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Mexican bishop: Migrant caravan should be ‘treated like brothers’

Tapachula, Mexico, Jan 22, 2020 / 12:40 am (CNA).- The bishop of the southern Mexican border town of Tapachula is calling for members of an incoming migrant caravan to be “treated as brothers” and welcomed by the faithful.

“We don’t know if the brothers that are coming in the caravan will be able to cross the border, reach Tapachula or even continue beyond our state of Chiapas, crossing our diocesan territory” said Bishop Jaime Calderón.

However, he said, it is the job of the faithful “to ensure that whether they’re passing through, or in a temporary or permanent stay in our diocesan territory, that the migrant brothers don’t incur more suffering than that which inherently accompanies a long, arduous, rugged, unsafe and violent journey.”

A migrant caravan left San Pedro Sulas in Honduras last week. According to media reports, the caravan consists of about 1,000 people hoping to make it to the United States.

After a 2018 caravan of thousands of Central American migrants crossed through Mexico and arrived at the southern U.S. border, the Trump administration put pressure on the Mexican government to stem the flow of migrants, threatening tariffs if they did not. Mexico then deployed thousands of National Guard troops to their southern border to reduce the passage of migrants.

In addition, the Trump administration last year introduced a new “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers - mainly families with children - to remain in border towns while their cases are processed by immigration courts, a procedure that may take years.

Nevertheless, many migrants from Central America – particularly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala – continue seeking safety in the United States, as they flee nations marked by poverty and some of the highest rates of violence in the world.

At a Jan. 17 press conference, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that some 3,000 Central American migrants are currently seeking to enter Mexico at different points along its southern border.

According to the Mexican website Animal Político, Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, warned that “in no way do we have transit visas or even safe conduct passes” for the migrants.

Mexico, said Sánchez Cordero, “is not a country that gives safe conduct passes, it’s a country that opens its doors to people who want to enter and migrate to our country.”

However, she said that if the members of the caravan “wish to have some kind of immigration, refugee or asylum status [in Mexico], we will gladly attend to them.”

President López Obrador said there are more than 4,000 jobs available at the southern border, along with shelters and medical care.

Animal Político reported that Mexico’s National Migration Institute has received just over 1,000 migrants so far, and is reviewing their cases on an individual basis to see what opportunities they are eligible for, based on their specific conditions. The majority of applicants are expected to be sent back to their country of origin.

Bishop Calderón stressed that the Church takes the position “of the Good Samaritan that comes to the aid of those who have been beaten down by the violence of life and suffer the hardships of the journey in the effort to find better living conditions for themselves and their families.”

He asked Catholic individuals and parishes in his diocese “to ensure that these brother migrants are not lacking bread, that they’re not violated or assaulted on their passage through our diocese, that they don’t receive signs of rejection or contempt.”

The migrants should be welcomed, he said, so that they feel, “despite such adverse circumstances, that they travel among brothers and as brothers, not as strangers, nor adventurers, nor criminals, nor exiles, nor despised people.”

“God will reward the effort each person makes to see them, feel for them and treat them as brothers,” the bishop said. “In the same way we would like our undocumented countrymen to be treated in the United States.”

Trump administration considers travel bans on up to seven more countries

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- More travel bans and restrictions could be coming from the Trump administration, with up to seven countries targeted.

Citizens of Belarus, Burma, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania could face more travel restrictions, as initially reported by the news site Politico. The restrictions could be announced Jan. 27, the third anniversary of the administration’s first travel bans.

The restrictions under consideration are not finalized and might not necessarily be a complete ban, but rather could apply only to certain government officials or certain types of visas, like business or visitor visas.

Some countries the Trump administration is considering for new travel restrictions have had good relations with the U.S. or have been the subjects of U.S. efforts to improve relations, Politico reports.

The administration has justified travel restrictions as an anti-terrorism measure, saying the travelers are not adequately vetted.

The original executive order was issued Jan. 27, 2017, prompting hundreds of demonstrators to gather at airports. The first order denied visas to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The order was modified and went through several court challenges. In its current form it restricts entry of some citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and North Korea. Chad was on the original list, but was removed.

Lawyers, advocates for Muslim immigrants, and other critics said the administration’s travel ban still constituted a “Muslim ban” since most of the countries under the ban are Muslim-majority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the travel ban in June 2018, ruling that President Donald Trump was acting within the limits of his authority when he enacted the travel ban on nationals from seven countries.

At the time of the ruling, leaders of the U.S. bishops’ migration committee and religious freedom committee said the travel ban “targets Muslims for exclusion, which goes against our country's core principle of neutrality when it comes to people of faith.” The Supreme Court “failed to take into account the clear and unlawful targeting of a specific religious group by the government,” the bishops said.
Most possible additions to the list do not have travel restrictions. The Wall Street Journal said people from Eritrea, Nigeria, and Sudan on business or visitor visas appeared much more likely to overstay their permits.

This week White House spokesman Hogan Gidley did not confirm to Politico any details about expanded ban or travel restrictions, but said the original order “has been profoundly successful in protecting our country and raising the security baseline around the world.”

“While there are no new announcements at this time, common sense and national security both dictate that if a country wants to fully participate in U.S. immigration programs, they should also comply with all security and counter-terrorism measures — because we do not want to import terrorism or any other national security threat into the United States,” Gidley said.

Trump first proposed a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. after a string of terrorist attacks, including a December 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead and 22 injured. The shooters were a married couple who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group shortly before the attack. One was a U.S. citizen and the other was a Pakistani national who moved to the U.S. on a fiancée visa.

His comments drew condemnation and concern from many who worried explicitly targeting migrants based on religion was wrong in itself and would enable U.S. laws and policies targeting other religious groups.

Opposition to death penalty growing among Republicans, activists say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 06:00 pm (CNA).- The number of Republican state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment is growing, a conservative group claims, as anti-death penalty activists look forward to continued momentum from the right on this issue in 2020. 

“The nation is down to only 25 states that still have an active death penalty system, of those, over a third have not used it in a decade or more,” Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, told CNA in a statement. 

“We anticipate the downward trends to continue around capital punishment and expect to see more states join those that have repealed their systems over the next year.”

At the national level, the parties are divided on the issue.

The 2016 Republican Party platform stated that “The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment,” and that “With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court’s erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.” 

Conversely, the 2016 Democratic Party platform called for the abolition of capital punishment, which was refered to as “arbitrary and unjust.” 

Despite the platform plank, Republican lawmakers seem relatively unafraid to introduce bills to repeal the practice. 

In the 2020 legislative season, five state legislatures are considering Republican-sponsored bills to overturn the death penalty: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Washington. Last year, repeal bills were introduced with Republican sponsors in 10 states. That is a two-state increase from 2018. 

Out of the 10 states that considered bills to abolish the death penalty, one, in New Hampshire, passed, and went into effect in 2019. Another, in Wyoming, failed in the Senate.

New Hampshire repealed the death penalty for anyone who was convicted of capital murder after May 30, 2019. Although the bill was initially vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, it was overruled by a two-thirds majority in both of the state’s legislative chambers. 

In the veto vote, about 40% of the state’s Republican senators voted to overturn the death penalty. 

With New Hampshire overturning the death penalty, there are now no states in New England where capital punishment is legal. There is, however, one man on the Granite State’s death row: Michael “Stix” Addison was convicted in 2008 after murdering a police officer, Michael Biggs. Addison is still eligible for the death penalty, unless his sentence is commuted to life in prison. 

The last person executed in New Hampshire was executed in 1939. Several previous efforts in the 21st century to repeal the death penalty had failed. 

In Wyoming, the bill to repeal the death penalty died in the state Senate, which is composed of 27 Republicans and three Democrats. The bill’s main sponsor was Republican Sen. Brian Boner. 

The bill failed on a vote of 18-12. Wyoming has only executed one person since the Supreme Court ruled in 1977 that the death penalty is a legal punishment. There is nobody presently on the state’s death row.

Don’t call a pro-life midwife, UK university said

London, England, Jan 21, 2020 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- An undergraduate student in a midwife program was barred from placement in a hospital, reportedly due to her pro-life beliefs. The decision was overturned last week, but free speech advocates say the case is troubling.

According to The Telegraph, Julia Rynkiewicz, a 24-year-old student at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., was blocked from entering her program’s hospital placement phase, after the university learned of her pro-life beliefs and her leadership in a pro-life student group.

Rynkiewicz underwent a “fitness to practice” hearing by the school last Monday.

While the university overturned its decision and will allow Rynkiewicz to continue as a midwife student, the investigation and temporary ban from the placement set her back a year in her studies.

Concerns were raised by school officials about Rynkiewicz’s fitness to practice as a midwife after they saw her tending a booth at a school fair in her position as president for Nottingham Students for Life (NSFL), an approved pro-life student group that supports life from conception to natural death.

Just days after the fair last September, Rynkiewicz said she received a letter from officials at her Midwifery School saying that a formal complaint had been filed against her due to her pro-life activities.

The complaint alleged that she had “provided reproductive health advice without the support of a registered midwife and...expressed personal beliefs regarding reproductive sexual health in the public domain (including the press and social media) to the effect that it may create the perception of an impact on patient care,” The Telegraph reported.

“I think it’s important to remember that being pro-life isn't incompatible with being a midwife,” Rynkiewicz, who is a Catholic, told The Telegraph.

The Abortion Act of 1967 in the UK allows for conscientious objection to abortions for healthcare providers.

Rynkiewicz said she is concerned about what her case could mean for freedom of speech on university campuses. “But (universities) should be a place where we can speak up about your beliefs and debate with people in a civilized way so I’m shocked that this happened,” she told The Telegraph.

Pro-life advocacy and legal groups spoke out on behalf of Rynkiewicz, arguing for her freedom of speech and right to conscientious objection.

“What has happened to Ms. Rynkiewicz is a flagrant violation of her moral and legal right to freedom of expression,” Mark Bhagwandin, senior education and media officer at pro-life group Life Charity, told The Telegraph.

Laurence Wilkinson, legal counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom International, told The Telegraph that this case “represents a very chilling prospect for freedom of speech on campus.”

“Despite the allegations being dismissed, the practical effect of this investigation is that Julia is now forced to graduate one year later than her classmates. It is to Julia’s credit that she remains absolutely committed to completing her training, caring for women and bringing life into the world,” he added.

“She is now considering her options, as no student should have to go through this kind of daunting process in the absence of clear and compelling reasons.”

Rynkiewicz told The Telegraph that she is demanding an apology from the school, and that she has filed a formal complaint about her case against the school. She added that she is seeking compensation for the stress and inconvenience caused to her, and that she is willing to take her case to court if necessary.

“It all felt a bit ridiculous and I have had to put my life on hold for a year and that’s been frustrating.  I have been suspended for almost four months as a result of not being able to attend my placement and been forced to take year-long interruption to my studies. I won’t be back until September and will now be graduating a year later than I wanted to,” she told The Telegraph.

“I would quite like an apology for everything they have put me through. I feel fine about it all now but I would still like them to apologize as a matter of justice. I suppose that they have realized they have done wrong and (I hope they) will change it so no one else has to go through what I have,” she said.

A spokesperson for the University of Nottingham told The Telegraph that it takes fitness to practice investigations seriously, “to ensure they can provide appropriate and professional advice and care to patients.”

The university added that it would be considering ways to help Rynkiewicz reconvene her studies without further delay.

“The student’s complaint will be carefully considered while their School is actively considering how they can recommence their studies without delay,” the school said.


Trump declares Jan. 22 'National Sanctity of Human Life Day'

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 04:18 pm (CNA).- President Donald Trump declared Jan. 22 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, in a proclamation signed Monday.

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, our Nation proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death,” Trump wrote in the proclamation.

“Every person -- the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey is different, no life is without worth or is inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended,” the president added.

The landmark decision Roe v. Wade, which declared a constitutional right to abortion, was decided Jan. 22, 1973.

President Ronald Reagan declared Jan. 22, 1984 to be National Sanctity of Human Life Day, and annually declared a similar day each year of his presidency. President George Bush did the same, as did President George W. Bush.

President Donald Trump declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day in 2018 and 2019.

The president’s 2020 proclamation said that the U.S. “must remain steadfastly dedicated to the profound truth that all life is a gift from God, who endows every person with immeasurable worth and potential.”

“Countless Americans are tireless defenders of life and champions for the vulnerable among us. We are grateful for those who support women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, those who provide healing to women who have had abortions, and those who welcome children into their homes through foster care and adoption.”

“On National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we celebrate the wonderful gift of life and renew our resolve to build a culture where life is always revered,” the proclamation added.

The proclamation noted a decline in U.S. abortions and the abortion rate since 2007, and a decrease in teen pregnancies, which, Trump wrote, have contributed “to the lowest rate of abortions among adolescents since the legalization of abortion in 1973.”

“All Americans should celebrate this decline in the number and rate of abortions, which represents lives saved.  Still, there is more to be done, and, as President, I will continue to fight to protect the lives of the unborn,” Trump wrote.

The president also noted that his administration has introduced restrictions that impede recipients of federal Title X funds from providing abortions, along with conscience protections for healthcare workers and employers who object to contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.

“Additionally, I have called on the Congress to act to prohibit abortions of later-term babies who can feel pain,” the proclamation added.

Since 1973, nearly 45 million abortions in the U.S. have been reported to the CDC. Several state legislative efforts to restrict or prohibit abortion have been challenged in court in recent years, and some pro-life activists predict those judicial challenges could lead to a reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has said he believes laws regarding abortion should be decided at the state level, and that while he believes there should be exceptions to prohibitions on abortion, he considers himself to be pro-life.



Legionaries of Christ to discuss handling of abuse at Rome meeting

Rome, Italy, Jan 21, 2020 / 03:48 pm (CNA).- The Legionaries of Christ on Jan. 20 opened its 2020 Ordinary General Chapter in Rome, which convenes every six years with the duty to elect the general government for the order and to address the most important matters related to the mission and identity of the congregation.

The opening of the general chapter comes a week after Pope Francis dismissed from the clerical state a Legionary priest, Fernando Martinez Suárez, for sexual abuse, and a month after an internal commission of the Legion published a report saying that since its founding in 1941, 33 priests of the congregation had committed sexual abuse of minors, victimizing 175 children.

One of the chapter fathers has already voluntarily decided not to participate in the chapter because of his connection to the now-laicized former priest and his alleged mishandling of abuse cases.

This will also be the first general chapter meeting since Pope Francis approved new constitutions for the troubled congregation in Nov. 2014, following an extraordinary general chapter earlier that year. At that meeting, the current general director, Father Eduardo Robles-Gi, received mandates to implement changes in the legionary formation process and to implement safe environment policies for the care and protection of minors.

In July 2014, Pope Francis appointed Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ to be pontifical advisor for the Legion.

In addition to assessing the last six years, the 2020 General Chapter will elect the new general director, six councilors, and a general administrator. Other topics of discussion will include the formation of seminarians, advances in support of victims of sexual abuse, and possible coverup, negligence or omission in relation to past abuse by Legionary priests.

A total of 66 Legionary priests with voice and vote will participate, 12 for the first time. They represent the congregation’s nine territories— Chile-Argentina, Brazil, North America, Spain, Western and Central Europe, Italy, Mexico, Monterrey, Columbia-Venezuela— and the delegation of Rome and the Holy Land.

One of the chapter fathers, Father Eloy Bedia Díez, announced Jan. 18 that because of his connection to the recently laicized Legionary priest, he would step aside and not participate in the general chapter. Bedia was territorial director of Mexico from 1992 to 2000 and oversaw personnel movements at that time. He has denied having any awareness of Martinez’s history.

Pope Francis on Jan. 13 dismissed Fernando Martínez Suárez, a priest of the Legionaries of Christ, from the clerical state after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found Martinez guilty of the sexual abuse of minors.

Martinez, 79, abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún.

He was also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969.

The Legion released a statement on the matter of Martinez Jan. 20, saying that the former priest never exercised ministry in the North American territory.

“The Congregation will cooperate with an investigation, in coordination with the competent dicastery of the Holy See, in order to identify the persons responsible for negligence or coverup in this case,” the Legion said Jan. 20.

“We are ashamed of the abuses committed by Fernando Martinez Suárez, the Congregation’s negligence in handling past accusations, and the failure to give adequate attention to victims. We again ask the victims and their families for forgiveness,” the Legionaries of Christ in the Territory of Mexico said in a separate statement.

Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15.

Maciel has been found to have abused at least 60 minors, lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. The December report from the Legion found that nearly two-thirds of the 175 victims identified were either victims of Father Maciel, or were victims of his victims.

In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The Vatican congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age.

In 2010, Pope Benedict appointed then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as the papal delegate to the Legion of Christ to oversee its reform. De Paolis, who died in 2017, has been accused of refusing to punish or even investigate Martinez or the superiors who covered up his crimes, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

No known sexual abuse in a minor seminary of the Legion has taken place since 2012, and its minor seminaries underwent reform in 2015.

Martinez will remain a member of the Legion of Christ. He had been ordained a priest in 1964.

Spanish group files hate crime complaint over anti-Church article

Madrid, Spain, Jan 21, 2020 / 02:58 pm (CNA).- The Association of Christian Lawyers in Spain filed a complaint last week with the Prosecutor's Office against the newly appointed director of the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunity, Beatriz Gimeno. The group says Gimeno committed a hate crime by authoring a 2013 article in justifying the burning of churches.

Hundreds of churches were burned and priests were killed in Spain during the 1930s, as the Church faced a period of violent persecution.

Gimeno referenced church burnings in her article, saying, “In those countries where the Church (or churches) are on an equal footing with everyone else's freedoms, no one feels the need to burn them. But that's not our case. The deep loathing that many people feel here for the Catholic Church has been earned.”

“Here religion has never been a personal option that is lived freely and peacefully, but it has always been an imposition that falls upon us from above in all the structures of the State,” she said.

“The Church was an institution so hated by the working class, by the peasantry, by the majority of the intellectuals that, as soon as the spark was lit, people ran to burn churches.”

In the October 2013 article, entitled “The Church: a new twist,” Gimeno accused the Church of being an insatiable monster that seeks to dominate society and impose strict sexual rules, while failing to address problems of poverty and inequality.

“The Church in Spain has always been one of the main allies of economic power and an economic power in itself,” she said.

The president of Christian Lawyers, Polonia Castellanos, is confident the complaint will be successful, saying, “the Prosecutor's Office would have to act in view of the hate speech.”

Gimeno was president of the Spanish LGBT Federation from 2003 to 2007 and was in charge of equality advocacy for the left-wing populist Podemos party in the Madrid autonomous region.

She was named director of the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunity, a government post, by Equality Minister Irene Montero, also of the Podemos party, who in turn was recently appointed to her position by the newly formed left-wing coalition government.

The new coalition government was formed in Spain Jan. 7, with the Podemos party and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party signing on to a 10-point pre-agreement, a type of platform.

The Spanish bishops have expressed serious concern about the direction the new government will take the country.

When the announcement of the pre-agreement was made, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia said that with it, “a cultural change is established, a way of thinking is imposed, with a vision of man intended to be spread to everyone - the approval of euthanasia, the extension of new rights, gender ideology, radical feminism, bringing up historical memories that foment hatred and aversion.”

In a Jan. 4, a few days before Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party took office as Spain's new prime minister, the cardinal said in a letter that the country is in “a critical situation, a true emergency in face of the future.” He called all the faithful to pray for the country.

In a letter also published in early January, Bishop Ginés García Beltrán of Getafe also asked for prayers for the country and said that Spain had entered a “new political era.” The prelate said he had received numerous questions about whether the Spanish bishops were concerned.

Given the talking points “repeated in all the campaigns and government proposals about an exclusive secularism, or against religious freedom - which is not only to profess my faith, but to live according to it - the conception of man and life contrary to natural law, or the real defense of the poorest, without forgetting the role of churches and religions in a democratic society, we can say that there is expectant concern,” the bishop said.

However, he added, “if we're talking about worry as fear of (the Church being) insignificant or invisible, rejected or held in contempt, in my case, frankly, no.”

“The Church belongs to the Lord, and the barque will be weak and poor, but in the storm it becomes strong because the sail that drives it is the power of the Risen One," the bishop said.

Ruling against Trump executive order helps people flee danger, bishops say

Washington D.C., Jan 21, 2020 / 02:01 pm (CNA).- A federal judge’s ruling has halted President Donald Trump’s executive order that allows states and localities to refuse permission for refugee resettlement. The ruling drew praise from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which stressed the need to help refugees to safety and to maintain a uniform refugee policy.

“Today’s ruling is a welcome step in our ongoing ministry to provide refugees, who are fleeing religious persecution, war, and other dangers, with safe haven here in the United States,” said Bishop Mario Dorsonville, an auxiliary bishop of Washington who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration.

“Jesus Christ, who was part of a refugee family, calls us to welcome the stranger, and our pro-life commitment requires us to protect refugees,” he said Jan. 17, adding, “the Church looks forward to continue working with communities across America to welcome refugees as we uphold the dignity of all human life.”

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte temporarily blocked Executive Order 13888, issued Sept. 26, 2019, which requires written consent from states and local entities before groups may begin to resettle refugees within their boundaries.

The order “does not appear to serve the overall public interest,” said the judge. Messitte, citing a law review article, said there is a public interest in preventing the president from “slipping the boundaries of a statutory policy and acting based on irrelevant policy preferences,” CNN reports.

The judge said the order wrongfully gave to state and local government the power to veto refugee resettlement “in the face of clear statutory text and structure, purpose Congressional intent, executive practice, judicial holdings and Congressional doctrine to the contrary.”

In response, the Trump administration said, “This is a preposterous ruling, one more example of nationwide district court injunctions run amok, and we are expeditiously reviewing all options to protect our communities and preserve the integrity of the refugee resettlement process.”

Pending the outcome of the legal case, HIAS Inc., et al v. Trump, the order will not take effect. Resettlement programs will operate under the rules prior to the order.

Dorsonville noted the Catholic bishops’ previous “deep concerns” about the executive order.

“We feared the negative consequences for refugees and their families as this Executive Order would have created a confusing patchwork across America of some jurisdictions where refugees are welcomed, and others where they are not,” he said.

He said the injunction “helps to maintain a uniform national policy of welcome to refugees and serves to maintain reunification of refugee families as a primary factor for initial resettlement.”

Dorsonville cited “robust bipartisan support” for refugees in the wake of the order, noting 42 governors and many local officials said they would approve initial resettlement.

“Once more, we see the intention to act united as a nation in the effort to provide solidarity to those who need it most and are encouraged by the compassion that this nation has towards refugees,” Dorsonville said.

The U.S. bishops said that federal officials will “diligently engage” with state and local officials to ensure local concerns are taken into account, but federal officials will have the final decision over refugee resettlement.

Gov. Gregg Abbott of Texas said Jan. 10 that Texas will not participate in the refugee resettlement program this fiscal year.

“At this time, the state and nonprofit organizations have a responsibility to dedicate available resources to those who are already here, including refugees, migrants, and the homeless—indeed, all Texans,” he said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He said Texas has already been forced to “deal with disproportionate migration issues,” which he blamed on federal inaction and a broken immigration system.

He cited May 2019 figures indicating about 100,000 migrants were detained crossing Texas’ southern border.

Refugee resettlement in Texas peaked in 2009, when about 8,212 people were resettled. About 7,500 people were resettled in Texas per year from 2012-2016, the Texas Tribune reports.

The Texas Catholic bishops said the governor’s decision was “deeply discouraging and disheartening.” They asked the governor to reconsider his decision, noting that refugees contribute a great deal to society.

“While the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops respects the governor, this decision is simply misguided,” they said. “It denies people who are fleeing persecution, including religious persecution, from being able to bring their gifts and talents to our state and contribute to the general common good of all Texans.”

“As Catholics, an essential aspect of our faith is to welcome the stranger and care for the alien,” said the Texas bishops.

In a Jan. 16 letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami criticized Abbott’s decision and noted the longtime work of Catholic Charities in Florida. The agency helped unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the 1960s, resettled refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s, and participated in the federal refugee resettlement program since it began in 1980.

He stressed the security of the vetting policies already conducted by the United States' government. He said refugees have to meet established criteria such as fleeing religious persecution or political violence.

“Often mentored by church volunteers and given resettlement support, refugees and their family quickly integrate into American society, finding work and making a positive contribution to their adopted country,” Wenski said.

French Senate debates IVF law after thousands protest in Paris streets

Paris, France, Jan 21, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- Debate began on a bioethics bill in the French Senate Tuesday after tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Paris to protest state funding for medically assisted procreation for lesbian couples and single women. 

“A child is a gift to be received, not an order to be manufactured. The absence of a father is an injury that can be suffered, but it is monstrous to inflict it on purpose,” Archbishop of Paris Michel Aupetit said in a statement ahead of the protest on Sunday.

Critics of the bill have highlighted several bioethical questions surrounding in vitro fertilization, including preimplantation diagnoses, embryo storage, anonymous sperm donation, and the creation of so-called “savior siblings” -- embryos created via in vitro fertilization for the use of the stem cells in their umbilical blood to treat a sick older sibling.

Archbishop Aupetit, who practiced medicine and taught bioethics at a medical school before entering the priesthood, says it is urgent to raise awareness about the potential harmful consequences of this legislation for the most vulnerable.

“For years, we have been committing ourselves ever further to a commercial drift of wealthy countries which afford the luxury of organizing a eugenic trade with the systematic elimination of the most fragile, the creation of transgenic embryos and chimeras,” Aupetit said in a statement Jan. 15, issued in French.

Catholic bishops in France have vocally opposed the bioethics bill, the French bishops’ conference has compiled statements from 71 bishops on the subject from the last six months. In October, Bishop Jacques Habert of the Diocese of Seez called on French Catholics to pray and fast before the National Assembly discussed the bill.

The conference issued a statement January entitled “No one should treat another as an object,” in which the bishops raise concerns as to how the bill prioritizes parents’ desire over the good of the child and paves the way for eugenics through preimplantation diagnosis and embryo selection.

“Not only is wanting a child without any genetic variant an illusion, but it would also dehumanize our humanity,” the statement reads.

The bill was introduced to the French Senate Jan. 21 after the lower-house National Assembly passed it in October. Debate on the details of the bioethics bill will continue through Feb. 4.

According to Paris police estimates, on Sunday more than 41,000 people participated in the March for Children in protest of the bill.

Fr. Pierre Amar wrote on Twitter that there was a “massive presence of young people” at the peaceful protest.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="fr" dir="ltr">De cette mobilisation contre le projet de loi bioéthique à venir, je relève une fois de plus : la présence massive de jeunes, un cortège sans violence (0 voiture brûlée, 0 vitrine cassée) et une simple revendication : non à la marchandisation de l’humain <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#marchonsenfants</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Abbé Pierre Amar ن (@abbeamar) <a href="">January 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script> 

In France, IVF is now restricted to men and women who are married or have cohabited for at least two years. Preimplantation diagnosis during IVF treatment is only permitted in cases where one parent is diagnosed with an incurable disease. 

The creation of “savior siblings” -- permitted under a previous bioethics law in 2004 - could be reintroduced to the Senate bill after the National Assembly voted in October to discontinue its use in in vitro fertilization in France.

“We reiterate that every child should be allowed to grow up free and protected in their dignity, in communion with all others, throughout their life, whatever their ethnic or social origin, religion or lack of religion and sexual orientation. No human being can treat another as an object,” the bishops said in a joint statement.

Pope Francis condemns clerics who engage in simony

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2020 / 10:07 am (CNA).- In a homily Tuesday, Pope Francis condemned priests and bishops who use money to advance their careers.

To be a priest or bishop, like being a Christian, is a free and undeserved gift of God, not something to be bought, he said Jan. 21 during Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

“We have paid nothing to become Christians. We priests, bishops have paid nothing to become priests and bishops,” he continued, “at least I think so.”

Francis went on to note there are those who try to move upward in their “so-called ecclesiastical career,” who “look for influences to get here, there...” as well as those “who behave in a simoniac manner.”

He said that anyone who does that “is not a Christian. Being Christian, being baptized, being ordained priests and bishops is pure gratuitousness. The gifts of the Lord cannot be bought.”

The same thing can happen in “ordinary life,” he said, such as in business, when people try to get ahead at their work by asking for favors.

He recalled that it is by the Lord’s free anointing that someone is a Christian, rejecting the argument that one’s Christian identity comes from being from a Christian family or coming from a Christian culture.

“Many people from a Christian family and Christian culture reject the Lord,” he noted. “But how come we are here, elected by the Lord? For free, without any merit, for free.”

“What is the great gift of God?” he continued. “The Holy Spirit! When the Lord elected us, he gave us the Holy Spirit. And this is pure grace, it is pure grace. Without our merit.”

We must have an attitude of humility in the face of this gift, Pope Francis urged. “This is holiness. The other things are not needed.”

He said if bishops or priests forget their flock or feel they are more important than others, they are denying God’s gift, and the same goes for Christians who forget others, both believers and non-believers.

“It is like saying to the Holy Spirit: ‘But you go, go, go quietly into the Trinity, take a rest, I will manage it by myself,’” he said.

“And this is not Christian. This is not safeguarding the gift,” he argued. “We ask the Lord today, thinking of David, to give us the grace to give thanks for the gift he has given us, to be aware of this gift, so great, so beautiful, and to safeguard it – this gratuitousness, this gift – to safeguard it with our fidelity.”