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Border bishops call for dignity regardless of 'migration condition'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Larry W. Smith, EPA

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In a joint statement, Catholic bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border spoke of the "pain, the fear, and the anguish" they're seeing in immigrants and vowed to follow the example of the pope in building "bridges, rather than the walls of exclusion and exploitation."

The Feb. 14 statement was read at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in Texas after a visit by the bishops to an immigration detention center as well as to a humanitarian respite center at Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen, Texas, in the Brownsville Diocese. 

The statement came after two days of a gathering of bishops whose dioceses are along the U.S.-Mexico border. The apostolic nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, also attended. The meeting of about 20 bishops included Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville and Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio.

The biannual meetings began in 1986 "to address the life and pastoral needs of our migrant brothers and sisters," the statement said, adding that "in this difficult moment in our history, we hear the cry of our migrant brothers and sisters whose voices reflect the voice of Christ himself."

They spoke of the plight of the Holy Family as they sought refuge and a compassionate human response, and said they saw the same in immigrants they met. The suffering immigrants face is the result of "a broken immigration system caused by political structures and economic conditions that result in threats, deportations, impunity and extreme violence," they said. Migrants are the result of these conditions and also are victims of those who seek to extort them in their work and under the threat of deportations that can lead to their separation from family and friends.

"We can sense the pain of the separation of families, loss of employment, persecutions, discrimination, racism and unnecessary deportations that paralyze the development of persons in our societies," they said. "Immigration is a global phenomenon that arises from economic and social conditions, and the poverty and insecurity that directly displaces entire populations, causing families to feel that migration is the only way to survive."

Migrants have the right to be respected "regardless of their migration condition," the bishops added, because every person has the right to dignity, yet migrants are "subjected to punitive laws and often mistreated by civil authorities both in their country of origin, the countries through which they travel and the country of their destination. It is essential that governments adopt policies that respect the human rights of migrants and undocumented residents."

In the church, they said, "there are no strangers," and vowed to continue to support services to migrant families "including spiritual, legal, and material assistance."

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Follow Guidos on Twitter: @CNS_Rhina.

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Copyright © 2017 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.

NEED FOR CATHOLIC HEALTH CARE HAS NEVER BEEN GREATER, SAYS CARDINAL

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNS) — As society has placed the dignity of human life under constant attack, there has never been...

Special Olympians show world that 'every person is a gift,' pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The athletes of the Special Olympics witness to the world the beauty and value of every human life and the joy that comes from reaching a goal with the encouragement and support of others, Pope Francis said.

"Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome," the pope told representatives of the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria March 14-25.

"You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society," the pope told the group Feb. 16. "Every life is precious, every person is a gift, and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one."

Pope Francis praised the passion and dedication of the Special Olympians as they train for their events, and said sports are good for everyone, physically and mentally.

"The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden," the pope told the athletes.

"In a way," he said, "at the heart of all sporting activity is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event -- for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves -- we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!"

Watching the Special Olympians, he said, everyone should learn "to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together."

Sporting events, especially international events like the Special Olympics World Winter Games, help "spread a culture of encounter and solidarity," the pope said, wishing the athletes "joyful days together and time with friends from around the world."

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Copyright © 2017 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.

God will ask an account for blood spilled in today's wars, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Humankind will have to answer to God for the bloodshed of the innocent victims of war, and the blood spilled by greed and arms trafficking, Pope Francis said.

While God has given peace to the world, inside all human beings "there is still that seed, that original sin, the spirit of Cain who out of envy, jealousy, greed and the desire for domination, makes war," the pope said Feb. 16 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Today in the world, blood is being spilled. Today the world is at war. So many brothers and sisters die, even innocents, because the great, the powerful want a bigger piece of the earth; they want a little bit more power or want to gain a bit more through arms trafficking," he said.

The pope centered his homily on the day's first reading in which God makes a covenant with Noah and all of humanity after the flood and warns that he "will demand an account for human life."

This covenant, along with the rainbow and the dove holding an olive branch, are signs of "what God wanted after the flood: peace; that all men and women would be in peace," the pope explained.

The rainbow and the dove are symbolic of peace not only because of their beauty, but also because of their fragility, he said. "The rainbow is beautiful after a storm, but when a cloud comes, it disappears," and doves are easy prey for predators.

The pope recalled the unfortunate incident when, after delivering his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 26, 2014, he and two children released two doves as a gesture of peace. A seagull and a crow swooped down and attacked the two doves.

"The covenant God makes is strong, but how we receive it, how we accept it is with weakness," the pope said. "God makes peace with us, but it isn't easy to keep the peace."

The seed of war that creates jealousy, envy and greed in people's hearts, the pope continued, "has grown into a tree," causing "bombs that fall on hospitals, on a school and kills children."

"The blood of Christ is what makes peace, not my brothers' blood that is spilled by me, or arms traffickers or the powers of the earth in the great wars," he said.

Pope Francis said that all men and women are called not only to protect peace, but to "handcraft" it every day, beginning in their hearts and in their homes.

He recalled a childhood memory when, after hearing the sounds of sirens and alarm bells ringing throughout his neighborhood, a neighbor tearfully exclaimed to his mother: "The war is over."

"May the Lord give us the grace of being able to say: 'The war is over' and weep. 'The war is over in my heart, the war is over in my family, the war is over in my neighborhood, the war is over in my workplace, the war is over in the world' so that the dove, the rainbow and the covenant will be stronger," the pope said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 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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RALLIES HELD NATIONWIDE CALL ON CONGRESS TO DEFUND PLANNED PARENTHOOD

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Cardinal Burke presides over trial investigating Guam archbishop

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, a church law expert and former head of the Vatican's highest court, arrived in Guam Feb. 15 as the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana.

The Vatican press office confirmed a "tribunal of the first instance" was constituted by the Vatican Oct. 5 and its presiding judge is Cardinal Burke. Four other judges, all of whom are bishops, also were appointed, the press office said.

"When an action is in a 'first instance' court, that indicates that it is in the initial trial phase," according to the website of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles accusations of clerical sexual abuse.

Three men have publicly accused Archbishop Apuron of sexually abusing them when they were altar boys in the 1970s. The mother of a fourth man, now deceased, also accused the archbishop of abusing her son.

Archbishop Apuron has refused to resign, but in late October, Pope Francis named former Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Byrnes as coadjutor archbishop of Agana and gave him full authority to lead the archdiocese.

Roland Sondia, who works for Pacific Daily News and is one of Archbishop Apuron's accusers, told the newspaper that he had received a letter from Cardinal Burke requesting his presence at the Agana archdiocesan chancery Feb. 16 "for the purpose of giving said testimony."

At a news briefing Feb. 10, according to Pacific Daily News, Archbishop Byrnes announced the archdiocese would adopt the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Accusations of clerical sexual abuse involving minors automatically would be reported to civil authorities, he said.

Also at the briefing, the archbishop confirmed that Vatican investigators would visit Guam, but he provided no further information.

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Copyright © 2017 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.

A MODEL FATHER

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