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El Paso bishop calls out racism but urges accused shooter's life be spared

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's a pastoral letter that pulls no punches, goes far into the past and continues up to the recent present of racism at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, released a pastoral letter Oct. 13, on the eve of the controversial holiday that Columbus Day has become, pointing to the church's role in racism at the border, particularly among indigenous communities, describes the pain of Latinos in the El Paso area following a mass shooting in August, but also calls on authorities to spare the life of the accused perpetrator.  

Invoking martyrs who include St. Oscar Romero, Blessed Stanley Rother and four Maryknoll women missionaries killed in El Salvador, Bishop Seitz said he wishes that, like them, "I may speak without fear when it is called for and help to give voice to those who have not been heard."

The letter titled "Night Will Be No More" was unveiled at the end of a social justice gathering of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso Oct.11-13. It begins and ends with the specter of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in the city, a violent and bloody event that authorities believe targeted Latinos.

"Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy," wrote the bishop.

That event led him to write the letter, he explained, "after prayer and speaking with the people of God in the church of El Paso" to "reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives."

Among some of what he has heard: "Latinos now tell me that for the first time in their lives they feel unsafe, even in El Paso. They feel that they have targets on their backs because of their skin color and language. They feel that they are being made to live in their own home as a 'stranger in a foreign land.'"

The killing, he said, was an example of the racism toward Latinos that has reached "a dangerous fever pitch" in the nation.  

"Our highest elected officials have used the word 'invasion' and 'killer' over 500 times to refer to migrants, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project," he said. "In Pope Francis' words, these 'signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of the other.'

"The same deadly pool of sin that motivates the attack on migrants seeking safety and refuge in our border community motivated the killing of our neighbors on August 3rd," he continued. "Sin unites people around fear and hate. We must name and oppose the racism that has reared its head at the center of our public life and emboldened forces of darkness."

Even as he repudiated the fear and destruction the massacre caused, Bishop Seitz made a plea to authorities to spare the life of accused shooter Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old who is said to have left messages on social media saying he was carrying out the shooting because of the "Hispanic invasion of Texas." Texas prosecutors have said they will ask for the death penalty if he's convicted.

"Justice is certainly required. But the cycle of hate, blood and vengeance on the border must meet its end," he wrote. "While the scales of justice may seem to tilt in favor of the necessity of lethal retribution, God offers us yet another chance to choose life. Choose in a manner worthy of your humanity."

He laid out how racism can make a "home in our hearts, distort our imagination and will, and express itself in individual actions of hatred and discrimination."

"This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to 'white' people than to people of color," he wrote. "This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into 'us' and 'them', 'worthy' and 'unworthy', paving the way to dehumanization."

Dark-skinned people are subject to different standards and treatment and the Catholic Church is not without fault in this, he said, adding that "even some of our seminarians have talked about experiences in seminaries in different parts of the country where it was presumed that their academic preparation was inferior and when they were the butt of jokes suggesting that their families must know something about drug trafficking."

He wrote that the proposed border wall is a symbol of this type of exclusion.

"The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an 'invasion'. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs," he wrote. "The wall is a physical reminder of the failure of two friendly nations to resolve their internal and binational issues in just and peaceful way."

But just as the letter offered criticism, it offered solutions.

"We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person," he wrote.

"This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride," he added. "This work of undoing racism and building a just society is holy, for it 'contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.'"

During Mass, pastors can lead people "to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite," he wrote. "We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar?"

At its end, the letter made a plea to President Donald Trump, Congress and the Supreme Court.

"I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border," he wrote.

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Editor's Note: The full text of the letter can be found at www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore.

 

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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]

Indigenous woman brings message from her elders to pope as church elder

IMAGE: CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anitalia Pijachi, an indigenous woman from the Amazonian town of Leticia, Colombia, came to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon bringing a message from the elders of her people to Pope Francis, an elder of the Catholic Church.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Amazon were "invaders," she said. "They never asked permission of mother nature or of the people who lived there. They imposed the cross and the Bible. That caused a great deal of resentment," and in some cases forced indigenous peoples from their territories.

But when the pope, during his 2018 visit to Peru, asked Amazonian people to tell the church how it should walk with them, "that was a question that asked permission," she told Catholic News Service.

Pijachi, an Ocaina Huitoto woman who is not Catholic, said that when she heard that, she spoke to the elders of her people, who approved of her participation in presynod gatherings as long as the church respected indigenous cultures.

"The elders said that first the Catholic Church and all churches must recognize us as having a right to our own culture and customs, our own spirituality," she added. "They must not impose themselves and change" those beliefs.

For many indigenous peoples, evangelization meant relocation from their territories to church-run communities known as reductions, as well as the loss of their languages and traditions, she said. "The pain is alive and still there."

The culture and spirituality of Amazonian indigenous people remain strong "as long as we have our territory, our rivers, our sacred places, food and our seeds, the elements of our rituals," Pijachi said.

She said she sees the synod as an opportunity to talk with "a great friend, a great elder, (Pope) Francis, who can carry our voice" to places where it otherwise would not be heard.

Environmental destruction by extractive industries such as logging, mining and oil companies has been a recurring theme in the synod.

"The people who come to extract (natural resources) don't live there," Pijachi said. "They live in Europe; they live in mansions in the big cities. All they're interested in is money."

The damage to the environment "is a spiritual death and a cultural death" for indigenous people, she said, adding that some whose actions or policies result in destruction are Catholic.

"The same person who received first Communion, who was married in the church, is the one who is cutting down the forest, who does not understand respect for creation," she said. "The same one who was baptized, who went to confession, who received Communion, who goes to Mass on Sunday is the governor of a state and pays no attention" to how public policies affect people.

"I asked (the bishops), 'Is that important to you?'" she said. Pijachi addressed the synod assembly Oct. 9.

As an indigenous woman, Pijachi said, she also called for church leaders to listen to women.

During the first days of the synod, when she heard bishops refer to the "holy mother church," the words reminded Pijachi of the "maloka," the spacious, round-sided communal building where her people gather for special occasions.

The maloka, she said, "is the woman, the womb that brings her children together, the place of abundance."

Although many synod participants spoke of the important pastoral work done by women, some remained reluctant to give women a larger role, she said. That is partly because some bishops do not understand the reality of ministry in the Amazon, she added.

A priest must administer the sacrament of the sick, for example, but where there is no priest, parents will ask a religious sister to bless a dying child. She has seen sisters telephone a priest to give the blessing by phone.

"I believe it is very important that the synod give women a place in decision-making (and) the autonomy to act," she said.

"I reminded the men that they do not have to be afraid of us," Pijachi said. "The only way a man can be born is if he comes from a woman. Before he saw the light of day, he was born through a woman's vagina."

"So why, after I gave him life, I who am his mother, why does he reject me and send me off to a corner?" she asked.

In her people's creation story, Pijachi said she told the bishops, "God put man and woman together in the world ... to walk together." If the two are not working in harmony, one indigenous elder told her, "it's like walking with only one leg."

 

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Experts offer advice to help people confront anxiety over gun violence

IMAGE: CNS photo/Briana Sanche pool via Reuters

By Patricia Montana

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Firearm attacks have changed society in the United States as mass shootings have become more frequent and the public is forced to face the psychological consequences, often silently.

More than half of American adults consider mass shootings a latent threat, a Reuters/Ipsos survey in August discovered. Many respondents reported experiencing a sense of insecurity with increased levels of anxiety.

"This situation puts you on alert because you never know when or where the next massacre will happen. There is an imitation effect and it is happening very frequently," one respondent said.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said recent mass shootings reveal a terrible truth.

"We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception," they said in a statement after a pair of early August attacks in Texas and Ohio. "They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face."

Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive website show that as of Oct. 10 in the United States there have been 326 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured. The shootings accounted for 363 deaths and 1,329 wounded, leaving countless families mired in pain.

After a white supremacist shooter in El Paso, Texas, sought to "kill as many Mexicans as possible" Aug. 3, fear is especially strong among Hispanic families. Mental health hangs in the balance, experts said.

"I feel that the focus of the attacks and racism is directly against us," said Edith Castillo, executive director of the Catholic Charities program El Programa Hispano in Gresham, Oregon.

Castillo, a mental health counselor, does not mince words in blaming President Donald Trump's rhetoric and federal immigration policy for some of the violence, especially against Latino people.

It's not a stretch to say that terms such as "invaders" can spark criminal actions against Hispanics, Castillo said.

"Many people have been fleeing places with a lot of violence in search of a place that gives them peace and quiet, but people are afraid of the current situation," said Elsa Tzintzun, a mental health counselor at El Programa Hispano. "This causes immigrants to feel isolated and marginalized."

Even those who were not present during an attack are affected by news reports, she said, explaining that trauma becomes an invisible and silent companion.

In 2014, after a shooting at Reynolds High School in suburban Portland, which left two students dead and a teacher wounded, El Programa Hispano offered psychological support. It was then that staff began to wonder how young people were affected by such incidents.

Tzintzun explained that after violent events it is normal for people to feel anxious and afraid; children may begin to behave differently and the changes can dampen their performance in school. The counselor listed irritability, nightmares, insomnia, tremors, sadness, apathy and lack of concentration as symptoms of fear.

Post-trauma symptoms do not necessarily mean people will develop a chronic problem, she said.

In Hispanic culture, many people think psychologists serve only those with severe mental illness or the rich, Tzintzun said. Mental health professionals who speak Spanish are also difficult to find, she said.

The professionals at El Programa Hispano offered several strategies to help manage stress and anxiety caused by violent events:

-- Physical and emotional care by eating well and on time, exercising and adequate and restful sleep.

-- Take time to pray or meditate together as a family and strengthen religious traditions.

-- Create support groups with family and friends or with community or church groups.

-- Have an action plan to increase the feeling of security, organize personal documents, have a power of attorney for your children and designate a trusted person to take charge if necessary.

-- Strengthen cultural identity by embracing one's origin, customs, traditions and values.

-- Seek counseling assistance from mental health professionals.

Tzintzun also offered suggestions on how parents can help their children:

-- Dialogue is essential, so devote time to talk -- such as during a daily meal -- to allow family members to share concerns, ask questions and discuss emotions.

-- Reaffirm safety by allowing children and young people to express their fears and concerns and help them to feel well and safe; a good way to combat fear is by providing information and cautioning children against becoming consumers of political rhetoric.

-- Limit television, internet and cellphone time in order to reduce exposure to violence and death, which can cause anxiety and distress.

-- Observe changes in behavior: Tell children that after events such as shootings it is normal to feel different; let them know that such feelings can cause misunderstandings or create tensions among family or friends. Establish guidelines that help promote respect and tolerance in the family.

-- Strengthen training in values because continuing a faith tradition can help in mental health crises.

"I think that the family is the first school of life and if a child has a solid formation in faith and values, that helps them develop a stable base for managing their emotions and facing life," Castillo said.

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Montana is editor of El Centinela, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

 

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Vatican security chief resigns following leak of internal document

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press.

The Vatican announced Oct. 14 that the pope accepted the resignation of the 57-year-old Vatican police chief who, although "bears no personal responsibility" for the leak, "tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the church and faithfulness to Peter's successor."

The pope accepted Giani's resignation, and in a conversation with him, "expressed his appreciation to the commander for his gesture."

"Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani's 20 years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father," the Vatican said.

Giani's resignation comes two weeks after L'Espresso, an Italian magazine, published what it said was an internal Vatican police notice about the "cautionary suspension" of five individuals after a raid Oct. 1 on offices in the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority.

The suspension order, which was signed by Giani, featured photos of one woman and four men, including Msgr. Mauro Carlino, head of information and documentation at the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Financial Intelligence Authority.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, had confirmed Oct. 12 that the pope ordered an investigation into the "illicit distribution of a document for internal use by the security forces of the Holy See."

The seriousness of the leak, "in the words of Pope Francis, is comparable to a mortal sin since it is detrimental to the dignity of people and to the principle of the presumption of innocence," Bruni told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

In an interview released by the Vatican shortly after the announcement, Giani said the leak caused the pope "serious pain" and that as commander, "I, too, was ashamed of what had happened and of the suffering caused to these people."

"For this reason, having always said and witnessed that I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend that of the pope, with the same spirit I decided to relinquish my duty so as not to damage the image and activity of the Holy Father in any way," he said.

Giani said that in the fallout over the leak, the pope continued to show him the paternal concern, which has "marked the special relationship that I have had with him since the beginning of his pontificate." He also said the pope took into consideration "personal difficulties" he had been facing, particularly his "desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children."

A former officer in the Italian intelligence service, Giani began his Vatican career in 1999 during St. John Paul II's papacy, serving as deputy police chief under his predecessor, Camillo Cibin.

In 2006, he was appointed as Inspector General of the Vatican Gendarme Corps and had been a constant presence as personal bodyguard to Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis at the Vatican and during papal trips abroad.

Reflecting on his career protecting the lives of three popes, Giani said that despite "the moment of personal uncertainty I am living through," divine providence will "show the way, which is certainly the path of the Lord," and described his 20 years of service as "an honor."

"If I close my eyes, I see endless scenes of the almost 70 international apostolic trips that I have followed, of countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and of so many private moments with the three pontiffs," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his testimony of the loyalty, honor and fidelity with which I have done my service helps me to face the future and the new tasks that I may take on, within the scope of my skills, with serenity after this extraordinary experience," Giani said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for 'Saints' goes viral

IMAGE: CNS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church's newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints' football team.

After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope's official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: "Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession."

However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints' fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team's game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon," a Twitter user said, sharing the pope's tweet. "Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas."

"Time to put 10k on the #Saints," another Twitter user wrote.

Other fans were elated that Christ's vicar on earth was in their corner. "Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it," another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team's "Who Dat" chant.

However, people rooting for other football teams couldn't hide their dismay. "We lost the pope!" a Twitter user tweeted to the New England Patriots.

But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints' own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars.

"Couldn't lose after this," the Saints' account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. "#Blessed and highly favored."

A Vatican official confirmed Oct. 14 that use of the hashtag to trigger the "hashflag" -- the fleur-de-lis -- was a case of "accidental evangelization," but hoped that "maybe someone who didn't know will become aware that there are other 'saints' to pay attention to."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Update: Banners unfurled as faithful share stories of five saints

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican hung banners of the Catholic Church's newly canonized saints four days before the Mass that officially recognized they are in heaven with God.

While the hanging of the banners Oct. 10 did not coincide with the Mass, it did coincide with the kickoff of exhibits, conferences, prayer vigils and other celebrations focused on the new saints from Brazil, England, India, Italy and Switzerland.

For the dozens of Brazilians at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, most of the attention was on St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce.

Born in 1914, she was a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and founded the first Catholic workers' organization in the state of Bahia, started a health clinic for poor workers and opened a school for working families. She created a hospital, an orphanage and care centers for the elderly and disabled and became known as "the mother of the poor."

St. John Paul II, who called her work "an example for humanity,'' met her in 1980 during his first trip to Brazil and, returning in 1991, he visited her in the hospital. She died in 1992 at the age of 77 with tens of thousands attending her funeral and even more gathering for her beatification in 2011.

Among English-speakers, though, most of the attention was on St. John Henry Newman, the theologian, poet and cardinal who lived from 1801 to 1890.

Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, led the inauguration Oct. 10 of an exhibit about the four visits St. John Newman made to Rome: first as an Anglican, then as a Catholic seminarian, later as founder of the first communities in England of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, and finally, when he came to be made a cardinal in 1879.

The canonization was causing a lot of excitement in England, she said, and Prince Charles planned to travel to the Vatican for the Mass Oct. 13.

"Cardinal Newman was really a very important figure. He was a giant of the 19th century," Axworthy said.

"The first half of his life he was Anglican, and he was a major figure in the Anglican Church," influencing the church to draw more deeply from its Catholic roots and from the early Christian theologians, Axworthy said. "He defined Anglicanism as a middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism."

Once he joined the Catholic Church, she said, "he had a similarly great impact" on this new community, "particularly with his ideas on the development of doctrine, which I understand opened the way to Vatican II, and also his ideas about conscience, about conscience being the voice of God in every one of us."

Cardinal Newman already is honored as a saint on the Anglican calendar -- on Aug. 11, the day of his death. His feast day on the Catholic calendar is Oct. 9, the date he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 44.

In London on the eve of Cardinal Newman's beatification in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said the cardinal had been an "important influence" in his own life and thought.

At the beatification Mass the next day in Birmingham, England, Pope Benedict paid special tribute to the future saint's vision of education, which combined intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment.

He quoted the theologian's appeal for a well-instructed laity and said it should serve as a goal for catechists today: "I want a laity not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."

The three others canonized Oct. 13 were:

-- St. Marguerite Bays, a laywoman from Switzerland known for her service to the poor, her simplicity of life and her devoted faith in the face of great physical suffering. St. Bays also was known as a mystic and for bearing the stigmata of Christ. She died in 1879 at the age of 63.

St. John Paul II beatified her in 1995, lauding her as an example for all lay Catholics. "She was a very simple woman with a very normal life," he had said. "She did not accomplish anything extraordinary, yet her existence was a long and silent progression on the path toward holiness."

-- St. Josephine Vannini, an Italian who co-founded the Daughters of St. Camillus, adding to the usual vows -- poverty, chastity and obedience -- a fourth, which is to serve the sick, even if it means risking death.

Born in 1859, she was orphaned at a young age and was sent to live with the Daughters of Charity, an order she later applied to join. After leaving the novitiate because of illness, though, she was not readmitted. She and her spiritual director, Blessed Luigi Tezza, founded the Daughters of St. Camillus. She died in 1911.

-- St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, the Indian founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, a religious order dedicated to helping couples and families and serving the poor, the sick and the dying. Born in 1876 to a well-off farming family, she insisted on living a life of austerity, sleeping on the gravel floor instead of a bed, for instance.

When she received the stigmata in 1909, her bishop ordered that an exorcism be performed. But she continued with her prayer life and serving local families.

Under direction of the local bishop in 1913, her spiritual director set up a "house of solitude" where St. Thresia could go to pray. Three friends joined her in the house, and in 1914, she received canonical permission to launch the Congregation of the Holy Family. She died in 1926.

 

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Kindly lights in gloomy world: Pope declares five new saints

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saints are people who recognized their need for God's help, who took risks to discover God's will and to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said.

"The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?" the pope said in his homily Oct. 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church.

Those canonized at the Mass were: St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal who died in 1890; Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911.

"Three of them were religious women," the pope noted in his homily. "They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world."

"St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving," he said.

Rather than describing St. Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of "the holiness of daily life": "The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not .... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense ... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man."

And, referencing St. Newman's famous hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light," the pope prayed that all Christians would be "'kindly lights' amid the encircling gloom."

Tens of thousands of people filled a sunny St. Peter's Square for the canonization ceremony and Mass. Among them were Britain's Prince Charles, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Martins Mourao, a member of Switzerland's federal council and the deputy foreign minister of India.

Melissa Villalobos from Chicago also was there with her husband and children, and they brought up the offertory gifts at the Mass. Villalobos' healing, which saved her life and the life of her unborn child, was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Newman's canonization.

Hours before the Mass began, Holy Family Sisters Manjula and Aruna stood just outside the security checkpoint, handing out Indian flags, rosaries and prayer cards, caps and scarves with the image of their order's founder, St. Thresia.

The new saint's focus, and that of her order today, is assisting families, said Sister Manjula, whose ministry is "counseling and visiting houses and helping solve problems. We help all families -- non-Christian, non-Catholic, anyone."

Gregory K. Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, was representing his university at the Mass, but his presence was very personal, too.

"Newman is important to me theologically and for my spirituality," he said. "And I like his conversion story" of how, as an Anglican priest, he became a Catholic at the age of 44. "I became a Catholic 13 years ago, and Newman was an important guide. He converted, but maintained his friendships, his respect and love for the tradition that he left."

"I'm an ecumenical convert as well," Hillis said. "I'm tired of converts who hate the tradition they left."

An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion.

"His legacy is far broader than one church or two churches," the archbishop said. "It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God."

St. Newman's role in founding the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, a push to rediscover the early Christian writers and to recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism, "had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial and important influence on Anglicanism," Archbishop Welby said.

As is his custom at Mass, including at canonizations, Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on the day's Scripture readings and only made passing reference to the people being declared saints.

The day's short Gospel reading from Luke recounted the story of 10 lepers who, seeing Jesus approach, cry out to him for healing. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests and, as they go, they are healed. But only one returns to thank Jesus.

"Like those lepers," Pope Francis said, "we, too, need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think."

The story also illustrates how, "on the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights," he said. "Faith calls for a journey, a 'going out' from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbors and our cozy nests."

And, finally, he said, the story teaches that returning to Jesus with a heart full of gratitude is the culmination of the journey of faith.

"To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith," the pope said. "To say 'Thank you, Lord' when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed, that is the best way to keep our hearts young.

"This also holds true for families, and between spouses," he added. "Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all."

 

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Immigrant domestic abuse victims fear reporting abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Catholic Charities

By Katie Scott

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Amid changing immigration laws and deportation threats, advocates and lawyers have seen a decrease in immigrants who are victims of domestic violence seeking help and reporting abuse to law enforcement.

Staff and partner agencies of Catholic Charities of Oregon -- the largest nonprofit immigration legal services provider in the state -- have particularly witnessed this fallout.

"People are worried about calling the police because they believe they will turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement," said Manuel Gutierrez, a victim advocate with a Catholic Charities partner agency in Umatilla.

Last spring, seven national organizations, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, co-sponsored a survey of nearly 600 immigration attorneys and advocates across the country. More than 76% reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about contacting police.

Catholic Charities frequently hosts information sessions for immigrants in rural Oregon to provide free legal assistance to victims. Typically, "the room is full of people," said attorney Sarah Purce, assistant director of the nonprofit's Immigration Legal Services, who said no one came to the last event.

On average, victims of domestic violence -- primarily women -- make seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before staying away for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Fear of an abuser's retaliation, embarrassment and a lack of financial resources to provide for children often makes victims stay, said Norma Obrist, a victim advocate with Tides for Change, which provides shelter and support for victims in Tillamook.

Even without deportation threats, survivors in the Hispanic immigrant community confront additional hurdles, Obrist said, noting that a limited knowledge of English makes it difficult to connect with already-limited Spanish-language resources.

For victims from Central and South American cultures, there also can be "a sense of male privilege, that men have this power and control," said Obrist. She said a high percentage of Hispanic immigrant victims are Catholic, and some mistakenly think it's sinful to leave an abusive marriage.

Those without legal documentation face even greater barriers.

"One of the primary things we hear when we talk to undocumented survivors is that their partner will call ICE on them if they leave," Purce said.

Domestic abusers threatening their victims with immigration consequences is nothing new, but a broader anxiety now exits, said Obrist.

Catholic Charities does not have figures on how many victims are too scared to contact the police or testify against their abuser, "but anecdotally we hear from those who are too afraid to go to court," said Purce.

The long-standing sanctuary law in Oregon says local law enforcement officers are not supposed to contact ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if they believe an individual lacks legal documentation but has committed no other crime.

"But there aren't repercussions if they do contact ICE," Purce said. So while immigrants without legal documentation in Oregon have more protections than those in other states, their fears are not unfounded.

Those in rural areas also face challenges with getting help, said Obrist pointing out the isolation, lack of cellphone reception and public transportation.

There's also a lack of support and legal expertise in rural communities -- which is why Catholic Charities of Oregon has taken its Immigration Legal Services on the road.

Catholic Charities offers low-cost legal services to immigrants who are victims of domestic violence in Portland and in recent years it has also received a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice to reach the same demographic in rural areas.

But the $1.1 million three-year grant was recently reduced by $350,000, cutting the four-attorney staff to three. The Oregon Law Foundation had provided a two-year grant to partially augment the loss, but that ended in September, shrinking the program to two attorneys.

"It's definitely hard to keep services at the same level with reduced funding," Purce told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

One legal option for abuse victims without legal documentation is the U visa. Established by the federal government in 2000, they offer a temporary legal status and a path toward citizenship for victims of violent crime, including domestic violence. To be eligible, a survivor must somehow aid law enforcement, for example reporting the crime or testifying in court.

Obtaining legal status can be "life-changing for a victim and help them build a safe life for themselves and their families," Purce said. "Not being able to drive away yourself, make your own money to feed your children; they are really trapped." With a U visa, survivors receive work authorization, so they can work legally, obtain a Social Security number and get a driver's license.

Before six months ago, victims could apply for the visa without risk of deportation if the claim was denied. Now, they will be placed in removal proceedings if they do not have legal documents and withdraw their application, or if it is denied, explained Purce.

"You tell them, 'Here's a potential thing that might help you in 10 years, but it might put you in removal proceedings. Do you want it?'"

Millet Vargas, an immigrant from Mexico, lacked legal documentation when she discovered her partner was abusing her 5-year-old daughter. But she knew what she wanted to do.

"There was no hesitation about contacting the police," said 43-year-old Vargas, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton. "I didn't think about my legal status; I was just thinking about my child."

She stayed in her car hiding from her abuser while waiting for the police to apprehend him. In the back seat was her oldest daughter, her toddler and her 5-month-old.

"What happened is so painful it is hard to explain the feelings," she said, adding that her faith kept her moving forward.

Vargas eventually connected with Immigration Legal Services, and with the agency's help obtained a U visa. Because her abused daughter was a minor, Vargas could be included in an application. She became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

"What I received from Catholic Charities was priceless," said Vargas, who has started her own business and has seen her oldest daughter off to college. "For me, it's the American dream."

Vargas never questions her decision to call the police. She said if the current restrictive U visa directives had been in place when she applied, she might not have taken the risk to become a citizen.

"I would've been afraid of what would happen to me, that my family would be separated," she said.

Vargas said she worries about the victims who will not leave abusers due to fear of deportation or family separation. "I know that because immigrants are scared a lot of women will continue to live in terrible situations -- their children, too."

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Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

 

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The Addams Family

Update: Women religious should have vote at synod, theologian says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the Catholic Church has made strides to include the voice of women, especially in the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, women should be included among synod voting members and in church leadership positions, a German theologian said.

Medical Mission Sister Birgit Weiler, a member of the Peruvian bishops' pastoral ministry for the care of creation, told journalists at a Vatican news briefing Oct. 11 that such changes would allow the church to become "a community of sisters and brothers, sharing faith, discerning together."

"When you have participated fully in the whole process of sharing faith, of discerning together," then the vote is a natural expression of wanting to participate fully in the decision-making phase of the synod, she said.

Full participation in the life of the church, Sister Weiler said, also includes giving women more leadership roles within the church.

"There is a wide field (of leadership positions) where you do not need to be ordained," she said, adding that she hoped, in the future, more women -- both lay and religious -- "will be invited to assume responsible positions."

The rules governing the synods of bishops provide for the men's Union of Superiors General to elect voting members of the synod, but there is no such provision for the women's International Union of Superiors General. However, the pope does appoint women religious, like Sister Weiler, to attend the synods as observers or experts.

"Of course, as many other religious women, we desire that we come to the point that our superiors general can have a vote" just as their male counterparts do, she said.

During the briefing, Sister Weiler told journalists that she, along with two sisters participating in her small-group discussions at the synod, experienced "a very open atmosphere" and feel "accepted as part of the group."

The German theologian also said she is grateful to Pope Francis and the steps he has taken to include women's voices throughout the synod process.

This, she said, "is already a significant step forward, and I want to honor it."

Women, both lay and religious, have noted that the atmosphere allows for "more critical questions" to be asked "respectfully, but open on the table."

Sister Weiler said that among the bishops and cardinals participating at the synod, there are a good number "who really understand us as women, who share our concern" and who know that there are things that cause the women pain; "they understand why and want things to change."

"There isn't a clerical attitude," she said. "There's a lot of freedom of speech, and it is a beautiful experience really to discern together."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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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]