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Updated: 57 min 44 sec ago

Miami archbishop: Fixing immigration system doesn't mean demonization

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:05pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jorge Duenes, Reuters

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Miami Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski said laws need to be changed to fix the country's broken immigration system, but in the process, immigrants should not be demonized.

"Fixing illegal immigration does not require the demonization of the so-called 'illegals,'" said Archbishop Wenski, addressing an audience at a Nov. 28 event in Miami sponsored by the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund.

"America has always been a land of promise and opportunity for those willing to work hard. We can provide for our national security and secure borders without making America, a nation of immigrants, less a land of promise or opportunity for immigrants."

His comments were posted on the Archdiocese of Miami's website.

Laws, he said, are "meant to benefit, not to enslave, mankind," and the laws in the country, regarding immigration, are too "antiquated" and "inadequate" to deal with the problem.

"Outdated laws, ill adapted to the increasing interdependence of our world and the globalization of labor, are bad laws," the archbishop said.

Proposed changes, or laws, should consider human dignity and the national interest, he said, otherwise, "bad laws will be replaced by worse ones."

He mentioned Rosa Parks, as well as "patriots" who participated in the Boston Tea Party in 1773, as examples of those who opposed laws that didn't advance the common good. By refusing to sit in the back of the bus, Parks broke a law in 1955 requiring racial segregation on buses, and the Boston Tea Party participants protested taxation without representation.

Some laws, Archbishop Wenski said, can even legally sanction an underclass and such was the case of the Jim Crow laws that segregated parts of the U.S.

"Our nation should not tolerate the emergence of a new underclass in our society composed of undocumented workers," he said.

And restrictive legislation focused solely on enforcement will only make matters worse, he added, while saying that money spent on border enforcement for the last two decades hasn't stopped the problem, instead "illegal immigration increased because the labor market demanded willing and able workers."

Businesses that abuse and exploit immigrants rely on their labor, he said, "and, in doing so, help fuel the growth of the American economy." 

The preferable route is that they benefit from a reliable and legal work force, he said. Comprehensive immigration reform, he said, would legalize those already working in the U.S. without proper documentation, provide for industry's labor needs and allow border agents to chase after real criminals instead of chasing economic migrants

But some are too intent in calling attention to immigrants by name-calling and demonizing them, including labeling them "lawbreakers, equating them with terrorists intent on hurting us."

"However, these people, including DACA kids, only ask for the opportunity to become legal -- to come out of the shadows where they live in fear of a knock on their door in the dead of night or an immigration raid to their work place," he said, referencing youth brought to the U.S. illegally and who benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.

In September, President Donald Trump rescinded DACA and called on Congress to pass a measure by March to preserve it. Many are calling for passage of the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, to do just that.

"In any case, these migrants are not so much 'breaking the law'; they are being 'broken by the law,'" Archbishop Wenski said.

Though some resent the Catholic bishops' advocacy on behalf of "illegals," he said, "we stand in a proud moral tradition."

"For this reason, we call upon the legislative branch of our government to seize the opportunity for a comprehensive fix to our broken immigration system," he said, and called for a "fix for the Dreamers," as DACA recipients are popularly known, and for a solution for Haitians and Central Americans facing deportation as the Trump administration ends the Temporary Protected Status program, known as TPS.

TPS is granted temporarily to migrants who come from countries that have experienced disruptions such as natural disasters, civil wars or other threats.

That "would be a good place to start," said the archbishop.

"At least it could show that the sky won't come falling down if some enlightened legislation is passed. It could inspire Congress to go further toward a more comprehensive reform," he said.

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Royal engagement announcement brings attention to Catholic school

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 2:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Toby Melville, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the news broke Nov. 27 of Meghan Markle's engagement to Prince Harry, reporters descended upon the Los Angeles Catholic school Markle attended: Immaculate Heart High School and Middle School.

"They've been scaling the walls," Callie Webb, communication director for the school, said with slight exaggeration, but maybe not too much, of the reporters calling and visiting the 112-year-old school with mission-style terra cotta roofs just a few miles from the landmark Hollywood sign.

For two days, Webb's phone was ringing off the hook and her email mailbox was flooded with requests from local newspapers and TV stations as well as national media and British tabloids about the school's famous fiancee -- the 1999 graduate who is not Catholic but attended the school from seventh grade (before the sixth grade was added) until graduation.

ABC's "20/20" spent a day on the campus -- with six of their vans parked on the school's ball field -- for an episode airing Dec. 1.

The attention, and the news itself, has been exciting for the school's 674 students, Webb said, pointing out that some of them had never even heard of Markle and others knew every detail about her 15-month romance with Prince Harry, her engagement, her TV career, activism and now discontinued lifestyle blog, The Tig.

The school, founded by Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1906, tried to put the engagement news in perspective, at least on social media. Its Nov. 27 tweet said: "Over 10,000 women of great heart and right conscience have graduated from Immaculate Heart, and we are proud to count actress and humanitarian @meghanmarkle among them. Today, we send her our very best wishes as she celebrates her engagement to His Royal Highness Prince Harry."

It posted a similar message that day on its Facebook account, but added that as a global ambassador for World Vision Canada, Markle campaigned for clean, safe drinking water. And as a UN Women's Advocate, she has spoken up for women's rights and gender equality.

"She's so inspirational to many of us, not just as an actress, but also as someone who is into philanthropy and altruism and giving back," the school's student body president Mia Speier told KABC, the Los Angeles ABC affiliate.

Webb said Speier's reaction, that she has now often repeated, about the school's connection to the royal engagement is: "She is a sister who walked our hallways and was already inspiring."

And that's pretty much how the school sees it.

"We've been proud of Meghan for a long time," said Webb of Markle's advocacy for gender equality and clean drinking water and her work with the United Nations as a women's advocate for political participation and leadership.

"That's very much in keeping with the goal of all our students," she told Catholic News Service Nov. 28, adding that it reflects the school's mission, which "encourages students to become women of great heart and right conscience through leadership, service and a lifelong commitment to Christian values."

Webb also noted that Markle, 36, was exposed at an early age to helping others, something that was reinforced at school with community service projects. "Her upbringing meshed with the school's mission and philosophy," as she put it.

Markle was chosen as a Kairos retreat leader during her senior year and she took part in the school's theater productions -- long before her role as Rachel Zane in the television drama "Suits."

"She's gone from one stage to a bigger stage," Webb added, noting that in "whatever small way" the school contributed to her current achievements, it is proud.

Immaculate Heart makes no mention of the royal engagement on its website. Instead, the school news is about sports wins, charity drives, upcoming events and a 2007 graduate who is featured in 2018 edition of Forbes "30 Under 30" -- the magazine's list of 600 visionaries in 20 different industries.

Webb pointed out the school has plenty on tap right now with its Dec. 2 open house and ongoing visits from perspective freshmen during the school's "shadow" days, where they shadow current students on a school day. She knows the media focus on the school is likely to wane, for now, although it's been great publicity.

She also continually hopes to reinforce the message that Immaculate Heart is thrilled for Markle but not just for the wedding at England's Windsor Castle when the former student, described as a "classy girl" in the school's yearbook, will take on the title Duchess of Sussex.

"We always tell our students to dream big," she said, "but not necessarily about marrying a prince!"

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace, pope says

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 7:48am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Christians and Buddhists are called by faith to overcome evil with goodness and violence with peace, Pope Francis said during a meeting with leaders of Myanmar's Buddhist community.

Quoting St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha, the pope insisted that in a land where the powerfully bonded pairing of religion and ethnicity have been used to prolong conflict, it was time for religious leaders to reclaim the greatest values and virtues of their faith traditions.

Pope Francis met Nov. 29 with members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed group of senior Buddhist monks who oversee some 500,000 monks and novices in Myanmar, where close to 90 percent of the population follows Buddhism.

One of the strongest anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya currents of Myanmar society is led by Buddhist nationalists.

The meeting was hosted by the Buddhists at the Kaba Aye Pagoda and Center.

As is customary, Pope Francis took off his shoes before entering the hall and walked in his black socks to his place. The Buddhist committee members sat directly opposite Pope Francis and members of his entourage across a plush, bright blue rug.

The challenge of the Buddhist monks and of the Catholic clergy, the pope said, is to help their people see that patience, tolerance and respect for life are values essential to every relationship, whether with people of the same family or ethnic group or with fellow residents of a nation.

The approach, he said, is common to both faiths.

Pope Francis quoted Buddha: "Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth."

And then he pointed out how the "Prayer of St. Francis" has a similar teaching: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon. ... Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy."

"May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that, through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicities and religious convictions," he said.

The pope did use the word "Rohingya," whom the Myanmar government does not recognize as a separate ethnic group, but he insisted the meeting was an occasion "to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman."

Faith, he said, not only should lead adherents to an experience of "the transcendent," but also should help them see "their interconnectedness with all people."

Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, president of the committee, told the pope Buddhists believe all religions can, "in some way," bring peace and prosperity, otherwise they would cease to exist.

Religious leaders, he said, "must denounce any kind of expression that incites (people) to hatred, false propaganda, conflict and war with religious pretexts and condemn strongly those who support such activity."

Pope Francis ended his day with the Catholic bishops of Myanmar, urging them to "foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation."

As he had earlier in the trip, the pope again defined as an example of "ideological colonization" the idea that differences are a threat to peaceful coexistence.

"The unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity," he said. Unity in the church and in a nation "values people's differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth. It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity."

As Myanmar continues its transition to democratic rule and tries to deal with the challenges of development and full equality for all its ethnic groups, Pope Francis told the bishops to make sure their voices are heard, "particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and most vulnerable."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Jesus maps the path to peace, reconciliation, pope says

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 10:02pm

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) -- Jesus' love "is like a spiritual GPS" that guides people past the everyday obstacles of fear and pride and allows them to find their way to a relationship with God and with their neighbors, Pope Francis said.

Christ's message of "forgiveness and mercy uses a logic that not all will want to understand, and which will encounter obstacles. Yet his love, revealed on the cross is ultimately unstoppable," the pope said Nov. 29, celebrating his first public Mass in Myanmar.

According to the Vatican, 150,000 people attended the Mass at the Kyaikkasan sports ground. Thousands of them had traveled hundreds of miles to be at the Mass, and many of them camped out on the sports field the night before the liturgy.

Pope Francis acknowledged the sacrifices made by the people as well as the struggles Catholics face as a tiny minority in Myanmar and as citizens of a country struggling to leave violence behind and transition from military to democratic rule.

"I know that many in Myanmar bear the wounds of violence, wounds both visible and invisible," the pope said in his homily. "The temptation is to respond to these injuries with a worldly wisdom" or to think that "healing can come from anger and revenge. Yet the way of revenge is not the way of Jesus."

Pope Francis prayed that Catholics in Myanmar would "know the healing balm of the Father's mercy and find the strength to bring it to others, to anoint every hurt and every painful memory. In this way, you will be faithful witnesses of the reconciliation and peace that God wants to reign in every human heart and in every community."

Father Francis Saw from St. John Cantonment Church in Yangon said he had 400 guests at his parish. "Many people came from the hill towns. I welcomed them and fed them and then they came here at 10 p.m." the night before the Mass.

"We are very happy and encouraged by the pope's visit," he said. "It is good for our country and for our church."

Some people had reserved seats close to the altar. "Every parish got some VIP tickets for those who are very involved in the parish, very poor or sick," said Noeli Anthony, a ticket-holder from the Myanmar Catholic community in Perth, Australia.

Salesian Father Albert "Sam" Saminedi, pastor of the Perth community, said the immigrants he ministers to "love their country" and "are very strong, very loud and full of faith." More than 100 of them traveled home to be with the pope.

The "VVIP" section at the sports field was reserved for government officials, diplomats and representatives of other Christian communities and other religions.

The Rev. U Chit Toe Win, chair of the Myin Thar Baptist Church and deputy chairman of an interfaith dialogue group in Yangon, sat with the Anglican, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim members of his group in the very front row.

Like any Baptist minister, Toe Win said, "I believe in Jesus first," but "these are my brothers. We are for unity."

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