Iraq War is over, but what about refugees?

CATHOLIC CHURCH IN JORDAN--An Iraqi girl decorates a Christmas tree at a Chaldean Catholic Church in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 22. Thousands of Iraqi Christians fled to neighboring Jordan following a spate of bombings that targeted churches in Iraqi cities during the past few years. This year Chaldean Catholic officials in Iraq canceled traditional Christmas Eve midnight Masses in the country because of growing security concerns. All services and Mass were scheduled for daylight hours. (CNS photo/Ali Jarekji, Reuters)

Iraq War is over, but what about refugees?

After World War II, there were an unprecedented number of refugees and displaced people.

In response to that, in “Exsul Familia,” Pope Pius XII called the Holy Family the “archetype of every refugee family.”

The family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt because Jesus’ life was in danger because of King Herod, the same way other refugees leave countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and enter neighboring countries. They had to live abroad until Herod died.

In the 2008 pastoral letter, “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me,” Bp. Anthony B. Taylor wrote, “In the New Testament, Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth at the time Jesus was conceived, but were apparently not citizens of Galilee (“Galilee of the Gentiles”), which would explain why they had to go to Bethlehem in Judea for the census. They were refugees in Egypt, having crossed the border without the permission of the government which they were fleeing and they eventually settled in Galilee once it became apparent that the new government of King Archelaus in Judea was no better than that of his deceased father, King Herod.

“Throughout the Bible, great emphasis is placed on God’s presence among his immigrant people and that we will be judged on our treatment of the alien in our midst.”

Just imagine how tiring and dangerous the process of traveling at night to another country must have been for the Holy Family.

As hard as that was, we can imagine it is even harder today for refugees to survive. Now in addition to the physical and emotional stress of leaving their homeland, they also have to make sure they have passports and documents to prove their identity and must live sometimes for decades in a foreign land. It is nearly impossible for many of them to find jobs because of their status and language barriers.

One of the most critical places today for refugees centers on Iraq. In 2003, the US led an invasion of the country. While the war is officially over there, there is still a crisis situation. Thousands left Iraq, mainly to Syria and Jordan, and most have no desire to return.

In October, more than half of the 2.5 million people internally displaced in Iraq had yet to return home. About 500,000 of these people live like “squatters in slum areas with no assistance or legal right to the properties they occupy,” according to Refugees International.

If they returned home, they would likely find their homes destroyed, it would be unsafe, and there would be no jobs, education or access to basic services.

While Iraq needs to make plans to assist its own people, the US also needs to continue its humanitarian efforts in the region. We must reaffirm our commitment to helping Iraqi refugees and displaced persons.

The views or positions presented in this or any guest editorial are those of the individual publication and do not necessarily represent the views of Catholic News Service (CNS), The Mirror, or of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

This is an unsigned editorial titled “Iraq War is over, but what about refugees?” that appeared in the Dec. 24 edition of the Arkansas Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock.

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Blessed John Paul’s childhood Jewish friend dies in Rome at 90

JERZY KLUGER--Blessed John Paul II's lifelong friend Jerzy Kluger poses in 1998 with a copy of his book "The Hidden Pope." Kluger, a Polish Jew whose friendship with John Paul helped the pontiff's efforts to repair Catholic-Jewish relations after centuries of anti-semitism, died at age 90 Dec. 31 at a hospital in Rome. (CNS photo/Leslie Kossoff)

Jerzy Kluger, known as Blessed John Paul II’s lifelong Jewish friend and one who had a deep impact on the pope’s commitment to improved Catholic-Jewish relations, died in Rome Dec. 31 at the age of 90.

Kluger and the pope were raised in Wadowice, Poland, and attended elementary school there together. Most of Kluger’s family died during the Holocaust, but he managed to survive, eventually settling in Rome.

During the Second Vatican Council, when the future pope came to Rome as an auxiliary bishop of Krakow, Poland, he and Kluger were reunited. They maintained their friendship through the years, and Kluger was a frequent guest at the Vatican after the pope was elected in 1978.

In his 1994 book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the pope wrote about his friendship with Kluger in the context of explaining why he had made improving Catholic-Jewish relations a priority in his pontificate.

The pope said the Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the shared traditions of Christians and Jews reflects the personal experience of many people, including his own “from the very first years of my life in my hometown. I remember, above all, the Wadowice elementary school, where at least a fourth of the pupils in my class were Jewish.”

“I should mention my friendship at school with one of them, Jerzy Kluger–a friendship that has lasted from my school days to the present,” he wrote.

Kluger, who was born April 4, 1921, was 11 months younger than the pope. At the time of his death, he was living in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

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Pope advances sainthood causes of Marianne Cope, Kateri Tekakwitha

MARIANNE COPE--Pope Benedict XVI cleared the way for Marianne Cope's canonization Dec. 19 by recognizing a miracle attributed to her intercession, but no date has been set for the canonization ceremony. (CNS graphic/Emily Thompson)

Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of Blessed Marianne Cope of Molokai and Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha.

He also formally recognized the martyrdom of 64 victims of the Spanish Civil War and advanced the causes of 18 other men and women.

During a meeting Dec. 19 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, the pope signed the decrees recognizing the miracles needed for the canonizations of Blesseds Marianne and Kateri.

Before a date is set for the canonization ceremonies, there must be an “ordinary public consistory,” a formal ceremony opened and closed with prayer, during which cardinals present in Rome express their support for the pope’s decision to create new saints.

Blessed Marianne, who worked as a teacher and hospital administrator in New York, spent the last 30 years of her life ministering on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to those with leprosy. She died on the island in 1918 at age 80 and was beatified in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2005.

Blessed Kateri, known as the Lily of the Mohawks, was born to a Christian Algonquin mother and a Mohawk father in 1656 in upstate New York along the Mohawk River. She was baptized by a Jesuit missionary in 1676 when she was 20, and she died in Canada four years later. In June 1980, she became the first Native American to be beatified.

Pope Benedict also recognized miracles attributed to the intercession of five other people, who now can be declared saints. They are:

–Blessed Giovanni Battista Piamarta, an Italian priest who founded the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men and the Humble Servants of the Lord for women. He died in 1913.

–Blessed Jacques Berthieu, a French Jesuit priest who was martyred in Madagascar in 1896.

–Blessed Carmen Salles y Barangueras, the Spanish founder of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She worked with disadvantaged girls and prostitutes and saw that early education was essential for helping young women. She died in 1911.

–Blessed Peter Calungsod, a lay Catholic from Cebu, Philippines, who accompanied Jesuit missionaries to Guam as a catechist and was martyred there in 1672 while he was in his late teens.

–Blessed Anna Schaffer, a lay German woman who wanted to be a missionary, but couldn’t do so after a succession of physical accidents and disease. She accepted her infirmity as a way of sanctification. Her grave has been a pilgrimage site since her death in 1925.

Pope Benedict also signed decrees that pave the way for numerous beatifications:

–He recognized the martyrdom of 64 priests, religious and a layman, Jose Gorostazu Labayen, who were martyred between 1936 and 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

–He recognized the martyrdom of Father Nicolaus Rusca, a Swiss priest who was tortured and killed after being condemned by a Protestant court in 1618.

–He formally recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Father Louis Brisson, the French founder of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.

–He formally recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Italian Father Luigi Novarese, an official at the Vatican Secretariat of State and founder of the Silent Workers of the Cross Association.

–He formally recognized the miracle needed for the beatification of Mother Maria Mole, the French founder of the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis.

–He formally recognized the miracles needed for the beatifications of two nuns, one from Argentina and one from Italy.

The pope approved seven other decrees recognizing that the men and women lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way and that they are venerable. Recognition of a miracle attributed to each candidate’s intercession is needed for that person’s beatification.

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Contest seeks pro-life video public service announcements

The Western Association of the Knights of Malta, based in San Francisco, is sponsoring a contest for the creation of 30-second and 45-second pro-life video public service announcements.

Prizes of $1,500 each will be awarded to the best 30-second video and the best 45-second video. The contest is open to undergraduate students attending colleges or universities in California, Arizona, Washington, Hawaii and Colorado.

Winning videos along with their soundtrack become the property of the Western Association. The videos will be promoted on YouTube, social networks, the Western Association’s Web site and other media outlets.

While the contest is designed to promote creativity in support of life, the following guidelines must be followed:

–The content must not contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.

–The announcements must promote a greater understanding of the church’s teaching on the defense of unborn life.

–Obscenities and/or vulgarities will disqualify the entry.

Participants can register by contacting “Reel Life Film Contest” on Facebook where they can also upload their videos. All entries must be submitted by March 25. Winners will be announced June 24.

The Knights of Malta are officially known as the Sovereign Military Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta. The organization, which was established to care for pilgrims during the Crusades, is an active lay Catholic religious order and a worldwide humanitarian network.

The order has three national associations in the US: the Western Association, the Federal Association, and the American Association.

The Western Association runs free medical clinics in California and provides nursing services to several parish communities. It also annually sponsors healing Masses in California, Arizona, and Washington.

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Migrants and the New Evangelization

Benedict XVI’s Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012

The following is the Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for the 98th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2012 on the theme: “Migration and the New Evangelization”, which will be celebrated on 15 January 2012.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Proclaiming Jesus Christ the one Saviour of the world “constitutes the essential mission of the Church. It is a task and mission which the vast and profound changes of present-day society make all the more urgent” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Indeed, today we feel the urgent need to give a fresh impetus and new approaches to the work of evangelization in a world in which the breaking down of frontiers and the new processes of globalization are bringing individuals and peoples even closer. This is both because of the development of the means of social communication and because of the frequency and ease with which individuals and groups can move about today. In this new situation we must reawaken in each one of us the enthusiasm and courage that motivated the first Christian communities to be undaunted heralds of the Gospel’s newness, making St Paul’s words resonate in our hearts: “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16).

“Migration and the New Evangelization” is the theme I have chosen this year for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, and it arises from the aforesaid situation. The present time, in fact, calls upon the Church to embark on a new evangelization also in the vast and complex phenomenon of human mobility. This calls for an intensification of her missionary activity both in the regions where the Gospel is proclaimed for the first time and in countries with a Christian tradition.

Blessed John Paul II invited us to “nourish ourselves with the word in order to be ‘servants of the word’ in the work of evangelization … [in] a situation which is becoming increasingly diversified and demanding, in the context of ‘globalization’ and of the consequent new and uncertain mingling of peoples and cultures” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 40). Internal or international migration, in fact, as an opening in search of better living conditions or to flee from the threat of persecution, war, violence, hunger or natural disasters, has led to an unprecedented mingling of individuals and peoples, with new problems not only from the human standpoint but also from ethical, religious and spiritual ones. The current and obvious consequences of secularization, the emergence of new sectarian movements, widespread insensitivity to the Christian faith and a marked tendency to fragmentation are obstacles to focusing on a unifying reference that would encourage the formation of “one family of brothers and sisters in societies that are becoming ever more multiethnic and intercultural, where also people of various religions are urged to take part in dialogue, so that a serene and fruitful coexistence with respect for legitimate differences may be found”, as I wrote in my Message last year for this World Day. Our time is marked by endeavours to efface God and the Church’s teaching from the horizon of life, while doubt, scepticism and indifference are creeping in, seeking to eliminate all the social and symbolic visibility of the Christian faith.

In this context migrants who have known and welcomed Christ are not infrequently constrained to consider him no longer relevant to their lives, to lose the meaning of their faith, no longer to recognize themselves as members of the Church, and often lead a life no longer marked by Christ and his Gospel. Having grown up among peoples characterized by their Christian faith they often emigrate to countries in which Christians are a minority or where the ancient tradition of faith, no longer a personal conviction or a community religion, has been reduced to a cultural fact. Here the Church is faced with the challenge of helping migrants keep their faith firm even when they are deprived of the cultural support that existed in their country of origin, and of identifying new pastoral approaches, as well as methods and expressions, for an ever vital reception of the Word of God. In some cases this is an opportunity to proclaim that, in Jesus Christ, humanity has been enabled to participate in the mystery of God and in his life of love. Humanity is also opened to a horizon of hope and peace, also through respectful dialogue and a tangible testimony of solidarity. In other cases there is the possibility of reawakening the dormant Christian conscience through a renewed proclamation of the Good News and a more consistent Christian life to enable people to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ who calls Christians to holiness wherever they may be, even in a foreign land.

The phenomenon of migration today is also a providential opportunity for the proclamation of the Gospel in the contemporary world. Men and women from various regions of the earth who have not yet encountered Jesus Christ or know him only partially, ask to be received in countries with an ancient Christian tradition. It is necessary to find adequate ways for them to meet and to become acquainted with Jesus Christ and to experience the invaluable gift of salvation which, for everyone, is a source of “life in abundance” (cf. Jn 10:10); migrants themselves have a special role in this regard because they in turn can become “heralds of God’s word and witnesses to the Risen Jesus, the hope of the world” (Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 105).

Pastoral workers – priests, religious and lay people – play a crucial role in the demanding itinerary of the new evangelization in the context of migration. They work increasingly in a pluralist context: in communion with their Ordinaries, drawing on the Church’s Magisterium. I invite them to seek ways of fraternal sharing and respectful proclamation, overcoming opposition and nationalism. For their part, the Churches of origin, of transit and those that welcome the migration flows should find ways to increase their cooperation for the benefit both of those who depart and those who arrive, and, in any case, of those who, on their journey, stand in need of encountering the merciful face of Christ in the welcome given to one’s neighbour. To achieve a fruitful pastoral service of communion, it may be useful to update the traditional structures of care for migrants and refugees, by setting beside them models that respond better to the new situations in which different peoples and cultures interact with one another.

Asylum seekers, who fled from persecution, violence and situations that put their life at risk, stand in need of our understanding and welcome, of respect for their human dignity and rights, as well as awareness of their duties. Their suffering pleads with individual states and the international community to adopt attitudes of reciprocal acceptance, overcoming fears and avoiding forms of discrimination, and to make provisions for concrete solidarity also through appropriate structures for hospitality and resettlement programmes. All this entails mutual help between the suffering regions and those which, already for years, have accepted a large number of fleeing people, as well as a greater sharing of responsibilities among States.

The press and the other media have an important role in making known, correctly, objectively and honestly, the situation of those who have been forced to leave their homeland and their loved ones and want to start building a new life.

Christian communities are to pay special attention to migrant workers and their families by accompanying them with prayer, solidarity and Christian charity, by enhancing what is reciprocally enriching, as well as by fostering new political, economic and social planning that promotes respect for the dignity of every human person, the safeguarding of the family, access to dignified housing, to work and to welfare.

Priests, men and women religious, lay people, and most of all young men and women are to be sensitive in offering support to their many sisters and brothers who, having fled from violence, have to face new lifestyles and the difficulty of integration. The proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ will be a source of relief, hope and “full joy” (cf. Jn 15:11).

Lastly, I would like to mention the situation of numerous international students who are facing problems of integration, bureaucratic difficulties, hardship in the search for housing and welcoming structures. Christian communities are to be especially sensitive to the many young men and women who, precisely because of their youth, need reference points in addition to cultural growth, and have in their hearts a profound thirst for truth and the desire to encounter God. Universities of Christian inspiration are to be, in a special way, places of witness and of the spread of the new evangelization, seriously committed to contributing to social, cultural and human progress in the academic milieu. They are also to promote intercultural dialogue and enhance the contribution that international students can give. If these students meet authentic Gospel witnesses and examples of Christian life, it will encourage them to become agents of the new evangelization.

Dear friends, let us invoke the intercession of Mary, “Our Lady of the Way”, so that the joyful proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ may bring hope to the hearts of those who are on the move on the roads of the world. To one and all I assure my prayers and impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 21 September 2011

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‘Lily of the Mohawks’ came to know, love Christ over clan’s objections

'LILY OF MOHAWKS'--A portrait of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha is seen at the Sacred Heart Retreat Center in Gallup, NM. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, “the Lily of the Mohawks,” is the young Indian maiden who, despite objections from some in her own clan, came to know and love Christ.

She was born in 1656 in a village on the Mohawk River called Ossernenon, now Auriesville, NY. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Christian Algonquin raised among the French.

She was born into a period of political and religious turmoil, 10 years after three of the Jesuit martyrs were tortured and killed: Rene Goupil, Isaac Jogues, and Jean Lalande. Indians blamed the “Blackrobes” for the sudden appearance of deadly white man’s diseases, including small pox.

When Kateri was only 4, a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and baby brother. Kateri survived, but her face was disfigured and her eyesight impaired.

According to legend, she was raised by relatives who began to plan her marriage. But after meeting with Catholic priests, Kateri decided to be baptized and pursue religious life. When she was baptized on Easter in 1676 at age 20, her relatives were not pleased.

She fled the next year to Canada, taking refuge at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Caughnawaga on the St. Lawrence River, about 10 miles from Montreal. She reportedly made her first Communion on Christmas in 1677.

She astounded the Jesuits with her deep spirituality and her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. She took a private vow of virginity and devoted herself to prayer and to teaching prayers to the children and helping the sick and elderly of Caughnawaga.

Kateri was not the only member of her community to embrace Christianity during a colonial time fraught with conflict and struggle for native tribes. But to her older, more educated Jesuit mentors, she was remarkable.

When her request to start a religious community was denied, Kateri continued to live a life of austerity and prayer. She was said to perform “extraordinary penances.”

She died in 1680 at the age of 24. According to eyewitnesses, including two Jesuits and many Indians, the scars on her face suddenly disappeared after her death. Her tomb is in Caughnawaga. There is a shrine to her in St. Francis Xavier Church there.

Soon after Blessed Kateri died, Catholics started to claim that favors and miracles had been obtained through her intercession. American Indians have made appeals to the Catholic Church for her recognition since at least the late 1800s.

Documentation for her sainthood cause was sent to the Vatican in 1932. She was declared venerable in 1942, the first step to sainthood that recognizes the candidate’s heroic virtues.

Two miracles that occur after death are generally needed for a sainthood cause to move forward. After a first miracle is confirmed by the Church, the candidate is beatified. Kateri was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1980, giving her the title “Blessed.”

Documentation for the final miracle needed for her canonization was sent to the Vatican in July 2009. It involved the recovery of a young boy in Seattle whose face had been disfigured by flesh-eating bacteria and who almost died from the disease. But he recovered completely, and the Vatican confirmed the work of a tribunal who determined there was no medical explanation for it.

On Dec. 19, the pope signed the decree recognizing the miracle in Blessed Kateri’s cause clearing the way for her canonization.

The US Church marks her feast day July 14. She is listed as patron of American Indians, ecology, and the environment and is held up as a model for Catholic youths.

In the US, there are two shrines to Blessed Kateri, the National Shrine of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, NY, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs in Auriesville.

The National Tekakwitha Conference, based in Great Falls, MT, was started in 1939 as a way to unify Catholic American Indians from different tribes across the US. The organization is financed by membership dues and grants from the US bishops, the Catholic Church Extension Society and the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

“The Indian people in the United States and Canada have longed for the canonization of Blessed Kateri from the moment of her beatification,” Abp. Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told Catholic News Service at the Vatican Dec. 7.

A member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, he is the only Native American Catholic archbishop in the US.

“We are all very proud of her because she embodies in herself what Pope John Paul II called inculturation — the saints are the truly inculturated members of a particular ethnic group because they personally embody both the Gospel and the culture from which they come,” he said.

Interviewed before the pope’s decree, Abp. Chaput said news of her canonization would bring “great rejoicing for the Indian community,” and he predicted “we’ll show up in significant numbers here in Rome” for her canonization ceremony.

Blessed Kateri has always been held up “as a very holy person by members of the Native community and they have longed and longed for this moment to come,” Msgr. Paul A. Lenz said. He is vice postulator for her cause and former executive director of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

When she worked in the fields, Blessed Kateri would carry a cross with her as a source for contemplation. Her last words were reported to be, “Jesus, I love you.”

Timeline of key events related to Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

–1656: Born in a village on the Mohawk River near Auriesville, NY. Her father was a Mohawk chief and her mother a Christian Algonquin.

–1660: Orphaned at age 4 when a smallpox epidemic claimed her parents and her baby brother.

–1676: Baptized on Easter at age 20.

–1677: Fled to Canada, taking refuge at St. Francis Xavier Mission in the Mohawk Nation at Caughnawaga. Reportedly made her first Communion on Christmas.

–1680: Died at age 24, is buried at Caughnawaga.

–Late 1800s: American Indians began making appeals to the Catholic Church that she be recognized for her deep spirituality and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.

–1932: Documentation for her sainthood cause was sent to the Vatican.

–1939: National Tekakwitha Conference started to promote evangelization among indigenous Catholics who are members of more than 300 tribes and nations in the US and Canada.

— June 22, 1980: Beatified by Pope John Paul II.

–Dec. 19, 2011: Pope Benedict XVI approves miracle attributed to her intercession.

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