the family had been sent a letter with a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican cemetery. The letter said, "Look where the angel is pointing," according to Laura Sgro, the lawyer.

Vatican workers, supervised by Vatican police and a forensic anthropologist, opened the tombs July 11 after a short prayer was recited by the graves. Sgro was present, along with Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing woman.

"We want to reemphasize that the Holy See always has shown attention and closeness to the suffering of the Orlandi family, particularly her mother," Gisotti said. Opening the tombs at the family's request was another sign of that concern.

For decades, Orlandi's case has been the obsession of conspiracy theorists who linked her disappearance to Freemasons, organized crime, the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II and other unsubstantiated theories.

Gisotti said that under a marble slab that was believed to be Princess Sophie's tomb there was a large subterranean opening, measuring four meters by 3.7 meters (13 feet by 12 feet), "completely empty."

Moving on to the presumed tomb of Duchess Charlotte, Gisotti said, "no human remains were found."

Relatives of both women were informed, he said.

On the eve of the opening of the tombs, Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, interviewed Giovanni Arcudi, the forensic anthropologist who was to lead the scientific investigation of the remains in the two tombs in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery.

In the interview, published July 10, Arcudi emphasized the need for careful analysis of the remains in the tombs before knowing if they could provide answers to the Orlandi case, which has remained unsolved for more than three decades.

"Apart from the morphological examination of the bones, the DNA examination will be done in any case to reach certainties and to exclude in a definitive and categorical way that there is some evidence in the two tombs that can be attributed to poor Emanuela," Arcudi said.

The anthropologist had expected to find bones in the tombs and had planned to extract and clean them and piece together the skeletal remains to determine the number of deceased persons that were buried as well as their age and sex.

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Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 [email protected]

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