By Mark PattisonWASHINGTON (CNS) -- There is no doubt that Pope Francis' impending visit to the United States is generating a lot of enthusiasm.For
some people, the rarity of a papal visit to these shores is reason enough to
trek hundreds of miles or more for the opportunity to be with him, or near him,
even if only briefly.
are others, though, who hope that the pope's words will provide a shot in the arm
for their work on public policy issues.
the course of five days, the pope will give homilies at Masses in Washington,
New York and Philadelphia. He will address the World Meeting of Families, the
United Nations General Assembly, and be the first pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress. Pope Francis will also meet with President Barack Obama.
hoping and expecting that he is going to speak on issues of migration, and I'm
hoping he'll talk about the dignity of those who are seeking a better life,”
said Jeanne Atkinson, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration
Network. “I'm hoping he'll speak of compassion toward refugees and asylum
has been tracking Pope Francis' remarks. “He made a statement about the
U.S.-Mexican border,” she said. “He's concerned with Syrian refugees,
trafficking, all that. He very much speaks to what CLINIC does.”
As to whether
the pope's visit will move the needle on a long-stymied overhaul of U.S.
immigration policy, Atkinson thinks it depends on who's listening. “A person who is virulently
anti-immigrant, I don't think so.” However, she clarified, “I think people are
eager to hear what he has to say, Catholics, of course, but non-Catholics. I
think he clearly speaks from a position of moral authority -- but without an
agenda, in a sense. His agenda is the church's agenda. I think people will
should they listen, “I hope it will cause people to re-examine the church's
position on immigration," Atkinson said. “The church has been a strong force for
immigration and immigration reform for decades.”
Opponents of the death penalty also hope the pope will mention their cause.“We are
hopeful he will follow in the footsteps of St. John Paul II and help facilitate
the end of the use of the death penalty in this country and point out the need
for reform within our criminal justice system,” said Karen Clifton, executive
director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death
Penalty, in a Sept. 4 statement emailed to Catholic News Service.
recalled St. John Paul's appeal against capital punishment during his January
1999 visit to St. Louis. The day after his appeal, a death row inmate's
sentence was commuted to life in prison.
Francis has been very outspoken against the use of the death penalty, stating it
is 'inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed. ... It is an offense
against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, ... There
is no humane way of killing another person,'” Clifton said. “With the current
debate on the use of the death penalty in this country, Pope Francis' strong
pastoral words need to be heard."
Bob Gronski, a policy
analyst for Catholic Rural Life, is curious about what issues the pope will raise that touch on rural interests. “He has many things he can be talking about,
of course: care of creation, care of our common home. I hope he does emphasize
that to some extent -- and go from there.”
added: “Catholic Rural Life would certainly applaud any mention by Pope Francis
of sustainable and diversified agriculture, as he did in his recent
encyclical,” “Laudato Si'.” He cited passages “when he spoke about (how) a
global consensus is needed to confront the deeper problems we face in our
common world home,” and “the development and use of technology.”
told CNS, “We want the pope to outright say to policymakers
that our arrogant economic system, when it gets its hands on things, attempts
to extract everything possible from the land while frequently blind to the
reality in front of us: environmental degradation. So we hope that Pope Francis
reminds policymakers that the good earth has limits and we cannot cross these
limits without harming ourselves, even as we harm all life within creation.”
Sinyai, director of the Catholic Employer Project for the Catholic Labor
Network, linked Pope Francis with his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.
U.S. Congress, which may soon be called upon to consider ratification of the
Trans-Pacific Partnership, could greatly benefit from the Holy Father's counsel
on globalization and trade,” Sinyai said.
in Veritate,' Pope Benedict XVI proved an eloquent critic of globalization
driven by a desire for profits, neglecting of the needs of workers and the
environment,” he added. “Pope Francis picked up this prophetic call to reject
the 'globalization of indifference' and choose an international solidarity that
protects workers, the poor and our common home."
Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice
lobby, will have just returned to Washington from her annual
“Nuns on the Bus” tour highlighting economic inequality across the country.
Simone, a Sister of Social Service, is one of the lucky few to get a gallery
seat for Pope Francis' Sept. 24 address to lawmakers in the Capitol.
his breathing will enhance” the tone of the debate, she told CNS. “Isn't he
a less breathless moment, Sister Simone said, “We're really excited to have him
just be himself, but to just lift up the poor, especially the issues of the
economic divide. But I think his analysis in the encyclical is so critical: We
don't have an economic crisis or an environmental crisis. We have a single
crisis -- of exploitation. ... Making that known to our people is key -- and
doing it with love. It's such a different tone than all of the 2016 campaign
foolishness that we hear day after day.”
than making congressional leaders regret their invitation to Pope Francis because
of fears of what he might say to them, Sister Simone saw things through a
think his valuing of politicians is important, but his challenge to them to
govern is what they need to hear. We know last year it was Speaker (John) Boehner's fear of the Tea Party that defeated immigration reform, because we had the votes," she said. "I hope Pope Francis' affirmation for their role and their course will help improve our democracy," she added. “Because, you know, he's going to be speaking
right in the heart of the negotiation for the 2015-16 budget year. And they're
stalemated at this once more. The context is really important of what he says
and how he says it.”
100 House Democrats –- many but not all of them Catholics -- chimed in on what
they'd like to hear the pope say to them in an Aug. 12 letter to Pope Francis made public Sept.
find ourselves struggling with a broad range of economic and social issues as a
nation,” the letter said. “These policy issues range from health care,
the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change, immigration and
increased racial tensions, just to name a few. One key example that troubles us
deeply is the failure to eliminate hunger. ... We believe the continued
existence of hunger in America is a disgrace and an indictment of our
topic on which they hope to hear from Pope Francis is support to raise the federal
minimum wage, stuck at $7.25 an hour. “While we have a rich tradition of valuing
work and family, we also seem to have 'irrational confidence' that wealth will 'trickle
down,' contrary to past history,” the letter said. “As you so eloquently stated
in 'The Joy of the Gospel,' 'Some people continue to defend trickle-down
theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will
inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the
world.'”- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: EPABy Jonathan LuxmooreOXFORD, England (CNS) --
Catholic aid agencies have urged Europeans not to turn against migrants seeking
refuge from Syria and other countries, in what media reports describe as the continent's
greatest refugee movement since World War II.
"The crisis in Syria is now
in its fifth year, and the neighboring countries where we've been providing
assistance are running out of resources," said Kim Pozniak, communications
officer for Catholic Relief Services, the Baltimore-based U.S. bishops'
international relief and development agency. She said countries such as Lebanon
and Turkey are sheltering 3.5 million Syrians and "can no longer carry the
burden of sheer numbers."
"People have realized they
won't be going home and turned to the European Union for longer-term solutions.
While they've been shown compassion in some countries, this hasn't been the
"These people aren't just
migrating to Europe in search of a better life for their children: They're
fleeing to protect them and save their lives, and this is something everyone
can relate to," she said.
European Union foreign ministers
met in Brussels to discuss new responses to the crisis Sept. 4, and the
government of Hungary attempted to control thousands of migrants camped at a
railway station in the capital, Budapest.
Pozniak told Catholic News
Service Sept. 3 that CRS and other Catholic agencies had been given migrants food and water, as well as medical and
legal help, on the main routes through Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia and
She added that church-backed
organizations would aid all refugees without distinction, after some East
European bishops called for priority to be given to Christians.
"The church doesn't
distinguish between faiths and religions -- we assist everyone on the basis of
needs, whatever their background," Pozniak told CNS. "The church in
the Middle East and the Balkans has been responding to this crisis for years,
and to the church no human being is illegal. We're called to preserve their
dignity by not letting them sleep in parks and train stations."Antonio Guterres, U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees, urged Europe to build facilities to accept the
migrants and to admit up to 200,000 refugees, with mandatory participation by
all EU member-states. However, in Hungary Sept. 4,
members of parliament debated whether to declare a state of emergency as a
tense stand-off continued between police and refugees in and around Budapest,
and as work was completed on a 110-mile razor-wire wall closing the country's
southern frontier with Serbia.
The national deputy director of
the Hungarian church's Caritas charity, Richard Zagyva, told CNS Sept. 4 the
12-foot wall was intended to prevent "mass unregulated border crossings,"
rather than to block out all migrants. He said Caritas hoped to continue
providing aid once the refugees had been placed in camps for processing.
However, Hungary's Sant'Egidio
Community criticized the government actions as counterproductive. In a Sept. 3 statement
it said it was concerned at moves to criminalize border crossings and allow
police to search private homes in search of migrants.
Meanwhile, German Cardinal
Reinhard Marx, president of the Brussels-based Commission of the Bishops'
Conferences of the European Community, urged legal entry routes for refugees
and warned the building of fences would merely spur "new dramas."
"Everything must now be
done to ensure no one dies of thirst at our borders, drowns in the
Mediterranean or gets starved and suffocated aboard a truck," Cardinal
Marx told Germany's ARD broadcast consortium Aug. 31. "Money shouldn't
play a role when lives are being saved. Nor will any solution be provided by
political disputes over a distinction between war and poverty refugees, all of
whom have legitimate aspirations."
Caritas Europa said in a statement
that migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees were protected by international
human rights law, and it called on the European Union to "contribute to
Meanwhile, Jesuit Refugee
Service said Aug. 31 "building more fences will only result in more deaths"
and urged the EU to consider a "European humanitarian visa scheme"
and "legal and safe channels for refugees to reach Europe."
However, a Polish archbishop
backed plans by the government of Slovakia to admit only non-Muslim refugees
and called for priority to be given to "endangered Christians."
"We don't have such
experience of accepting refugees, or foreigners generally, as the Western
countries, especially those which once had colonies," Archbishop Henryk
Hoser of Warsaw-Praga told Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, Sept. 2.
"There's no doubt the
integration of Christians will be vastly easier than the integration of
Muslims, who may later open ghettos that give birth to violence and terrorism --
let's be realists," he said.
In the Czech Republic, where
human rights groups criticized police Sept. 4 for printing numbers on the hands
of refugees, the bishops' conference president, Archbishop Jan Graubner, also
demanded in mid-July that his country take in only "Christian
Catholic leaders elsewhere repeatedly
have urged a more humane and effective EU policy toward migrants and refugees
entering Europe from conflict-hit regions of the Middle East and Africa.
In Germany, which accepted
100,000 refugees in August alone, Catholic bishops have condemned 340 separate
attacks on migrant shelters so far this year and backed parishes offering
accommodation and support.
In Austria, where Caritas is
helping 17,000 refugees and providing housing for 5,000, Vienna Cardinal
Christoph Schonborn said Europeans could no longer "look the other
way" when confronted with their continent's "greatest humanitarian
challenge" in decades.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
IMAGE: CNS/ReutersBy LONDON (CNS) -- Images of drowned refugees are causing the British people to cry out for a more generous response to the migrant crisis engulfing Europe, said an English cardinal.
Speaking to ITV News Sept. 2, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster said shocking images of bodies washed up on beaches in the Mediterranean -- including one of a drowned Syrian boy lying face down -- are revealing "the human face of this suffering."
The British government initially refused to accept migrants fleeing wars and dire poverty in the Middle East and Africa at a time when hundreds of thousands of them are risking their lives to enter Western Europe. But following an outcry, Prime Minister David Cameron said Sept. 4 that Britain would accept refugees from camps in Syria, but not from among those who had already fled into Europe. He did not specify how many refugees would be admitted.
Cardinal Nichols said images of some of the people who have died trying to reach the European Union are upsetting the British people. He said the British people were not "mean-spirited" and that, on the whole, he believed they were generous.
"The spirit of people in this country will respond," said Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
"The letters I get and the voices I am hearing are all saying this is a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing dead bodies on the beaches when, together, Europe is such a wealthy place that we should be able to fashion a short-term response as well as long-term tackling of these really intricate problems," he said.
"If we take 10,000, it's a fraction of the whole problem," he continued. "What is coming through, screaming through at this moment, is the human tragedy of this moment to which we can be more generous."
"It's no longer an abstract problem of people who are on the scrounge, it's not," the cardinal added. "It's people who are desperate for the sake of their families, their elderly, their youngsters, their children -- and the more we see that I think the more the opportunity for a political response that's a bit more generous is growing."- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMAGE: CNS/ReutersBy Ezra FieserSANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- Pope Francis' visit to Cuba is a sign of his closeness to the nation's people at a time they "breathe the air of hope" that relations with the U.S. will improve, said Bishop Wilfredo Pino Estevez of Guantanamo-Baracoa.
"It's not easy to live at odds with your next door neighbor," Bishop Pino wrote in a Sept. 1 pastoral letter. "That's why it's very important what the pope is coming to do, as the universal pastor of the church, in the search for reconciliation and peace among all peoples of the earth.''
Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in three Cuban cities during a Sept. 19-22 visit to the Caribbean island before flying to Washington. He is credited with helping broker a historic thawing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba by sending letters to Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama last year and hosting delegates from the two countries at the Vatican.
Obama and Castro simultaneously announced a diplomatic rapprochement in December. Since then, the historic adversaries have re-opened embassies in Havana and Washington that had been shuttered for more than five decades and have announced they will launch a new round of diplomatic talks.
During his visit to Havana to reopen the U.S. Embassy Aug. 14, Secretary of State John Kerry thanked Pope Francis for "supporting the state of a new chapter in relations," while acknowledging that the two countries are far from realizing fully normalized relations -- including lifting the economic embargo against Cuba.
"Having normal (diplomatic) relations makes it easier for us to talk, and talk can deepen understanding even when we know full well we will not see eye to eye on everything," Kerry said, according to a transcript of his remarks.
Pope Francis is expected to meet with Castro, young people, church leaders, families and religious, in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. It will be his first visit to the communist country as pope.
"Now we are going to receive Pope Francis as the 'missionary of mercy,'" Bishop Pino wrote, reiterating a term Cubans have used. Many hope the pope's visit will help heal Cubans strongly divided on ideological terms since a 1959 revolution that installed the communist government and led to tensions with the U.S.
"At times, it seems we live in a heartless world. Everywhere we find moral, spiritual, social, intellectual, mental and material miseries, and we find people that are desensitized to human suffering," Bishop Pino wrote. "Pope Francis, missionary of mercy, wants to invite us not to tire of practicing mercy."
Pope Francis will be the third pope to visit Cuba in the past 17 years, after Pope John Paul II's 1998 trip and Pope Benedict XVI's 2012 visit.
- - -
An interactive map of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba can be found at
http://www.catholicnews.com/specialsections/pope-francis-in-cuba-interactive-map.cfm.- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at email@example.com.
By Nancy O'Brien
(CNS) -- Pope Francis' Sept. 1 announcement that priests worldwide will be able
to absolve women for the sin of abortion will have little effect on pastoral
practices in the United States and Canada, where most priests already have such
authority in the sacrament of reconciliation.
my understanding that the faculty for the priest to lift the 'latae sententiae'
excommunication for abortion is almost universally granted in North America,"
said Don Clemmer, interim director of media relations for the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops.
sententiae" is a Latin term in canon law that means excommunication for
certain crimes, including involvement in abortion, is automatic. Clemmer said
it is "the fiat of the local bishop" whether to allow the priests in
his diocese to absolve those sins and most bishops granted such permission when
giving priests faculties to minister in their local church.
Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, confirmed that in a Sept. 1
statement welcoming what he called the pope's "wonderful gesture."
priests of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany and throughout the United
States have ... had the faculties to lift the sanction of excommunication for
the sin of abortion for more than 30 years," he said. "Any woman who
has had an abortion, any person who has been involved in an abortion in any
way, can always seek God's forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation,
if they are truly sorry for their actions."
prelates, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, emphasized
that Pope Francis' action "in no way diminishes the moral gravity of
it does do is make access to sacramental forgiveness easier for anyone who
seeks it with a truly penitent heart," he said.
Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life
Activities, said his "hope and prayer is that all those carrying the
burden of an experience of abortion would turn to the church and her sacraments
and experience the Lord's mercy and love."
all those involved with an abortion -- "wherever a person might be in
their healing journey" -- to look into the resources offered by Project
Rachel or a similar post-abortion healing ministry in their dioceses. Contact
information for most dioceses is available at www.hopeafterabortion.com (in
Spanish at www.esperanzaposaborto.com) or through the national toll-free
McClusky, assistant director of Project Rachel ministry development in the
USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said it has been frustrating for her
to see reports about Pope Francis' action in the secular media that perpetuate "the
false notion that the church excommunicates anyone" who has an abortion.
are making it sound like something new," she said, "but the church
has welcomed all sinners since the time of Jesus. ... It is at the heart of
what it means to be a priest to extend that forgiveness."
to the sacrament of reconciliation, the U.S. church offers through Project
Rachel "a confidential and safe place for women and men, for anyone who
suffers from involvement with abortion, to tell their story, have someone
listen and be relieved of all the emotional, spiritual and psychological pain
they are experiencing from abortion," McClusky said.
Rachel, which has existed since 1975 and was taken under the umbrella of the
bishops' conference in 2005, provides "opportunities for group healing"
through support groups or retreats as well as referrals to licensed mental
health professionals if needed, she said. But confession is at its heart, she
said the post-abortion healing programs respond to a need that the bishops have
been hearing from people in the pews of their local churches. "A lot of
people are in pain and in need of assistance to reconcile with God and come
back to the church," she said.
commentators and canon lawyers have raised a number of questions about Pope
Francis' action, including whether societal pressures and other extenuating
circumstances surrounding an abortion would have kept it from rising to the
level of an excommunication for the woman in most cases anyway. But further
clarification from the Vatican would be needed to resolve that question.
such as Catholic moral theologian Charles Camosy, noted that the pope's words
about abortion and forgiveness bore a striking resemblance to the words of Pope
St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical, "Evangelium Vitae."
women who have had abortions, Pope John Paul wrote, "If you have not
already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance.
The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the
sacrament of reconciliation."
teaching or not, Albany's Bishop Scharfenberger expressed hope that women will
take advantage of this opportunity.
real news is that there is no need to wait," he said. "God is ready
to forgive and heal now!"
- - -Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.