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Development proposals at synod raise questions about indigenous rights

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals for Amazonian development made by well-known observers at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon could conflict with the expectations of indigenous people unless they are included in decision-making, some synod participants said.

In his four-minute presentation to the synod on Oct. 15, economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University called for a common global plan for the forest and the peoples who live there. He proposed increased investment by the world's countries to preserve Amazonian forests, the creation of an international scientific panel, and action by governments to curb deforestation.

A week earlier, Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre proposed taking advantage of modern technologies of what economists call the "fourth industrial revolution" to create a "bioeconomy" of sustainably produced items that would keep the forest standing. Processing Amazonian fruits and nuts, as well as crops like cocoa, can be more profitable than ranching, which is one of the main drivers of deforestation, he told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

Both proposals reflect a series of recommendations made in an essay titled "Scientific Framework to Save the Amazon," which was prepared for the synod by more than 40 scientists, including Nobre. The essay cites Pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si'" and calls for countries to adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

It also presents the proposal of developing "bio-industries" to produce foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and other products using forests as a source, and calls for companies to ensure that any products they purchase are sustainably produced.

Several synod participants worried that such proposals could sideline indigenous people from decisions about development, especially if their land rights are not secure. Local communities in the Amazon must have the power to decide what kind of development they want, they said.

The scientific framework essay links the proposed bioeconomy to concept of integral ecology described in "Laudato Si'." Critics, however, said that it put a price on nature and created the risk of privatizing forest resources that communities now view collective goods.

Others noted that although outside experts invited to the synod speak from their own perspectives, the rights of indigenous peoples have been a constant theme during individual presentations and small-group discussions.

People who questioned the proposals said Sachs and Nobre did not mention indigenous people's right to be consulted about projects affecting them, which is enshrined in international treaties. They also worried that outsiders could use development projects to benefit themselves instead of the communities from which forest products are taken.

Nobre told Catholic News Service that the proposal is still new and that the scientists involved have not conducted a formal consultation with indigenous groups. He said the idea is for communities to operate their own businesses and not to open the door to outsiders.

Although she did not refer directly to those proposals, Yesica Patiachi Tayori, a Harakbut woman from Peru, told journalists Oct. 16, "We don't want (the synod) to end in a mercantilist discourse."

Patiachi, who made that remark at the daily press briefing, was one of the speakers who addressed the pope in January 2018 during his encounter with indigenous people in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. On that occasion, she asked him to help her people defend themselves against "outsiders who see us as weak and insist on taking our territory away from us in different ways."

Inside the synod and at parallel events nearby, indigenous people have called for church leaders especially to support their efforts to obtain official rights to their territories. When they do not have legal title, they risk losing their land to land speculators, private enterprises like mining companies, or outsiders who engage in illegal logging, wildcat gold mining or other illicit activities.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has halted the demarcation of indigenous lands even where the process was underway. In Peru, hundreds of indigenous communities await titling.

Amazonian indigenous groups hope that the pope, as an internationally known figure, will amplify their demand for respect for their rights and territories, Gregorio Diaz, president of an umbrella organization of Amazonian indigenous groups, told CNS.

"The synod has to issue a strong message to governments that are making decisions (that affect) indigenous peoples," he said.

At a news briefing Oct. 14, he called for the church to stand up for indigenous people who risk assassination or who face criminal prosecution and imprisonment for defending their territories.

He also asked the church to help indigenous people "talk with the new gods of the developed world, (such as) Google, the International Monetary Fund, the European Economic Commission and the World Bank," and to encourage Amazonian governments to "sit down and talk with us."

Amazonian governors are expected to attend a meeting at the Vatican Oct. 28, Brazilian media reported.

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Couple says adoption is a blessing, gift and 'roller coaster of emotions'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sam Lucero, The Compass

By Benjamin Wideman

KIEL, Wis. (CNS) -- After David and Maria Schuette got married in 2015, they wanted a family right away but months later they found out that infertility issues would likely prevent them from having children of their own.

"It was tough knowing that everything I thought about growing a family as a little girl ... it wasn't going to happen that way," Maria told The Compass, diocesan newspaper of Green Bay. "So there was a lot of pain and sadness over the loss of what we thought growing our family would look like," she added.

David agreed. "The pain we were experiencing was a combination of the infertility and the unknowns of adoption. Even when making the decision to adopt, we were fearful it would take five years, if it even happened at all. And we didn't know where to start or what the future would look like."

Now, it turns out the future is working out well for the Schuettes, proud parents of Isaac, 18 months old, and Eli, 8 months old, both adopted.

David and Maria, members of SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Kiel, were at the hospitals for each birth and remain in close communication with their sons' birth parents.

The new parents, who are both 30, are thrilled to be growing their family, even if it occurred differently than they originally planned.

"The joy of parenthood isn't dependent on whether your child is your biological child. We have so much love and joy being parents to Isaac and Eli," said David, adding they are discussing adopting a third child.

Their adoption journey began in spring 2017.

At the time, Maria worked for the Diocese of Green Bay in youth ministry and religious education so she knew about Catholic Charities' work in facilitating adoptions.

"Catholic Charities was phenomenal in helping us understand adoption from a pro-life perspective," Maria said, which included "how to care and walk with birth mothers and birth fathers and what our role was in that entire process."

She said they received an email that Isaac's parents had been referred to Catholic Charities and that several other matches fell through before they connected with Isaac's parents.

"Four weeks later, Isaac was born," Maria said. "When Isaac was about 7 months old, we met another birth mother through a friend of a friend, and that's how we got two adoptions 10 months apart."

Although David and Maria were at the hospitals for each birth, the two situations were different.

Isaac was born with a congenital heart defect and spent 11 days in the hospital's neonatal intensive care.

"Isaac is doing great now," David said. "He's sort of a miracle baby. But the doctors weren't sure how his health would be when he was born."

David and Maria were able to be in the room with Eli's birth.

"We were very, very lucky to be at the hospitals for both of the boys' births and to be matched the way we were," David said.

Early in the adoption process, the Schuettes wondered about ongoing contact with birth parents.

"What if the birth parents wanted to come back and co-parent?" she recalled thinking. "That was really a bit scary."

However, after learning more and being in contact with both sets of birth parents, she now calls it "a very special relationship. We have a lot of respect for the birth parents. Both sets expressed before they had the boys that they would like to have contact."

Sometimes there are visits, sometimes text messages.

"We really give preference to the birth parents with how they'd like to be communicated with," Maria said. "We very much love them for who they are and who God made them to be and the decision they made to place their children with us."

David and Maria are pleased that their sons are close in age and feature different personalities; Isaac is outgoing, whereas Eli is reserved.

"We continue learning every day how to be parents," Maria said. "Whether we had the boys biologically or they came to us through adoption, they are God's children first and we are caretakers of them. We learn every day how to be better parents, how to be more loving, more patient, more giving. And we have a lot of fun in the process."

The Schuettes enjoy sharing those experiences with others. In part because they were public about the adoptions, Maria said about 10 families, who are also struggling with infertility and considering adoption, have reached out to them.

"The biggest thing I'd say to (prospective adoptive parents) is to give it a chance," said David, noting that both his youngest sister and paternal grandmother were adopted. "For the most part, people are very open and want to share their experiences and help others. And agencies do a great job of educating."

"Adoption is a great blessing and gift, but also a roller coaster of emotions," Maria said. "We tell families to trust and have faith that there is a child out there for you. Our family is a picture of that."

Maria also had a message for birth parents considering placing their child for adoption.

"Know that you aren't alone and that there are many, many people who love you and want to help you," she said. "Please don't be afraid to reach out for help. Know there are people there to support you every step of the way."

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Wideman writes for The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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North American indigenous support Amazonian indigenous at synod

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) -- As the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon heard pleas to defend the rights of the region's indigenous people and of the land they hold sacred, indigenous leaders from Canada and the United States came to Rome to support them.

Accompanied by representatives of their nations' bishops' conferences, the North Americans said Oct. 17 that the struggle for justice, for recognition of territorial rights and for the defense of the Earth unite the indigenous peoples of North, Central and South America.

Sister Priscilla Solomon, an Ojibway and a Sister of St. Joseph Sault Ste. Marie from Canada, said the indigenous peoples of the Americas "have a very similar kind of spirituality, vision, values that teach us that everything is connected: not only people, human beings, but we are part of land. The land is us. The water is us."

Colonization is also a common experience, she said, and one that has left members of the First Nations and Native Americans impoverished, both materially and culturally since their languages, customs and spirituality often were suppressed.

Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who accompanied the group, said one task of the delegation was to look at the synod's "implications for our homelands," specifically as regards the treatment of native peoples and the ecological challenges present in North America.

But also, he said, "How are we impacted by what is happening in the Amazon" and "How are we implicated," especially in ties to or outright ownership of the mining and other companies extracting resources, polluting the land and waters and leaving entire populations deeper in poverty.

Rita Means, a longtime activist and representative on the tribal council of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, told reporters that as "a mother and grandmother," she feels driven to work for justice for her people and the protection of the Earth.

Like the Amazonian indigenous trying to protect their lands from the activity of various extractive industries like mining and logging, she said, the Lakota Sioux and others are fighting the encroachment on their lands of oil pipelines.

"Some of these extractive industries are very destructive to our homeland," she said. "Again, as a mother and grandmother, I guess I find that particularly painful."

She and her people have been "nourishing that 'turtle continent' (Earth) for many centuries and to see it being attacked in such a vicious and destructive way really tears at my heart," Means said. "The Earth is crying for our assistance and this is one call that we cannot fail to answer."

Rodney Bordeaux, president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said he wanted to show his people's solidarity for the Amazonian indigenous, who are experiencing "what happened to us 100-120 years ago" with people trying to steal their land to extract resources. For the Lakota, he said, "there was gold in the hills and they just stole our land."

Sister Solomon said she does not believe the Catholic Church should try to convert indigenous peoples to Christianity, "but where there is openness to knowing Christ and the teachings of the church, the church needs to be ready to offer that."

Bordeaux said the Bible presents Jesus as one who got involved in the lives of the people he encountered, so Christians should ask themselves "What would Jesus do today? Would he stand aside, quiet? I think we know the answer and the church knows the answer."

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Safe injection sites for drug addicts 'a form of euthanasia,' priest says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gina Christian, catholicphilly.com

By Gina Christian

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- Safe injection sites are "a form of euthanasia," according to a Philadelphia priest who has spent almost 50 years ministering to those suffering from addiction.

Officials are seeking to make Philadelphia the first U.S. city to open a safe injection site, modeled after a facility that has operated in Vancouver, British Columbia, since 2003.

But Father Douglas McKay, founder and chaplain of Our House Ministries, said that plan is "a way of killing those with addiction, a way of doping them up and 'protecting' ourselves from them."

Located in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry section -- a neighborhood long ravaged by drug and alcohol addiction -- Our House Ministries provides recovery homes, conducts numerous group recovery meetings each week and offers intensive spiritual support for those seeking sobriety.

Our House also hosts a chapter of the Calix Society, an international organization for Catholics in recovery that stresses the power of sacramental grace in overcoming addiction.

Father McKay, who began working with those in addiction even before his seminary studies, said he has known thousands who have died from substance abuse. He currently presides at an average of two funerals a week due to drug overdoses, "not counting the ones" he turns down.

Addiction has hit home for the archdiocesan priest, who grew up just a few blocks from where he now ministers. In 1995, his brother Anthony died at age 30 "in a crack house, with a needle in his arm," said Father McKay. Another brother, Harry, also struggled with addiction after serving in Vietnam, but remained sober for the last 25 years of his life.

Reflecting on an Oct. 2 federal court decision that has cleared the legal hurdles for Philadelphia's proposed safe injection site, Father McKay said such a facility would not have prevented Anthony's overdose. Instead, he noted, safe injection sites only "provide a slower death to people who are already dying."

"These people don't need more drugs; that's the cause of their sickness," he told CatholicPhilly.com, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. "You're poisoning their brains and making them sicker, when they need to be made well."

Father McKay sees the sites as the product of "a drug culture that's part of the culture of death." He likened the impact of such facilities to the "zombie effect" of extended methadone use in combating heroin addiction.

A synthetic opioid, methadone works to eliminate withdrawal symptoms, but long-term reliance on the prescription "burns out the brains" without healing addiction, said Father McKay.

"The whole approach here reminds me of lobotomizing violent criminals and mentally ill people," said Father McKay.

Lobotomy, or removal of the brain's frontal lobe, was widely practiced on tens of thousands in the mid-20th century to treat severe mental illness while reducing institutional overcrowding. Patients were generally left incapacitated and cognitively unresponsive after the procedure.

While acknowledging "there are good people on both sides" of the safe injection site debate, Father McKay said supporters of such sites fail to understand the real nature of addiction and the most effective ways to address it.

"They point to one feature, that they won't be alone when they inject themselves," he said, "but they need to look at the whole picture."

Recovery from addiction requires "a moment of truth" that enables the individual to grasp the impact of his or her self-destructive behavior, said Father McKay. Such awareness is central to the 12-step approach employed by Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and similar groups.

Safe injection sites "steal that moment away from them," he said, since facilitating the use of harmful drugs, even with compassionate motives, "takes away the opportunity for sufficient reflection" and keeps the affected person mired in addiction.

"Sobriety is the first step, and that's what we're stopping these people from taking in these safe injection sites," he said. "Without that step, there is no second step."

A number of studies have shown that sustained participation in 12-step groups, which are free and widely available, correlates with recovery rates as high as 70%.

The number is significantly lower for Insite, the Canadian safe injection site that has served as a model for Philadelphia's proposed facility. According to Insite's data, 48,798 -- or 1.35% -- of the 3.6 million users who have self-injected since 2003 there have accessed some form of clinical treatment for substance abuse disorder.

Father McKay also noted that Philadelphia's plan to offer fentanyl screening at its proposed site isn't viable. A synthetic opioid, fentanyl -- which is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine -- has driven the increase in the nation's overdose deaths.

"Fentanyl is actually a good deterrent, because they're scared to pick up (relapse) again," he said. "But these sites will take that fear away and keep them enslaved, since they'll think they can keep using."

For some users, fentanyl is actually desirable, he added, since it provides a high they can no longer attain after repeated heroin use.

He also noted that those in active addiction would be unlikely to travel from other sections of the city to the proposed Kensington location for Philadelphia's planned site. Many individuals already rely on a kind of "street buddy system," he said, and "watch out for each other when they're nodding off" prior to overdosing.

Clean needles, which safe injection sites typically provide, aren't a draw either, said Father McKay.

"They couldn't care less about clean needles when they have a death wish," he said. "That's how sick they are. They're on the brink of death."

Safe injection sites, like the addiction they seek to treat, ultimately work to harm everyone, said Father McKay.

"You're watching them inject themselves with poison, and they come out demoralized and dehumanized, as do the people who watch them and promote the sites," he said. "Are we really caring about them, watching them shoot up?"

Those suffering from addiction "are our brothers and sisters" who reflect the suffering Christ, the priest said, and they are inextricably connected with the larger community.

"You put that needle in your arm, and it goes into the arm of the Lord, and into everyone else's arm as well," said Father McKay, stressing that addiction simultaneously affects individuals, families and society.

Instead of supporting safe injection sites, he and the Our House team are working to create "spiritual sites" where the root causes of addiction -- such as isolation and hopelessness -- can be countered with God's grace and the fellowship of others.

"We offer healing from the shame and guilt of their past sins," said Father McKay, adding that those who struggle with addiction can become models of holiness through God's intervention in their lives.

Noting that "we underestimate grace and the power of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist," Father McKay said he persists in his work because "there's always an answer, and that is Jesus Christ."

"It's not a belief, it's an experience," he said. "I've seen so many people get better."

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Christian is a senior content producer for CatholicPhilly.com, the digital newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

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Inadequate formation a factor in lack of vocations, bishops say at synod

IMAGE: CNS Photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Existing formation programs are not preparing priests and other pastoral workers to be leaders in a church with an Amazonian and indigenous face, according to bishops participating in the synod for the Amazon.

"It's not the same to evangelize in the city as in the Amazon," Bishop Rafael Cob Garcia of Puyo, Ecuador, told journalists at an Oct. 12 press briefing. "The needs are different."

Formation must be adapted to meet those needs, he said.

Synod participants repeatedly have mentioned the lack of sufficient priests to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments in the thousands of communities scattered throughout huge church jurisdictions in Amazonia.

Some bishops have pointed to the church's mandatory celibacy requirement as an obstacle to indigenous vocations. In many indigenous cultures, a young man is not considered an adult and a full member of the community until he has a family.

Another obstacle is academic, because quality education is lacking in rural villages, Bishop Cob said. When young men from villages go to a seminary in the city, they often find themselves behind their urban classmates academically and drop out.

When a young man goes from an indigenous village to an urban seminary, he also is uprooted from his culture, Franciscan Father Joao Messias Sousa, who ministers among the Munduruku people in Brazil's Tapajos River basin, told Catholic News Service.

The Munduruku culture is based on sharing, instead of individual property, he said, and they are not "slaves of time." When they arrive at the seminary, where schedules are strict and people have their own rooms, study materials and other possessions, "it's a shock," he said.

For those who do continue, current formation falls short, Bishop Cob said, adding that seminary formation sometimes loses sight of the fact that "our vocation is rooted in being servants."

In brief remarks to synod participants Oct. 14, Pope Francis said he was disappointed that some seminarians from Latin America go to other countries to study and stay abroad instead of returning to work as missionaries in places like the Amazon, two participants told CNS.

Some bishops are seeking ways to give formation a more Amazonian face, but they said there is a shortage of qualified people to do formation. Brazilian Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Roselei Bertoldo said it is also important for seminaries and theology schools to include women on their faculties.

A lack of qualified teachers in Amazonian towns forces the Amazonian bishops in Ecuador to send priesthood candidates to Quito, the capital, Bishop Cob said. Once there, the students provide support for each other, and the bishops can pool staff to accompany them. Nevertheless, he said he hopes they will be able to establish a seminary in the Amazon in the future.

The Prelature of Sao Felix, in Brazil's Mato Grosso state, established its own school of theology to provide formation appropriate for ministry in Amazonian communities, Bishop Adriano Ciocca Vasino said at the press briefing. The school is open to both men and women.

Candidates for ordained ministry complete their theology studies at the prelature's school and then do four years of ministry in communities. Only if the community agrees that they are prepared for the priesthood does the bishop ordain them, he said.

Young men in their late teens are interested in the priesthood, but Bishop Ciocca said he and his colleagues are still determining the best way to accompany them.

Similar difficulties exist elsewhere in the world, according to Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, who told synod participants about an official visit he once made to seminaries in Guatemala.

Although the Central American nation has a large indigenous population -- in fact, it is one of the countries with the largest percentage of indigenous people in the world -- the seminary in Guatemala City had just received its first indigenous students.

Far from their home communities, however, the indigenous students at the capital's major seminaries "were like fish out of water," the cardinal wrote in an Oct. 11 blog post about his presentation at the synod.

After visiting schools in the capital, he traveled to the Diocese of Verapaz, in central Guatemala, which had a new seminary exclusively for indigenous students.

"I had to speak to them through interpreters because they did not speak Spanish," Cardinal O'Malley wrote.

The school lacked funding -- the cardinal noted that the seminarians' families had to take food to them -- and closed several years later, even though it had a large number of seminarians.

The Verapaz seminary offered "an opportunity to train indigenous priests in their own language and in their own cultural context," he wrote. "I felt badly when the seminary closed because I knew those seminarians would never be able to attend a different sort of seminary."

That is a cautionary tale for those looking for ways to increase vocations in the Amazon region, Cardinal O'Malley said.
 
"If we want to have priests there, we are going to have to make sacrifices to have people who can promote vocations and accompany and train seminarians in their own milieu and their own languages," he said.

 

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Pope criticizes cruelty of world marked by hunger, obesity, food waste

IMAGE: CNS photo/Khaled Abdullah, Reuters

By Paige Hanley

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Resolving the global crises of world hunger and malnutrition demands a shift away from a distorted approach to food and toward healthier lifestyles and just economic practices, Pope Francis said.

"We are, in fact, witnessing how food is ceasing to be a means of subsistence and turning into an avenue of personal destruction," he said in his message to Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to mark World Food Day Oct. 16. World Food Day marks the date the FAO was founded in 1945 to address the causes of world hunger.

Pope Francis said he hoped the world day theme of 2019 -- "Our actions are our future: Healthy diets for a #ZeroHunger World" -- will be a reminder of how many people continue to eat in an unhealthy way.

"It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone, and yet not everyone has access to it, and that in some areas of the world food is wasted, discarded and consumed in excess, or destined for other purposes than nutrition," he said.

"To escape from this spiral, we need to promote 'economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources,'" he said, citing his encyclical, "Laudato Si'."

The theme also points to "the distorted relationship between food and nutrition," he said. Some 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger, "while almost 700 million are overweight, victims of improper dietary habits," said Pope Francis.

Being overweight is no longer a major health issue in developed countries, he said, but also in poorer areas where people may "eat little but increasingly poorly, since they imitate dietary models imported from developed areas."

Poor nutrition based on excess often results in illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and degenerative diseases, and poor nutrition has seen an increasing number of deaths related to anorexia and bulimia, he said.

A better understanding of food and its true purpose as well as "a conversion in our way of living and acting" will aid in fighting hunger and malnutrition, the pope said.  

"Nutritional disorders can only be combated by the cultivation of lifestyles inspired by gratitude for the gifts we have received and the adoption of a spirit of temperance, moderation, abstinence, self-control and solidarity," the pope said.

"By adopting such a lifestyle, we will grow in a fraternal solidarity that seeks the common good and avoids the individualism and egocentrism that serve only to generate hunger and social inequality," he said.
 
Pope Francis also highlighted the vital role of the family in continuing traditions of sustainable farming and the production of nutritional products.

"Within the family, and thanks to the particular sensitivity and wisdom of women and mothers, we learn how to enjoy the fruits of the earth without abusing it. We also discover the most effective means for spreading lifestyles respectful of our personal and collective good," the pope said.

This is why the FAO has devoted additional effort to protect rural families and encourage family-operated farms, the pope added.

Lastly, the pope underlined the human person must be valued above personal monetary gain.

"The battle against hunger and malnutrition will not end as long as the logic of the market prevails and profit is sought at any cost, with the result that food is relegated to a mere commercial product subject to financial speculation and with little regard for its cultural, social and indeed symbolic importance," the pope said in his message.

"When priority is given to the human person, humanitarian aid operations and development programs will surely have a greater impact and will yield the expected results," the pope concluded.

 

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Catholic schools 'essential, integral' to church's ministry, say educators

IMAGE: CNS photo/Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review

By Sydney Clark

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The mission and foundation of Catholic education are directly related to evangelization, said the head of the National Catholic Educational Association.

Catholic schools are obligated to evangelize simply because that is the core and mission of the Catholic Church, according to Thomas Burnford, president and CEO of the NCEA.

"The apostles told the good news of Jesus Christ, and Catholic schools are an essential and integral ministry of the Catholic Church," he told Catholic News Service.

Nationwide, 1.8 million students are enrolled in 6,300 Catholic schools, he noted. Additionally, 80% of students are Catholic, and the remaining 20% are non-Catholic.

Despite the percentage difference, the mission of Catholic education is the same for Catholic and non-Catholic students, Burnford explained.

"The teaching of the faith, the way we witness the Catholic faith fully to Catholic students is the same for all students. All students are invited and welcomed to participate fully in the whole culture of the school, the formation of the school and the life of the school," Burnford said.

Evangelization is present within schools because students are presented with a Catholic worldview that reveals the reality of God and the Gospel through the curriculum, he said.

"In that way, we are evangelizing students by giving them a real understanding of the world and society. Everyone in a Catholic school is being moved along in the process of evangelization and outreach," Burnford said.

Acknowledging the inherent relationship between Catholic education and evangelization in the presence of faith, community and identity, Pope Francis in a June 2018 address said: "Schools and universities need to be consistent and show continuity between their foundational mission and the church's mission of evangelization."

He delivered the address to members of the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, which he established in October 2015 at the invitation of the Congregation for Catholic Education to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Christian Education.

In that same address, Pope Francis proposed a challenge to members of the foundation, which aims to renew the church's dedication to Catholic education, saying: "To fulfill your mission, therefore, you must lay its foundations in a way consistent with our Christian identity, establish means appropriate for the quality of study and research and pursue goals in harmony with service to the common good."

Elisabeth Sullivan, executive director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, identified roles within Catholic schools that help bring Catholic and non-Catholic students together. "I think Catholic schools have a unique opportunity to provide hope in a world that is increasingly beset by hopelessness. A world without God is a world without hope," Sullivan said.

Sullivan believes that Catholic education is uniquely distinct from other education systems due to its long tradition of conveying the inherent and inseparable relationship between faith and reason. Consequently, Catholic schools "restore what the industrialized model of education has stripped from the classroom -- an understanding of the meaning and purpose of things," she told CNS.

Catholic education asks the deeper questions, regarding the nature of something and its purpose, according to Sullivan. "Secular education can't offer that, can't decide on a meaning or a purpose, so it has to stay away, and therefore, it's incomplete," she explained.

Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, expressed a similar viewpoint regarding evangelization efforts within Catholic schools. Donoghue said because formation in a Catholic school is integral, students are not solely taught religious doctrine in a religion course.

"What we seek to do is bring forward the church's intellectual tradition and form their minds in all of the content and areas that they study. This is an excellent tool of evangelization because it exposes kids not just to Catholic practices, regarding prayer and liturgy, but also to a Catholic understanding of reality."

Donoghue is hopeful that Catholic schools will continue to fulfill their mission of bringing children and young adults into a relationship with Christ.

As populations shift, she said, many Catholic schools will be located in new areas, creating a changing landscape. However, Donoghue said that Catholic education in America has been around for centuries and "will renew itself by turning toward the church's own tradition and that can be the way forward in the future."

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Pope: Evangelization must help, not hinder, people getting closer to God

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God wants everyone to be saved, which is why those who evangelize must avoid letting their prejudices get in the way of God's plan, Pope Francis said.

"An evangelizer cannot be an obstacle to the creative work of God, who 'wills everyone to be saved,' but one who fosters an encounter of hearts with the Lord," the pope said Oct. 16 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

The pope also recalled the day marked the anniversary of the 1978 election of St. John Paul II.

"Let us thank the Lord for everything good that happened in the church, in the world and in people's hearts because of the words, deeds and holiness of John Paul II. Let us remember that his appeal to open your heart to Christ is always timely," he said when greeting Polish-speaking visitors.

In his main catechesis, the pope continued his series of talks on the Acts of the Apostles.

He reflected on St. Luke's account of Cornelius -- the generous and God-fearing pagan, and St. Peter, whom God calls to meet with Cornelius. It was unlawful at the time for a Jewish man to meet with a Gentile, and Peter is harshly rebuked by the community in Jerusalem for visiting and baptizing him.

But God had told Peter, who had felt compelled to follow Jewish laws and restrictions, that "What God has made clean, you are not to call profane."

Peter learns "God shows no partiality" and that "whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him," according to the Gospel account.

In his catechesis, the pope said God wanted Peter to no longer judge or see people and external acts as clean or unclean, "but to learn to go beyond that, by looking at the person and the intentions in their heart. What makes a person unclean, in fact, doesn't come from the outside, but from the inside, from their heart. Jesus said this clearly."

The pope said Peter learns to open his mind and heart to God's "creativity" so that all people could receive the blessings promised to Israel.

Pope Francis asked that everyone learn what an evangelizer must be from Peter's example and ask, "How do we act with our brothers and sisters, especially with those who are not Christians?"

"Are we an impediment to an encounter with God? Do we block their encounter with the Father or do we facilitate it?" he asked.

"Let us ask for the grace to let ourselves be astounded by God's surprises, not to hinder his creativity, but to recognize and foster the ever-new ways through which the Risen One pours out his Spirit in the world and draws hearts" to him as they recognize he is the "Lord of all," the pope said.

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Update: Vatican security chief resigns following leak of internal document

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Domenico Giani, head of the Vatican police, nearly two weeks after an internal security notice was leaked to the Italian press.

The Vatican announced Oct. 14 that the pope accepted the resignation of the 57-year-old Vatican police chief who, although "bears no personal responsibility" for the leak, "tendered his resignation to the Holy Father out of love for the church and faithfulness to Peter's successor."

The pope accepted Giani's resignation, and in a conversation with him, "expressed his appreciation to the commander for his gesture."

"Pope Francis also recalled Domenico Giani's 20 years of unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty and underlined how, by offering an outstanding witness in many parts of the world, Commander Giani was able to establish and guarantee a lasting atmosphere of ease and security around the Holy Father," the Vatican said.

The day after the announcement, the Vatican announced that the pope named deputy Vatican police chief Gianluca Gauzzi Broccoletti as Giani's replacement. Gauzzi, who has been a part of the Vatican police force since 1995, was also responsible for developing the Vatican's cyber security network.

According to Vatican News, the pope also paid a surprise visit Oct. 15 to Giani and his family at their home in Vatican City after attending the afternoon session of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

"Pope Francis' visit confirmed the appreciation he has already expressed toward Giani and his family," Vatican News said.

Giani's resignation comes two weeks after L'Espresso, an Italian magazine, published what it said was an internal Vatican police notice about the "cautionary suspension" of five individuals after a raid Oct. 1 on offices in the Secretariat of State and the Vatican Financial Intelligence Authority.

The suspension order, which was signed by Giani, featured photos of one woman and four men, including Msgr. Mauro Carlino, head of information and documentation at the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Tomasso Di Ruzza, director of the Financial Intelligence Authority.

Matteo Bruni, director of the Vatican press office, had confirmed Oct. 12 that the pope ordered an investigation into the "illicit distribution of a document for internal use by the security forces of the Holy See."

The seriousness of the leak, "in the words of Pope Francis, is comparable to a mortal sin since it is detrimental to the dignity of people and to the principle of the presumption of innocence," Bruni told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

In an interview released by the Vatican shortly after the announcement, Giani said the leak caused the pope "serious pain" and that as commander, "I, too, was ashamed of what had happened and of the suffering caused to these people."

"For this reason, having always said and witnessed that I am ready to sacrifice my life to defend that of the pope, with the same spirit I decided to relinquish my duty so as not to damage the image and activity of the Holy Father in any way," he said.

Giani said that in the fallout over the leak, the pope continued to show him the paternal concern, which has "marked the special relationship that I have had with him since the beginning of his pontificate." He also said the pope took into consideration "personal difficulties" he had been facing, particularly his "desire to devote more time to my family, my wife and my children."

A former officer in the Italian intelligence service, Giani began his Vatican career in 1999 during St. John Paul II's papacy, serving as deputy police chief under his predecessor, Camillo Cibin.

In 2006, he was appointed as Inspector General of the Vatican Gendarme Corps and had been a constant presence as personal bodyguard to Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis at the Vatican and during papal trips abroad.

Reflecting on his career protecting the lives of three popes, Giani said that despite "the moment of personal uncertainty I am living through," divine providence will "show the way, which is certainly the path of the Lord," and described his 20 years of service as "an honor."

"If I close my eyes, I see endless scenes of the almost 70 international apostolic trips that I have followed, of countless pastoral visits to Rome and Italy and of so many private moments with the three pontiffs," he said.

"I am deeply grateful to the Holy Father because his testimony of the loyalty, honor and fidelity with which I have done my service helps me to face the future and the new tasks that I may take on, within the scope of my skills, with serenity after this extraordinary experience," Giani said.

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Indigenous culture can enrich liturgy, bishop says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Proposals at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon for indigenous- or Amazonian-rite ceremonies are meant to enhance and enrich the liturgy with cultural signs and gestures, not change what is essential for Catholics, a bishop said.

Spanish-born Bishop Rafael Escudero Lopez-Brea of Moyobamba, Peru, said Catholics are not asking for a new "liturgical rite," but want to maintain the essential elements "received by the Lord and the apostles in the Eucharist" while introducing cultural elements.

"When we speak of this possibility, it means to introduce some symbols into the Eucharist, some rites that do not affect what is essential in the Eucharist because if not, we would ruin the sacrament and go against that revelation," Bishop Escudero told journalists Oct. 15.

During that morning's session of the synod, several participants addressed the theme of inculturation which, according to a Vatican News summary, would "open the church to discover new paths within the rich diversity of Amazonian culture."

At a briefing at the Vatican press office, Bishop Escudero said the idea of incorporating local traditions and cultural elements in the liturgy is not new, offering the examples of the Eastern Catholic churches and of Latin-rite Masses in Africa.

"If we study church history, we can see that before everything was unified under the Roman rite, a multiplicity of different rites existed according to the area," he said.

Italian-born Bishop Eugenio Coter of Pando, Bolivia, explained that certain symbols and gestures used in the Latin rite can have entirely different meanings depending on the country or culture.

"A bishop told me that a change was asked for the liturgy in Japan because the gesture of beating one's chest is a gesture of pride, of affirmation, as if saying 'I matter,' and placing it during the 'Confiteor' ('I confess') has an entirely different meaning. An adaptation must be made," Bishop Coter said.

Another example, he continued, is that for some indigenous groups in the Amazon, the use of incense, which "is a sign of God's presence" in the Latin rite, signifies prayers rising to God in heaven.

Thus, he said, in a eucharistic celebration with indigenous Catholics, "incense is used during the prayers of the faithful," and the person reading the prayer sprinkles the incense to show that "the prayer rises to heaven."

The Italian bishop said he supported the idea of setting up a commission of experts who can recommend ways to incorporate "the language, signs, gestures, music and local culture of every ethnic group while safeguarding that which the word of God and faith tells us" regarding Christ's institution of the Eucharist.

"That is why there are structural elements of the Eucharist that have not changed in 2,000 years," Bishop Coter said. There are other elements, however, "that can be done -- through a commission that has studied the issues -- in a way that speaks to the people who live it."

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U.S. bishops speak at synod for the Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops for the Amazon is not a "referendum" on priestly celibacy; it is looking for ways to provide for the sacramental life and formation of the people there, U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston said.

"Because one of the themes is the terrible shortage of priests in the Amazonia region, I was trying to stress that, if we want to have priests in that area, we are going to have to make sacrifices to have people who can promote vocations and accompany and train seminarians in their own milieu and their own languages," he said he told synod participants.

The cardinal and Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego both were appointed by Pope Francis to be voting members of the synod, which was being held Oct. 6-27 at the Vatican.

The cardinal, who also is a member of the pope's Council of Cardinals, gave a summary on CardinalSeansBlog.org of what he told the synod in his talk to the general assembly and issues being brought up by the pope and others.

"One of the things that the Holy Father held up in his comments was that he asked us to look at the problem of violence in the region. Not only the kind of violence symbolized in the pictures of all those who have been killed, but also understanding the violence to the forests themselves and its effects on the people who are there," he wrote in a post published Oct. 11.

But another topic being widely discussed, the cardinal said, is the lack of priests.

"An indigenous woman from Guyana in our group (for small-group discussions) told us that there are some villages where a priest comes only once a year. She said they have laypeople performing baptisms, presiding at weddings and distributing Communion. In fact, she said she was baptized by a layperson in her village."

"Certainly, one of the issues we have to deal with is the scarcity of ordained ministers in the region and the great need to provide for the sacramental life of the people and their formation," the cardinal wrote. "But despite the impression that is being given in the media, the synod is not some sort of a referendum on priestly celibacy."

Cardinal O'Malley said he told synod participants that promoting priestly vocations in the Amazon region would require "sacrifices" in the form of people and resources dedicated to accompanying and training seminarians in their context and languages.

He said a special seminary for indigenous students he visited in Verapaz, Guatemala, had to close because it had been "very under-resourced. For example, the seminarians' families had to bring food for them."

Despite having a large number of seminarians, the seminary closed, he said.

"I was very sad because the indigenous seminarians I had met at the major seminaries in the capital were like fish out of water. I had seen in the Verapaz seminary an opportunity to train indigenous priests in their own language and in their own cultural context," he said. "I felt badly when the seminary closed because I knew those seminarians would never be able to attend a different sort of seminary."

In his talk to the synod, Bishop McElroy underlined some of the gifts the church in the Amazon region is contributing to "the life and dialogue of the universal church," including the invitation to reevaluate materialist lifestyles.

The "witness to the nature and power of ecological conversion" is one contribution the church in the Amazon is making to the universal church and the world, he said in his intervention Oct. 12, which was published on his diocese's site, www.sdcatholic.org.

Such a conversion would require recognizing the "empirical reality of the environmental destruction that threatens our planet" as well as accepting creation "as a sacred gift whose future is entrusted to our care," he said.

The synod working document talks about "the traditional relationship of the indigenous peoples of the region to nature as one of intimacy, sacredness, giftedness and care" as well as the importance of "good living," the bishop said.

"In my country of the United States, the good life means a life of luxury and ease," he said. "For the peoples of the Amazon, good living means connectedness to faith, to self, to others, to the land. It points to the unity of all of human existence: work, rest, celebration and relationships, and refuses to accept the fractionalization of human existence that modern life places upon us all. It rejects grave disparities of wealth and social inequality. It breathes with the spirit of God."

"The specific form of good living that exists for the indigenous peoples of the Amazon will not be transferable to most other cultures in the world," he added. "But its underlying themes of connectedness, moderation, balance and sharing must become the norm for all peoples in reevaluating our lifestyles if we are to escape the lures of materialism and build a sustainable society for our world."

 

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Caritas works to help Syrians displaced by Turkish bombings

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rodi Said, Reuters

By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) -- Church bells have been ringing in Qamishli and elsewhere in northeastern Syria, signaling the alarm to Christians and others of the ongoing Turkish military operation that is having a devastating humanitarian impact on civilians.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have escaped," said Yerado Krikorian, communications assistant for the Catholic aid agency Caritas Syria, which is working around the clock to aid those displaced by Turkish bombing and shelling.

"They need water where they have fled, and so Caritas is distributing badly needed water bottles and other essentials to those displaced in shelters throughout the Hassakeh region," Krikorian told Catholic News Service by telephone from Damascus.

Caritas Syria is the country's branch of Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church's international network of charitable agencies.

The A'louk water station, supplying water to nearly 400,000 people in Hassakeh, is out of service, according to UNICEF. The organization and Syrian government are is trying to get it fixed.

Meanwhile, UNICEF warns that some 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities escalated Oct. 7, but it expected that number to more than double as a result of ongoing violence. As of Oct. 15, the United Nations estimates that at least 160,000 people have been displaced, but 400,000 are in need of humanitarian aid as the Turkish military and its allied Syrian rebels, including Islamic State and al-Qaida militants, press deeper into northeastern Syria, battling Kurdish and Syriac Christian forces.

Christians and other religious minorities said they feel particularly vulnerable as Turkish artillery targeted a predominantly Christian neighborhood in Qamishli, the largest city in northeastern Syria. News reports said Christians, Ayeda Habsono and her husband, Fadi, were severely wounded in the attack that hit their house. Several other residents also were injured. Christians and Yazidis have been victimized by Islamic State militants in recent times.

Humanitarians complain that they are being denied safe and unimpeded access to civilians due to Turkish shelling and airstrikes as well as uncertainty as to who is in control over certain areas, forcing many aid organizations to relocate to northern Iraq. Hospitals, schools and churches have been bombed. They have also decried targeted killings of civilians, including that of a Kurdish female politician, by Syrian militants working with the Turks.

Observers point to the danger of NATO member Turkey using proxy forces to carry out atrocities, deemed as war crimes.

David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, condemned Turkey's offensive, designed to clear out the native population of Kurds, Christians and Yazidis to put 2 million Syrian refugees from other regions and now sheltering in Turkey into a so-called "safe zone."

"The so-called safe zone is becoming a death trap," Miliband warned. "And the winners of this are Islamic State and the Assad government.

"The northeast was one of the most stable parts of Syria," he said, before U.S. President Donald Trump announced in early October that he was withdrawing U.S. troops.

Trump has since called for an immediate end to Turkey's moves against the Kurds in Syria and has sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Middle East. The U.S. is "simply not going to tolerate Turkey's invasion of Syria any longer," said Pence.

Alarmed by the military onslaught on "beloved and martyred" Syria, Pope Francis called on "all the actors involved and the international community" to commit themselves "sincerely to the path of dialogue to seek effective solutions" to the crisis.

The pope said Oct. 13 that dramatic news was emerging about the fate of the populations forced to abandon their homes because of military actions. "Among these populations there are also many Christian families," he said.

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Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus enjoys unmasking hypocrisy, which is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said.

Christians, in fact, must learn to avoid hypocrisy by scrutinizing and acknowledging their own personal faults, failings and sins, he said Oct. 15 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"A Christian who does not know how to accuse himself is not a good Christian," he said.

The pope focused his homily on the day's Gospel reading (Lk 11:37-41) in which Jesus criticizes his host for being concerned only with outward appearances and superficial rituals, saying, "although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil."

Pope Francis said the reading shows how much Jesus does not tolerate hypocrisy, which, the pope said, "is appearing one way but being something else" or hiding what one really thinks.

When Jesus calls the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs" and hypocrites, these words are not insults but the truth, the pope said.

"On the outside you are perfect, strait-laced actually, with decorum, but inside you are something else," he said.

"Hypocritical behavior comes from the great liar, the devil," who is a huge hypocrite himself, the pope said, and he makes those like him on earth his "heirs."

"Hypocrisy is the language of the devil; it is the language of evil that enters our heart and is sown by the devil. You can't live with hypocritical people, but they exist," the pope said.

"Jesus likes to unmask hypocrisy," he said. "He knows it will be precisely this behavior that leads to his death because the hypocrite does not think about using legitimate means or not, he plows ahead: slander? 'Let's use slander.' False witness? 'Let's look for an untruthful witness.'"  

Hypocrisy, the pope said, is common "in the battle for power, for example, (with) envy, jealousies that make you appear to be one way and inside there is poison for killing because hypocrisy always kills, sooner or later, it kills."

The only "medicine" to cure hypocritical behavior is to tell the truth before God and take responsibility for oneself, the pope said.

"We have to learn to accuse ourselves, 'I did this, I think this way, badly. I am envious. I want to destroy that one,'" he said.

People need to reflect on "what is inside of us" to see the sin, hypocrisy and "the wickedness that is in our heart" and "to say it before God" with humility, he said.

Pope Francis asked people to learn from St. Peter, who implored, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."

"May we learn to accuse ourselves, us, our own self," he said.

 

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El Paso bishop calls out racism but urges accused shooter's life be spared

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jose Luis Gonzalez, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's a pastoral letter that pulls no punches, goes far into the past and continues up to the recent present of racism at the U.S.-Mexico border.  

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas, released a pastoral letter Oct. 13, on the eve of the controversial holiday that Columbus Day has become, pointing to the church's role in racism at the border, particularly among indigenous communities, describes the pain of Latinos in the El Paso area following a mass shooting in August, but also calls on authorities to spare the life of the accused perpetrator.  

Invoking martyrs who include St. Oscar Romero, Blessed Stanley Rother and four Maryknoll women missionaries killed in El Salvador, Bishop Seitz said he wishes that, like them, "I may speak without fear when it is called for and help to give voice to those who have not been heard."

The letter titled "Night Will Be No More" was unveiled at the end of a social justice gathering of Catholic Latino organizers, labor leaders, scholars and activists in El Paso Oct.11-13. It begins and ends with the specter of the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in the city, a violent and bloody event that authorities believe targeted Latinos.

"Hate visited our community and Latino blood was spilled in sacrifice to the false god of white supremacy," wrote the bishop.

That event led him to write the letter, he explained, "after prayer and speaking with the people of God in the church of El Paso" to "reflect together on the evil that robbed us of 22 lives."

Among some of what he has heard: "Latinos now tell me that for the first time in their lives they feel unsafe, even in El Paso. They feel that they have targets on their backs because of their skin color and language. They feel that they are being made to live in their own home as a 'stranger in a foreign land.'"

The killing, he said, was an example of the racism toward Latinos that has reached "a dangerous fever pitch" in the nation.  

"Our highest elected officials have used the word 'invasion' and 'killer' over 500 times to refer to migrants, treated migrant children as pawns on a crass political chessboard, insinuated that judges and legislators of color are un-American, and have made wall-building a core political project," he said. "In Pope Francis' words, these 'signs of meanness we see around us heighten our fear of the other.'

"The same deadly pool of sin that motivates the attack on migrants seeking safety and refuge in our border community motivated the killing of our neighbors on August 3rd," he continued. "Sin unites people around fear and hate. We must name and oppose the racism that has reared its head at the center of our public life and emboldened forces of darkness."

Even as he repudiated the fear and destruction the massacre caused, Bishop Seitz made a plea to authorities to spare the life of accused shooter Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old who is said to have left messages on social media saying he was carrying out the shooting because of the "Hispanic invasion of Texas." Texas prosecutors have said they will ask for the death penalty if he's convicted.

"Justice is certainly required. But the cycle of hate, blood and vengeance on the border must meet its end," he wrote. "While the scales of justice may seem to tilt in favor of the necessity of lethal retribution, God offers us yet another chance to choose life. Choose in a manner worthy of your humanity."

He laid out how racism can make a "home in our hearts, distort our imagination and will, and express itself in individual actions of hatred and discrimination."

"This mystery of evil also includes the base belief that some of us are more important, deserving and worthy than others. It includes the ugly conviction that this country and its history and opportunities and resources as well as our economic and political life belong more properly to 'white' people than to people of color," he wrote. "This is a perverse way of thinking that divides people based on heritage and tone of skin into 'us' and 'them', 'worthy' and 'unworthy', paving the way to dehumanization."

Dark-skinned people are subject to different standards and treatment and the Catholic Church is not without fault in this, he said, adding that "even some of our seminarians have talked about experiences in seminaries in different parts of the country where it was presumed that their academic preparation was inferior and when they were the butt of jokes suggesting that their families must know something about drug trafficking."

He wrote that the proposed border wall is a symbol of this type of exclusion.

"The wall deepens racially charged perceptions of how we understand the border as well as Mexicans and migrants. It extends racist talk of an 'invasion'. It perpetuates the racist myth that the area south of the border is dangerous and foreign and that we are merely passive observers in the growth of narco-violence and the trafficking of human beings and drugs," he wrote. "The wall is a physical reminder of the failure of two friendly nations to resolve their internal and binational issues in just and peaceful way."

But just as the letter offered criticism, it offered solutions.

"We must work to ensure all our children have access to quality educational opportunities, eliminate inequality in the colonias, pass immigration reform, eradicate discrimination, guarantee universal access to health care, ensure the protection of all human life, end the scourge of gun violence, improve wages on both sides of the border, offer just and sustainable development opportunities, defend the environment and honor the dignity of every person," he wrote.

"This is how we write a new chapter in our history of solidarity and friendship that future generations can remember with pride," he added. "This work of undoing racism and building a just society is holy, for it 'contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family.'"

During Mass, pastors can lead people "to a deeper consciousness of the weight of communal and historical sin that we bring to the table of the Lord in the penitential rite," he wrote. "We should ask ourselves carefully who is yet not present, and whose cultures are not yet reflected at the banquet of the Lord that we celebrate at the altar?"

At its end, the letter made a plea to President Donald Trump, Congress and the Supreme Court.

"I beg you to listen to the voice of conscience and halt the deportation of all those who are not a danger to our communities, to stop the separation of families, and to end once and for all the turning back of refugees and death at the border," he wrote.

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Editor's Note: The full text of the letter can be found at www.hopeborder.org/nightwillbenomore.

 

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Indigenous woman brings message from her elders to pope as church elder

IMAGE: CNS photo/Barbara J. Fraser

By Barbara J. Fraser

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Anitalia Pijachi, an indigenous woman from the Amazonian town of Leticia, Colombia, came to the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon bringing a message from the elders of her people to Pope Francis, an elder of the Catholic Church.

The first Europeans to arrive in the Amazon were "invaders," she said. "They never asked permission of mother nature or of the people who lived there. They imposed the cross and the Bible. That caused a great deal of resentment," and in some cases forced indigenous peoples from their territories.

But when the pope, during his 2018 visit to Peru, asked Amazonian people to tell the church how it should walk with them, "that was a question that asked permission," she told Catholic News Service.

Pijachi, an Ocaina Huitoto woman who is not Catholic, said that when she heard that, she spoke to the elders of her people, who approved of her participation in presynod gatherings as long as the church respected indigenous cultures.

"The elders said that first the Catholic Church and all churches must recognize us as having a right to our own culture and customs, our own spirituality," she added. "They must not impose themselves and change" those beliefs.

For many indigenous peoples, evangelization meant relocation from their territories to church-run communities known as reductions, as well as the loss of their languages and traditions, she said. "The pain is alive and still there."

The culture and spirituality of Amazonian indigenous people remain strong "as long as we have our territory, our rivers, our sacred places, food and our seeds, the elements of our rituals," Pijachi said.

She said she sees the synod as an opportunity to talk with "a great friend, a great elder, (Pope) Francis, who can carry our voice" to places where it otherwise would not be heard.

Environmental destruction by extractive industries such as logging, mining and oil companies has been a recurring theme in the synod.

"The people who come to extract (natural resources) don't live there," Pijachi said. "They live in Europe; they live in mansions in the big cities. All they're interested in is money."

The damage to the environment "is a spiritual death and a cultural death" for indigenous people, she said, adding that some whose actions or policies result in destruction are Catholic.

"The same person who received first Communion, who was married in the church, is the one who is cutting down the forest, who does not understand respect for creation," she said. "The same one who was baptized, who went to confession, who received Communion, who goes to Mass on Sunday is the governor of a state and pays no attention" to how public policies affect people.

"I asked (the bishops), 'Is that important to you?'" she said. Pijachi addressed the synod assembly Oct. 9.

As an indigenous woman, Pijachi said, she also called for church leaders to listen to women.

During the first days of the synod, when she heard bishops refer to the "holy mother church," the words reminded Pijachi of the "maloka," the spacious, round-sided communal building where her people gather for special occasions.

The maloka, she said, "is the woman, the womb that brings her children together, the place of abundance."

Although many synod participants spoke of the important pastoral work done by women, some remained reluctant to give women a larger role, she said. That is partly because some bishops do not understand the reality of ministry in the Amazon, she added.

A priest must administer the sacrament of the sick, for example, but where there is no priest, parents will ask a religious sister to bless a dying child. She has seen sisters telephone a priest to give the blessing by phone.

"I believe it is very important that the synod give women a place in decision-making (and) the autonomy to act," she said.

"I reminded the men that they do not have to be afraid of us," Pijachi said. "The only way a man can be born is if he comes from a woman. Before he saw the light of day, he was born through a woman's vagina."

"So why, after I gave him life, I who am his mother, why does he reject me and send me off to a corner?" she asked.

In her people's creation story, Pijachi said she told the bishops, "God put man and woman together in the world ... to walk together." If the two are not working in harmony, one indigenous elder told her, "it's like walking with only one leg."

 

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Experts offer advice to help people confront anxiety over gun violence

IMAGE: CNS photo/Briana Sanche pool via Reuters

By Patricia Montana

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Firearm attacks have changed society in the United States as mass shootings have become more frequent and the public is forced to face the psychological consequences, often silently.

More than half of American adults consider mass shootings a latent threat, a Reuters/Ipsos survey in August discovered. Many respondents reported experiencing a sense of insecurity with increased levels of anxiety.

"This situation puts you on alert because you never know when or where the next massacre will happen. There is an imitation effect and it is happening very frequently," one respondent said.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said recent mass shootings reveal a terrible truth.

"We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception," they said in a statement after a pair of early August attacks in Texas and Ohio. "They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face."

Statistics from the Gun Violence Archive website show that as of Oct. 10 in the United States there have been 326 mass shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured. The shootings accounted for 363 deaths and 1,329 wounded, leaving countless families mired in pain.

After a white supremacist shooter in El Paso, Texas, sought to "kill as many Mexicans as possible" Aug. 3, fear is especially strong among Hispanic families. Mental health hangs in the balance, experts said.

"I feel that the focus of the attacks and racism is directly against us," said Edith Castillo, executive director of the Catholic Charities program El Programa Hispano in Gresham, Oregon.

Castillo, a mental health counselor, does not mince words in blaming President Donald Trump's rhetoric and federal immigration policy for some of the violence, especially against Latino people.

It's not a stretch to say that terms such as "invaders" can spark criminal actions against Hispanics, Castillo said.

"Many people have been fleeing places with a lot of violence in search of a place that gives them peace and quiet, but people are afraid of the current situation," said Elsa Tzintzun, a mental health counselor at El Programa Hispano. "This causes immigrants to feel isolated and marginalized."

Even those who were not present during an attack are affected by news reports, she said, explaining that trauma becomes an invisible and silent companion.

In 2014, after a shooting at Reynolds High School in suburban Portland, which left two students dead and a teacher wounded, El Programa Hispano offered psychological support. It was then that staff began to wonder how young people were affected by such incidents.

Tzintzun explained that after violent events it is normal for people to feel anxious and afraid; children may begin to behave differently and the changes can dampen their performance in school. The counselor listed irritability, nightmares, insomnia, tremors, sadness, apathy and lack of concentration as symptoms of fear.

Post-trauma symptoms do not necessarily mean people will develop a chronic problem, she said.

In Hispanic culture, many people think psychologists serve only those with severe mental illness or the rich, Tzintzun said. Mental health professionals who speak Spanish are also difficult to find, she said.

The professionals at El Programa Hispano offered several strategies to help manage stress and anxiety caused by violent events:

-- Physical and emotional care by eating well and on time, exercising and adequate and restful sleep.

-- Take time to pray or meditate together as a family and strengthen religious traditions.

-- Create support groups with family and friends or with community or church groups.

-- Have an action plan to increase the feeling of security, organize personal documents, have a power of attorney for your children and designate a trusted person to take charge if necessary.

-- Strengthen cultural identity by embracing one's origin, customs, traditions and values.

-- Seek counseling assistance from mental health professionals.

Tzintzun also offered suggestions on how parents can help their children:

-- Dialogue is essential, so devote time to talk -- such as during a daily meal -- to allow family members to share concerns, ask questions and discuss emotions.

-- Reaffirm safety by allowing children and young people to express their fears and concerns and help them to feel well and safe; a good way to combat fear is by providing information and cautioning children against becoming consumers of political rhetoric.

-- Limit television, internet and cellphone time in order to reduce exposure to violence and death, which can cause anxiety and distress.

-- Observe changes in behavior: Tell children that after events such as shootings it is normal to feel different; let them know that such feelings can cause misunderstandings or create tensions among family or friends. Establish guidelines that help promote respect and tolerance in the family.

-- Strengthen training in values because continuing a faith tradition can help in mental health crises.

"I think that the family is the first school of life and if a child has a solid formation in faith and values, that helps them develop a stable base for managing their emotions and facing life," Castillo said.

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Montana is editor of El Centinela, the Spanish-language newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

 

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Divine intervention: Papal tweet of support for 'Saints' goes viral

IMAGE: CNS

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church's newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints' football team.

After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope's official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: "Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession."

However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints' fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team's game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon," a Twitter user said, sharing the pope's tweet. "Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas."

"Time to put 10k on the #Saints," another Twitter user wrote.

Other fans were elated that Christ's vicar on earth was in their corner. "Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it," another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team's "Who Dat" chant.

However, people rooting for other football teams couldn't hide their dismay. "We lost the pope!" a Twitter user tweeted to the New England Patriots.

But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints' own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars.

"Couldn't lose after this," the Saints' account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. "#Blessed and highly favored."

A Vatican official confirmed Oct. 14 that use of the hashtag to trigger the "hashflag" -- the fleur-de-lis -- was a case of "accidental evangelization," but hoped that "maybe someone who didn't know will become aware that there are other 'saints' to pay attention to."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Update: Banners unfurled as faithful share stories of five saints

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican hung banners of the Catholic Church's newly canonized saints four days before the Mass that officially recognized they are in heaven with God.

While the hanging of the banners Oct. 10 did not coincide with the Mass, it did coincide with the kickoff of exhibits, conferences, prayer vigils and other celebrations focused on the new saints from Brazil, England, India, Italy and Switzerland.

For the dozens of Brazilians at the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, most of the attention was on St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce.

Born in 1914, she was a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and founded the first Catholic workers' organization in the state of Bahia, started a health clinic for poor workers and opened a school for working families. She created a hospital, an orphanage and care centers for the elderly and disabled and became known as "the mother of the poor."

St. John Paul II, who called her work "an example for humanity,'' met her in 1980 during his first trip to Brazil and, returning in 1991, he visited her in the hospital. She died in 1992 at the age of 77 with tens of thousands attending her funeral and even more gathering for her beatification in 2011.

Among English-speakers, though, most of the attention was on St. John Henry Newman, the theologian, poet and cardinal who lived from 1801 to 1890.

Sally Axworthy, British ambassador to the Holy See, led the inauguration Oct. 10 of an exhibit about the four visits St. John Newman made to Rome: first as an Anglican, then as a Catholic seminarian, later as founder of the first communities in England of the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, and finally, when he came to be made a cardinal in 1879.

The canonization was causing a lot of excitement in England, she said, and Prince Charles planned to travel to the Vatican for the Mass Oct. 13.

"Cardinal Newman was really a very important figure. He was a giant of the 19th century," Axworthy said.

"The first half of his life he was Anglican, and he was a major figure in the Anglican Church," influencing the church to draw more deeply from its Catholic roots and from the early Christian theologians, Axworthy said. "He defined Anglicanism as a middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism."

Once he joined the Catholic Church, she said, "he had a similarly great impact" on this new community, "particularly with his ideas on the development of doctrine, which I understand opened the way to Vatican II, and also his ideas about conscience, about conscience being the voice of God in every one of us."

Cardinal Newman already is honored as a saint on the Anglican calendar -- on Aug. 11, the day of his death. His feast day on the Catholic calendar is Oct. 9, the date he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 44.

In London on the eve of Cardinal Newman's beatification in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said the cardinal had been an "important influence" in his own life and thought.

At the beatification Mass the next day in Birmingham, England, Pope Benedict paid special tribute to the future saint's vision of education, which combined intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment.

He quoted the theologian's appeal for a well-instructed laity and said it should serve as a goal for catechists today: "I want a laity not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."

The three others canonized Oct. 13 were:

-- St. Marguerite Bays, a laywoman from Switzerland known for her service to the poor, her simplicity of life and her devoted faith in the face of great physical suffering. St. Bays also was known as a mystic and for bearing the stigmata of Christ. She died in 1879 at the age of 63.

St. John Paul II beatified her in 1995, lauding her as an example for all lay Catholics. "She was a very simple woman with a very normal life," he had said. "She did not accomplish anything extraordinary, yet her existence was a long and silent progression on the path toward holiness."

-- St. Josephine Vannini, an Italian who co-founded the Daughters of St. Camillus, adding to the usual vows -- poverty, chastity and obedience -- a fourth, which is to serve the sick, even if it means risking death.

Born in 1859, she was orphaned at a young age and was sent to live with the Daughters of Charity, an order she later applied to join. After leaving the novitiate because of illness, though, she was not readmitted. She and her spiritual director, Blessed Luigi Tezza, founded the Daughters of St. Camillus. She died in 1911.

-- St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, the Indian founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, a religious order dedicated to helping couples and families and serving the poor, the sick and the dying. Born in 1876 to a well-off farming family, she insisted on living a life of austerity, sleeping on the gravel floor instead of a bed, for instance.

When she received the stigmata in 1909, her bishop ordered that an exorcism be performed. But she continued with her prayer life and serving local families.

Under direction of the local bishop in 1913, her spiritual director set up a "house of solitude" where St. Thresia could go to pray. Three friends joined her in the house, and in 1914, she received canonical permission to launch the Congregation of the Holy Family. She died in 1926.

 

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Kindly lights in gloomy world: Pope declares five new saints

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Saints are people who recognized their need for God's help, who took risks to discover God's will and to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said.

"The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?" the pope said in his homily Oct. 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church.

Those canonized at the Mass were: St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal who died in 1890; Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911.

"Three of them were religious women," the pope noted in his homily. "They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world."

"St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving," he said.

Rather than describing St. Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of "the holiness of daily life": "The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not .... The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense ... with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man."

And, referencing St. Newman's famous hymn, "Lead, Kindly Light," the pope prayed that all Christians would be "'kindly lights' amid the encircling gloom."

Tens of thousands of people filled a sunny St. Peter's Square for the canonization ceremony and Mass. Among them were Britain's Prince Charles, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Martins Mourao, a member of Switzerland's federal council and the deputy foreign minister of India.

Melissa Villalobos from Chicago also was there with her husband and children, and they brought up the offertory gifts at the Mass. Villalobos' healing, which saved her life and the life of her unborn child, was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Newman's canonization.

Hours before the Mass began, Holy Family Sisters Manjula and Aruna stood just outside the security checkpoint, handing out Indian flags, rosaries and prayer cards, caps and scarves with the image of their order's founder, St. Thresia.

The new saint's focus, and that of her order today, is assisting families, said Sister Manjula, whose ministry is "counseling and visiting houses and helping solve problems. We help all families -- non-Christian, non-Catholic, anyone."

Gregory K. Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, was representing his university at the Mass, but his presence was very personal, too.

"Newman is important to me theologically and for my spirituality," he said. "And I like his conversion story" of how, as an Anglican priest, he became a Catholic at the age of 44. "I became a Catholic 13 years ago, and Newman was an important guide. He converted, but maintained his friendships, his respect and love for the tradition that he left."

"I'm an ecumenical convert as well," Hillis said. "I'm tired of converts who hate the tradition they left."

An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion.

"His legacy is far broader than one church or two churches," the archbishop said. "It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God."

St. Newman's role in founding the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, a push to rediscover the early Christian writers and to recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism, "had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial and important influence on Anglicanism," Archbishop Welby said.

As is his custom at Mass, including at canonizations, Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on the day's Scripture readings and only made passing reference to the people being declared saints.

The day's short Gospel reading from Luke recounted the story of 10 lepers who, seeing Jesus approach, cry out to him for healing. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests and, as they go, they are healed. But only one returns to thank Jesus.

"Like those lepers," Pope Francis said, "we, too, need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think."

The story also illustrates how, "on the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights," he said. "Faith calls for a journey, a 'going out' from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbors and our cozy nests."

And, finally, he said, the story teaches that returning to Jesus with a heart full of gratitude is the culmination of the journey of faith.

"To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith," the pope said. "To say 'Thank you, Lord' when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed, that is the best way to keep our hearts young.

"This also holds true for families, and between spouses," he added. "Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all."

 

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Immigrant domestic abuse victims fear reporting abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Catholic Charities

By Katie Scott

PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Amid changing immigration laws and deportation threats, advocates and lawyers have seen a decrease in immigrants who are victims of domestic violence seeking help and reporting abuse to law enforcement.

Staff and partner agencies of Catholic Charities of Oregon -- the largest nonprofit immigration legal services provider in the state -- have particularly witnessed this fallout.

"People are worried about calling the police because they believe they will turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement," said Manuel Gutierrez, a victim advocate with a Catholic Charities partner agency in Umatilla.

Last spring, seven national organizations, including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, co-sponsored a survey of nearly 600 immigration attorneys and advocates across the country. More than 76% reported that immigrant survivors have concerns about contacting police.

Catholic Charities frequently hosts information sessions for immigrants in rural Oregon to provide free legal assistance to victims. Typically, "the room is full of people," said attorney Sarah Purce, assistant director of the nonprofit's Immigration Legal Services, who said no one came to the last event.

On average, victims of domestic violence -- primarily women -- make seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship before staying away for good, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Fear of an abuser's retaliation, embarrassment and a lack of financial resources to provide for children often makes victims stay, said Norma Obrist, a victim advocate with Tides for Change, which provides shelter and support for victims in Tillamook.

Even without deportation threats, survivors in the Hispanic immigrant community confront additional hurdles, Obrist said, noting that a limited knowledge of English makes it difficult to connect with already-limited Spanish-language resources.

For victims from Central and South American cultures, there also can be "a sense of male privilege, that men have this power and control," said Obrist. She said a high percentage of Hispanic immigrant victims are Catholic, and some mistakenly think it's sinful to leave an abusive marriage.

Those without legal documentation face even greater barriers.

"One of the primary things we hear when we talk to undocumented survivors is that their partner will call ICE on them if they leave," Purce said.

Domestic abusers threatening their victims with immigration consequences is nothing new, but a broader anxiety now exits, said Obrist.

Catholic Charities does not have figures on how many victims are too scared to contact the police or testify against their abuser, "but anecdotally we hear from those who are too afraid to go to court," said Purce.

The long-standing sanctuary law in Oregon says local law enforcement officers are not supposed to contact ICE, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, if they believe an individual lacks legal documentation but has committed no other crime.

"But there aren't repercussions if they do contact ICE," Purce said. So while immigrants without legal documentation in Oregon have more protections than those in other states, their fears are not unfounded.

Those in rural areas also face challenges with getting help, said Obrist pointing out the isolation, lack of cellphone reception and public transportation.

There's also a lack of support and legal expertise in rural communities -- which is why Catholic Charities of Oregon has taken its Immigration Legal Services on the road.

Catholic Charities offers low-cost legal services to immigrants who are victims of domestic violence in Portland and in recent years it has also received a grant through the U.S. Department of Justice to reach the same demographic in rural areas.

But the $1.1 million three-year grant was recently reduced by $350,000, cutting the four-attorney staff to three. The Oregon Law Foundation had provided a two-year grant to partially augment the loss, but that ended in September, shrinking the program to two attorneys.

"It's definitely hard to keep services at the same level with reduced funding," Purce told the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

One legal option for abuse victims without legal documentation is the U visa. Established by the federal government in 2000, they offer a temporary legal status and a path toward citizenship for victims of violent crime, including domestic violence. To be eligible, a survivor must somehow aid law enforcement, for example reporting the crime or testifying in court.

Obtaining legal status can be "life-changing for a victim and help them build a safe life for themselves and their families," Purce said. "Not being able to drive away yourself, make your own money to feed your children; they are really trapped." With a U visa, survivors receive work authorization, so they can work legally, obtain a Social Security number and get a driver's license.

Before six months ago, victims could apply for the visa without risk of deportation if the claim was denied. Now, they will be placed in removal proceedings if they do not have legal documents and withdraw their application, or if it is denied, explained Purce.

"You tell them, 'Here's a potential thing that might help you in 10 years, but it might put you in removal proceedings. Do you want it?'"

Millet Vargas, an immigrant from Mexico, lacked legal documentation when she discovered her partner was abusing her 5-year-old daughter. But she knew what she wanted to do.

"There was no hesitation about contacting the police," said 43-year-old Vargas, a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton. "I didn't think about my legal status; I was just thinking about my child."

She stayed in her car hiding from her abuser while waiting for the police to apprehend him. In the back seat was her oldest daughter, her toddler and her 5-month-old.

"What happened is so painful it is hard to explain the feelings," she said, adding that her faith kept her moving forward.

Vargas eventually connected with Immigration Legal Services, and with the agency's help obtained a U visa. Because her abused daughter was a minor, Vargas could be included in an application. She became a U.S. citizen in 2016.

"What I received from Catholic Charities was priceless," said Vargas, who has started her own business and has seen her oldest daughter off to college. "For me, it's the American dream."

Vargas never questions her decision to call the police. She said if the current restrictive U visa directives had been in place when she applied, she might not have taken the risk to become a citizen.

"I would've been afraid of what would happen to me, that my family would be separated," she said.

Vargas said she worries about the victims who will not leave abusers due to fear of deportation or family separation. "I know that because immigrants are scared a lot of women will continue to live in terrible situations -- their children, too."

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Scott is special projects reporter at the Catholic Sentinel, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Portland.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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 cns@catholicnews.com.