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Pope Francis commends UN Security Council for global ceasefire resolution

Vatican City, Jul 5, 2020 / 06:20 am (CNA).- Pope Francis applauded the United Nations Security Council Sunday for its recent resolution calling for an immediate global ceasefire amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The call for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would allow the peace and security necessary to provide the urgently needed humanitarian assistance, is commendable,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus prayer July 5.

“I hope that this decision will be implemented effectively and promptly for the good of many people who are suffering. May this Security Council resolution become a courageous first step towards a peaceful future,” he said.

The ceasefire resolution applies to conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, South Sudan, and Congo, according to the Associated Press. It demands “a durable humanitarian pause for at least 90 consecutive days” to ensure that medical and humanitarian aid will reach those in need as the coronavirus continues to spread.

The 15 countries that make up the Security Council passed the resolution July 1 after months of disagreement between China and the United States over whether the text would include references to either the World Health Organization or “transparency.”

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres first called for a global ceasefire on March 23 with Pope Francis echoing this appeal the following week.

The UN Secretary General said that a global ceasefire would “help create corridors for life-saving aid” and “bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.” He pointed out that refugee camps and people with existing health conditions are most at risk of suffering “devastating losses.”

On March 29, Pope Francis said: “Conflicts are not resolved through war.” He added that conflicts must be overcome through “dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”

The pope said in his Angelus address July 5 that Jesus offers “the weary and oppressed” much more than “psychological solace or a lavish handout.”

“The joy that Jesus gives us. It is unique. It is the joy that he himself has,” he said.

“The world exalts those who are rich and powerful, no matter by what means, and at times tramples upon the human being and his or her dignity. And we see this every day, the poor who are trampled underfoot,” Pope Francis said. “And it is a message for the Church, called to live works of mercy and to evangelise the poor, to be meek and humble. This is how the Lord wants His Church, that is, us, to be.”

Pope Francis said that Jesus placed himself among “those who labor and are burdened” because he was “meek and humble of heart.”

“May Mary, the humblest and highest of creatures, implore from God wisdom of the heart for us … that we may discern its signs in our lives and be sharers in those mysteries which, hidden from the proud, are revealed to the humble,” the pope said.

Faith-based groups ask Congress to fund international pandemic assistance 

CNA Staff, Jul 5, 2020 / 04:23 am (CNA).- A coalition of faith-based organizations is asking Congress to take immediate action to help fund efforts to help fight the coronavirus pandemic overseas.

“If we don’t beat COVID-19 everywhere, we can’t beat it anywhere,” said Catholic Relief Services, one of the letter’s signatories, in a recent press release.

“CRS is urging an authorization of $10-15 billion, which equates to about 0.005% of the $3 trillion Congress has authorized so far for domestic pandemic relief.”

The letter was sent to leaders of both parties in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Other signatories included representatives of three dozen organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, World Relief, the National Association of Evangelicals, World Vision US, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Sudan Relief Fund.

They cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which found that over 70% of countries do not have the public health structure to handle outbreaks of disease.

“A recent report estimated that up to 3 million deaths could occur in these countries without additional humanitarian assistance, and millions more stand on the brink of starvation given the economic upheaval in the world’s poorest countries,” the letter reads.

It says America’s humanitarian efforts can play a key role in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19, as well as obtaining personal protective equipment for health care workers on the front lines around the world.

The letter also argues that without the additional funds, many countries may see serious economic consequences and food insecurity, as well as hampered efforts to treat malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, and to promote religious freedom.

“As leaders of faith-based organizations and communities, we implore you to take urgent action to support a robust international response to address the impacts of COVID-19 as part of any new emergency funding legislation,” the signatories said.

“We pray that as our nation’s duly elected representatives of a generous people, you will collectively find a way to meet our nation’s responsibility to serve those less fortunate.”

According to a recent poll by U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and Morning Consult, 72% of American voters support international assistance to countries with vulnerable populations.

The letter emphasized the Christian responsibility to aid the vulnerable and pointed to the words of Christ in Luke chapter 12: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

“At this critical moment, we cannot turn our back on our brothers and sisters around the world,” the letter said. “As a nation, we have both the ability and obligation to provide resources which will prevent the worldwide spread of this disease and alleviate the suffering of those afflicted – and in so doing, we are certain it will also protect us here at home as well.”

 

Presidential election in Dominican Republic on Sunday

The people of the Dominican Republic head to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president

France and other governments pressured over coronavirus response

A French court has launched an inquiry into the alleged mishandling by the outgoing French government of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes while elsewhere in Europe, and the former Soviet Union, tensions also rise over the way leaders deal with the crisis.

A magisterium for peace and against hypocrisy

Pope Francis expresses his support for the UN resolution for a global and immediate ceasefire, which would bring relief to people at war and enable them to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pope at Angelus: ‘the poor are the builders of the new humanity’

Pope Francis reflects on the Gospel reading of the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time noting that the solace that Christ offers to the weary and the oppressed is not merely psychological relief or almsgiving.

Pope: Implement global ceasefire effectively and promptly

Pope Francis says he hopes a new UN Security Council resolution calling for a global ceasefire will be implemented "effectively and promptly," in order to provide aid for peoples suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Texas' Bishop Flores criticizes Planned Parenthood for anti-Mexican ethnic slur

CNA Staff, Jul 4, 2020 / 03:58 pm (CNA).-  

The Bishop of Brownsville, Texas has criticized Planned Parenthood and pro-choice political organizations in the state for use of anti-Mexican ethnic slur in its campaign against the reelection of pro-life state Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

“While not surprised that Planned Parenthood would attack State Senator Eddie Lucio’s pro-life record, I am deeply discouraged that Texas Freedom Network and others would join in this malicious kind of attack, using such derogatory language to disparage him and his family,” Bishop Daniel Flores said in a July 3 statement.

The statement came after the Planned Parenthood Texas Votes PAC and the Texas Freedom Network reportedly used the term “Sucio Lucio” to describe the state senator in a direct mailing campaign.

“‘Sucio’ is an unacceptable word when associated with a Mexican American family name. Maybe they know not what such words mean in South Texas. Now more than ever it is imperative that words be used with care, with an awareness of their impact,” Flores added.

Lucio’s campaign issued a press release July 2, in response “to a recent direct-mail piece issued by Planned Parenthood & Texas Freedom Network attacking Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. using the term 'Sucio Lucio,' to describe the Hispanic senator and his traditional Catholic values of support for life.”

The release included a statement from state Sen. Lucio’s son, Texas state Representative Eddie Lucio III.

“I’m truly disheartened, given all that’s happening in the world today, that Planned Parenthood, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Rising, and others continue to disparage our family name with derogatory and racial slurs. These big special-interests groups from outside our border community should comprehend the deeper connotations behind the word 'sucio' ('dirty Mexican') and the association with a person of Hispanic descent,” the younger Lucio said.

“Mexican-Americans are hard-working, family-oriented individuals, never should the word dirty or its Spanish-language equivalent be used to describe one of us. Given current events and the social awareness on being accepting of all races and cultures, the continued use of this term is insensitive and in poor taste. We can respectfully disagree on issues without being offensive to an entire culture,” Lucio III added.

In his statement, Bishop Flores said that “Representative Eddie Lucio III’s statement accurately reflects my sentiments.”

The senior Lucio, a pro-life Democrat, has been a member of the Texas Senate since 1991. The senator faces attorney Sara Stapleton Barrera in a July 14 runoff election. Stapleton Barrera has campaigned to the left of Lucio, calling herself a “true Democrat,” and has been endorsed by gay rights and pro-choice groups in the state.

“Dirty Mexican” has been an anti-Mexican slur in use in the United States since at least the 1950s, as have derivatives which target particular Hispanic names. By some accounts, the word “sucio” is sometimes, but not always, used as slang to refer to a person who is either sexually immoral or homosexual.

Planned Parenthood has used the slur in the past against Lucio. In January, it tweeted the hashtag #SucioLucio while advertising a candidate’s forum.

Some defenders of the the hashtag, said on Friday it was meant only to denote the senator’s apparently “dirty political tactics.”

But the younger Lucio, who identifies his politics as “progressive” and has disagreed with his father on issues related to sexuality and gender identity, has insisted in recent days that the term is “derogatory.” Several Latino state legislators have agreed with him, and denounced Planned Parenthood's use of the phrase.

On Friday, the Mexican American Legislative Council said that political campaigns should “steer clear of political name calling that plays on racial, sexist, homophobic, ableist, and every form of discrimination when our country is working for social justice.”

 

 

Two Somalian cities struck by bomb attacks

At least four people died in a bomb attack in the Somali city of Baidoa, and a car bomb in the capital, Mogadishu, wounded several police officers.

Rebuilt from the ashes: The story of an American basilica

Richmond, Va., Jul 4, 2020 / 03:41 am (CNA).- An immigrant parish, burnt down, with only the crucifix remaining. A parish rebuilt, transformed and a key part in giving back to the community. In a sense, one parish’s story of struggle, pressure and rebirth is metaphor for the American Catholic experience.

St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Norfolk, Virginia, is the only black Catholic church in the United States that is also a basilica. Its dramatic history captures both the broader American Catholic history of persecution, growth and acceptance, but also a witness to the unique challenges faced by black Catholics over the centuries.

Founded originally as St. Patrick’s Parish in 1791, it is the oldest Catholic parish in the Diocese of Richmond, predating the foundation of the diocese by nearly 30 years.

“Catholicism was not legal to practice” in Virginia when the colony was founded, said Fr. Jim Curran, rector of the basilica. In much of Colonial America, before the Revolution and the signing of the Bill of Rights, churches that were not approved by the government were prohibited from operating, he told CNA.

The land originally bought in 1794 for the parish is the same ground on which the basilica today stands. From the beginning, according to the parish’s history, Catholics from all backgrounds worshiped together: Irish and German immigrants, free black persons and slaves.

However, by the 1850s, the parish’s immigrant background and mixed-race parish drew the ire of a prominent anti-Catholic movement: the Know-Nothings.

Largely concentrated in northeastern states where the immigrant influx was greatest, the movement rose and fell quickly. Concerned with maintaining the Protestant “purity of the nation,” it worked to prevent immigrants – many of whom were Catholic – from gaining the right to vote, becoming citizens, or taking elected office.

“I consider the Know-Nothings to be a sort of gatekeeper organization, by which I mean that they were both anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic at the same time,” said Fr. David Endres, an assistant professor of Church History and Historical Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

He told CNA that the Know-Nothing Party was able to bring together both pro- and anti-slavery voters in the mid-1800s, united in the common “dislike of foreign-born and Catholics.”

While most anti-Catholic activities took the form of defamatory speeches and public discrimination, the prejudice sometimes turned to violence and mob action, Fr. Endres explained.

The anti-Catholic discrimination and threats found their way to St. Patrick’s doorstep, where the Know-Nothings were unhappy that the pastor was allowing racially integrated Masses, said Fr. Curran.

The pastor at that time, Fr. Matthew O’Keefe, received so many threats directed against the church and himself that police protection was required to stop the intimidation of the Catholics worshiping at the church, according to the locals.  

Despite the threats, however, Fr. O’Keefe did not segregate the Masses. In 1856, the original church building burned down, leaving only three walls standing. Only a wooden crucifix was left unscathed.

More than 150 years later, it is still unclear exactly who or what caused the fire, but since the days following the blaze, parishioners have had their suspicions.

“We don’t know for sure if they were the ones who burned it, but it’s widely believed, it’s a commonly held notion that it’s the Know-Nothings who burnt the Church,” Fr. Curran said.   

Fr. O’Keefe and the parishioners worked hard to rebuild the church, seeking donations from Catholics along the East Coast. A new church building was constructed less than three years after the fire and is still standing today.

After the church was rebuilt, the parish renamed itself in 1858 in honor of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX in 1854. It claims to be the first church in the world named for Mary of the Immaculate Conception following the declaration.

In 1889, the Josephites built Saint Joseph's Black Catholic parish to serve the needs of the black Catholic community, and the two parishes operated separately within several blocks of one another. However, in 1961, St. Joseph’s was demolished to make way for new construction, and the two parishes were joined, reintegrating – at least in theory – St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

But the merger was not popular with many of the white parishioners and conflicted with the segregation policies of local government institutions and public life, Fr. Curran said. “St Mary’s became a de facto black parish.”

During this demographic shift, many parishioners of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception had to draw deeply upon their faith. Black Catholics had to be stalwart, facing prejudice from both some white parishioners, who did not view them as fully Catholic, and some black Protestants, who did not support their religious beliefs.

“They were devoted, and still are,” the rector said. “You have to be very devoted to be a Black Catholic.”

This devotion and witness of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception was formally celebrated when, in 1991, Saint Pope John Paul II elevated the 200-year-old church to a minor basilica.

“Your black cultural heritage enriches the Church and makes her witness of universality more complete. In a real way the Church needs you, just as you need the Church, for you are a part of the Church and the Church is part of you,” Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed at the elevation.

Today, St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception plays a vital role not only as the only Catholic basilica in Virginia, but also as an important anchor of the neighborhood. The basilica operates a “robust” set of outreach ministries to local families, including rent assistance and food aid, serving thousands of people.

“The Church standing proudly and beautiful in the midst of the poor is where we need to be,” Fr. Curran said.


This article was originally published on CNA July 4, 2015.