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Vatican & World News at 4.30pm

Second Sunday of Lent: Here I am, Lord

Natl Catholic Reporter - 16 hours 57 min ago
Scripture for Life: This week's readings give us a Lenten invitation to contemplate the image of God they present. Instead of calling us to say, "Here I am," God tells us, "Behold me in the Son."

Feb. 24 Saturday of the First Week of Lent, Weekday

But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mark 10:5-9).

Lenten Recipe: Hot Cross Buns



Hot Cross Buns are sweet rolls marked with a cross on the top. They are a very popular Lenten treat, especially on Good Friday. There are many myths and legends surrounding the history and significance of Hot Cross Buns, but I took a special liking to the ones that I learned about from the Smithsonian.

The Four Marks of the Church: The Contemporary Crisis in Ecclesiology

Catholic World Report - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 9:00 PM
We need to mount a robust defense and clear advocacy of the Church’s four marks, for without such an apology, the Church’s identity – what [...]

Letters to the editor: Action v. Inaction, Excommunicated Catholics

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 6:07 PM
Dear Editor: Confused by Vatican actions; The importance of Nostra Aetate, Lincoln Catholics and excommunication; Looking for opportunities to proclaim Christ the Light; Politicians and abortion.

Decision to stop Texas execution called 'example of restorative justice'

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 4:56 PM
The Catholic bishops of Texas praised Gov. Greg Abbott for stopping the execution of death-row inmate Thomas Whitaker shortly before he was to be put to death Feb. 22.

About 45,000 privately sponsored refugees backlogged

Catholic Register Canada - News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 2:11 PM

As they wait to learn about 2018 quotas, sponsoring agencies are set to welcome 18,000 refugees this year, including many who have waited for years to finally start a new life in Canada. 

A backlog  of up to 45,000 privately sponsored refugees frustrates Deacon Rudy Ovcjak, director of the Archdiocese of Toronto Office for Refugees. Last year ORAT helped Toronto parishes and others welcome nearly 1,200 refugees, but that still leaves 4,000 in the pipeline. 

“While Immigration Canada may have made significant progress in reducing the backlog for spousal sponsorships, they have not had any such success with the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) backlog,” Ovjak told The Catholic Register in an email.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada has promised far more refugees will be processed this year.

Average processing times for privately sponsored refugees can vary wildly. Refugees in Iraq who have Church sponsors lined up can be in Canada in 15 months. The average processing time for refugees stuck in Lebanon is 18 months.

But at the other end of the scale, refugees in Ethiopia are left waiting an average of 68 months. For refugees stuck in South Africa it’s 69 months. Canadian-sponsored refugees in India wait for an average of 81 months — nearly seven years.

“Certain IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) missions overseas have clearly not been adequately resourced to support the demand of the PSR program in that region,” said Hamilton Diocese Office of Refugees director Erin Pease.  

“Such a large backlog is, of course, not at all good for the PSR program and none of us like it,” said the Archdiocese of Edmonton’s refugee sponsorship co-ordinator Paulette Johnson. But Johnson believes Ottawa is making progress in clearing up the backlog. She’s confident that the government will keep its promise to reduce PSR wait times to an average of one year by 2020.

“We are actually impressed with what this government has been doing,” Johnson said in an email.

To get down to one-year processing times, Immigration Canada is planning to unite 57,000 refugees with their private sponsors in Canada over the next three years. Most of the sponsors are faith-based groups who undertake to absorb the costs and provide the volunteer hours to ensure refugees settle successfully in Canada. From 2018 to 2020, Canada will annually welcome about four times the yearly average over the previous decade — numbers Canada’s private sponsors haven’t seen since the Boat People from Vietnam began arriving 30 years ago.

In Hamilton, Pease is more cautious about the government’s plans to get refugee wait times down to one year.

“One concern with IRCC’s 2018-2020 Immigration Levels Plan is that it is not ambitious enough,” said Pease. “While PSR arrivals are set to increase in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the arrival targets are not  sufficiently high to reduce the PSR inventory to a reasonable size that can be managed within a reasonable timeframe — seemingly established by IRCC to be a 12-month term — unless significant human resource changes are made at key IRCC missions overseas.”

Pease points out that the government has had some success in drawing down the massive backlog of refugees in Africa by adding more paper pushers in Dar es Salaam and Rome. Currently, it’s the vast differences between the processing times for refugees in the Middle East and refugees in Africa and South Asia that worries Pease.

“While the issue of the size of IRCC’s PSR inventory is important, a key problem that must be rectified is ensuring that processing timelines for all PSR applicants are in closer alignment, irrespective of the country of asylum in the world where a refugee finds herself,” she said.

In addition to bringing in larger numbers, the government is limiting the number of new sponsorships church groups can apply for. “How could they reduce a backlog without reducing input?” asks Johnson.

In total, Sponsorship Agreement Holders across Canada were allowed to submit 7,500 new cases last year. This year they will be allowed 8,000 new applications, though how many applications individual sponsoring agencies will be allocated won’t be revealed until the end of February.

Edmonton parishes sent delegations out to the airport last year to greet refugees they had been waiting for since 2011, though most were cases that had been submitted in 2015 or 2016.

“It was so wonderful to have them (IRCC) finally process those old cases,” Johnson said.

Gaza explosion would reverberate regionally

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 1:55 PM
Thirteen years after Israel withdrew its settlers and military from the Gaza Strip, this 140-square-mile narrow patch of land that is one 10th the size of the smallest U.S. state of Rhode Island, is on the verge of a total infrastructural and economic collapse. 

Prayer for peace in Congo, South Sudan a call to action, cardinal says

Catholic Register Canada - News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 1:05 PM
VATICAN – Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in war-torn countries like South Sudan and Congo is also a reminder for world leaders to protect their countrymen from violence and injustice, a Vatican official said.


In an article for L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said leaders have "the duty of securing a peaceful life for their fellow citizens."

"We will ask the Lord to tear down the walls of enmity and strengthen the will of government leaders to look for peaceful solutions through dialogue and secure negotiations," the cardinal wrote in the article, published Feb. 22.

In early February, Pope Francis had called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan.

"Our heavenly Father always listens to his children who cry out to him in pain and anguish; he heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds," the Pope had said.
Fighting involving government troops, rebel forces and militias continues in Congo, especially in the East, but tensions also have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled.

Expressing sadness over the violent deaths of peaceful protestors, Cardinal Turkson said the international community has "the responsibility of guaranteeing a nonviolent transition toward a new presidency in Congo."

He also highlighted the need for action in South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence.

Noting that the situation was so dire that Pope Francis was forced to cancel a planned visit in 2017, the cardinal said action was needed to aid refugees and displaced people "who represent one-fourth of the population."

"They, too, are men and women, children, young and old who are looking for a place to live in peace," the cardinal said.

Cardinal Turkson said the Pope's call for a day of prayer "once again shows his care for the universal church and its closeness to the people who suffer most," as well as a way bring attention to those forgotten by the world.

The day of prayer and fasting is just the latest initiative of Pope Francis "to draw the attention of the international community to extremely painful situations of violence that do not find adequate coverage in the media," the cardinal said.

Prayer for peace in Congo, South Sudan a call to action, cardinal says

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:08 PM
Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in war-torn countries like South Sudan and Congo is also a reminder for world leaders to protect their countrymen from violence and injustice, a Vatican official said. 

South Sudanese leaders don't know how to make peace, say Catholic bishops

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:07 PM
On the day Pope Francis designated for global prayers for peace in South Sudan and Congo, Catholic bishops in South Sudan said their leaders did not know how to make peace.

“SPRINGER OPERA” REVIEWS ARE TELLING

Catholic League - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:56 AM
Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on reviews of "Jerry Springer: The Opera," which officially opened on February 22nd in New York City (previews began January 23rd): Here is a sample of what theater critics said about "Jerry Springer: The Opera" when it was performed in England in the early 2000s: "Surely no more blasphemous, [...]

NCR Podcast: Spring books preview

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:44 AM
Listen: NCR books editor Jamie Manson previews new releases by Jesuit Fr. Paul Crowley, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, and John Dominic​ Crossan.

With growing student activism on gun violence, will lawmakers act?

Catholic Register Canada - News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 11:39 AM
WASHINGTON – Determination and resolve, mixed with frustration and anger, are guiding a new round of resolute activism to reshape federal gun laws.


The drive is fueled largely by high school students who survived yet another mass school shooting, this one Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people, including 14 students, died in the assault that a former student armed with a semiautomatic rifle carried out, according to police. He was said to have shown signs of mental illness.

The incident left a country wondering how such incidents could happen again and again and again.

The number of mass shooting incidents across the country in recent years is alarming. This year 34 mass shootings, resulting in 60 deaths and 144 injuries, have been recorded by the online site Gun Violence Archive. The Feb. 14 incident was the most serious by far.

The site defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people were killed or injured.

The data reveals 346 mass shootings in all of 2017; 383 in 2016; 333 in 2015; and 271 in 2014.

In response to the Parkland incident, students nationwide walked out of classrooms Feb. 21 to call on lawmakers to adopt stricter gun laws, boost school security and fund what they see as a woefully inadequate mental health care system.

A walkout of sorts also was undertaken in the Archdiocese of Miami, in which Parkland is located. High school students were given the opportunity to gather on athletic fields on their campuses for 15 minutes of reflection about their response to the violence.

"We were able to have our kids participate in the spirit of it," Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski told Catholic News Service.

The question remains: How will elected officials respond to the student demands?

At the White House in Washington, President Donald Trump held "listening sessions" with Parkland high school students, parents and teachers, among others, in an effort to formulate a response to mass shootings. Attendees included victims of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in a Denver suburb and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I will always remember the time I spent today with courageous students, teachers and families. So much love in the midst of so much pain. We must not let them down. We must keep our children safe!!

Full Listening Session: https://t.co/x5VenyQX5p pic.twitter.com/CAPfX5odIp

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018

At least one policymaker, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, seemed willing to consider some changes in gun laws.

Facing an angry audience of students and parents during a CNN-sponsored town hall meeting in Sunrise, Florida, Feb. 21, Rubio conceded that steps could be taken to reduce gun violence. An ardent gun rights backer, Rubio, who is Catholic, said he would support raising the age at which people can buy rifles, was open to reconsidering the size of gun magazines and disagreed with Trump's proposal to arm teachers.

He stopped short of supporting a ban on assault weapons, like the kind used in the Parkland attack, saying that such a ban existed from 1994 to 2004 and proved ineffective because gun manufacturers and owners found ways to slightly change a weapon to make it meet the requirements of the law.

Another Republican, Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, has said in the aftermath of Parkland he was looking to reintroduce legislation that would expand background checks of gun buyers. Similar earlier efforts by Toomey, who also is Catholic, have failed under National Rifle Association resistance.

Toomey spokesman Sam Fisher told CNS in an email that the senator "is committed to improving the federal background check system, and continues to reach out to senators on both sides of the aisle to see where progress can be made on the issue."

"He is also open to new legislation establishing stricter penalties for people who steal or illegally possess firearms, specifically those who provide false information during the background check process," Fisher said.

The NRA has borne the students' wrath. Across the country young people have challenged lawmakers to choose between protecting students or standing with the NRA. The young sudden political activists have called for the defeat at the polls of any candidate who fails to act to ban assault-style weapons.

The students have pointed to the millions of dollars the NRA spends on political activities, including contributions to candidates' campaigns. Since 1998 the NRA has spent $203.2 million on political activities, according to data cited by Politifact.

Despite the pressure from the young people and family members of gun violence victims, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, doubled down on the organization's stance that it would not accept any limits on gun ownership.

Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting outside Washington Feb. 22, LaPierre decried efforts to ban guns of any sort, lashing out at what he called political elites who want to "eliminate our firearms freedoms and eradicate all the individual freedoms."

"They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment, they hate individual freedom," he said.

That's hardly the case in the eyes of gun control advocates, who see assault-style weapons in private hands as a threat to human life.

Archbishop Wenski welcomed the student activism.

"It's a good harbinger for the future that our future citizens will be actively engaged in the political process," he told CNS Feb. 22.

Echoing the long-standing position of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Wenski said "reasonable" gun control was necessary to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands.

"The church has been engaged on this issue of gun control for a good amount of time," he said. "We supported the assault weapons ban in 1994 and various statements and letters to (Capitol) Hill when various types of gun legislation were proposed. We generally came out in support of reasonable regulation of firearms.

"The church's position is clear on this. Our position doesn't win us many friends among the NRA," the archbishop said, suggesting, "I think we will continue to be engaged on this issue."

He also called for improved funding of mental health services, which he said had been "broken for a long time" and questioned the arming of classroom teachers.

"If somebody who has murder in his heart, including self-murder, I don't think a teacher should be put in that position. ... There's been a rising saying of 'suicide by cop' and people provoke that because they know cops have guns. Now we're going to venture into suicide by teacher. That is not a viable option."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 20 declined to hear a constitutional challenge to a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for gun purchases. The decision, vehemently opposed by Justice Clarence Thomas in a 14-page opinion, follows a pattern of the court in recent years shying away from the national debate on gun control.

The court last considered gun cases in 2008 and 2010, when justices ruled that individuals have a right to own a gun for self-defense in their homes.

Refugee, migrant children should not be detained like criminals, U.N. speakers say

Catholic Register Canada - News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:52 AM
UNITED NATIONS – Migration is not a crime and vulnerable migrant and refugee children should not be detained as if they were criminals, speakers said at a U.N. program Feb. 21.

At issue is the treatment of children who cross international borders with or without family members. According to international law, they are entitled to due process in the assessment of their legal status, entry and stay in the receiving country.

In addition, the United Nations' 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and its 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants committed the international community to work to end the harmful practice of child detention.

More than one dozen speakers addressed "Ending the Detention of Migrant and Refugee Children: Best Interest Determination and Alternatives to Detention" in a fast-paced discussion hosted by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.

U.N. agencies estimate more than 65 million people are currently stateless or forcibly displaced from their countries and 51 percent of them are children. In many countries, newly arrived migrants and refugees are held in detention facilities similar to those used for criminals.

"Regardless of the conditions, detention has a profound impact on a child's health and development," including anxiety, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and long-term cognitive and physical effects, said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF director of programs.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child acknowledges that detention is not in the best interest of children, but the practice continues because people mistakenly think it works as a deterrent, is more effective and less expensive than alternatives, and is used only as a last resort, Chaiban said.

"It's expensive, often fails to meet its objectives and does not deter would-be migrants. It's detrimental to children and drives them underground, into the hands of traffickers" and away from legitimate assistance, he said.

"Vulnerable people on the move are a passionate priority of Pope Francis," said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, an undersecretary for the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He presented a video in which Pope Francis described the obligation to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers.

Donald M. Kerwin Jr, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, said detention should be used only for legitimate purposes, such as identity checks and threats to national security. "It can never be an end in itself. Most conditions can be met by alternatives to detention, and the least intrusive and restrictive alternative should be used," he said.

"The alternative to detention should not be so restrictive that it becomes an alternative form of detention," Kerwin said. The best option for children is no detention at all, he concluded.

Father Czerny said there are variations among cultures about what "the best interest of the child" means, but all should focus on the integral human development of every child, including children yet to be born.

Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, secretary-general of the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission, said determination of a child's best interest is a process that should include many steps for assuring the dignity and well-being of the child.

He said among them are "proper identification; an adequate registration process with relevant documentation; the opening of an individual case file; tracing; the appointment of a guardian; the provision and monitoring of temporary care arrangements; and, perhaps most importantly, direct discussion with the children on their views concerning best interest planning for their safety and future."

Alternatives to child detention vary widely. Chaiban said Ireland prohibits child detention altogether; Spain, Portugal and Italy allow it but don't use it; and Zambia has guidelines and protocols in place. Sweden accommodates unaccompanied children in the receiving community.

Father Czerny said "best practices" may include "legal channels for family reunification, mechanisms of regularization that would allow children to live with their parents, and educational and employment opportunities for young people."

Chaiban said while national approaches vary, many programs work closely with individual children, provide clear information about the process and expectations, and maintain communication throughout all phases of assessment and determination of whether the child will stay in the country, return home, or move to a different country.

Ashley Feasley, director of policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project in Dilley, Texas, is a promising example of aid to children and their families in detention centers in the United States. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network is part of CARA.

Msgr. Vitillo said legislation enacted by the government of Italy in April 2017 is an example of compassion and duty toward a record number of unaccompanied and separated children who arrived in Italy in 2016. The law gives children a sense of predictability in their uncertain lives after risking so much to get to Europe and also is a model for other European countries, he said.

The new law limits the time children spend in reception centers, prohibits forcible return to countries where a child may be harmed, promotes trained guardianship, foster care and host families, and allocates funds to municipalities, groups and caregivers to help them cope with the influx of refugees and migrants.

Representatives to the United Nations from Germany, Uganda and the European Union, members of U.N. agencies, and speakers from nonprofit agencies described the challenges and successes of their specific approaches to migrant and refugee children.

Campus Notebook: US women's hockey team full of Boston College players; Faggioli honored

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 10:49 AM
College roundup: Boston College contributes to hockey gold; Massimo Faggioli gets his first U.S. degree; Marian U. and Ivy Tech community college reciprocate; Felician University celebrate black history month with poetry

Morning Briefing

Natl Catholic Reporter - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 9:38 AM
NCR Today: Guns, guns, guns and what we think about them. Take some time to pray this Lent. U.S. immigration service officially removes 'nation of immigrants' from its mission statement. The tragedy that is Syria.

News at 4.30pm

Vatican Radio Morning News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 6:01 AM
Vatican & World News at 4.30pm

National Call-in Day for the Protection of Dreamers, Feb. 26

USCCB News - Fri, 02/23/2018 - 5:17 AM

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), along with USCCB vice-president, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, and Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, chairman, USCCB Committee on Migration, have issued a call to U.S. Catholics and people of good will across the nation to take part in a "Call-in-Day" on February 26 for the Protection of Dreamers.

With the March 5th deadline looming, we ask once again that Members of Congress show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution for these young people, who daily face mounting anxiety and uncertainty. 

Therefore, the bishops are asking individuals to contact their Members of Congress to urge them to:

  • Protect Dreamers from deportation

  • To provide them a path to citizenship

  • And, to avoid any damage to existing protections for families and unaccompanied minors in the process

To take part in the Call-In-Day to Protect Dreamers, please contact your Members of Congress by calling 855-589-5698 and visiting https://justiceforimmigrants.org/what-we-are-working-on/immigration/daca-resource-page/ (English and Spanish downloads are available).

The USCCB has also created a series of videos available on its YouTube channel and Facebook.com/USCCB.

For more information on how you can further support Dreamers, please visit

https://justiceforimmigrants.org/ and https://www.sharejourney.org/.

---
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop José H. Gomez, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, USCCB Committee on Migration, Dreamers, National Call-In Day, U.S. Congress, protection, path to citizenship, families, unaccompanied minors, deportation, immigrants, action

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