Washington D.C., Dec 22, 2010 (CNA) - Although the controversial immigration DREAM Act failed to pass through the Senate last week, the support that the bill garnered in the House was enough to make Archbishop Jose Gomez, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration, “confident” that the legislation will succeed in the near future.
Despite the U.S. bishops endorsing the the DREAM Act – a bill that would grant citizenship to many children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents – the measure was defeated in the U.S. Senate on Dec. 18 after supporters failed to muster enough votes to block a filibuster.
Sixty votes were needed to end the filibuster, but proponents could only gather 55, with 41 senators voting to prevent the bill from coming up for a vote before the full Senate. The U.S. House of Representatives, however, had earlier passed the bill on a 216-198 vote.
The act's full title is the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act. It would have allowed young people who entered the United States before the age of 16 to apply for legal permanent residence and eventual citizenship, as long as they finish high school, have no criminal record, have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and complete two years of college or military service.
While Democrats largely supported the measure, Republicans had criticized it for encouraging illegal immigrants to bring their children across unsecured borders.
Archbishop Gomez said in a Dec. 21, statement, however, that because of the widespread approval the bill had among most U.S. representatives and a significant show of support among senators, “it is clear that a majority of Congress and of the American public support this common-sense humanitarian measure.”
“I am confident that one day – sooner rather than later – the DREAM Act will become the law of the land.”
Archbishop Gomez extended his thanks to congressional leaders who supported the legislation but also expressed sadness over its current failure.
“My heart goes out to the thousands of young people who would have been helped by the DREAM Act and were disappointed by the Senate action,” he said. “We will continue to work so that one day soon you will have the opportunity to become Americans.”
“The U.S. Catholic bishops will continue to advocate for humane immigration reform, so that we can attain an immigration system that properly balances the need to protect our national sovereignty with our obligation to honor fundamental human rights.”
Archbishop Gomez underscored the need for more “education” to ensure that “Catholics, as well as all Americans, fully understand the humanitarian consequences of a broken immigration system, especially on families.”
Konigstein, Germany, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA) - Aid to the Church in Need’s Christmas-time grants will assist persecuted and suffering Christians in countries around the world.
The Catholic charity has reserved funds for 18 aid programs to help dioceses in Haiti recover from the devastating January earthquake.
Its largest grants include $106,000 to help 270 students for the priesthood whose seminary buildings were destroyed by the quake. Another $65,400 will help repair a religious sisters’ convent which temporarily houses more than 50 women after the congregation lost most of its houses in Port-au-Prince.
In Pakistan, the Catholic Church will receive five aid packages including a $32,700 grant for a boy’s hostel in Hyderabad Diocese and a multi-purpose community center in Yohannabad, outside Lahore.
A grant will also go to Christ the King Seminary in Karachi, where up to 40 theology students are preparing for the priesthood. The grant will be used for library books and new air conditioning units, the latter being especially vital in a hot region where electricity is rationed.
Aid to the Church in Need will also provide emergency aid packages for Christians fleeing persecution. Seminarians from the Syrian Catholic Archdiocese of Mosul, which has seen some of the country’s worst anti-Christian violence, will receive $26,200.
Other aid packages are planned to go to a seminary in Grodno, Belarus, a country presently suffering political tension. Grants to China will help provide religious formation and will provide Mass stipends to priests.
Other Mass stipends are provided for priests in Kenya, Tanzania, Peru, Argentina, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.
Denver, Colo., Dec 22, 2010 (CNA) - In celebration of Christmas and the New Year, CNA will suspend its regular news service on Thursday, December 23 and will resume on January 3, 2011.
During this time, members of the CNA staff will be working to improve services for the upcoming year. We will also provide coverage of the Pope's Christmas homily and his Urbi et Orbi address.
We ask that you keep CNA in your prayers this Christmas season as the Universal Church commemorates the birth of Christ. We would like to take this time to graciously thank all of our donors, who have made our work possible in the past year.
Considering the present economic situation, coupled with the demands of the season, we understand the challenges that come in making financial contributions. However, we ask you to please prayerfully consider supporting CNA in the coming year.
To contribute to CNA (501c3) please click here: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/donation.php
Jerusalem, Israel, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - In their annual Christmas messages, two Catholic leaders in the cradle of Christianity urged prayer and action to bring about lasting peace in the troubled region of the Holy Land.
Catholic Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem of the Latins and Custodian of the Holy Land Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa released their Christmas messages in recent days.
Both messages made an appeal for increased efforts towards peace in the land where Jesus was born.
In his Dec. 21 message, Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem of the Latins offered a look at positive events and "the sufferings and the concerns" for the region in 2010.
He especially praised the forum offered by the Vatican's Synod for the Middle East last October. The two-week meeting, he said, gave Church leaders the ability to "put our fingers on our wounds and our fears, and at the same time express our expectations and our hopes."
One of the major concerns to emerge during the Synod was the protection of religious freedom in the Middle East and the importance of pursuing open dialogue and not resorting to violence. The message of the Synod served to call Christians to be active in public life and to build up their communities, said Patriarch Twal.
This call is especially powerful in Jerusalem, where many Christians are emigrating because of the violence between Palestine and Israel, he added.
He highlighted the Synod's emphasis on improving relations with other Christian denominations and religions in the Middle East and hoped that all segments of society would take part in efforts to improve relations.
Despite the failure of the most recent talks between Israel and Palestine, the patriarch remained hopeful about negotiations for peace and religious freedom in the Holy Land.
"We believe that nothing is impossible with God," Patriarch Twal said. The Church seeks "to carry out the wishes sang by the angels on Christmas night : 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'."
He appealed for peace everywhere in the Middle East. "Peace is a gift of God," he said, repeating the words of Pope Benedict. "It is also the result of efforts by men of good will, of national and international institutions, all working together to put an end to all violence!"
In his Christmas message, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan custodian (guardian) of the Holy Land, turned to the words of St. Francis of Assisi.
He reminded people that the 13th-century saint and founder of the Franciscan order would greet others with the words "peace and good."
This greeting, he said, promotes the "eternal novelty of Christmas," bringing attention back to the truth of the message of Christ's birth.
The meaning of Christmas is not limited to the actual event of Jesus' birth 2,000 years ago, he said, but it is a yearly reminder that Jesus "waits for us to make room for him, waits to be born in our hearts," Fr. Pizzaballa said.
Fr. Pizzaballa called everyone to consider the Holy Land the "cradle" of God's design of love for all people and to feel a responsibility for it.
He hoped that, "welcomed by God's waiting" and transformed in him "we will then be able to listen – amid the noise of our confused reality – to the announcement of the Angels: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
"Christmas is an effort of conversion; it is accepting, answering God’s waiting." The Gospel calls humanity to hope until Christ's return, united in carrying his message forward, he said.
"Here is the need to look at creation, to look at the world, to look at the Middle East, and this Holy Land of 'ours' — the Land of God and the Land of Men — 'from above', through the eyes of God."
Barcelona, Spain, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach of Barcelona, Spain emphasized the importance of marriage and the family in his weekly letter set to be published Dec. 26.
The cardinal wrote that marriage and the family are “the hope of humanity.” He explained that by becoming man and living “in the silence of the home at Nazareth,” God teaches us “without words about the dignity and primordial value of marriage and the family.”
The cardinal then reflected on Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation during his visit to Spain last November. At the time, the Pope stressed that Catholics must “show to all that God is the God of peace and not of violence, of freedom and not coercion, of unity and not discord,” the cardinal recalled.
The Pope also called for “moral progress,” without neglecting technological, social and cultural progress, Cardinal Sistach said. This entails “care, protection and help for the family” and “the defense of the lives children as sacred and inviolable from the moment of conception,” Cardinal Sistach said.
Havana, Cuba, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA) - Cardinal Jaime Ortega of Havana recently announced that 11 more prisoners of conscience will soon be released by the Cuban government.
Forty-two dissidents have already been freed following negotiations in July 2010 between the country's government and Cardinal Ortega.
The cardinal spoke during a Christmas reflecion at the cathedral in Havana and confirmed that the 52 dissidents detained in 2003 will all be released, reported ANSA news agency.
Forty of the prisoners freed so far were sent to Spain, while only one was allowed to remain in Cuba.
The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, has confirmed that prisoner of conscience Agustin Cervantes has started a hunger strike to protest the mistreatment he has been subjected to at the prison in Cucuni. The dissident claims he has been kept completely naked in solitary confinement for the past 15 days.
Vatican City, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Jesus' birth invites all people to transform their hearts through his infinite goodness and mercy, Pope Benedict XVI said in his weekly general audience, Dec. 22.
In his last Wednesday audience before Christmas, there was a jovial mood in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VII Hall as the Pope met with pilgrims from all over the world. Some members of the crowd even sang Christmas carols.
The Church invites all Christians to contemplate the mystery of Jesus' birth and receive "the gift of his presence" in these days, said the Pope.
The sensations of "trepidation and wonder" mark the Christian path that leads closer to "the place where everything began for us and for our salvation, where everything was fulfilled, where the expectations of the world and of the human heart came together."
The Pope said that Christians share in the joy of those who first awaited the Savior's birth, and make the expectations of Mary and Joseph their own to grow from a renewed encounter with the Son of God. It is a time of hope in Christ's coming to save man from sin, the "single great promise" prophesied by the Old Testament.
The Savior's arrival helps us to understand the work of God, according to the Pope. Through Christ’s presence on earth, "he bids us to become like him, to see the world through his eyes and to let our hearts be transformed by his infinite goodness and mercy."
"In the night of the world, let us still allow ourselves to be surprised and illuminated by this coming, by the Star which, rising in the East, has inundated the universe with joy," he said. "Let us purify our minds and our lives from everything that contrasts with this coming — thoughts, words, attitudes and actions — spurring ourselves on to do good and to help bring peace and justice to our world for all men and women, and thus to walk towards the Lord."
Pope Benedict hoped that the "eloquent sign" of expectation represented by Nativity scenes everywhere would serve this purpose. He prayed that it be a "moving symbol of the Father's infinite love" for all men.
He closed his remarks by asking for the intercession of Mary and Joseph to bring renewed joy and gratitude to contemplations of the mystery of Christ's birth and hoped for a "holy and happy Christmas" that might provide new courage and new light for those on the Christian pilgrimage.
Sydney, Australia, Dec 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - Archbishop John Hepworth of the Traditional Anglican Communion has said that about 1,000 Australians are expected to join the Catholic Church through a special jurisdiction created by Pope Benedict XVI.
Catholics, mainstream Anglicans and members of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion established a nine-member committee last week to oversee the transition by June 12, 2011.
The Anglicans believe they will be able to retain their church properties, which removes one obstacle to their entry into the Catholic Church, the Australian newspaper The Age reports.
Archbishop Hepworth said that if Anglican priests and congregations do not resign, they might be able to show “beneficial ownership” and keep their properties. He noted that in England the Archbishop of
Canterbury has allowed departing Anglicans to keep using their properties. The Australian archbishop said he hoped the Australian church would do the same.
“It would be the tolerant and godly thing to do,” he said.
The Anglicans seeking entry into the Catholic Church have objected to theological changes in the Anglican Communion such as the ordination of women. Under the Anglican ordinariate which Pope Benedict established in his 2009 apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” they will keep their clergy, liturgy and church structures.
Archbishop Hepworth reported that an Australian ordinariate would have churches in all capital cities of the country and in many regional and rural places.
The Traditional Anglican Communion claims 400,000 members worldwide but only 700 in Australia.
Washington D.C., Dec 22, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The number of executions carried out in the United States dropped by 12 percent in 2010. Commentators attributed the decline to changing attitudes on the practice but also cited problems with the availability of lethal injection chemicals and lengthy appeals processes.
The anti-execution Death Penalty Information Center has issued a report counting 46 executions in Texas, Ohio, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Utah and Washington in 2010.
In 2009 there were 52 executions in 16 states.
Richard Dieter, executive director of the organization, told the Associated Press that the nation “continued to move away from the death penalty in 2010.” He noted concerns about the high financial costs of the death penalty at a time of budget cuts, concerns about executing the innocent and concerns about unfairness in application.
Scott Burns, executive director of the National Association of District Attorneys, said that appeals have added so much time between sentence and execution that some families are asking prosecutors to accept life in prison without parole. The certainty of that sentence is “sometimes more palpable to them,” he told the AP.
Lengthy sentences for violent criminals and programs to reduce recidivism could also have contributed to a decline in death sentences.
Thirty-five U.S. states have the death penalty. Texas had 17 executions in 2010, the most of any state. However, this figure was a drop from the state’s 24 executions in 2009. The Death Penalty Information Center attributed this drop to the state’s adoption of a sentence of life without parole in 2005, new district attorneys in prominent jurisdictions like Houston and Dallas, and “the ongoing residue of past mistakes.”
Twelve death row inmates in Texas have been exonerated since 1978.
About 114 new inmates will be added to death row in 2010, slightly above last year’s post-1976 record low of 112.
More than 3,000 criminals are on death row in the U.S.