The Catholic Church has a long history with immigration and in “welcoming the stranger.” Check the Catholic Outlook for information on what the Holy Father’s words on immigrants and refugees, a timeline highlighting the words of past pope’s and a story about a visit by Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities USA, to the international border and her observations from a national perspective. Also learn more about Casa Alitas and the work Catholic Community Services provides for migrants.
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♦ Compassion and advocacy: Pope Francis on migration.
♦ Compasión y acción: El papa Francisco y la migración
♦ Charities president calls migrants’ suffering ‘unimaginable’
♦ Catholic Social teaching on immigration
♦ Msgr. Fuller celebrates 62 years of ministry and service
Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, an Italian island about half the size of Globe, AZ., said she hoped that Pope Francis’ July 8, 2013, visit there would “change history.”
“Europe, with its migration policies, has avoided the problem up until now, pretending not to see the immense tragedy of the voyages of hope across the Mediterranean.”
The pope, she said, “has made the invisible visible, restoring to the migrants the dignity which countries always have denied them.”
Four months later, more than 360 refugees from Africa drowned off Lampedusa’s coast.
Pope Francis visited Lampedusa and preached at an outdoor Mass that had all the markings of the Mediterranean Sea surrounding it.
The Catholic News Service reported: “The Mass was filled with reminders that Lampedusa is now synonymous with dangerous attempts to reach Europe: the altar was built over a small boat; the pastoral staff the pope used was carved from wood recycled from a shipwrecked boat; the lectern was made from old wood as well and had a ship’s wheel mounted on the front; and even the chalice - although lined with silver - was carved from the wood of a wrecked boat.”
The pope began his homily: “Immigrants dying at sea, in boats which were vehicles of hope and became vehicles of death. That is how the headlines put it. When I first heard of this tragedy a few weeks ago, and realized that it happens all too frequently, it has constantly come back to me like a painful thorn in my heart.”
The pope used the Genesis reading on the death of Abel to remind listeners of God’s question to Cain.
“‘Where is your brother?’ His blood cries out to me, says the Lord. This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us. These brothers and sisters of ours were trying to escape difficult situations to find some serenity and peace; they were looking for a better place for themselves and their families, but instead they found death. How often do such people fail to find understanding, fail to find acceptance, fail to find solidarity. And their cry rises up to God!”
“Who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters of ours? Nobody! That is our answer: It isn’t me; I don’t have anything to do with it; it must be someone else, but certainly not me. Yet God is asking each of us: ‘Where is the blood of your brother which cries out to me?’ Today no one in our world feels responsible; we have lost a sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters.”
Recalling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis said that we “have fallen into the hypocrisy of the priest and the Levite…: We see our brother half dead on the side of the road, and perhaps we say to ourselves: ‘Poor soul!’, and then go on our way.
“It’s not our responsibility, and with that we feel reassured, assuaged. The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: It doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!”
The pope continued to hammer away at this theme of globalized indifference.
“Has any one of us wept because of this situation and others like it? Has any one of us grieved for the death of these brothers and sisters? Has any one of us wept for these persons who were on the boat? For the young mothers carrying their babies? For these men who were looking for a means of supporting their families? We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion - ‘suffering with’ - others. The globalization of indifference has taken from us the ability to weep!”
Citing that this attitude as what led him to celebrate a Mass of penance that day, Pope Francis challenged his listeners: “Let us ask the Lord for the grace to weep over our indifference, to weep over the cruelty of our world, of our own hearts, and of all those who in anonymity make social and economic decisions which open the door to tragic situations like this. Has anyone wept? Today has anyone wept in our world?”
The homily at Lampedusa became a benchmark for Pope Francis. It set him on a trajectory in which the plight of migrants and refugees were mentioned dozens of times in documents throughout his papacy. The homily at Lampedusa became one in a series of documents that focused on migrants and refugees, progressing into a comprehensive model for response.
In 2016, he announced the creation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, along with a special Migrants and Refugees section for which he accepted personal oversight.
In 2017, he spoke at the Sixth International Forum on Migration and Peace, in which he introduced the “four verb” theme - “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate” - to be used when responding to the migrant and refugee crisis.
The pope also talked the root causes of migration and three duties owed to migrants: justice, civility and solidarity.
In the matter of justice, Pope Francis called for an outright redistribution of goods, with more resources going to poorer nations from which people were migrating.
“We can no longer sustain unacceptable economic inequality, which prevents us from applying the principle of the universal destination of earth’s good,” he said. “One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources. We cannot allow for persons or entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs.”
On the duty to civility, he cited the United Nation’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Our commitment to migrants, exiles and refugees is an application of those principles and values of welcome and fraternity that constitute a common patrimony of humanity and wisdom.
Quoting St. John Paul II’s 1995 World Migration Day address, Pope Francis said “‘Irregular legal status cannot allow the migrant to lose his dignity, since he is endowed with inalienable rights that can neither be violated nor ignored.’”
For solidarity, Pope Francis returned to his Lampedusa homily. “In the face of tragedies that take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well up.”
“A duty to solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable,” he said.
In 2016, the UN approved the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in response to the ongoing migrant crisis worldwide. It included a pledge to create global compacts on migration and refugees by the end of 2018, a plan heartily endorsed by Pope Francis.
The US initially signed on to the declaration but withdrew under President Donald Trump last year.
In anticipation of the work on the compacts, Pope Francis dedicated the 51st World Day of Peace message, the traditional New Year’s Day address, in 2018 to “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.”
Through the Migrants and Refugees office, he also issued two key documents, each “Responding to Refugees and Migrants.” One offered 20 “pastoral action” plans, while the other offered 20 “for the global compacts.”
In the New Year’s Day message, Pope Francis began by reminding listeners that there were 250 million migrants in the world, 22.5 million of whom were refugees.
“Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited. By practicing the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, ‘within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society,’” he said, quoting St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris.
Pope Francis said all migrants and refugees should be treated the same, whether they arrive legally or not. “Most people migrate through regular channels. Some, however, take different routes, mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow.”
He asked residents and leaders of those countries where migrants and refugees arrive to eschew fear and intolerance.
“Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and thus demeaning the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God. Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being.All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue for the future. Some consider this a threat. For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace,” he said.
Migrants and refugees “do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.”
Pope Francis specifically mentioned the UN effort on the two global compacts.“They need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference,” he said.
Thirteen days later, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for 104thWorld Day for Migrants and Refugees. In a message released the previous August, the pope recalled how deeply his visit to Lampedusa influenced him and his pontificate.
“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age,” Pope Francis wrote. “This is a great responsibility that the church intends to share with all believers and men and women of goodwill, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.”
He reminded readers again of the four verbs – welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
Citing Pope Benedict XVI, Francis said that acknowledging the human dignity inherent in each migrant or refugee “obliges us to always prioritize (their) personal safety over national security.”
Again quoting Pope Benedict, Pope Francis called migrants and refugees “a true resource for the communities that welcome them. This is why I hope that in countries of arrival, migrants may be offered freedom of movement, work opportunities and access to means of communication out of respect for their dignity.”
Underage minors should never be held in detention and have access to primary and secondary school education. “Equally, when they come of age they must be guaranteed the right to remain and to enjoy the possibility of continuing their studies,” the pope wrote.
The pope also stated that migrants and refugees are entitled to social and professional opportunities, “guaranteeing for all - including those seeking asylum - the possibility of employment, language instruction and active citizenship, together with sufficient information provided in their mother tongue.”
Migrant and refugee integration must include a path to citizenship “free of financial or linguistic requirements, and by offering the possibility of special legalization to migrants who can claim a long period of residence in the country of arrival,” the pope wrote.
“The Church is ready to commit herself to realizing all the initiatives proposed above. Yet in order to achieve the desired outcome, the contribution of political communities and civil societies is indispensable, each according to their own responsibilities.”
By MICHAEL BROWN
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By Bishop emeritus Gerald F. Kicanas
The Diocese of Tucson has had a relationship with the Diocese of Makurdi and the Via Christi community (a diocesan religious order in Makurdi) for over 20 years. Bishop Athanasius Usuh, bishop of Makurdi, agreed to send two priests initially to serve in Tucson: Fathers Matthew Asemenega and Francis Iber who both served in the Yuma area. Later Father Iber was pastor of St. Francis Parish in Superior. Several years later I met with Father Angus Fraser, the founder of the Via Christi community, and he agreed to send three priests, Fathers James Aboyi, Sebastian Bula and Richard Kusugh to help us minister to our parishes. What a gift these priests have been, coming as missionaries into a different culture to help care pastorally for our people!
Several years ago, I had an opportunity to visit in the dioceses of Gboko, Lafia, Katsina-Ala and Makurdi. They each have sent us priests to serve here. It was a marvelous experience to witness the living, active faith of the priests and people there. I was privileged to ordain 10 young men for the Diocese of Gboko. The music and participation of the people was incredible; there was such joy in welcoming these new priests. While in Benue State, I had a chance to visit the Via Christi seminary and the seminary in Makurdi and to meet with so many young men who were studying to be priests. One could only admire their enthusiasm and eagerness to serve. During my visit, I met with each of the bishops who had sent priests to serve here including Bishops William Avenya (Gboko), Peter Adoboh (Katsina-Ala), Matthew Audu (Lafia), Wilfred Agnabe (Makurdi) and Cardinal John Onaiyekan (Archdiocese of Abuja) whose brother Michael lives in Tucson. At that time, it was my privilege to visit Bishop Athanasius Usuh who was retired and who was then very ill. He had visited us in Tucson some years ago and we developed a good friendship. He has since gone to the Lord.
You can only imagine, in light of our long friendship, the heartache I and others in our diocese feel in to learn of the two priests, Fathers Joseph Gor and Felix Tyolaha, along with 17 parishioners who were murdered during Mass by Fulani herdsmen in a horrific attack in Ayar-Mbalom a remote village in Benue State.
Our heart goes out to the bishops, priests and people in Benue State, Nigeria, where tensions are high. The week after this tragic event, I was in Rome and learned that all the Nigerian bishops were also in Rome visiting our Holy Father Pope Francis as part of the ad limina visit. I had called Bishop Agnabe and Father Theo (head of the Via Christi community) to express our sympathy at their loss.
We grieve together. We stand in solidarity with the Church in Nigeria which has made such an impact on our diocese. Our prayer is that they know of our concern. We ask the Lord to watch over and protect the community from further violence and loss of innocent life. May those who died rest in peace and may their families be consoled that they now stand in the presence of God.
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By PETER AJAYI DADA
Catholic News Service
LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s bishops condemned repeated killings of innocent Nigerians by suspected ethnic militias in northeastern Nigeria and said President Muhammadu Buhari should resign if he could not keep the country safe.
Asking, “when will this barbarism end?” the bishops condemned the murder of two priests and their parishioners during the celebration of Mass, at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, Ayer Mbalom, April 24. Attackers also burned about 50 houses, nearly destroying the small community.
It was the latest in a string of violent incidents involving nomadic herdsmen and farmers, violence linked to grazing rights and dwindling fertile land. Benue state, where the incident occurred, has seen nearly 50 such attacks in the last three years.
The bishops issued their statement from Rome, where they were making a regularly scheduled visit to the Vatican, and said they received the news of the “gruesome, grisly and dastardly murder” with “deep shock, sorrow and utter horror.”
“These innocent souls met their untimely death in the hands of a wicked and inhuman gang of the rampaging and murderous terrorists, who have turned the vast lands of the middle belt and other parts of Nigeria into a massive graveyard,” the bishops said.
They said the unrestrained mayhem had become a metaphor for the untimely deaths that had now become the fate of many of Nigerian citizens.
“That our two priests, Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha, along with their parishioners were waylaid in the course of the celebration of the holy Mass early in the morning suggests very clearly that their murder was carefully planned,” the bishops said. Nineteen people were killed in the attack.
They said recent events showed Nigerians no longer could trust Buhari. They mentioned the repeated calls from them and many other Nigerians, asking the president to take drastic and urgent steps to reverse the violence.
“It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens,” the bishops said.
“Whether this failure is due to his inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honor and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse,” they said.
Often, the violence is characterized as a revenge attack, but the bishops asked, “Whom have these priests attacked?”
They cited a Jan. 3 tweet from Father Gor, in which he referred to the Fulani herdsman, a primarily nomadic group. The bishops quoted: “We are living in fear. The Fulanis are still around here in Mbalom. They refuse to go. They still go grazing around. No weapons to defend ourselves.”
The priests could have fled, the bishops said, but, true to their vocation, they remained to continue to serve their people right unto death.
“We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves,” the bishops said, noting that most people had no weapons to defend themselves.
“How can the federal government stand back while its security agencies deliberately turn a blind eye to the cries and wails of helpless and (unarmed) citizens who remain sitting ducks in their homes, farms, highway and now, even in their sacred places of worship?”
The bishops recalled that during a Feb. 8 courtesy visit to Buhari, they expressed alarm about security in the nation.
“Since then, the bloodletting and the destruction of homes as well as farmlands have increased in intensity and brutality,” they said. “Now our churches have been desecrated and our people murdered on their altars.”
They said they had consistently advised their people to remain peaceful and law-abiding, but they felt “violated and betrayed in a nation that we have all continued to sacrifice and pray for.”
“We are at a loss as to what excuse again we can continue to give about why things are the way they are in our nation, where a nation’s landscape is littered with the bodies of its own citizens,” they said.
“We are sad and fear that the clock is ticking. The bomb must be defused quickly before it explodes,” they said.
“Nigeria can return to normal times if we put our heads together with sincerity,” they said, offering prayers for the victims and for peace in the country.
WASHINGTON (CNS) - Christian leaders in South Sudan say they must hold out hope for peace in the war-scarred nation. “It seems to us the American influence is receding,” said Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, head of the Pentecostal Church of South Sudan, part of the delegation. Father James Oyet Latansio, general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, said America could declare that “no guns should be imported to South Sudan” as the armed factions - estimates put the number as high as 40 - squabble over wealth and territory.
BANGUI, Central African Republic (CNS) — A cardinal in the Central African Republic warned against revenge after a priest and at least 24 lay Catholics were killed during a gun and grenade attack on a Mass in the country’s capital. “For decades now, what have we done with our country: coups d’etat, mutinies, repeated rebellions?” said Cardinal Dieudonne Nzapalainga, president of the bishops’ conference, May 2, the day after an attack.
BUJUMBURA, Burundi (CNS) — Catholic bishops in Burundi have criticized an upcoming referendum on constitutional reform, warning that voters will be too afraid to express their views. If passed May 17, the proposal would enable President Pierre Nkurunziza, already in power since 2005, to remain in office till 2034. “Many citizens are living in fear, even if they don’t say this openly, and don’t dare say what they think for fear of reprisals,” the bishops’ conference said in a statement.
LAGOS, Nigeria (CNS) — Nigeria’s bishops condemned repeated killings of innocent Nigerians by suspected ethnic militias in northeastern Nigeria and said President Muhammadu Buhari should resign if he could not keep the country safe. See link above
ARU, Congo (CNS) — Catholics in Congo are planning more large-scale, peaceful demonstrations across the country to protest President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to leave power. “Let’s stay together, ready to face the worst, to snatch the best,” the Church’s lay coordination committee said in a May 1 statement.
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (CNS) - The Catholic Church in Cameroon said shots were fired at the residence of Archbishop Samuel Kleda, bishops' conference president, after he criticised policies by the government of President Paul Biya. There were no reports of injuries.
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