Browsing News Entries

Benedictines provide an 'oasis' of silence, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 19, 2018 / 09:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to members of Benedictine communities in Rome Thursday, Pope Francis said the religious order provides a space for quiet and prayer in an otherwise rushed world, helping people to put God at the center of their lives.

“In this age, when people are so busy that they do not have enough time to listen to God’s voice, your monasteries and convents become like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence,” the pope said April 19.

At monasteries people can rediscover themselves, “in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore a proper order in their lives.”

Pope Francis met with around 400 members of the Benedictine Confederation, a union of monastic congregations and the international governing body of the Order of Saint Benedict, for the 125th anniversary of its establishment by Leo XIII in 1893.

Francis said the reason St. Benedict is called “a luminous star,” in the words of St. Gregory the Great, is that in his time, “marked by a profound crisis of values and institutions,” he was able to discern “between the essential and the secondary in the spiritual life, placing the Lord firmly at the center.”

In the midst of Easter, he pointed out that there are some aspects of the liturgical season that are part of the everyday life of Benedictines, such as “the announcement and the surprise, the prompt response, and the heart willing to receive the gifts of God.”

“Saint Benedict asks you in his Rule to ‘put absolutely nothing before Christ’, so that you will always be vigilant, today, ready to listen to him and follow him meekly,” he stated, noting that one of the ways they do this is through their attention to liturgy.

“Your love for the liturgy, as a fundamental work of God in monastic life, is essential above all for yourselves, allowing you to be in the living presence of the Lord; and it is precious for the whole Church,” he said.

The pope also referred to the Benedictine motto of “Ora et labora et lege,” which is realized, first, in their prayer and their meditation on the Word of God through lectio divina, he said. By first listening to God’s voice in prayer, they can also live out constant and joyful obedience.

“Prayer generates in our hearts, willing to receive the amazing gifts that God is always ready to give us, a spirit of renewed fervor that leads us, through our daily work, to seek the sharing of the gifts of God’s wisdom with others,” he continued.

He praised, in particular, the work Benedictines do within their communities, for people who visit their monasteries or convents searching for God, and for those who study in Benedictine-run schools and universities.

“The Benedictines are known to be ‘a school of the service of the Lord,’” he said. “I urge you to give the students, together with the necessary concepts and knowledge, the tools so that they can grow in the wisdom that drives them to continually seek God in their lives.”

In Haiti, Catholic Relief Services builds hospital to last

Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Apr 19, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The tremor lasted less than a minute. Dr. Jude Banatte’s car was shaking, and then it was not.

Banatte assumed he was driving too fast as he made his way home from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince that day in January 2010. He slowed down.

But while the tremor Banatte experienced 30 minutes outside of Port-au-Prince was barely enough to shake a car, the earthquake at its epicenter had wrought large-scale devastation and would soon bring Banatte to the project that would have a hand in redefining healthcare aid in Haiti.

Before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, St. Francis de Sales Hospital was a mainstay outreach of the Catholic Church in Haiti. The nearly 100-bed facility, run by the archdiocese, was established in 1881 in the heart of downtown Port-au-Prince. The hospital served a population of about 3.3 million; including the city’s poorest and most vulnerable populations.

About 70 percent of St. Francis de Sales was destroyed in the earthquake, including the hospital’s maternity and pediatric wards. Dozens of its patients and staff were killed, along with the archbishop of Port-au-Prince, who was a member of the hospital’s board of directors.

“We...realized that the hospital was pretty much destroyed,” said Banatte, who was the program manager for Catholic Relief Services in Haiti and was one of the first responders after the 2010 earthquake, which damaged or leveled thousands of buildings in Port-au-Prince and killed an estimated 230,000 people.

“We had to make a decision, because a lot of people came to that site looking for assistance, for medical care,” he told CNA. “Where were we going to send them?”

The hospital’s medical director initially believed closing was the only option. The infrastructure was no longer there to meet the needs of the community. But the hospital decided to stay open after a team of Flemish doctors arrived, looking for ways to help.

“I automatically became some sort of ad hoc chief medical officer,” Banatte said.  

Banatte and his team used the hospital’s remaining generator to reconnect power to the field hospital. They found plumbers to help re-establish running water. A team of firefighters dug a path through the remnants of the hospital, and Banatte crawled through this path to retrieve critical medical supplies.

“I would go into that space and find my way through the walls - under the rubble - bringing back what I thought was useful depending on the cases I saw outside in the parking lot,” Banatte said.

A trained physician, Banatte was able to recognize the equipment medical volunteers in the field hospital would need. He went into the rubble and emerged with material for sterilization, profusions, materials from the blood bank.

Within two days of the earthquake, the hospital’s courtyard and parking lot had been transformed into a makeshift field hospital complete with triage, operation rooms with plastic ceilings, and a post-operation ward. The goal was to provide immediate, emergency medical assistance to victims of the earthquake, including open-air surgeries to save limbs.

On the first day, they served 50 patients.

“When people started to know that services were being offered at St. Francis de Sales...even more people started to come,” Banatte said.

As the number of patients rose, so did the number of volunteers and services. A trauma team from the University of Maryland-Baltimore arrived to the site within weeks of the earthquake and set up tents over the field hospital. The team of volunteers then performed more than 1,000 surgeries.

By summer, the Church moved the field hospital to another site, leveled what remained of the historic St. Francis de Sales Hospital and began discussions of rebuilding. It soon became clear that if they were going to rebuild, they would have to be smart about it.

“Healthcare in Haiti is notoriously not good,” said Robyn Fieser, communications officer for CRS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“I think people started talking pretty quickly about the need - if you’re gonna build this back, and build it back well - the need for long-term training and support for the future doctors and nurses.”

Then there was the question of CRS’ involvement. The organization has served in Haiti since 1954. The nation was one of its biggest programs, with education and literary initiatives, agriculture and several health and nutrition initiatives.But emergency relief had always been at the core of CRS’ business, not hospitals and healthcare.

“We were really skeptical,” Banatte said. “There were a lot of emotions. But we also thought it was the best way to honor the memory of the archbishop and to help the Church get back on its feet.”

CRS also already had an established relationship with the hospital. Prior to the earthquake, Banatte was working to develop an infectious disease post-graduate program at the hospital, in partnership with the University of Maryland-Baltimore and the Haitian University of Notre Dame.

By the end of the year, CRS committed to managing the $22 million reconstruction project; in partnership with the local archdiocese, the Catholic Health Association and the Dominican Republic-based nonprofit Sur Futura Foundation.

It was clear that if they were going to rebuild the hospital, they would have to rebuild it to last.

“What will set it up to run for the next 50 years without having to depend on constant support and subsidy from the outside?” Banatte said.

Banatte and his team did extensive research into soil assessment and earthquake standards. They met with Partners in Health, which was constructing a similar 300-bed facility, to get recommendations for contractors.

They also began an economic feasibility study, which Banatte said was key to the success of the hospital.

“The Church used to have this hospital providing charity care in the most needed areas of Port-au-Prince,” Banatte said. “The Church wanted to be back in a position to be able to do so, but not to be running out of bankruptcy.”

“As we are rebuilding the walls, we also have to rebuild the mentality, the way the Church would conceive the delivery of high-quality care in a charitable way. The construction followed that business model.”

They developed a system of public and private care to ensure private care - which makes up about 25% of the hospital today - would subsidize free care. The hospital also has its own oxygen plant and it sells tanks of oxygen as a revenue stream.

Another key component was training for the medical staff. Banatte and his team hired a new medical director, whom they sent to the U.S. to observe the operation of other hospitals. The new medical director also met with suppliers to ensure St. Francis de Sales would receive the correct supplies in the future.

St. Francis de Sales Hospital officially reopened in January of 2015, with a blessing ceremony attended by CRS’ then-CEO, Carolyn Woo, and the then-president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz.

The hospital has almost twice the original number of beds. It has its own emergency room and its staff uses electronic medical records. The hospital continues to open new departments, including physical therapy units, to serve Port-au-Prince’s most vulnerable populations.

Once construction was completed, CRS handed St. Francis de Sales back to the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince. The hospital is still independently operated by the archdiocese and all doctors and nurses are locals.

CRS’ country representative in Haiti, Chris Bessey, said the St. Francis de Sales project was unique to CRS, but it was a natural outgrowth of the organization’s focus on providing healthcare to vulnerable populations.

“It was the only time CRS led a $22 million project in one place that would last the next 50 years,” Banatte said.

For Banatte, the hospital’s reopening was a dream come true.

“It was a blessing that I was able to be there from ‘Day 1’ to that point,” Banatte said. “It was also living proof that together, we are stronger. And together, we can achieve many things out of our differences.”

 

This article is Part 1 of a series commemorating Catholic Relief Services’ 75th anniversary.

Greeks for God: College ministry brings fraternities, sororities to Christ

Denver, Colo., Apr 19, 2018 / 12:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fraternities and sororities are widely known for two things on a college campus.

These communities, collectively known as Greek life, are known for attracting some of the highest achieving and most involved students. Some of the world’s most influential leaders, including numerous U.S. presidents, 40 Supreme Court justices, a majority of the members of Congress, and 43 out of 50 of the world’s most powerful CEOs were once involved in Greek life during their college years.  

But there is a flipside: Anyone who has been to college, or has seen movies about American college life, knows the stereotype of fraternities and sororities as the powerhouses of the party scene and hookup culture on a college campus.

Studies have shown that Greek college students are more likely to binge drink than their non-Greek peers, and are also twice as likely to engage sexually with someone without their consent.

It is within this intense culture of both achievement and partying that missionaries with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) embed themselves, building friendships with Greek students and inviting them to bible studies, Mass, and a relationship with Christ.

“We’re just trying to meet people where they’re at in the beginning, so we’re going onto campus and finding people where they’re naturally going to be hanging out already,” Katie Moran, a FOCUS Greek missionary at the University of Alabama, told CNA.

“So we’re going to their philanthropies and going to their fraternity and sorority houses and places where they’re going to spend their time,” she said.

According to their mission statement, FOCUS “is a Catholic collegiate outreach whose mission is to share the hope and joy of the gospel with college and university students...FOCUS missionaries encounter students in friendship where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accompanying them as they pursue lives of virtue and excellence.”

FOCUS’ main methods of outreach include bible studies, one-on-one student-missionary mentorships known as discipleships, mission trips, and other events. Within the organization, there are subgroups designed to reach more specific groups of students - such as FOCUS Greek for Greek students, or Varsity Catholic for student athletes.

The ultimate goal is to unite all students together at the Catholic Church, Moran said, but FOCUS Greek (and other subgroups) “helps expose (students) to others in Greek life who are experiencing the same things, and helps them to have a community of people striving for faith within the Greek community.”  

Moran has worked with FOCUS Greek on two different college campuses in the South. She said that while students in the South are fairly open to talking about Jesus, it can be a challenge to convince Greek students to prioritize their faith in their already-busy schedules.

“Naturally they’re all very strong leaders and involved not just in their house but in student government and other organizations on campus, and they have to have a certain GPA to be in a sorority or fraternity, so time is very limited,” she said.

Ashley Summerford was a nursing student and a member of Chi Omega sorority at the University of Alabama when she was first invited by friends to join Moran’s bible study.

While she wasn’t living according to her Catholic faith at the time, Summerford said that Moran’s friendship and bible study transformed her outlook on how she could live as a Catholic on a college campus.

“FOCUS helps us prioritize God into our college schedule and...talk to other college students about God without feeling uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s been really helpful to get students together to talk about God and how to live out your faith on a day-to-day basis.”

Now a senior, Summerford is putting her nursing career on hold for now and will join FOCUS as a missionary, where she hopes to continue to do more outreach with Greek college students.

“I’m excited to help college students live out their faith...because I needed that when I was in college,” she said. “Becoming a part of FOCUS Greek taught me way more (about living as a Catholic) than I would have ever been able to learn on my own.”

Alex Sanchez is a FOCUS Greek missionary at Kansas State University, and has served as a FOCUS Greek missionary on other college campuses for the past four years. While he was not Greek during his own undergraduate years, Sanchez says he thinks the FOCUS Greek ministry model is successful because it meets students in their natural environment and takes advantage of some of the positive aspect of Greek life.

“It just leverages what’s already in place,” he told CNA. “It’s a college-based ministry so the ministry looks at how the college campus is structured and it sends its missionaries strategically into these places as well. It acknowledges that the Greek world is really big on campus so it’s kind of like St. Paul, becoming all things to all people.”

Greek students, while they might not be in the most morally virtuous environments in their sororities or fraternities, are typically highly committed and loyal people, which are natural virtues that can be built upon in the Christian life, Sanchez said.

“A lot of Greek students go all out for their fraternity or sorority - they wear the letters, they go to the meetings, they’re committed to showing up to all the events, they’re committed to recruiting...and they’re contagious as well, they want to share what they have and bring other people to it, which is just a very natural foundation to build discipleship,” Sanchez said.

This year, Sanchez also got to serve as the master of ceremonies for a Legacy conference, the first conferences offered by FOCUS specifically for Greek students.

“It was for all Greek students but especially those on the fringe,” Sanchez said, “so it was cool because students who wouldn’t necessarily come to other conferences felt like this was a true open door. We had a lot of students who hadn’t gone to a bible study all year, had never gone to a conference, be open to coming.”

The conference was based on the basic questions of “What is the Christian life?” and “What does it look like to live the Christian life on a college campus?”

Summerford also attended a Legacy conference, and she said it was inspiring to be surrounded by Greek students who were all seeking God in some way.

“Just looking around when we’re in adoration and seeing other college students on their knees praying and realizing that you’re not alone when you’re living out your faith is really cool,” she said, “and I think that the conferences do a really good job of teaching us but also bringing us together.”

While Greek students often have the natural virtues of leadership and commitment, Sanchez added that FOCUS missionaries also address with their students what they call “The Big Three”: chastity, sobriety, and excellence.

“Obviously it can be a stereotype, but it’s also a reality that when you have a whole bunch of men or women living together there can be a lot of partying, drinking, the hookup culture, just really poor relationships in general,” Sanchez said.

There’s also the tendency to prioritize Greek life above all other commitments and to give in to moral temptation in order “to fit in, rather than to follow the relationship with the Lord,” Sanchez said.

But once Greek students start becoming friends with missionaries and seeing the fruits of the Gospel in their houses, they can become some of the most powerful evangelizers, Sanchez added.

Sanchez said that one of his students was leading a bible study in his fraternity, and one day realized that fraternity’s president, vice president and recruitment chair were all a part of his study.

“He was started to realize - wow, if I really share the Gospel with these guys, it can change the entire culture of this fraternity from top to bottom and start to create good men who desire to follow the Lord,” he said.

“So it just clicked with him that once he started to really live for the Lord and allow the Lord into these relationships that he already had with these men, it would completely change the culture of the fraternity for God.”

“Once students in fraternities and sororities are reached, they just have such strong natural virtue and personal drive, that once they do have an encounter with the Lord, they can become huge witnesses on campus.”

 

Hartford archdiocese, Knights of Columbus partner to aid Islamic State victims

Hartford, Conn., Apr 18, 2018 / 10:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a partnership with the Knights of Columbus, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Hartford are fundraising money to aid the religious minorities persecuted by the Islamic State.

The Knights have supplied olive wood solidarity crosses, manufactured in the Middle East, to raise financial support for Christian towns in Iraq and Syria.

Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson applauded the cooperation of the Hartford archdiocese, particularly its high schools.

“We are very grateful to the Archdiocese of Hartford for its support of those who have been persecuted for their faith in the Middle East, and we have been truly inspired by these high school students who have taken time and energy to learn about this important issue and raise money to help,” he said in an April 15 statement.

All nine of Hartford’s Catholic high schools have sought to educate their students on Islamic State terrorism and the victims involved. Each school has also adopted a town in the Middle East to keep within their prayers.

At an April 15 Mass at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, Catholic leaders applauded the project on its efforts to promote Catholic solidarity and preserve Christian culture. In his homily, Bishop Bawair Soro of the Chaldean Eparchy of Mar Addai of Toronto expressed his gratitude.

“The message that I have for the Knights of Columbus is one of admiration, that you are amazing. We thank you,” the bishop said.

“We are encouraged by your model, please continue. I know many of the good things that have been done have been influencing us and I know that what you see publicly is only 10 percent of the things that the Knights have been doing. We pray that this will continue and God bless you all.”  

A question-and-answer session followed the Mass. In attendance were Stephen Rasche, Counsel to Chaldean Archeparchy of Erbil; Bishop Soro; Archbishop Leonard Blair of Harford; and Andrew Walther, the Knights of Columbus' vice president for communications and strategic planning.

“Our mission is to preserve the word and example of Christ in the Middle East, and this we are committed to do, whatever the cost,” said Rasche. “In this, we are grateful for the support and solidarity we have received from our brothers and sisters in Connecticut and elsewhere.”

In the past, the Knights have advocated for projects to aid Middle Eastern Christians. Since 2014, the organization has contributed $19 million to support the victims of the Islamic State. In 2016, the Knights of Columbus  campaigned for the U.S. Congress and Department of State to recognize the persecutions as an act of genocide.

In Alabama, EWTN remembers Bishop Foley’s service to the Church

Birmingham, Ala., Apr 18, 2018 / 04:38 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The death of Birmingham’s Bishop Emeritus David Foley prompted tributes from those he served, including the EWTN Global Catholic Network, where he served as a board member and television show host.

 
“All of us at EWTN are saddened by the death of the Most Reverend David Foley who served the Diocese of Birmingham as Bishop for over a decade,” Michael P. Warsaw, Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Alabama-based EWTN Global Catholic Network, said April 18.
 
“I had the privilege of first knowing Bishop Foley thirty years ago when he was a pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Warsaw continued. “Throughout his life and wherever his service to the Church took him, he was always known for his keen intellect, pastoral sensitivity and powerful preaching.”
 
“May God reward him for his life of service to the Church, and may he rest in peace,” he said.

Bishop Foley, who according to news reports had been fighting cancer, passed away Tuesday evening at the St. John Vianney Residence for Priests at the age of 88.

Foley served as Bishop of Birmingham from 1994 until his retirement in 2005. The Diocese of Birmingham said the bishop had a very active retirement.
 
“Bishop Foley’s retirement was in name only: he never stopped being a priest, which was the true love of his life. He would spend Christmas and Thanksgiving at prisons, celebrate Mass for any priest for any reason in any parish at any time, and would regularly help with confirmations,” the diocese said in a statement.
 
“Always humble, he quietly continued his ministry, which included visiting the sick at hospitals each week and celebrating Mass once a week for the elderly unable to travel,” said the diocese. “He lived a full and happy life as a priest, setting an example to all on how to live fearlessly following Christ.”
 
Bishop Foley and Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, foundress of EWTN Global Catholic Network, had been friends. Warsaw noted that Bishop Foley served on the EWTN Board of Governors.
 
“He also took great joy in hosting ‘Pillars of Faith,’ a weekly live call-in television program that examined the Catechism of the Catholic Church from cover to cover,” said Warsaw.
 
“Despite their occasional disagreements, when Mother Angelica suffered her stroke and brain hemorrhage in 2001, Bishop Foley was one of the first to be at her bedside and he remained a frequent visitor to pray for her,” Warsaw continued. “He never wavered in his respect for all that Mother had accomplished and was always supportive of the Network she founded.”
 
Born in 1930, Foley was ordained a priest May 26, 1956 by Washington Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle in Saint Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He served in various parishes for 30 years.
 
In 1986, he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He was installed as the third Bishop of Birmingham in 1994. He stepped down in 2005 upon reaching 75 years of age, but served as administrator of the Diocese of Birmingham until Bishop Robert Baker was installed as bishop in 2007.
 
Bishop Foley’s body will be received at Birmingham’s Cathedral of Saint Paul on Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by hourly prayers until 6:30 p.m. A rosary will be held at 4 p.m. Bishop Baker will preside over a Vesper service at 6:30 p.m., at which Abbot Cletus Meagher of St. Bernard Abbey will preach.
 
Bishop Foley’s Mass of Christian Burial will take place at the cathedral on Monday April 23 at 11 a.m. Archbishop Thomas Rodi of Mobile will preside at the Mass. Burial will take place in the cathedral’s courtyard.
 
Memorial contributions are requested to be sent to the Birmingham diocese’s Seminarian Education Fund.

Buffer zones and abortion clinics: why this English bishop is concerned

Portsmouth, England, Apr 18, 2018 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a London borough passed an ordinance earlier this month establishing a buffer zone around a local abortion clinic, Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth said he was concerned by the unjust measure.

The Ealing Council, which serves the west London borough, voted April 10 to enforce a Public Space Protection Order, which effectively bans public prayer and counselors who assist women within 100 meters of the Marie Stopes clinic, a leading abortion provider in London which performs around 7,000 abortions annually.

“I am deeply concerned about the imposition of ‘no-prayer zones’ around clinics where abortions take place,” Bishop Egan said April 18.

“To remove from the environment of the abortion clinics alternative voices is to limit freedom of choice. Indeed, research shows that many women have been grateful for the last-minute support they have thereby received,” Egan continued.

The Portsmouth bishop went on to call the ruling “disrespectful to vulnerable women,” who can be gravely harmed by an abortion procedure. He also lamented the removal of peaceful prayer near the abortion clinics, which he called crucial for women considering abortions or who have experienced abortions.

“…prayer is crucial: for forgiveness, for healing, for reparation, for the dear mothers and fathers involved, for the safety and protection of the unborn child and for the conversion of the medical staff who are complicit,” Egan said.

Auxiliary Bishop John Sherrington of Westminster also expressed his dismay in February over the buffer zone before it was passed, noting that buffer zones come with the danger of “denying freedom of expression and fostering intolerance toward legitimate opinions which promote the common good.”

“It should not be necessary to limit the freedom of individuals or groups to express opinions…” Sherrington continued.

The buffer zone was originally sought after by the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in response to members of the Good Counsel Network, a pro-life group, who prayed and offered counseling outside its clinic. Marie Stopes made claims that the counselors and those praying harassed and intimidated the women seeking abortions.

The recent ruling was applauded by members of the London abortion clinic. Richard Bentley, managing director of Marie Stopes UK, called the measure a “landmark decision for women.”

Bentley also noted that other councils around the UK were looking into similar measures around abortion clinics.

However, the Good Counsel Network denied the allegations of harassment, noting that their organization has aided over 1,000 women in the past six years outside of abortion clinics.

“I am dismayed, but not surprised, by Ealing Council’s decision to ban offers of help outside the abortion center here,” said Elizabeth Howard of the Good Counsel Network, according to the Catholic Sentinel.

“Hundreds of women over the years have accepted help and are grateful for the chance to keep their babies,” Howard continued, saying the ruling will “harm vulnerable women who need our assistance.”

The buffer zone will be legally enforced starting April 23, and offenders against the ruling could be fined or prosecuted under the ordinance. Some pro-life groups are expected to challenge the decision of the council in the coming months.

“The imposition of ‘no-prayer zones’ outside clinics – I mean prayerful vigil, not militant or disruptive action – is unhelpful, unjust and unnecessary,” Egan said.

Critics blast US crackdown on protected Vietnamese immigrants

Washington D.C., Apr 18, 2018 / 02:54 pm (CNA).- Thousands of Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. who were previously protected under an agreement largely for refugees fleeing post-war Vietnam could face detention and deportation in coming months.

The Trump administration’s efforts to remove the Vietnamese immigrants, many of whom have lived in the U.S. for decades, have drawn sharp criticism from immigration advocates.

“Often folks are being deported to dangerous situations and a country where they know neither the language nor have any community connections any longer,” Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Justice and Peace from the Diocese of Orange, Calif. told CNA.

“Will families have the ability to make arrangements for them to be received in the country to which they are returned?” he asked. “These are all questions that in the haste to show a ‘tough on immigration’ approach, the U.S. government is casting aside humanitarian concerns and the dignity of the human persons involved.”

Walgenbach said individuals should have the chance to have their cases reviewed to see if anything has changed that might allow them to stay. Families should be able to communicate with their members and given time to make arrangements.

“Especially until immigration laws are changed to be more compassionate and just, the human dignity of every immigrant must be upheld,” said Walgenbach, whose diocese has a large Vietnamese community.

A 2008 repatriation agreement between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments states that Vietnamese citizens are not subject to return to Vietnam if they arrived in the U.S. before July 12, 1995 – the date when the two governments re-established diplomatic relations. Much of this population consists of refugees who fled post-war Vietnam, fearing persecution under the communist government.

Vietnam refuses to take back immigrants who fall under the agreement, meaning that those who have been detained with final deportation orders are in a legal limbo.

Most of the 1.3 million Vietnamese immigrants in the U.S. are legal residents and not in danger of deportation.

But about 8,600 of them are under final deportation orders and are at risk of imminent detention. Of these, 7,821 have criminal convictions, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told Reuters.

However, Ted Osius, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam from 2014 to October 2017, said that “[t]he majority targeted for deportation—sometimes for minor infractions—were war refugees who had sided with the United States, whose loyalty was to the flag of a nation that no longer exists.”

Ambassador Osius spoke against the deportation policy in the April 2018 issue of The Foreign Service Journal, published by the American Foreign Service Association. He said U.S. government efforts against such immigrants were among the actions that had prompted him to resign.

“[T]hey were to be ‘returned’ decades later to a nation ruled by a communist regime with which they had never reconciled. I feared many would become human rights cases, and our government would be culpable.”

Many of the immigrants had supported South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese government would consider them a destabilizing force, Osius told Reuters.

“These people don’t really have a country to come back to,” he said.

Some of the immigrants had committed serious crimes, Osius acknowledged, although immigration advocates say that many of the convictions are decades old. Osius said that the repatriation agreement had meant that they would be left alone.

Immigration lawyers have said that some detained Vietnamese immigrants have been held for as long as 11 months because Immigration and Customs Enforcement cannot deport them.

Previously, arrested Vietnamese immigrants with final deportation orders who had arrived before 1995 would be released within 90 days, under supervision orders. In 2017, 71 Vietnamese people were deported to Vietnam, compared to 35 the previous year.

In February, several groups filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court seeking to challenge the indefinite detentions.

One of those detained, Hoang Trinh, came to the U.S. in 1980 at the age of four when his family fled postwar Vietnam. He became a legal resident, married and raised two children in Orange County, Calif., the Washington Post reported in March.

He has spent at least seven months in detention under Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For a 2015 drug charge he spent a year in prison, then was arrested in 2017 for possession of marijuana. He was then ordered to be removed from the U.S. Trinh is a party to the lawsuit.

Phi Nguyen, litigation director with Asian Americans Advancing Justice--Atlanta, charged that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is acting “in complete disregard for the law.”

“The only thing that has changed is that our administration wants the Vietnamese government to completely abandon the repatriation agreement.”

Nguyen said that her parents fled Vietnam after her father was imprisoned for three years, during which he suffered from forced labor and starvation.

The fate of these immigrants is a subject of international discussion. Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s East Asia bureau, said the U.S. and Vietnamese governments continue to discuss their positions on Vietnamese citizens now in the U.S.

Reuters cited a senior Vietnamese official who said Vietnam needs to accept those who went to the U.S. after the war, not as a consequence of it.

Irish archbishop: The Christian vision of family is attainable

Rome, Italy, Apr 18, 2018 / 11:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the leading organizers of this year's World Meeting of Families has said the gathering aims to show the world that living the Christian ideal of marriage and family life is not impossible, but is something realistic that can be attained.

“Our message about marriage and family, about fidelity, that God loves you personally, that human life is sacred from the first moment of conception until the moment of death, that chastity is possible for our young people,” is a message often seen as out-of-date, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh said.

Yet these messages “are achievable for people today,” he said.

“Sometimes people present the Church as being completely out of touch, but actually the Church is hugely in touch. It just wants to keep challenging people to the joy of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Martin spoke to CNA April 18 about the upcoming World Meeting of Families, which is slated to take place in Dublin Aug. 21-26.

Pope Francis will be present at the event Aug. 25-26, where he will preside over the “festival of families” and the closing Mass.

The World Meeting of Families is meant to share “the idea that family is good news, that it is a joyful message, that family is possible,” he said.

We too often “forget the huge number of families who continue faithfully to try to live out a life of love and a life of understanding and commitment to one another in very difficult or challenging circumstances,” he said.

Families, he said, are the first place where people learn to go outside of themselves through compromise and sacrifice, which goes against the individualistic mentality of global society.

“Very few families can survive individualism,” he said, explaining that one's approach to family life has to start from the perspective of love and joy, which are the heart of the Gospel.

This in turn raises questions about how much social, political and legislative support is available to families, and how challenges can arise if this support is not given.

“Why is it that so many young people will choose not to get married? Maybe because they can't get a hold of a mortgage, or because the benefit system suits them better to live as single people rather than as a couple with their children. Why is it that legislation on issues like addictions, gambling, or a whole lot of areas where family life can be destroyed, why are these not priorities in social policy-making?”

So in addition to focusing on the Gospel vision of the family, the “harder edge” of the global gathering in August will focus on how families can be supported from all levels of the Church and of society.

Some 16,000 people have registered for the event, most of whom are from overseas, Martin said.

And as the date gets closer, organizers on the ground are starting to “ratchet up” the preparations at a faster pace.

“This is an opportunity for families to meet families from other parts of the world and to learn from each other and to share with one another how we do it; how do we actually survive as a family in this crazy, complicated world,” Martin said.

Excitement is building and Ireland is ready to give the pope and the world “a hundred thousands of welcomes,” he said, using a colloquial Irish saying.

Martin said the gathering will be a time for families to come together and share their experiences, their hopes, and their challenges, without sugar-coating anything.

Acknowledging that no family is perfect, “we're not in any way trying to romanticize family love,” he said. Rather, the goal is to share the Christian vision of the family, based on hope and love, and to welcome families who are distant or who perhaps don't feel welcome, he said.

“The word 'welcome' is important,” he said, adding that for him, it is sad to hear when people say that for whatever reason, they do not feel entirely welcome in the Church.

And this goes not only for “these neuralgic issues, for example LGBT people or people living in second unions … I'm talking about people who think the Church's vision of the family is completely out of touch with reality,” Martin said.

“I would love to think that we can talk about ways of welcoming families, welcoming people who … feel that they don't measure up, or feel that unless their family is perfect, that everyone in their family is living a perfectly holy life, that they are not welcome,” he said.

To this end, he pointed to Gaudete et exsultate, Pope Francis' exhortation on the call to holiness in today's world, saying example of holiness can be found in “your mom, your grandmother, your dad. People who struggled but lived as best they could a faithful life.”

“So I think that when we think about reaching out, sometimes we think they are people way out on the margins, but often they are people who are simply trying to struggle to live a good family life everyday and who feel that somehow the Church presents an impossible ideal.”

Vatican reportedly rejects German bishops' proposal for intercommunion of spouses

Vatican City, Apr 18, 2018 / 10:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reportedly rejected a planned proposal by the German bishops' conference to publish guidelines permitting non-Catholic spouses of Catholics to receive the Eucharist in some limited circumstances.

Austrian news site kath.net has reported that Vatican sources say the CDF, with papal approval, has suspended the German bishops' proposal, and sources close to the congregation have confirmed this to CNA.

It is not clear whether the Vatican has asked the bishops' conference to modify the contents of the draft guidelines, whether they have suspended the development of a draft while the matter is considered further, or whether it has been entirely rejected.

In February, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the German bishops' conference would publish a pastoral handout for married couples that allows Protestant spouses of Catholics "in individual cases" and "under certain conditions" to receive Holy Communion, provided they "affirm the Catholic faith in the Eucharist”.

The announcement was made "after intensive debate" at the conclusion of the general assembly of the German bishops' conference, which was held Feb. 19 - 22 in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, and attended by 62 members of the bishops' conference under the leadership of conference chairman Cardinal Marx.

Last month, seven German bishops sent a letter to the CDF and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity asking for clarification on the matter. The signatories did not consult beforehand with Cardinal Marx.

The seven bishops asked whether the question of Holy Communion for Protestant spouses in interdenominational marriages can be decided on the level of a national bishops' conference, or if rather, "a decision of the Universal Church" is required in the matter.

The letter was signed by Cardinal Rainer Woelki of Cologne, Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg, Bishop Gregor Hanke of Eichstätt, Bishop Konrad Zdarsa of Augsburg, Bishop Stefan Oster of Passau, Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg, and Bishop Wolfgang Ipolt of Görlitz.

“From the view of the signatories, the goal in a question of such centrality to the Faith and the unity of the Church must be to avoid separate national paths and arrive at a globally unified, workable solution by way of an ecumenical dialogue,” the Archdiocese of Cologne told CNA Deutsch April 4.

The Code of Canon Law already provides that in the danger of death or if “some other grave necessity urges it,” Catholic ministers licitly administer penance, Eucharist, and anointing of the sick to Protestants “who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who seek such on their own accord, provided that they manifest Catholic faith in respect to these sacraments and are properly disposed.”

Father of Alfie Evans meets with pope, pleads for asylum in Italy

Vatican City, Apr 18, 2018 / 05:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A private meeting took place early Wednesday morning between Pope Francis and Tom Evans, the father of two-year-old Alfie Evans, who is currently at the center of a legal battle to keep him alive.

Tom Evans said that in the April 18 meeting, which took place at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he asked the pope for asylum in Italy for his family, so that Alfie can be moved to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to receive treatment.

Two-year-old Alfie Evans suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition and has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

In February, a court ruled that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where Evans is receiving care, could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parents' wishes, arguing that continuing treatment is not in his best interest, and that his life support should be switched off.

Despite the desire of Alfie's parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges have ruled in the hospital's favor.

“Alfie is doing really well, he's fighting very hard and we believe that he can still wake up and that he's got a lot of potential,” Evans told journalists April 18. He said that in their meeting, Pope Francis gave him a lot of sympathy and encouragement, telling him he has “strength like God.”

The pope's positivity gave him hope, Evans continued, noting that the meeting was “very confident, very calm. I was really nervous, but I just spoke the truth, spoke from my heart.”

Evans stated that he will return to Liverpool tonight to be with his son and Kate, but they are hopeful that when and if Alfie is permitted to come to Italy, the doctors will be able to diagnose and treat him.

“Just because he has a brain disability that no one knows of doesn't mean that we have to take that life away from him. As I've always said, Alfie is a child of God and he'll remain a child of God and he'll go when [God] says he'll go.”

In his statement to Pope Francis, Evans said that Alfie “is sick but not dying and does not deserve to die. He is not terminally ill nor diagnosed. We have been trying our best to find out his condition, to treat or manage it.”

“We see life and potential in our son and we want to bring him here to Italy, to the Bambino Gesù, where we know he is safe and he will not be euthanized,” the statement continues.

“When Alfie shows me and his mum any sign of suffering or dying, we will enjoy every last moment with him, but Alfie has not yet shown us he is ready to go, so we continue to fight just as he shows us to.”

At the end of the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis asked for a moment of silent prayer for Alfie, saying that he would like to “reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to the natural end, is God!”

“And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life,” he stated.

Alfie's case has drawn international attention, and protesters gathered outside his hospital last week to peacefully oppose the judicial decision to end life support.

Evans and James recently launched a new legal challenge, asking the Court of Appeal judges to continue life support and treatment for Alfie. The court officials posted their hearing for Monday, saying that a court judge has decided that Alfie could continue treatment, pending the hearing.

On Sunday Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for Alfie Evans, and others, “who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

Francis also recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”