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Taiwan president appeals to Pope Francis over China’s 'abuse of power'

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen has written to Pope Francis describing China’s aggression and persecution of religion as “obstacles to peace,” and detailing the Communist regime’s “abuses of power.”

“The crux of the issue is that China refuses to relinquish its desire to dominate Taiwan. It continues to undermine Taiwan's democracy, freedom, and human rights with threats of military force and the implementation of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and diplomatic maneuvers,” Tsai wrote in a letter to the pope published by her office Jan. 21.

Tsai sent the letter in response to Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, the pope’s annual letter sent to all foreign ministers around the world to mark the new year.

This year, the pope’s letter entitled: “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion," called on “the conscience of humanity” to rise up in the face of “every desire for dominance and destruction.”

The newly reelected president of Taiwan, formally called the Republic of China, told Pope Francis of her desire to “peacefully resolve the differences across the Taiwan Strait.”

“I am in complete accord with your statement that walking the path of peace requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God's creation,” Tsai said.

The president of Taiwan then detailed a list of China’s actions that she said constitute “abuses of power,” describing violence toward Hong Kong protesters, the recent controversy over an NBA coach voicing criticism of the Communist regime, and persecution of religious believers seeking to follow their conscience:

“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict.”

Tsai quoted directly from Pope Francis’ peace message, which states: “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle.”

She also responded to the pope’s call to care for our common home in his encyclical Laudato Si by highlighting the Taiwanese government’s efforts to “transform Taiwan into a green energy development hub in Asia” through multiple green energy and sustainable water initiatives.

Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai was reelected on Jan. 11 with a campaign pledge to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty from Chinese control, as concerns grew among Taiwanese watching the Hong Kong protests in 2019.

The Chinese state media attempted to sway Taiwan’s presidential election with online disinformation campaigns attacking Tsai. China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has threatened Taiwan, saying in 2019 that Chinese Communist Party reserves the right to use force to bring the democratic island under control.

The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, following the communist military success in China’s civil war that led Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist forces to retreat to the island. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the government on the mainland is the People’s Republic of China.

“I strongly identify with Your Holiness's magnanimous vision and appeal to all of humanity to renounce the desire to dominate others, show mutual respect, and learn to see one another as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters, so as to break the spiral of vengeance,” Taiwan’s president wrote to Pope Francis.

“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others. When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible,” she said.

The Holy See has recognized the Taiwanese government, the Republic of China, since 1942, and does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China, which consolidated control of the mainland at the conclusion of a civil war in 1949.

In 2018, Beijing and Vatican officials signed a provisional agreement on bishop appointments. The China-Vatican deal was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

China has previously demanded that other countries end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan -- which it regards as a rebel province, not as a sovereign nation -- as a price for increased economic or political cooperation.

Vatican City is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country. However, the nunciature in Taipei has not been led by a nuncio since Oct. 25, 1971, when the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taipei-based government as the government of China.

Taiwan’s government has repeatedly invited Pope Francis to visit Taiwan both before and after the Holy See’s provisional deal with China.

Tsai expressed her hope for “the continued growth of the Catholic Church” and said that the virtue of hope leads toward peace and overcoming adversity.

“I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved,” Tsai wrote.

Pope Francis sent new year’s greetings to Asian nations during his Wednesday audience Jan. 22. Lunar New Year is the biggest annual holiday in East Asia in which millions travel to celebrate with family.

“I invite everyone to pray also for peace, for dialogue and for solidarity between nations: gifts that are ever more necessary for today's world,” Pope Francis said.

Pro-life group announces $52 million war chest for 2020 election

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2020 / 07:05 am (CNA).- A pro-life political group has announced its plans to support President Donald Trump and pro-life senatorial candidates in their 2020 election campaigns. The announcement comes after Planned Parenthood announced its own plans to spend an unprecedented amount during the 2020 elections.

The Susan B. Anthony List and Women Speak Out PAC, its partner super PAC, said Friday it has plans to spend $52 million in the 2020 election cycle. 

Mallory Quigley, national spokeswoman for the group, told CNA the amount is “the largest budget for any election cycle that we’ve ever had.”

News of the pro-life group’s campaign war chest followed an announcement last week that Planned Parenthood Votes will spend $45 million in a “We Decide 2020” campaign to support pro-abortion candidates at the presidential, congressional, and state levels—the largest election spending in Planned Parenthood’s history.

Spending by SBA List will focus on a strong “ground game” in battleground states. While the group will invest in digital media, mail and phone calls, it will prioritize door-knocking and face-to-face interaction, Quigley told CNA.

“The stakes are very high. We are up against a very well-funded opponent,” Quigley added. 

The $52 million budget of SBA List and Women Speak Out “still pales in comparison to the resources of the pro-abortion lobby and their allies,” she said.

“And so that’s why we prioritize face-to-face communication with voters, one-on-one conversations, and hopefully we will be successful.” 

The group plans a two-pronged strategy focused on turning out “unreliable pro-life voters” and reaching “persuadable voters” in swing states, by emphasizing the “radical” agenda of the pro-abortion lobby, according to a Jan. 16 memo released by SBA List’s national campaign director Tim Edson.

The group will hire state directors, regional field staff, and 100 to 200 pro-life canvassers “to expose the extremism of pro-abortion candidates, and identify the clear pro-life choice in the election, one door and one conversation at a time,” the memo says.

All candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination support taxpayer funding of abortions through a repeal of the Hyde Amendment. A majority of those candidates have said they would codify Roe v. Wade in federal law, appoint only pro-abortion judges, and push for over-the-counter availability of abortion pills. Some candidates have said they would support abortion access until birth.

Donor support of the efforts will come from pro-life activists around the country, Quigley said, and the campaign will target battleground states in the presidential election along with certain Senate races.

“The goal is very simple: re-elect the most pro-life president in our nation’s history, and safeguard the pro-life majority that we have in the U.S. Senate,” Quigley told CNA.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List’s president, chaired Trump’s pro-life coalition in 2016 after, months before, signing a letter with other women leaders urging Iowa Republicans in advance of the state’s caucus to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”

In September 2016, however, Trump the GOP nominee made specific promises to the pro-life movement including that he would nominate pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, sign a 20-week “pain-capable” abortion ban, defund Planned Parenthood, and codify the Hyde Amendment.

Although Trump has not signed a “pain-capable” bill—one has not cleared both chambers of Congress to reach his desk—he has appointed two justices to the Supreme Court and more than a quarter of federal appeals court judges. In addition, his administration has started stripping abortion providers or promoters, both in the U.S. and overseas, of federal funding.

“President Trump’s been the first president to have an impact on Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding,” Quigley said. “They gave up $60 million when he issued the Protect Life Rule concerning Title X.”

Key Senate races—among them, the re-election of Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and the race of John James in Michigan—will form most of the rest of the 2020 campaign by SBA List and Women Speak Out.

While pro-abortion Democrats currently hold a clear majority in the House—the group Democrats for Life in 2018 only endorsed two sitting members of the House—pro-lifers hold a slim majority in the Senate.

SBA List has already begun knocking on doors in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina, where the organization has been active for multiple years, reaching 460,000 voters.

The group plans to expand its efforts to Iowa, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, battleground states where the organization says it “could reach four million voters before election day” with its war chest.

For House and state-level races, the group will try to assist in states where it is already active on other campaigns, Quigley said, but Senate races and the presidential election will be the main focus of attention and spending.

As far as whether resources will be devoted to any pro-life Democratic candidates, Quigley said “What we’ve announced today is what we’ve announced today. It’s our plan to re-elect the President and safeguard our pro-life majority in the U.S. Senate.”

In a Jan. 10 interview with CNA, Quigley highlighted the group’s 2018 support for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), a pro-life eight-term Catholic congressman who faced a primary challenge centered on his pro-life commitment. SBA List said it had mobilized 70 canvassers to visit 17,000 “pro-life Democrat households” in Lipinski’s Illinois third district, and the group spent more than $100,000 supporting his 2018 candidacy. 

Earlier this month, SBA List told CNA that it would again support Lipinski’s campaign. 

Although Lipinski again faces a primary challenge from pro-abortion candidate Marie Newman, Quigley said Friday that SBA plans to help bundle funds for Lipinski, but not to spend money from its war chest on his campaign. 

Bundling is the practice of organizing candidate support from a network or donor pool.

Support for particular campaigns has not yet been announced because, with ten months until election day, “this is still very early,” Quigley said. “A lot of these Senate races, we’re still in the primary.”

Pope Francis: Christians can unite in welcoming migrants, each other

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 03:21 am (CNA).- Welcoming other Christians and showing hospitality to strangers, especially migrants, is an opportunity for unity and for sharing Christ’s love, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“Hospitality is important; it is also an important ecumenical virtue,” the pope said in the Pope Paul VI hall Jan. 22. “First of all, it means recognizing that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

He explained that hospitality “it is not an act of one-way generosity, because when we host other Christians, we welcome them as a gift that is given to us.”

The first step in welcoming Christians of other traditions is showing them God’s love and welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives, Francis said.

According to the pope, “ecumenical hospitality requires willingness to listen to other Christians, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community.” It also involves the desire to know other Christians’ experience of God.

Pope Francis’ catechesis focused on the theme of hospitality as part of the Church’s celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The pope will mark the end of the week with the praying of vespers Jan. 25 for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from a line in the 28th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: “They treated us kindly.”

Acts 27 recounts the story of the storm and shipwreck of St. Paul and his companions as they attempted to travel to Italy by boat, eventually landing on the island of Malta.

The pope told the story, explaining that “the ship on which Paul travels is at the mercy of the elements.”

“For fourteen days, fourteen days, they have been at sea, drifting, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the travelers feel disoriented, lost. Below them, the sea breaks violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain,” he said.

“But Paul knows it is not so. Faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God,” he continued. “Therefore, Paul addresses his traveling companions and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.”

The passengers all survive the ship’s rough landing on the coast of the island of Malta, where they are welcomed by the inhabitants.

“These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm up, offer them shelter from rain and food. Even if they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they manifest the love of God in concrete acts of kindness,” the pope said.

“The hospitality of the Maltese islanders is rewarded by the healing miracles God works through Paul,” he added, highlighting that if the Maltese people were a sign of God’s providence for St. Paul, he was also a witness of God’s merciful love for them.

Francis went on to note that the sea which shipwrecked Paul and his companions is the same sea men and women from around the world risk crossing to “escape violence, war, and poverty.”

Not only do migrants face the indifference and hostility of the desert or sea, he said, but they also risk exploitation by traffickers or being considered a threat by some government leaders: “Sometimes hospitality refuses them like a wave.”

He urged Christians to “work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ” and to testify “that every person is precious to God and loved by him.”

The divisions among Christians “prevent us from being fully the sign of God’s love,” he stressed.

“Working together to live hospitality, especially towards those whose life is more vulnerable, will make all of us Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – it will make us better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people. It will bring us closer to unity, which is God’s will for us.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
 
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

Trump declares Jan. 22 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day'

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, in a proclamation signed Monday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

“Every person -- the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey is different, no life is without worth or is inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended,” the president added.

The landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to abortion, was decided Jan. 22, 1973.

President Ronald Reagan declared Jan. 22, 1984 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and annually declared a similar day each year of his presidency. President George Bush did the same, as did President George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 2018 and 2019.

The president’s 2020 proclamation said that the U.S. “must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

“Countless Americans are tireless defenders of life and champions for the vulnerable among us. We are grateful for those who support women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, those who provide healing to women who have had abortions, and those who welcome children into their homes through foster care and adoption.”

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonderful gift of life and renew our resolve to build a culture where life is always revered,” the proclamation added.

The proclamation noted a decline in U.S. abortions and the abortion rate since 2007, and a decrease in teen pregnancies, which, Trump wrote, have contributed “to the lowest rate of abortions among adolescents since the legalization of abortion in 1973.”

“All Americans should celebrate this decline in the number and rate of abortions, which represents lives saved.  Still, there is more to be done, and, as President, I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” Trump wrote.

The president also noted that his administration has introduced restrictions that impede recipients of federal Title X funds from providing abortions, along with conscience protections for healthcare workers and employers who object to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

“Additionally, I have called on the Congress to act to prohibit abortions of later-term babies who can feel pain,” the proclamation added.

Since 1973, nearly 45 million abortions in the U.S. have been reported to the CDC. Several state legislative efforts to restrict or prohibit abortion have been challenged in court in recent years, and some pro-life activists predict those judicial challenges could lead to a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has said he believes laws regarding abortion should be decided at the state level, and that while he believes there should be exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, he considers himself to be pro-life.

 

 

Ruling against Trump executive order helps people flee danger, bishops say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A federal judge’s ruling has halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that allows states and localities to refuse permission for refugee resettlement. The ruling drew praise from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stressed the need to help refugees to safety and to maintain a uniform refugee policy.

“Today’s ruling is a welcome step in our ongoing ministry to provide refugees, who are fleeing religious persecution, war, and other dangers, with safe haven here in the United States,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of Washington who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“Jesus Christ, who was part of a refugee family, calls us to welcome the stranger, and our pro-life commitment requires us to protect refugees,” he said Jan. 17, adding, “the Church looks forward to continue working with communities across America to welcome refugees as we uphold the dignity of all human life.”

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte temporarily blocked Executive Order 13888, issued Sept. 26, 2019, which requires written consent from states and local entities before groups may begin to resettle refugees within their boundaries.

The order “does not appear to serve the overall public interest,” said the judge. Messitte, citing a law review article, said there is a public interest in preventing the president from “slipping the boundaries of a statutory policy and acting based on irrelevant policy preferences,” CNN reports.

The judge said the order wrongfully gave to state and local government the power to veto refugee resettlement “in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings and Congressional doctrine to the contrary.”

In response, the Trump administration said, “This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process.”

Pending the outcome of the legal case, HIAS Inc., et al v. Trump, the order will not take effect. Resettlement programs will operate under the rules prior to the order.

Dorsonville noted the Catholic bishops’ previous “deep concerns” about the executive order.

“We feared the negative consequences for refugees and their families as this Executive Order would have created a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed, and others where they are not,” he said.

He said the injunction “helps to maintain a uniform national policy of welcome to refugees and serves to maintain reunification of refugee families as a primary factor for initial resettlement.”

Dorsonville cited “robust bipartisan support” for refugees in the wake of the order, noting 42 governors and many local officials said they would approve initial resettlement.

“Once more, we see the intention to act united as a nation in the effort to provide solidarity to those who need it most and are encouraged by the compassion that this nation has towards refugees,” Dorsonville said.

The U.S. bishops said that federal officials will “diligently engage” with state and local officials to ensure local concerns are taken into account, but federal officials will have the final decision over refugee resettlement.

Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas said Jan. 10 that Texas will not participate in the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year.

“At this time, the state and nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans,” he said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said Texas has already been forced to “deal with disproportionate migration issues,” which he blamed on federal inaction and a broken immigration system.

He cited May 2019 figures indicating about 100,000 migrants were detained crossing Texas’ southern border.

Refugee resettlement in Texas peaked in 2009, when about 8,212 people were resettled. About 7,500 people were resettled in Texas per year from 2012-2016, the Texas Tribune reports.

The Texas Catholic bishops said the governor’s decision was “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided,” they said. “It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans.”

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” said the Texas bishops.

In a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami criticized Abbott’s decision and noted the longtime work of Catholic Charities in Florida. The agency helped unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and participated in the federal refugee resettlement program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” Wenski said.

Pope Francis condemns clerics who engage in simony

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2020 / 10:07 am (CNA).- In a homily Tuesday, Pope Francis condemned priests and bishops who use money to advance their careers.

To be a priest or bishop, like being a Christian, is a free and undeserved gift of God, not something to be bought, he said Jan. 21 during Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

“We have paid nothing to become Christians. We priests, bishops have paid nothing to become priests and bishops,” he continued, “at least I think so.”

Francis went on to note there are those who try to move upward in their “so-called ecclesiastical career,” who “look for influences to get here, there...” as well as those “who behave in a simoniac manner.”

He said that anyone who does that “is not a Christian. Being Christian, being baptized, being ordained priests and bishops is pure gratuitousness. The gifts of the Lord cannot be bought.”

The same thing can happen in “ordinary life,” he said, such as in business, when people try to get ahead at their work by asking for favors.

He recalled that it is by the Lord’s free anointing that someone is a Christian, rejecting the argument that one’s Christian identity comes from being from a Christian family or coming from a Christian culture.

“Many people from a Christian family and Christian culture reject the Lord,” he noted. “But how come we are here, elected by the Lord? For free, without any merit, for free.”

“What is the great gift of God?” he continued. “The Holy Spirit! When the Lord elected us, he gave us the Holy Spirit. And this is pure grace, it is pure grace. Without our merit.”

We must have an attitude of humility in the face of this gift, Pope Francis urged. “This is holiness. The other things are not needed.”

He said if bishops or priests forget their flock or feel they are more important than others, they are denying God’s gift, and the same goes for Christians who forget others, both believers and non-believers.

“It is like saying to the Holy Spirit: ‘But you go, go, go quietly into the Trinity, take a rest, I will manage it by myself,’” he said.

“And this is not Christian. This is not safeguarding the gift,” he argued. “We ask the Lord today, thinking of David, to give us the grace to give thanks for the gift he has given us, to be aware of this gift, so great, so beautiful, and to safeguard it – this gratuitousness, this gift – to safeguard it with our fidelity.”

Put good of human person at center of public policy, Pope Francis says

Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan 21, 2020 / 04:56 am (CNA).- In a message to the global delegates of the 2020 World Economic Forum, Pope Francis stressed the duty of governments and businesses to place the good of the human person above power or profit.

“The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family,” he said in the Jan. 21 message.

“The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy,” he stated.

The pope decried views which treat others as a means to an end and are lacking in solidarity and charity, resulting in injustice.

Integral human development only flourishes, he argued, “when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good.”

He stressed that “all too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest.”

“In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.”

The 2020 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from Jan. 21-24.

The annual meeting has 3,000 participants from around the world. The aim is “to give concrete meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance,” according to the meeting’s website.

Pope Francis’ message was addressed to Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Vatican.

In his message, the pope claimed that the meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” points to the need to address the many issues facing humanity.

Over the last 50 years there have been significant changes at the geopolitical level, he noted, adding that “many of these developments have benefitted humanity while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae.”
 
While today’s challenges are different than those half a century ago, a number of principles remain the same, such as the primacy of the human person,” he said.

“As a result, it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.”

 

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Washington D.C., Jan 20, 2020 / 04:17 pm (CNA).- Last year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day marked the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance. One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

 

A previous version of this article was originally published on CNA Jan. 14, 2018.