Denver, Colo., May 29, 2014 (CNA) -
To better serve the growing Latino presence in the U.S., Catholic News Agency has expanded its free Access for Editors service to include breaking news on the Universal Church in Spanish.
“We're thrilled to announce this service,” said CNA editor-in-chief Marianne Medlin. “The Latino community brings an irreplaceable richness and vitality to the Church nationwide.”
“As a young generation of Hispanic leaders emerge under the banner of our new Pope, we're honored to be at the forefront of of providing timely, high-quality news for the American Latino faithful.”
CNA's Access for Editors is a free service for Catholic Press Association publications and diocesan newspapers that offers news from bureaus in Washington, D.C., Rome, Italy; Denver, Colorado; Lima, Peru and Santiago, Chile, as well as from correspondents in Spain, Brazil and South East Asia.
ACI Prensa, CNA's sister-site, is the largest Spanish Catholic news service in the world, and has been in operation since 1980. This unique partnership allows CNA to provide breaking news for Spanish-speaking readers as well as timely translations of news in English.
CNA hopes that by offering this service, it will be able to better serve the growing Latino population in the United States, as well as editors of Spanish publications.
Founded in continued response to Pope John Paul II’s call for a “New Evangelization,” CNA has been since 2004 one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world.
CNA strives to provide free, up-to-the-minute news affecting the Universal Church, giving particular emphasis to the words of the Holy Father and happenings of the Holy See, to any person with access to the internet.
Though its focus is spread throughout the world, CNA also keeps a close eye on the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and on news related to the creation of a culture of life.
To learn more about CNA's Access for Editors for your Spanish publication, please visit: editors.catholicnewsagency.com.
New York City, N.Y., May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
U.N. anti-torture committee member Felice Gaer’s statement to a Holy See delegation equating opposition to abortion and torture is part of a growing trend to exclude Catholics and other pro-life advocates, one critic says.
“That our country’s own representative at a United Nations committee would seek to intimidate the diplomatic face of the world’s largest religious institution is profoundly troubling,” Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said in a May 28 opinion column for Real Clear Religion.
She charged that Gaer, the vice-chair of the United Nations’ Committee on the Convention Against Torture, is “now a part of efforts directly targeting one of the Catholic Church's most deeply-held beliefs: that life begins at conception and that all human life has inherent dignity and is worthy of protection.”
Gaer, a U.S. appointee named by the Obama administration, questioned the Holy See delegation during May 5-6 hearings in Geneva about the Holy See’s adherence to the Convention Against Torture.
Gaer told apostolic nuncio Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and the Holy See delegation that her committee has found that criminalizing abortion in all circumstances can violate the anti-torture convention. She asked the delegation to respond to criticisms that its position against abortion requires pregnant nine-year-olds to give birth.
According to McGuire, who was at the hearings, Gaer used her position to “stare the papal nuncio of the Holy See in the face and threaten him, saying that to be pro-life is to be pro-torture.”
The Catholic commentator said Gaer’s comments sent the message “back off abortion or we will hold you in violation of the Convention Against Torture.”
McGuire said that it is “not really surprising” that an Obama appointee who self-describes as “fiercely pro-choice” would use her position to “violate the religious liberty of the Catholic Church by threatening and pressuring the Catholic Church to abandon her moral teaching.”
However, she lamented increasing pressure from the U.S. government to exclude Catholics and other pro-life advocates from the public and private sectors.
“Once a country that welcomed religious diversity into an open space of mutual respect, our society is now increasingly beholden to a new intolerance that pushes the multitude of values and beliefs that color our nation into dark and silent corners,” McGuire said.
While the anti-torture committee “backed away from Gaer’s extremist line of questioning,” affirmed that the Church did not violate the convention and recognized the Church had made reforms to combat sex abuse, McGuire said the incident was “shocking” in light of Gaer’s past stands for religious freedom.
Before being named to the committee, Gaer “made a name for herself as a religious liberty activist and a staunch opponent of anti-Semitism.”
Gaer, in her role as a human rights advocate for the American Jewish Committee, warned about the historical progression of anti-Semitism beginning with the unjust exclusion of Jews from society.
McGuire said that Gaer, as a former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “vocally defended the principle of religious liberty” and affirmed that “no one should be subject to coercion” that might impair the freedom to hold religious beliefs.
“Why then, does she now exclude the pro-life view and the entire Catholic Church from this standard?” McGuire asked, noting that abandoning the consistent anti-abortion position would be to abandon Catholicism.
Vatican City, May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Work is “both a gift and a duty,” Pope Francis told a U.N. labor agency in a message calling for an end to human trafficking and for greater concern for migrants and the unemployed, especially the young.
“At the dawn of creation, God made man the steward of his handiwork and charged him to cultivate and protect it,” the Pope said May 28 to the International Labor Conference. “Human labor is part of that creation and continues God’s creative work.”
Labor is “not a mere commodity” but has “its own inherent dignity and worth.”
The International Labor Conference is hosting its 103rd session from May 28-June 12 in Geneva. The conference is sponsored by the International Labor Organization, a U.N. agency that aims to promote internationally recognized labor rights, employment opportunities, social protections and dialogue on work-related issues.
Pope Francis said that Catholic social teaching supports the organization’s initiatives that promote “the dignity of the human person and the nobility of human labor.”
Citing his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the Pope said that it is only “through free, creative, participatory and mutually supportive work that human beings express and enhance the dignity of their life.”
The pontiff voiced the Holy See’s appreciation for the organization’s contributions to increasing cooperation between governments, employers and workers.
The Pope noted the problem of unemployment, particularly among the young who can easily become “demoralized” and feel “alienated from society.”
“Unemployment is tragically expanding the frontiers of poverty,” he said.
Pope Francis also spoke of mass migration as a cause for concern, noting “the sheer numbers of men and women forced to work away from their homelands.”
“Despite their hopes for a better future, they frequently encounter mistrust and exclusion, to say nothing of experiencing tragedies and disasters,” he said.
Migrant workers can be victims of the “globalization of indifference” and risk the “horror” of human trafficking, forced labor and enslavement.
“This cannot continue! Human trafficking is a scourge, a crime against the whole of humanity,” the Pope stressed. “It is time to join forces and work together to free its victims and to eradicate this crime that affects all of us, from individual families to the worldwide community.”
He called for a “concerted effort to encourage governments to facilitate the movement of immigrants for the benefit of all” to help eliminate trafficking.
The Pope also called for more cooperation and an expansion of solidarity throughout society.
He spoke of the need for a renewed insistence on human dignity, a “more determined implementation” of global labor standards, better development, and a “re-evaluation” of the responsibilities of international corporations.
The Pope’s message concluded with a prayer: “I invoke God’s blessing on all that you do to defend and advance the dignity of work for the common good of our human family.”
Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labor Organization, delivered his own opening remarks at the conference May 28. He warned of the danger of mistreatment and abuse of migrant workers as well as the problems of forced labor. He spoke of the need to aid transitions from an “informal” economy to a “formal” economy with explicit labor standards.
Cincinnati, Ohio, May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati says criticism of its updated school contracts for teachers amounts to hype from third parties, noting that teachers themselves have been largely pleased and receptive.
“What the principals keep telling...our superintendent is that it's a non-issue, in most of these parishes,” said Dan Andriacco, communications director for the Cincinnati archdiocese.
“Our sense is, it's quite a tempest in a teapot,” he told CNA in a May interview.
As part of its efforts to revitalize the Catholic identity of its schools, the local Church has issued a new contract for its school teachers for the 2014-2015 academic year.
The new guidelines specify that the educator must agree “to exemplify Catholic principles and to refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the School or be in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals.”
In response to some media reports claiming widespread discontent among Archdiocese of Cincinnati teachers, Andriacco countered that local superintendent Jim Rigg “has heard from a dozen or more teachers happy about the contract – happy that they're being asked to sign this.”
On the other hand, opponents of the new contract's wording are a small but vocal group among Catholic educators in the area. “Our sense of things is that it is a small minority,” he said.
The contract, which makes it clear that the archdiocese considers its educators to be ministers as well, is part of an effort to bolster Catholic identity in Catholic schools.
“Three years ago we started a long process for creating a unified vision for our Catholic schools in the archdiocese,” Andriacco explained.
“As part of that, we had listening sessions throughout the archdiocese to find out what was really important to people, and one of the messages that came through loud and clear, was Catholic identity.”
That concern expressed at listening sessions “is certainly a part” of the basis for the new wording of teachers’ contracts, he said, adding that “Catholic education is Archbishop (Dennis) Schnurr’s number two priority, right behind vocations.”
“We do consider all of our teachers, including those who are not Catholic, to be ministers of the Church, because our schools are a ministry – that’s the reason we open up the doors in the morning. It’s not just to provide a great education, great discipline, although we do that: it’s to spread the Gospel.”
The contract gives examples of prohibited conduct, including “public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion … public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals.”
The wording is important, Andriacco said, for its concern with public – not private – acts, and its extension beyond the bounds of the classroom: “a teachers’ function as a role model doesn’t end at the classroom door.”
“Also, it’s contrary to our current experience as a society; people get in trouble all the time for things they say that are not directly related to their job.”
He cited the cases of Brendan Eich, the Mozilla CEO who was effectively forced to resign from his position over his donation, in 2008, to the Proposition 8 campaign; and Donald Sterling, whom the NBA has fined $2.5 million and is trying to strip of ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, after a recording was released of him making racist comments in a private conversation.
Frank Bruni, an op-ed columnist at The New York Times, wrote May 10 faulting the new contracts for “getting stuck” on matters of sexual morality and for not having a “reference to concern for the downtrodden, to the spirit of giving, to charity.”
Responding to such complaints Andriacco said that the examples chosen “are examples are only, and we chose things that had been problems … if we had a problem with teachers posting racial slurs on their blog, that would have been mentioned.”
“So far as I’m aware…we've never had a major issue with Catholic school teachers publicly supporting the death penalty or unjust wars, or not being concerned for the downtrodden.”
“The examples are meant to address real world situations,” Andriacco said. “I understand the complaint when people say it’s a bunch of 'thou shalt nots' – but it has to be. You can’t list the fullness of everything we’re supposed to do; as Catholics, we should all be very charitable – how are you going to write a contract requirement that people be charitable?”
“But, there is some generalized wording,” he added, that the examples are “not the sum of what we expect of our Catholic teachers; we expect a lot more than that. This is not supposed to be a catalogue of everything we expect from them.”
“If we had a problem with teachers posting racial slurs on their Facebook page or blog, that that would probably be part of the contract; I really suspect that if we did not fire, or publicly discipline a teacher who posted racial slurs on their website, that we would get an even bigger pushback than we’re getting now.”
The specified wording and examples in the contract are necessary, Andriacco explained, because the archdiocese has found itself in “situations where people seem to not know what the contract obligates them to.”
Thus, the local Church hopes it will be “very specific, so that when they're signing, they know what it is that they’re saying they will not do.”
In 2013, Christa Dias, a former teacher at an archdiocesan school, was awarded $171,000 in an anti-discrimination lawsuit after she was fired for undergoing artificial insemination; and Mike Moroski, was fired from his position as an administrator at a Catholic school after posting support for gay marriage on his blog.
“It’s always been our position that our teachers are ministers, and we think that everything that is specified in the new wording of the contract, was always implicit in the previous wording of the contract,” Andriacco stated.
“We’ve admitted, conceded the obvious, that we hope this gives us some legal protection in terms, first of all establishing that we do consider our teachers to be ministers, although that word is used in the current contract as well.”
A question and answer aid given to principals of the archdiocese noted that that “the language in this contract…is designed to make it clear that our teachers are 'ministers' within the meaning of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hosanna-Tabor vs EEOC.”
In that 2012 decision, the high court ruled unanimously to uphold a “ministerial exception” allowing religious groups to make employment decisions free of government interference.
Some groups have taken issue with the contract’s supposed restrictions in the face of individual conscience, but Andriacco responded that “as Catholics we do believe in primacy of conscience, and we certainly respect the conscience of anyone who says they can’t sign this…no one's stopping them from following their conscience.”
“And the archbishop and the school superintendent and the director of human resources also each has a conscience, and their conscience tells them this is the right thing to do.”
“People are operating on the level of emotion,” he said, in their response to the contract. It “says you can't publicly support the gay lifestyle,” he noted, but that opponents have characterized it as meaning “I'm not supporting my gay family member.”
Andriacco explained, however, that “you support them as a human being,” but “you don’t support their lifestyle.”
Moreover, the archdiocese has set high the threshold for “public support” of acts or beliefs contrary to the faith; and support “on a purely personal, non-public level” is not a grounds for termination of employment, the question and answer sheet about the contract clarified.
It also stated that “each situation would be looked at on a case-by-case basis,” and that “public support of” a homosexual lifestyle “would not include attending a same-sex wedding or ceremony of a family member or friend, nor would it include any pictures from this wedding/ceremony that might end up on an attendees’ social media site.”
Andriacco said that attendance at a gay wedding ceremony is regarded by the archdiocese as “essentially a private act...that's not perceived to be a public act,” saying this distinction is “because you’re not making a statement that says ‘I support this’; you’re there to support the person.”
Kenneth Craycraft, an Ohio attorney, wrote a May 12 opinion piece at the Cincinnati Enquirer observing that “from the actual wording of the contract, it should be surprising that there is any controversy at all.”
He noted that it does not “prevent a teacher who is the parent of a gay child from loving and supporting that child. It merely ensures that teachers who sign the contract to teach in a Catholic school do not advocate moral positions or live moral lifestyles that violate Catholic teaching. And, of course, no one is required to sign the contract.”
Andriacco concluded by reiterating that “in most of our schools, everyone signed” the new contract.
Vatican City, May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The first woman mayor of the town where Jesus was born referred to the strong connection they have with the Vatican, explaining that the recent visit of Pope Francis is an opportunity to work for justice.
“All has started in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem the origin of the message of peace was resurrected to the world. In the Vatican it is the Church, St. Peter’s” Vera Baboun told CNA May 24, the day before Pope Francis was to celebrate Mass in Bethlehem’s Manger Square.
“This message of Bethlehem can remain empowered and sustained by the other identity in the Vatican,” she said. “It is a kind of relationship of connection, empowerment and keeping the star of Bethlehem enlightened.”
“In other words, the Vatican can be the oil to keep the star of Bethlehem enlightened.”
As a mother of five children and the first woman mayor in Bethlehem, the second in all of Palestine, Baboun has met with Pope Francis on two occasions prior to his visit to her country during his three day pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine.
Recalling her first meeting with the Roman Pontiff, the mayor explained that she was initially anxious, wondering if he remembered that in Bethlehem “we still exist as the living stones.” When giving him her gift, a small baby Jesus carved in Bethlehem by a local Palestinian artist, “I just said we are there, and he is there, and put it in his hands and said nothing.”
However during the second encounter when she accompanied Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in his audience with the Pope “It was different,” and although only the president spoke with him “the atmosphere now went beyond assurance.”
“It has to do with, we are all there together” she continued, stating that “you know Pope Francis is a man of the Gospel, par excellence. His saying, his acts, everything he does refers to the teachings in his simple manner.”
When the president received a pen from the pontiff, Baboun recalled that he told him “I will use your gift when signing the peace agreement” between Israel and Palestine, “and I pray we will sign this peace agreement.”
Pope Francis’ reactions, the mayor recounted, “were really the reactions of a spiritual and human leader. And that is very important for me as the mayor of Bethlehem. We’re not alone.”
Expressing her expectations for the visit, Baboun noted that “it’s very difficult” to say because the answer also depends on other people.
“Our expectations are our dreams. All of us live a lack of peace, and usually when you have a lack your dream is to fulfill the lack” she noted, “but the one who will fulfill the dream is not only us… more than one player must work in order to make our expectation a reality.”
“We are not living the peace that we deserve and it is important to note that Bethlehem gave the message of peace to the whole world” and is “the only nation up until now under” Israeli occupation she observed. “Isn’t that ironic?”
“For me the expectation is to put an end to that irony.”
Reflecting on the words she would say to the Pope in her meeting with him ahead of Sunday’s Mass in the city’s Manger Square, Baboun explained that she would tell him that “Although your visit is religious and spiritual, it is to the Holy Land. Your motto is the motto of oneness. Let it be one.”
“However the Holy Land, the land of the three faiths, doesn’t really live the practice of the real faith” the mayor noted, so “What I would tell him is for peace, we need courageous hearts. We need someone who masters speaking truth with a heart that is really brave.”
“An ability to speak the truth. I would ask him is to say clearly that we need to live in justice. We need to be included.”
Calling to mind how Pope Francis himself said that “we need to work to restore hope and to include the excluded,” the mayor stated that “We are excluded from justice. What I would ask him is to work to include us within justice.”
Alan Holdren contributed to this piece.
Washington D.C., May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
Releasing a report detailing six years of undercover investigations at Planned Parenthood, a pro-life group has called for a formal investigation and an end to taxpayer funding of the organization.
“When I first began to go undercover in these facilities in 2007, I thought I would find illegal and harmful activity,” said Lila Rose, president and founder of Live Action.
“But even I had no idea of the huge, company-wide commitment to abortion at any cost – the fraud, the lies, the cover-ups.”
Rose founded Live Action in an attempt to expose abuses within Planned Parenthood clinics. Over the past six years, the group has sent staff members or volunteers with hidden cameras to document illegal or corrupt activity within clinics.
Live Action’s new report provides a summary of the information gathered during these undercover investigations throughout the U.S. Among these findings, the report says, are false advertising and fraud, employee failure to report cases of sexual abuse or statutory rape, “noncommittal response” about supporting children who survive abortion attempts, agreement to perform sex-selective abortions and the acceptance of donations earmarked for the abortion of racial minorities.
These cases show that “Planned Parenthood has proven itself a negligent and untrustworthy caretaker of the health of our nation's women and children,” the report stated, adding that in its cooperation with sex-selective abortion, sex trafficking, and child sexual abuse, “this abortion corporation represents a clear and present danger to the American people.”
On May 28, Rose and Live Action volunteers delivered copies of the investigative report to each members of Congress. They also launched a website, www.plannedparenthoodexposed.com, which details of their investigations and a petition calling for an end to taxpayer funding of the organization.
“An organization that lies to women and kills three thousand children every day for profit can have no valid claim on a single American's paycheck,” Rose said at the May 28 release of the report. “It's a grave injustice that our government and our president actively promote this extreme form of violence. It's a disgrace that we are all forced to fund it.”
During the 2011-2012 fiscal year, Planned Parenthood received $540.7 million in taxpayer funds, according to Planned Parenthood's most recent annual report.
Live Action said that the “overwhelming” evidence of the organization’s “abuses, law-breaking, and corruption,” show that “Planned Parenthood must be immediately divested of taxpayer money.”
The Live Action report also recommended a “thorough and detailed investigation of Planned Parenthood facilities across the country” and the use of court subpoenas for records involving minors in order to determine cases of child abuse and statutory rape, among other offenses.
In addition, the document requested the suspension of medical licenses to Planned Parenthood personnel, due to Live Action’s findings that the abortion organization is not in compliance “with the basic tenets of the medical profession.”
Rose charged that abortion clinics destroy lives and “regularly skirt or outright violate state statutes,” stressing that the clinics “need to be investigated, inspected, and shut down.”
“Our report shows where the true 'war on women' is – it's front and center in America's abortion facilities,” she said.
Vatican City, May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
An encounter among Pope Francis, the Palestinian president, and the Israeli president at the Vatican to pray for peace in the Holy Land has been set for June 8, the Holy See has announced.
“The encounter to pray for peace, to which the Holy Father Francis has invited the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, and of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, will take place Sunday, June 8, in the afternoon, at the Vatican,” the Holy See press office announced May 29.
“This date has been accepted by both parties.”
At the close of his Mass said in Bethlehem May 25, Pope Francis invited the two leaders to the Vatican for the meeting: “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.”
“In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace I wish to invite you, president Mahmoud Abbas, together with president Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.”
He continued, “all of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.”
“All of us – especially those placed at the service of their respective peoples – have the duty to become instruments and artisans of peace, especially by our prayers. Building peace is difficult, but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.”
Both presidents accepted the invitation the same day; Peres’ office stated that “we welcome Pope Francis' invitation to the Vatican. President Peres has supported and will continue to support all avenues to bring about peace.”
Pope Francis’ invitation was issued on the second day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where his addresses focused heavily on the theme of peace.
Speaking to Abbas and other Palestinian officials that day, he lamented the “protracted conflict which has inflicted many wounds so difficult to heal.”
“For the good of all, there is a need to intensify efforts and initiatives aimed at creating the conditions for a stable peace based on justice, on the recognition of the rights of every individual, and on mutual security.”
“The time has come for everyone to find the courage to be generous and creative in the service of the common good, the courage to forge a peace which rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he said, adding that peace “must resolutely be pursued, even if each side has to make certain sacrifices.”
Meeting with Peres May 26, Pope Francis said that “peacemaking demands first and foremost respect for the dignity and freedom of every human person, which Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe to be created by God and destined to eternal life. This shared conviction enables us resolutely to pursue peaceful solutions to every controversy and conflict.”
“Here I renew my plea that all parties avoid initiatives and actions which contradict their stated determination to reach a true agreement and that they tirelessly work for peace, with decisiveness and tenacity.”
Washington D.C., May 29, 2014 (CNA/EWTN News) -
The desperation of many immigrants who have no choice but to break existing U.S. laws shows the need for comprehensive immigration reform, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ migration efforts.
Bishop Eusebio L. Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Migration, told CNA that while some migrants break U.S. immigration laws to enter and work in the country, their worth as “my brothers and sisters” is not diminished.
“There are many things that are lawful that are immoral,” he noted, adding that simply because an action “is unlawful doesn't mean it is immoral.”
The bishop explained that a wide array of circumstances place people in a situation where they are forced to break the law in order to provide for their families, and that this situation calls for a change in the laws to reflect what is moral and just.
Bishop Elizondo spoke to CNA after a May 29 Mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill. The Mass was held by a group of bishops from across the U.S. who had come to speak up about the importance of reforming current immigration policies.
Lawmakers and leaders of faith, business and labor groups were invited to the Mass, which was offered for immigrants and their families who have been separated from one another as a result of current U.S. immigration policy.
“When laws fail to advance the common good, they can and they should be changed,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who delivered the homily.
Reflecting on the parable of the Good Samaritan, he explained that laws “must take into account both human dignity and the national interest.”
Current U.S. immigration laws are “ill adapted” to the challenges of today, the archbishop said.
Also at the Mass were Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., Auxiliary Bishop Martin D. Holley of Washington, D.C., and Bishops Oscar Cantu and Emeritus Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M.
Before the Mass, the bishops met with young people who were brought to the United States by their parents when they were children. Known as “DREAMers,” these individuals have grown up in the U.S., but many face a wide array of challenges due to their family's lack of documentation.
Afterwards, the bishops met with several members of the House of Representatives, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). During a press conference after the Mass, they said that they are also working to ask U.S. President Barack Obama to issue an executive order so that immigrant families can more easily stay together.
The May 29 Mass was part of the bishops’ larger Mission for Migrants. Last month, a group of bishops visited the U.S.-Mexico border to say Mass in remembrance of migrants who died during their journey to cross it.
Momentum behind immigration reform increased last year as a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators worked together to introduce legislation aimed at both providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and securing the U.S. border. In June 2013, the Senate approved the bill in a bipartisan 68-32 vote. However, it stalled in the House of Representatives amid sharp divisions within Republican leadership.
The U.S. bishops’ conference has laid out several goals for comprehensive immigration reform, including an “earned legalization program” with an “eventual path to citizenship” for those who pass background checks and pay a fine, along with “targeted, proportional, and humane” enforcement measures.
The conference has also called for a program to help low-skilled migrant workers to enter and work in the U.S. legally, as well as the restoration of due process protections for immigrants, an emphasis on family unification, and policy changes to address the deeper causes of immigration.
Bishop Elizondo explained that the bishops’ conference is hoping to make the moral case for immigration reform during this “key moment for the government,” with the hope of enacting some sort of change before the end of the president's term in January 2017.
He called on Catholics to provide “testimony, witness” on behalf of migrant persons, emphasizing that “they have feelings, they have hopes and they have dreams,” as well as the potential to play a vital role within the U.S. Church.
Archbishop Wenski pleaded for a change to the “broken” and “cynical” system, calling current laws a “stain on the soul of the nation” for their role in keeping “families separated for an intolerable length of time” and placing people who are trying to make a living in dangerous situations.
In addition, the undocumented status of many families leads to the creation of “a new underclass” of people who lack access to the same legal structures and institutions as other residents, he said.
“We're asking Congress, the House, to act,” the archbishop said. “Laws are designed to the benefit – not the harm – of humankind.”