Lessons for earth 50 years after first moon landing (Wed, 17 Jul 2019)
If you were at least 10 years old on July 20, 1969, you will remember your eyes were glued to a black and white television set watching what no one had ever seen before. You will remember the
excitement of seeing animation of a lunar module descending toward a first-ever human moon landing.
The post Lessons for earth 50 years after first
moon landing appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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Administration to apply ‘third country’ rule for asylum-seekers (Tue, 16 Jul 2019)
The Trump administration announced the U.S. departments of Justice and Homeland Security are adopting an interim “third country rule” requiring immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border
to first apply for refugee status in another country. News that the rule was taking effect July 16 brought quick condemnation by Catholic and other immigrant advocates.
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asylum-seekers appeared first on Georgia Bulletin.
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Trappist monks ordained to the priesthood June 28 (Mon, 15 Jul 2019)
On a warm summer morning on the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, family, friends and religious celebrated the ordinations of Brother Cassian Russell and Brother Peter Damian Spera to
the priesthood on Friday, June 28, at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers.
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Puerto Rico: ‘An unprecedented level of need’ (Mon, 06 Nov 2017)
Catholic News Service was the first major Catholic news organization to send a photographer and a reporter to tour the island and document the efforts of the church and other organizations to help
many of the people far from the capital of San Juan. Continue reading → >> Read more
Historic Tomb of Michelangelo and altarpiece in dire need of repairs (Wed, 11 Oct 2017)
By Matthew Fowler ROME (CNS) — The historic tomb of Michelangelo and the Buonarroti family altarpiece in the Church of Santa Croce in Florence are in dire need of cleaning and restoration due to
sustained damage over the past 50 … Continue reading → >> Read more
A look back at the Legion of Decency (Thu, 17 Aug 2017)
By Mark Pattison and Julie Asher WASHINGTON (CNS) — It’s summertime and the movies are plentiful. As everyone knows the summer movie season is a big one for Hollywood, and when it comes to a close,
it is followed closely … Continue reading → >> Read more
Jamboree called ‘life-changing event’ for youths, adults (Fri, 28 Jul 2017)
Here’s a dispatch from Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia sent earlier this week by Msgr. John B. Brady from the national Scout jamboree, which closed today. A retired
priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, he became … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 23, 2017 (Fri, 21 Jul 2017)
July 23, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
2) Romans 8:26-27 Gospel: Matthew 13:24-33 By Sharon K. Perkins Catholic News … Continue reading → >> Read more
John C. Quinn tended to the ‘least of these’ in U.S. newsrooms (Fri, 14 Jul 2017)
WASHINGTON (CNS) – I’m convinced that around the country, and perhaps the world, there are many letters similar to the one I received in the mail some 18 years ago. It was written by hand and it
ended with a … Continue reading → >> Read more
Some cheese with your ‘whine’: Pope ‘establishes’ complaint-free zone (Fri, 14 Jul 2017)
By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis left a not-so-subtle message outside his office in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence: anyone who is thinking of
making a fuss, leave your whining at the door. … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 16, 2017 (Thu, 13 Jul 2017)
July 16, Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) Isaiah 55:10-11 Psalm 65:10-14
2) Romans 8:18-23 Gospel: Matthew 13:1-23 By Jeff Hedglen Catholic News Service It seems as though every time … Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 9, 2017 (Fri, 07 Jul 2017)
The Scriptures this weekend contain a familiar, but difficult text. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Continue reading → >> Read more
Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 2, 2017 (Fri, 30 Jun 2017)
July 2, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A. Readings: 1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a Psalm 89:2-3,
16-19 2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42 By Beverly Corzine Catholic News Service One winter morning I awoke …
Continue reading → >> Read more
Audit firm, other financial controls announced for West Virginia diocese (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori sings during opening prayer at the annual general assembly of the U.S. bishops'
conference in Baltimore June 11, 2019. Archbishop Lori, who also is apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, WVa., announced July 17 that the diocese has selected a new external
auditor as part of the progress that has been made since Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael Bransfield as head of the diocese in September 2018. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, has selected a new external auditor as part of the progress that has been made since Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael
Bransfield as head of the diocese in September 2018.
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, apostolic administrator since that time, announced the selection of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP –
a national financial auditing firm that serves more than 30 dioceses across the country –
in a decision made in coordination with the diocesan finance council.
The archbishop said the audit would be published on the diocese's website when it is completed and received.
"I am grateful to the members of the finance council who are working to identify best practices nationally that will help strengthen our financial protocols and procedures and ensure the trust and
confidence of all," Lori said. "A commitment to responsible financial stewardship must be a non-negotiable as we deploy diocesan resources to advance the work of the Gospel across the state of West
Virginia and to serve critical needs."
In a letter sent July 17 to Catholics in the diocese, which encompasses the whole state of West Virginia, the archbishop acknowledged the breach of trust.
The archbishop said he hears many questions about Bransfield's extravagant spending and credible allegations that he regularly sexually harassed young priests and seminarians, wondering how
behavior could go unchecked for so long a time. People also ask whether there is a process to check a bishop's behavior. The archbishop noted that such questions must be confronted locally and
In June, at their general assembly in Baltimore, "the U.S. bishops took some important steps to do just that by voting to establish a third-party reporting system and other procedures to make it
easier to report abuse, harassment and malfeasance by bishops," Lori wrote in the letter.
"I had already put into place a similar system in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and one is now being established in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as well," he noted.
He said that a metropolitan archbishop does not serve in a supervisory role with the bishops with other dioceses in the province, called "suffragan sees."
"The measures adopted by the U.S. bishops call for metropolitan archbishops to investigate complaints about suffragan bishops only when mandated to do so by the Vatican," he said.
"That is why when I received a small number of complaints from parishioners in West Virginia regarding the very visible renovations being done to Bransfield's residence and to the chancery
office," he continued, "I was not authorized to conduct an investigation, nor still less to demand a comprehensive financial review."
Instead, the archbishop said, he raised these concerns with Bransfield, who assured Lori that the renovation of his residence, which had been damaged by fire, and to the chancery, which was being
converted from a school to an office, were necessary and that these projects were approved by diocesan finance authorities.
"At the time, I had no reason to doubt the bishop's assurance that appropriate diocesan procedures and safeguards had been followed," he said.
Lori said the situation changed dramatically in August 2018 when he received firsthand, credible allegations of sexual harassment and factual evidence of excessive spending and misuse of diocesan
"Though not authorized to investigate the matter myself, I immediately concluded that I needed to bring this direct evidence to the appropriate church authorities in Rome and did so that very same
day. I also reported it to the apostolic nuncio, the pope's representative to the United States," Lori said.
The Vatican responded by announcing the acceptance of Bransfield's letter of resignation the following month and appointing Lori as apostolic administrator while charging him to oversee a
preliminary investigation of the former bishop so that the Holy See could make a judgment regarding his conduct.
Upon completion of that investigation and the results being sent to the Vatican in February, Lori restricted Bransfield from exercising any priestly or episcopal ministry either within the Diocese
of Wheeling-Charleston or within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
On July 19, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has taken disciplinary actions against the bishop as a result of those findings. Bransfield is prohibited from living in the Diocese of
Wheeling-Charleston, prohibited from presiding or participating anywhere in any public celebration of the liturgy and "must make personal amends for some of the harm he caused."
In his July 17 letter to the people of the diocese, Lori noted that when a bishop is appointed to lead a diocese, it is expected that he will be a wise and honest steward of its resources, and
that the church has put into place structures to ensure funds are used well and wisely, including lay-comprised finance councils, a group of priest consultors, investment committees and auditors.
"But here in Wheeling-Charleston, these procedures and processes did not prevent the bishop from misusing diocesan funds," he said.
The archbishop outlined several steps he said are underway, will be taken or are completed to strengthen financial protocols, including: hiring the new external audit firm; reviewing and
strengthening diocesan financial policies; and having a more review of all capital projects.
"Reports of Bishop Bransfield's lifestyle and spending habits have also raised questions, not only about his own situation, but also about other bishops," Lori noted in the letter.
He explained that diocesan priests and bishops, unlike priests who belong to religious orders, do not take a vow of poverty. They are provided with the basics of food, housing and healthcare but
otherwise "their salaries are rightly modest and follow a scale typically set by a diocesan personnel board." They are expected to manage their own finances, rather than sharing all their resources
with the community, as religious orders do.
Some priests and bishops have additional means of support, including family members, book publishing, speeches, etc. As an example, the archbishop noted he also is compensated for his service as
the supreme chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, as are other officers of the international organization.
"Excessive financial expenditures and the personal use of diocesan funds by any bishop stands in contrast to those bishops who engage in responsible stewardship of the resources entrusted to them
and who abide by the fiscal policies and controls in place to ensure a fiscally healthy church," Lori said.
"I join you in praying for the appointment of a new bishop, a shepherd who will lead the church in West Virginia by reflecting in his own life Christ's example of humility, selfless love and
service," Lori said in closing the letter.
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Archbishop says sedition charges against prelates, VP are 'beyond belief' (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, pictured in a July 7, 2014, photo, is one of four Philippine bishops charged with
sedition. In mid-July, police filed charges of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel and obstruction of justice against more than 40 people, including the country's vice president and 35 members of
the opposition. (CNS/Simone Orendain)
Philippine church leaders said the filing of sedition charges against four Catholic bishops, three priests, and several government critics are "beyond belief."
In mid-July, the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed charges of inciting sedition, cyber libel, libel and obstruction of justice against more than 40 people, including the
country's vice president and 35 members of the opposition.
Ucanews.com reported the complaint said they conspired to spread "false information" against the family of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and administration officials. It also said they were
looking to "agitate the general population into staging mass protests with the possibility of bringing down the president."
"I am very saddened by this news and am greatly disturbed by this development," said Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. "That they
are accused of sedition and other criminal complaints is for me beyond belief."
The archbishop said he knows the church leaders and "they are bishops whose sincerity, decency, respectfulness and love for our country and our people are beyond doubt."
"Some of us may feel ill at ease with the way they made known their opinions. But again, I say this: I cannot bring myself to believe that these bishops were involved in seditious activities," he
He said he prayed that those involved in the case would be guided by "fairness and truth."
The four bishops were Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches, and Archbishop Socrates Villegas of
The priests were Divine Word Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo and Fr. Robert Reyes.
Reyes said the charges were "a desperate move to suppress dissent."
"It's a pathetic attempt to distract people from the serious issue of the shift to totalitarianism," he said, adding that it could be "a wake-up call for the undecided and the indifferent."
Others said the charges were designed to silence Duterte's critics.
"The move is obviously meant to scare the hell out of these churchmen and eventually silence them," said Fr. Jerome Secillano, chairman of the public affairs office of the bishops' conference.
He said what the bishops and priests did was call on the government to be more circumspect and prudent in their actions, ucanews reported.
"They are neither fighting the government nor Duterte. What they are against are the repressive policies that put so much burden on the poor and on those who oppose them," said Fr. Secillano.
"I assure you, they're doing things not for personal gain or selfish interests, but for the sake of those who cannot fight for their rights," he added.
The Couples for Christ Foundation for Life, an influential lay organization, assured the church leaders of their support.
"You do not work alone in this, dear bishops," said a group statement released on July 20. "We encourage them to continue their courageous campaign in journeying with all Filipinos for truth and
"Speaking the truth and fighting for the basic human rights of every Filipino is not sedition," said the group. "It is being faithful to the teachings of Christ and the church."
The charges stem from the release of a video that went viral on several social media platforms early this year that linked Duterte and his family to the illegal drug trade.
A man named Peter Joemel Advincula claimed on the video and at a media briefing that Duterte's son, Paolo Duterte, and presidential aide Bong Go were involved in drug syndicates.
Weeks later, however, he was presented at a news conference by the Philippine National Police; at that time he claimed Vice President Leni Robredo, opposition members and several church people
were behind a plot against the president.
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Kentucky priest who is one of pope's 'missionaries of mercy' helps miners (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
The old saying about a looming payday is that "the money is already spent."
In Harlan County, a rural mining county located in southern Kentucky, the money was definitely spent –
just not by the people who earned it. Blackjewel LLC, whose mining operations have closed down in several other states, filed for bankruptcy July 1.
The company apparently all but absconded with money withdrawn from its employees' paychecks for child support payments and 401(k) contributions, but the workers said the money was never deposited
in their accounts.
"This was such an injustice that was done to these people –
and it has had a tremendous impact on them –
because these coal miners live paycheck to paycheck, and the company has already spent it to pay their own, other bills," Fr. Jim Sichko said in a phone interview for Catholic News Service.
Sichko, who has been a priest in the Diocese of Lexington for 21 years, traveled to Harlan County to fix that injustice. He met with nearly 200 miners at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Harlan
July 15, took down their information, found out what they needed most and ultimately wrote out $20,000 worth of checks for utilities and other basic needs.
The priest, who was designated a "missionary of mercy" by Pope Francis three years ago, said, "Harlan is at the very edge of our diocese, and I am not the priest at Holy Trinity, but it was a
wonderful opportunity to help people without having to quote a word of Scripture."
"I would say that 99% of them were not Catholic, and had not even set foot on Catholic church property, but these people have had their cars repossessed and their utilities shut off," Sichko
The well-known evangelical missionary was, he said, "traveling and on my way back to Kentucky –
and totally unaware of what was going on –
until I read dozens of emails (from Harlan) and I realized that this is what I had to do."
The workers' money disappeared the day the bankruptcy was filed. Miners and other employees showed up for a meeting July 9 and were told the bad news. If the money is not repaid, a criminal
investigation could come next –
along with possible felony charges being filed against the company.
A self-described "full-time evangelist," Sichko explained that "I don't have a regular parish, but there are 100 of us –
evangelist missionaries –
who travel back and forth across the country, (raising money) and another 700 around the world, all doing God's work."
Other than covering his living expenses, and such items as car and health insurance, Sichko gives all of the money he raises back to the Lexington Diocese.
Pope Francis in his 2016 designation called for the missionaries "to preach about mercy, and to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See." Mercy, the pope said, "is the bridge that connects
God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever, despite our sins."
And connect with the employees of Blackjewel LLC is exactly what Sichko did.
"When I showed up, there were people lined up out the door, with local police there to help with crowds, and as people showed me proof of what they needed, I wrote (out) the checks, then mailed
them back," Sichko said.
The evangelist estimated that his stay lasted roughly two hours, and, Sichko said, "I paid everything –
electric, rent, etc. –
but not cellphones."
When asked about the current state of miners' housing, Sichko replied frankly.
"It hasn't changed much since your great-grandfather's day. For some people its livable, and for others it's not," said the priest.
When all was said and done, however, one person still remained who had not been helped. He closed the church's doors and promptly paid the individual's rent for an entire year.
"No one left empty-handed, and as it says in Matthew 20:16, 'The first shall be last and the last shall be first; many are called but few are chosen,'' Sichko said.
"I was shocked at how viral my visit went," Sichko said. The priest's gesture hit every major newspaper and diocesan internet link within hours of its conclusion.
Looking back on his mission, Sichko, who spoke by phone from Houston, said that "it was an amazing experience, and from here I go to India for three weeks."
In India, Sichko will preach, along with Cardinal Oswald Gracia of Mumbai, at the country's Tabor Bhavan Divine Retreat Center. Located in Muringoor in the Indian state of Kerala, the center has
hosted some 10,000 Catholics since its inception.
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Forensic experts to study 'thousands of bones' found in Vatican ossuaries (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Workers inspect an ossuary at the Teutonic Cemetery at the Vatican July 20, 2019. The ossuary was inspected in the
hope of finding the missing remains of a German princess and duchess and possibly the remains of Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared in 1983. Thousands of bones were found in the ossuary, according to
a representative of the Orlandi family who was present for the search. (CNS/Vatican Media)
During a search for the remains of a young Italian woman missing for more than 30 years, workers discovered an enormous number of bones inside two ossuaries in a building next to a Vatican
Further studies on the remains will be carried out starting July 27, but it was not yet possible to predict how long it would take to conduct a "detailed morphological analysis of the remains
found in the ossuaries," Alessandro Gisotti, outgoing interim director of the Vatican press office, said July 20.
Gisotti said the investigation, led by a Vatican-appointed specialist in forensic medicine, Giovanni Arcudi, was being carried out according to internationally recognized protocols.
Workers spent six hours July 20 inspecting two small underground cavities under an opening in the floor of the Pontifical Teutonic College.
A genetics expert retained by the Orlandi family told reporters July 20 that the workers found what appeared to be "thousands of bones" belonging to perhaps dozens of individuals, both adult and
The expert, Giorgio Portera, said, "I can't say if it's 1,000 or 2,000, but there are really very many" bones and bone fragments, leading him to assume they might represent "the remains of a few
Gisotti told The Associated Press in an email response to questions that it was "absolutely normal that in an ossuary, there is an elevated number of remains, above all in an ancient cemetery like
the Teutonic. No surprise." He said the total number of bones also included many tiny bone fragments.
A Vatican City State court had ordered the opening of the tombs indicated in the photo at the request of the family of Emanuela Orlandi, a Vatican citizen who disappeared in Rome June 22, 1983, at
age 15, after she left her family's Vatican City apartment for a music lesson. The Vatican agreed to open two tombs after the Orlandi family had been sent a letter that said, "Look where the angel is
pointing." The letter contained a photo of an angel above a tomb in the Vatican's Teutonic Cemetery.
Vatican workers, supervised by Vatican police and a forensic anthropologist, opened the tombs July 11, along with Pietro Orlandi, the brother of the missing woman.
However, the side-by-side tombs were completely empty; they had been marked as the final resting places of Princess Sophie von Hohenlohe, who died in 1836, and Duchess Charlotte Frederica of
Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the mother of King Frederick VII of Denmark, who died in 1840.
Investigators then inferred the remains of the noblewomen may have been moved more than 40 years ago when the Pontifical Teutonic College was expanded. That led them to the inspection of the two
vaults containing the bones of multiple persons –
in the floor of the college.
For decades, Orlandi's case has been the object of conspiracy theorists who linked her disappearance to Freemasons, organized crime, the attempted assassination of St. John Paul II and other
In early July, Arcudi had told Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communication, the plan was to conduct a morphological and DNA examination of any bones they found as well
as piece together the skeletal remains to determine the number of deceased persons that were buried as well as their age and sex.
Their hope was to "exclude in a definitive and categorical way that there is some evidence ... that can be attributed to poor Emanuela," Arcudi had said.
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Agencies 'appalled' by reports U.S. could end refugee admissions (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
A refugee from Afghanistan sits in her family's tent at a makeshift camp in Samos, Greece, June 25, 2019. Catholic
and other faith-based groups said July 19 they are "appalled" by reports officials in the Trump administration are considering "zeroing out" the number of refugees accepted by the United States.
News that officials in the Trump administration are considering "zeroing out" the number of refugees accepted by the United States brought an immediate outcry from the chairman of the U.S.
bishops' migration committee and leaders of Catholic and other faith-based agencies that resettle refugees.
They all implored the government to reject such a move.
"This recent report, if true, is disturbing and against the principles we have as a nation and a people, and has the potential to end the refugee resettlement program entirely. The world is in the
midst of the greatest humanitarian displacement crisis in almost a century," said Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, Texas. "I strongly oppose any further reductions of the refugee resettlement
"Offering refuge to those fleeing religious and other persecution has been a cornerstone of what has made this country great and a place of welcome," said the bishop, who is chairman of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration.
"Eliminating the refugee resettlement program leaves refugees in harm's way and keeps their families separated across continents," he added in a statement released late July 19.
Politico, a Washington-based news outlet, first reported on the possible stoppage on refugee admissions the evening of July 18. Based on information from three people it said were familiar with
the plan, it said the proposal was discussed a week ago at a meeting of security officials on refugee admissions.
Since Congress passed the Refugee Act in 1980, the U.S. had admitted on average 95,000 refugees annually. In recent years, the U.S. has accepted between 50,000 to 75,000 refugees per year. The
number was capped at 45,000 after Donald Trump became president in 2017 and was scaled back to 30,000 refugees for fiscal year 2019.
Before admission to the U.S., each refugee undergoes an extensive interviewing, screening and security clearance process.
Refugees from Afghanistan are seen at a makeshift camp in Samos, Greece, June 25, 2019. Catholic and other
faith-based groups said July 19 they are "appalled" by reports officials in the Trump administration are considering "zeroing out" the number of refugees accepted by the United States.
"Every refugee resettled in the United States goes through an extensive vetting process that often takes 18 months to two years to complete," Vasquez noted in his statement. "(The process)
incorporates live interviews and several extensive checks by multiple departments within the government. Many of these refugees have familial ties here and quickly begin working to rebuild their
lives and enrich their communities."
A U.S. State Department report said that in fiscal year 2019, the top 10 countries of origin for refugees admitted into the U.S. to be resettled were: Congo, Myanmar, Ukraine, Eritrea,
Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Burundi and Colombia.
Setting caps on the number of refugees to be accepted from five global regions is done at the beginning of each fiscal year by the president, in consultation with Congress. The deadline for this
consultation is Sept. 30, according to Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy for Church World Service. She told reporters during a phone briefing midday July 19 that the U.S. secretary of state
"makes the final decision."
In its story, Politico said the State Department "declined to discuss the possible cap."
Other refugee advocates on the briefing with reporters included Michael Breen, a former Army officer, who is president and CEO of Human Rights First. He called it a "misguided and terrible"
He noted that resettlement of refugees is vital to the "national security and stability" of the U.S., makes this country a world leader and also has been an essential foreign policy tool, allowing
into this country, among others, dissidents fleeing their own governments, those persecuted for their religion and Iraqis who have helped the armed forces as translators.
Anne Richard, a former assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration in the Obama administration, who is now at Georgetown University, told reporters that "it's pretty clear
the Trump administration is trying to drive the U.S. refugee program into the ground."
"Zeroing it out" will end public-private partnerships that work with refugees and get them started on a new life in this country and all related services, she said. People will lose their jobs in
this field, the institutional memory as to how these resettlement programs work "will disappear" and the U.S. "will be turning its back on this great need," Richard added.
"The last couple of years have been historically low in terms of refugee resettlement here in the U.S.," said Bill Canny, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration
and Refugee Services. "Of the millions of refugees around the world, only about 1% will be resettled, that number will decrease and leave more people vulnerable if these actions come to
"I would implore the decision-makers to reconsider these devastating cuts," Canny said July 19 in remarks to Catholic News Service. "Our military relies on the work of interpreters while in the
field and those interpreters are putting their lives and their families lives on the line. To not open our arms to them when they have done so for us, would go against who we are as a nation."
In a statement late July 18, Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said: "It is horrifying to think that, by the stroke of a pen, the president
can make a decision that will destroy a legacy of welcome that has been centuries in the making."
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services are two of nine voluntary agencies currently charged with refugee resettlement in the U.S.
"LIRS has been doing this work for 80 years. We have seen firsthand the life-changing impact of this crucial program," Vignarajah added. She herself is a former refugee, having come to the U.S.
with her family from Sri Lanka when she was 9 months old.
"Setting the U.S. refugee ceiling at zero would be an egregious assault on fundamental American values. And quite frankly, the humanitarian implications of this decision would be enough to nullify
our global reputation as leaders of the free world," Vignarajah said. "(Trump) simply cannot afford to move forward with this proposal – not
if he seeks ongoing support from people of faith all across the United States."
Refugee Council USA, a coalition of organizations committed to refugee resettlement and protection which includes MRS and LIRS, said July 18 it was "appalled" by the proposal to "zero out" the
"The administration has all but confirmed that our country will reach the 30,000 refugee admission goal for FY2019," Canny, of MRS, said in a statement released by the council, which he chairs.
"We have been relieved by that important sign of the program getting back on track after a couple of extremely difficult years. In light of that hopeful sign, reports of further reducing the refugee
goal to zero make no sense at all."
He added: "There continue to be refugees who need the protection that resettlement provides, including refugees who are fleeing religious persecution. Faith based communities and volunteers across
the U.S. have the desire, capacity and resources to return to at least our historically normal level of welcoming refugees."
Vasquez ended his statement referring to Pope Francis' words that "we must work for 'globalization of solidarity' with refugees, not a globalization of indifference."
"Rather than ending the program, we should work instead to restore the program to its historic norms of an annual resettlement goal of 95,000," the bishop added.
>> Read more
Senate pro-lifers caution Trump against abortion funding in spending negotiations (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- The leader of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus is asking President Trump to refuse any
attempts to undermine or strip pro-life measures from future spending bills.
“As you work with Congress on a deal to set discretionary spending caps for the next two fiscal years, we wish to express our support for your efforts to secure a commitment from Democratic Leaders
to reject anti-life poison pill riders in the House-passed appropriations bills,” states a letter currently being circulated by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), for signatures by fellow members.
Sen. Daines chairs the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, formed this year. He circulated the letter amidst negotiations between the White House and Democratic leaders on setting discretionary spending caps and
the debt ceiling, Roll Call reported. Daines is insisting that any deal must not include pro-abortion riders.
Some of the pro-life protections mentioned in Daines’ letter include the long-standing Hyde Amendment, a bipartisan policy that bars federal Medicaid funding of elective abortions except in cases of
rape, incest, or where the life of the mother is at stake. The amendment has passed Congress every year as part of spending legislation since 1976; the rape and incest exceptions for abortion funding
were added in 1994.
In June, several Democrats led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) attempted to include an amendment reversing Hyde in an appropriations package, but the amendment was pulled amidst concerns that it
would affect final passage of the legislation through the Senate.
Other “poison pill riders” that Sen. Daines’ letter warns Trump against include attempts to undo pro-life policies such as the Dornan Amendment that prohibits the District of Columbia from using
local funds for elective abortions, as well as any reversal of the Trump administration’s “Title X Protect Life Rule” and its “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance” policy, an expansion of the
The Mexico City Policy was implemented by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush and barred funding of abortions in $600 million of U.S. foreign aid. Trump’s expansion applied
the abortion funding ban to over $8.8 billion in U.S. foreign aid for global health assistance.
The “Title X Protect Life Rule” instituted pro-life protections into federal Title X family planning grant policy; grant recipients could not refer for abortions, nor could they “co-locate” with
In January of 2019, President Trump wrote House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), promising to “veto any legislation that weakens current pro-life Federal policies and laws, or that encourages the
destruction of innocent human life at any stage.”
Sen. Daines pressed President Trump to honor that commitment in spending caps negotiations, and pledged to fight against any pro-abortion riders in legislation.
“As members of the pro-life majority in the United States Senate, we will strongly oppose each of these anti-life poison pill riders and will work to ensure they are not inserted into any
appropriations bill before the Senate, either in committee or on the floor,” the letter stated.
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HHS delays enforcement of Title X Protect Life Rule (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- The Department of Health and Human Services has reportedly delayed enforcement of
the new Protect Life Rule, which bars public money from taxpayer-funded clinics that refer patients for abortions.
The Associated Press reported that it had received a copy of a notice sent June 20 from HHS to the representatives of the clinics in question. The notice said the government “does not intend to bring
enforcement actions” against clinics that are making “good-faith efforts to comply,” the AP reported.
The HHS had on July 15 informed Title X fund recipients that they will no longer be permitted to refer mothers for abortion services, and must keep finances separate from facilities that provide
Under the new HHS notice, clinics must submit a compliance plan by August, and by mid-September must demonstrate that they are carrying out “most of the new requirements,” the AP reports.
Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and
subject to new regulations.
The HHS had originally said last week that the new rule required immediate compliance. By March 2020, abortion facilities will no longer be allowed to co-locate with clinics that receive Title X
moneys. Clinics that provide “nondirective counseling” about abortion may still receive funds.
Previously, abortion providers were ineligable to receive Title X funds, and the Supreme Court upheld this restriction in 1991. When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993, his administration
changed the program to include abortion providers.
The rule will strip about $60 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood, whose clinics both refer for abortion services and are co-located with abortion facilities. Planned Parenthood
presently receives about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed and serves about 40 percent of all clients who benefit from Title X.
Planned Parenthood has chosen to eschew federal Title X funding under the new rule and continue to refer for and perform abortions. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association,
which represents many of the affected clinics, is challenging the rule in federal court, but the administration says there is currently no legal obstacle to enforcing it, ABC News reports.
Illinois has already announced that the state will provide state funding to abortion clinics and clinics that refer for abortions in the light of new changes to Title X rules, Gov. J.B. Pritzker
announced July 18.
Planned Parenthood locations in Illinois received 40 percent of the Title X funds distributed in the state, despite only operating 17 of the more than 70 clinics who received funds each year.
Approximately 112,000 people in Illinois acquired birth control through Title X.
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US bishops say reported shutdown of refugee program is 'disturbing' (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Washington D.C., Jul 22, 2019 / 01:01 pm (CNA).- If reports of major cuts to the U.S. refugee resettlement and asylum programs are
true they are alarming, the chair of the US bishops' migration committee said Friday.
Politico has reported that officials in the Trump administration were considering cutting the annual
refugee cap next year to zero, or to greatly reduced numbers such as 10,000 or 3,000. This represents the total number of refugees that would be allowed into the United States in the next fiscal
“This recent report, if true, is disturbing and against the principles we have as a nation and a people, and has the potential to end the refugee resettlement program entirely,” Bishop Joe S. Vásquez
of Austin said July 19..
The reports were leaked to Politico from three individuals close to recent meetings of security officials.
These numbers would represent a dramatic decrease from this year’s cap of 30,000 refugees. In 2018, the cap was 45,000, and in 2017 it was 50,000. According to data from the Migration Policy
Institute, reported by the Washington Post, prior to Trump’s presidency, the immigration cap has typically been set, since the 1990s, between 70,000 and 80,000.
Vasquez said he was concerned by the reports of cuts to the refugee cap when “the world is in the midst of the greatest humanitarian displacement crisis in almost a century.”
“I strongly oppose any further reductions of the refugee resettlement program,” he said. “Offering refuge to those fleeing religious and other persecution has been a cornerstone of what has made this
country great and a place of welcome. Eliminating the refugee resettlement program leaves refugees in harm’s way and keeps their families separated across continents.”
Vasquez noted that refugees already undergo an intense vetting process that often lasts between one and a half to two years, and includes extensive interviews and background checks.
“Many of these refugees have familial ties here and quickly begin working to rebuild their lives and enrich their communities,” he added.
“As Pope Francis has said we must work for ‘globalization of solidarity’ with refugees, not a globalization of indifference. Rather than ending the program, we should work instead to restore the
program to its historic norms of an annual resettlement goal of 95,000,” Vasquez concluded.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration published a new regulation for asylum seekers, which states that people seeking asylum in the U.S. must prove that they also sought protection in at least
one other country that they passed through in order to get to the U.S.
The move appears to be targeted at the wave of migrants from Central American countries, who pass through Mexico in order to get to the U.S. border.
Trump has made increased immigration restrictions and regulations a cornerstone of his 2020 presidential re-election campaign.
The final cap for refugees for the 2020 fiscal year will be announced in September.
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Car crash reveals Santa Rosa priest embezzled $95,000 (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
Santa Rosa, Calif., Jul 22, 2019 / 11:05 am (CNA).- When EMTs rushed to the scene of a Santa Rosa car accident June 19, they found
Fr. Oscar Diaz, a local pastor, stuck in the car with a broken hip and other injuries. They also found $18,305.86, in cash.
Diaz told police the money was his salary. It wasn’t.
The money belonged to Santa Rosa’s Resurrection Parish, where Diaz is pastor. Diaz was attempting to steal it. A subsequent investigation found that Diaz had, in his office and home, collection bags
from Resurrection Parish, totaling more than $95,000.
The priest has now been suspended from ministry, the Diocese of Santa Rosa announced
July 22, and he has been the subject of a police investigation.
“There is also evidence that money was stolen in a variety of ways from each of the parishes where he had served as pastor. I am deeply grieved that this has happened and am deeply saddened that the
parishes he was sent to serve have been harmed,” Bishop Robert F. Vasa wrote in his July 22 press release.
“The full extent of the theft is not known and may never be fully known but the Diocese is committed to determining as fully as possible the extent of the theft from each of these parishes. Once such
determinations are made it is the goal of the Diocese to make restitution to the parishes.”
Vasa added that the Santa Rosa “police determined that the protocols surrounding collection accounting would make it difficult to arrive at sufficient proof of theft to pursue criminal
In addition to its July 22 statement, the Diocese of Santa Rosa posted on its website a July 19 memo from Vasa to priests of the diocese, offering further details on
Diaz, 56, admitted the theft, according to the memo, and will likely not be permitted to serve again in the diocese.
“I will not hide this ugly truth. I have no desire to be defamatory. What we, as a Church, do at this juncture needs to be healing, restorative and transparent. This public declaration is a way in
which Father Oscar can be made accountable for his actions. Unfortunately, given the length of time over which theft occurred, the variety of methods and the total dollars involved, I cannot envision
any possible future ministry. This will need to be discerned further,” Vasa wrote.
After the priest’s admission of guilt, “I expressed to him my deep sadness, anger and dismay that he had so seriously violated the trust given to him by the Diocese, by the Parishes, and by the
parishioners,” Vasa added.
The July 19 memo also explained “reluctance to pursue a criminal investigation” on the part of police.
Vasa noted that pursuing possible criminal prosecution of the thefts would require the diocese to contract a Certified Fraud Investigator, costing at least $5,000, “and possibly more.”
“I have no idea what such an investigation would cost,” Vasa wrote, noting that a fraud investigator would be required to visit five parishes and examine their records.
“While I am willing to have Father Oscar face prosecution I do not know that I want to expend additional money for a prosecution which brings no additional benefit to either the Diocese or the
parishes which are victims of his crimes. I am very interested in determining a full accounting of the theft for possible Insurance purposes and in order to do this I initially thought that a
criminal complaint by me and a police investigation would be the only way to access Father Oscar’s Banking Records. To his credit, Father Oscar has been very cooperative with me in obtaining the
records I need to establish some estimate of the full extent of theft,” Vasa wrote.
The bishop added that he had reflected prayerfully on whether to expend diocesan funds to pursue the possibility of criminal prosecution.
“My goal is some semblance of justice, reparation, and at least spiritual restitution,” Vasa wrote.
“I am still very angry and it is almost impossible to set that anger aside and mercifully discern the path forward. I have asked myself repeatedly what ‘good’ could come from Father Oscar’s
prosecution and possible imprisonment. What does ‘justice’ look like in this particular case?”
Vasa noted that possible prosecution could be a deterrent to future theft, but noted that canonical penalties could serve the same purpose. He added that the priest’s “public exposure...is certainly
a punishment which sends a strong message.”
“It may happen that the individual parishes involved may desire to file charges and pursue prosecution. I could not oppose such an action. It is the parish’s right to do so. I would however advocate
for mercy,” the bishop wrote.
“I have seriously considered this matter from a variety of perspectives but that does not mean that I am convinced that I am right,” Vasa added.
“I know and fully understand that Father Oscar’s actions have only indirectly touched me. Others have been more strongly affected, either directly or indirectly. I am aware that you, my brothers in
the priesthood, have felt this theft as a violation of fraternity and a betrayal of both trust and friendship. I cannot speak for your ability, desire, or will to forgive. I can only acknowledge that
I am aware of these feelings.”
“Other individuals have been betrayed as well; mostly the lay faithful. Our laity have been asked so often to understand and forgive and I can assure you that I take my responsibility to speak on
behalf of the Church, which is all of us, most seriously. I speak in the name of the Church but the individual parishes where Father Oscar has served have a voice as well. I do not envision that any
individual parish will seek to pursue criminal prosecution but I fully understand the hurt and anger which undoubtedly will be stirred up in light of this theft and betrayal,” the bishop wrote.
“I ask you to try to turn this moment from one of hurt and anger to a desire for healing, compassion and ultimately forgiveness. I am not negating the seriousness of the crime, I am suggesting a way
forward which is more fully consistent with a good and merciful God.”
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Church in Puerto Rico to hold 24 hour prayer encounter amid protests (Mon, 22 Jul 2019)
San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jul 22, 2019 / 10:40 am (CNA).- The Puerto Rican bishops' conference announced Saturday it will hold a 24-hour
prayer encounter this weekend, in the face of the territory's social and governmental instability.
Protesters have been calling this week for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello.
Earlier this month, crude messages from a group chat among Rosello and some of his team were published in the media.
More remotely, his administration has faced pressure over corruption and its response to the territory's debt crisis, economic recession, and Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in
Rosello announced July 21 that he will not seek re-election next year, but he intends to complete his term.
The Puerto Rican bishops' conference said July 20 that it will hold a day-long prayer encounter at the National Sanctuary of Mary, Mother of Divine Providence in San Juan. The encounter will begin
and end with Mass on the evenings of July 26 and 27, with Eucharistic Adoration in between.
“We invite the People of God to participate and to unite in prayer at a crucial moment of the history of Puerto Rico,” read the message signed by Bishop Ruben Antonio Gonzalez Medina of Ponce and
Bishop Eusebio Ramos Morales of Caguas, the president and secretary, respectively, of the bishops' conference.
The bishops emphasized that the encounter will be an opportunity to contribute to the correction of Puerto Rico's “complicated social, political, and economic situations.”
“Under the mantel of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, Patron of the whole of the Puerto Rican mation, let us implore the mercy of God for our people and that the wisdom of the Holy
Spirit be poured out upon our leaders,” the bishops concluded.
“Let us make this convocation in faith and in confidence in God the Father who walks with his people.”
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