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Update: Pope sends aid to southeast Africa after cyclone

IMAGE: CNS photo/Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As an immediate sign of his concern and an encouragement to other donors, Pope Francis has sent $50,000 each to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi to assist with initial emergency relief efforts after a cyclone hit the region and caused massive flooding.

As of March 22, at least 300 people were known to have died, thousands have been injured and hundreds of thousands left homeless, according to the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

The dicastery, which will distribute the aid from the pope through the Vatican nunciatures in each country, said the week of torrential rain in the region has "razed to the ground tens of thousands of homes and public buildings" and made major roads impassable.

The water and electricity distribution systems have been compromised and there is a growing concern about the spread of diseases, particularly through unclean water.

The Vatican described Pope Francis' donation as a "first contribution" and "an immediate expression of his feeling of spiritual closeness" to the people impacted.

In addition, it noted, the contribution is only "part of the aid that is being gathered throughout the Catholic Church" from bishops' conferences and charitable organizations.

In Washington, the chairmen of the U.S. bishops' subcommittee on Africa and their international policy committee said March 22 that Catholic Relief Services has set up an emergency relief initiative to collect resources to provide humanitarian aid "and begin the longer-term recovery efforts" in the three African countries.

"It is with profound shock, horror and sadness that we learn about the devastation and massive loss of life that has occurred ... due to Cyclone Idai. The magnitude of the cyclone and the scope of its damages are almost beyond belief," said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services.

They wrote to the Catholic bishops' conferences of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi as the chairmen, respectively, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Subcommittee on the Church in Africa and the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

The two prelates expressed sorrow and solidarity over the lives lost by the cyclone and offered prayers for recovery efforts.

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Bishop criticizes 'faith-filled' Catholics who spread fear of Muslims

IMAGE: CNS photo/Irish Catholic

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DUBLIN (CNS) -- An Irish bishop has criticized Catholics who identify as "faith-filled" while spreading fear and mistrust of immigrants, particularly those who are Muslims.

Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin, chairman of the Council for Life of the Irish bishops' conference, told The Irish Catholic newspaper: "I've found that people who would classify themselves in some cases as traditional Catholics and faith-filled people seem to, in relation to migration and care of asylum-seekers and stuff, they'll say 'oh well these Muslims are putting our civilization at risk and they pose a threat to us.'"

Bishop Doran spoke in the wake of what he described as a "savage attack" on two mosques in New Zealand that left at least 50 people dead.

"All of us, of whatever religious tradition, can identify with what that might mean for a congregation gathered to worship," the bishop said.

Bishop Doran said it was wrong of people to demonize Muslims for the actions of terrorism claiming to be inspired by Islam.

"To define a whole category of people, or a whole nation, or a whole religious group as being in some way more prone to terrorism than any other group is irresponsible," he said.

In his experience, he said, Muslim people living in Irish society do so "peacefully and participate fully."

"We have large numbers of Muslim children in our Catholic schools, and they contribute to the ethos in many ways.

"One of the interesting things about Muslims is while they are of a different faith, they tend to have a level of commitment to faith that in many ways we might well sit up and pay attention to," he said.

In February, Bishop Doran spoke out after a disused hotel slated to house refugees was damaged in an apparent arson attack.

He said the alleged arson had caused "significant upset to parishioners," adding "it is all the more disturbing since it is suggested that the fires are a response to the proposed use of the hotel to house refugees."

"Militant opposition, expressed in the destruction of property, is simply not consistent with the Gospel."

 

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.

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Catholic social teaching guides advocates in push for a 'moral' budget

IMAGE: CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The White House delivered a record $4.75 trillion "Budget for a Better America" for fiscal year 2020 to Congress March 11 and it continued a defining trend to boost military spending and border security while making deep cuts in most other federal agencies.

It was quickly dismissed by many members of Congress as being unrealistic. Congress routinely shapes the budget to reflect priorities that usually differ from the chief executive, although a president's preferences have not always been ignored.

With divided government -- Democrats in charge in the House and Republicans in the Senate and White House -- the budget debate from now through the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, and perhaps later, may become contentious as congressional committee hearings shape how tax dollars are spent.

However it unfolds, Catholic advocates plan to be part of the process.

Regular visitors to Capitol Hill expressed concern to Catholic News Service over the recent trend to promote Pentagon spending while reducing appropriations for environmental protection, housing, education, nutrition, foreign development and humanitarian aid, and other human needs.

They stressed that they plan to advocate for a budget that promotes human dignity -- as they consistently have for decades.

"We look at it (the budget) through the lens of Catholic social teaching, not by the issue. We look at the moral and ethical components of issues, how they affect the well-being of human beings and how they impact the poor," explained Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

"A budget is a moral document," he continued. "We've said that lots of times. There's a human dimension to the budget and sometimes we forget that."

Bishop Dewane and others representing the USCCB plan to testify at budget hearings and send letters to key House and Senate committee chairmen in the coming months to ensure that the Catholic Church's stances are known.

Bishop Dewane cautioned that the budget must not simply become "a math exercise."

"It's one of human promotion. It should be about recognizing the human person. Human dignity is not something we grant. Every person has human dignity and the budget is a way to recognize and not squelch or destroy the human dignity of God's creation," the bishop said.

The church's position has met with push back at times, largely from members of Congress who have said the U.S. must address its growing $22 trillion debt and the best way to do that is to cut spending.

Still, the USCCB and other organizations have challenged that view, noting that the drive to increase military and homeland security spending continues to the detriment of other important federal programs that face deep cuts.

"What we do say and what the bishops' conference says is if you are concerned about the growing national debt, you can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor," said Bill O'Keefe, executive vice president for mission, mobilization and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services.

O'Keefe told CNS the same principle applies in providing humanitarian and development assistance around the world.

"Because as a Catholic community we value the human dignity of all people, we want to see the moral appropriation of foreign assistance, the type that CRS and the USCCB are advocating for, to grow and meet the need and not to shrink," O'Keefe said.

Foreign assistance programs total about 1 percent of the federal budget.

Others, including Lucas Swanepoel, vice president of social policy at Catholic Charities USA, said the nation faces a moral choice as it mulls how it respond to human needs.

"We can invest in things that destroy, divide and kill or I think we can invest in things that educate, heal and feed people. It's what we're called to do in Matthew 25," Swanepoel said.

Matthew 25 recounts three parables told by Jesus including one about how to respond to "the least of these," including the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned and the stranger.

Beyond working with members of Congress, Catholic Charities and other organizations regularly share information with people in parish pews about the benefits of programs that address human needs from disaster aid to elderly services. Despite a growing economy and rising stock markets, the need remains significant in the U.S.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported 39.7 million Americans, about 12.7 percent of the population, remained in poverty in 2017, the most recent year statistics are available.

It's not just church-affiliated organizations that advocate to legislators and share information on budget concerns. Nonprofits such as the Coalition on Human Needs and Network, the Catholic social justice lobby, have invested significant resources and time to address widespread unmet needs.

"If we see church and ourselves as people of faith, we will be dedicated to the best of our church, which is Catholic social teaching," said Presentation Sister Richelle Friedman, director of social policy at the Coalition on Human Needs. "If we remind ourselves that Catholic social teaching calls us to respect the dignity of every person, we remember that our first priority needs to go to people who are poor and vulnerable."

While Sister Friedman isn't tasked with representing church teaching when she visits congressional offices, the positions the coalition takes largely align with that teaching.

At Network, Sister Simone Campbell, executive director, posed a simple question when describing federal spending priorities: How does a particular appropriation promote "the good of the community?"

"What the federal budget should be about is the quality of life in the United States and our relationships around the world," she told CNS.

Sister Campbell, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, said she finds inspiration for her work in Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," in which he stated that all of humanity has "a claim on all of the resources in our amazing world."

"It's not just the few, it's all," she said. "And the disproportionate attention to increasing the wealth of the few over the needs the many in the budget is clearly immoral."

Such questions are not easy to resolve. Shelley Inglis, executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio, urged members of Congress to remember the country's core values, which are reflected in Catholic social teaching.

"We are all responsible for contributing to the greater good of everyone," she said. "We can't lose sight of that concept.

"The discussion around the budget is an important way we can go back to basic thinking about where our values lie and what those values mean in decisions in how we invest in people globally and in our own social capital, our own people and our own society for the common good."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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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 cns@catholicnews.com.

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