Category Archives: National News

Bishops Act to Address the Sin of Racism and Seek Solutions

WASHINGTON—The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. Initiated by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the USCCB, the committee will focus on addressing the sin of racism in our society, and even in our Church, and the urgent need to come together as a society to find solutions.

“Recent events have exposed the extent to which the sin of racism continues to inflict our nation.  The establishment of this new ad hoc committee will be wholly dedicated to engaging the Church and our society to work together in unity to challenge the sin of racism, to listen to persons who are suffering under this sin, and to come together in the love of Christ to know one another as brothers and sisters,” says Cardinal DiNardo.

Bishop George V. Murry, SJ of Youngstown, OH has been appointed as Chairman of the committee.

“I look forward to working with my brother bishops as well as communities across the United States to listen to the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism and together find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” says Bishop Murry.  “Through Jesus’ example of love and mercy, we are called to be a better people than what we have witnessed over the past weeks and months as a nation.  Through listening, prayer and meaningful collaboration, I’m hopeful we can find lasting solutions and common ground where racism will no longer find a place in our hearts or in our society.”

The new ad hoc committee has been formed upon the unanimous recommendation of the U.S. Bishops Conference Executive Committee and in consultation with members of the USCCB’s Committee on Priorities and Plans.  The establishment of the committee will also welcome and support the implementation of the pastoral letter on racism anticipated for release in 2018.  The formation of the ad hoc committee also follows the conclusion of the work of the Peace in Our Communities Task Force. The Task Force was formed in July 2016 by then USCCB President, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, in response to racially-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas.

President of USCCB Calls for Calm Amid Violent Protests in Charlottesville

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued the following statement in response to the violent protests in Charlottesville, VA that has left three dead and at least 19 injured.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“On behalf of the bishops of the United States, I join leaders from around the nation in condemning the violence and hatred that have now led to one death and multiple injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia. We offer our prayers for the family and loved ones of the person who was killed and for all those who have been injured. We join our voices to all those calling for calm.
The abhorrent acts of hatred on display in Charlottesville are an attack on the unity of our nation and therefore summon us all to fervent prayer and peaceful action. The bishops stand with all who are oppressed by evil ideology and entrust all who suffer to the prayers of St. Peter Claver as we approach his feast day. We also stand ready to work with all people of goodwill for an end to racial violence and for the building of peace in our communities.

Last year a Task Force of our Bishops Conference under Archbishop Wilton Gregory proposed prayers and resources to work for unity and harmony in our country and in our Church. I am encouraging the bishops to continue that work especially as the Feast of St. Peter Claver approaches.

From the Pope: Divine Forgiveness: Motor of Hope

from Vatican Information Services

We have heard the reaction of the companions of Simon the Pharisee: “Who is this, who even forgives sins? (Lk 7: 49).” Jesus has just performed a scandalous gesture. A woman of the city, known to all as a sinner, entered Simon’s house, bowed down at Jesus’ feet, and anointed his feet with perfumed oil. All those who were there at the table murmured: if Jesus is a prophet, he should not accept gestures of this type from a woman such as her. Those poor women, who served only to be seen in secret, even by the heads, or to be stoned. According to the mentality of the time, between the saint and the sinner, the pure and the impure, the separation should have been clear.

But Jesus’ attitude is different. Since the beginning of his ministry in Galilee, he approached the lepers, the possessed, all the sick and the marginalized. Behavior of this type was not at all usual, and indeed this sympathy of Jesus for the excluded, the “untouchables,” will be one of the things that most disturb His peers. Where there is a person who suffers, Jesus takes him on board, and that suffering becomes his. Jesus does not preach that the condition of suffering must be borne with heroism, in the way of the stoic philosophers. Jesus shares human pain, and when he encounters it, there flows from within him that attitude that characterizes Christianity: mercy. Jesus, faced with human pain, feels mercy; Jesus’ heart is merciful. Jesus feels compassion. Literally: Jesus feels a tremor within. How often in the Gospels we encounter reactions of this type! Jesus’ heart incarnates and reveals the heart of God, that wherever there is a man or a woman who suffers, wants healing, liberation and full life.

And this is why Jesus opens his arms to sinners. How many people continue, even today, in an erroneous life because they do not find anyone willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes, or better, with the heart of God, that is, looking at them with hope. Jesus instead sees the possibility of resurrection also in those who have accumulated many mistaken choices. Jesus is always there, with an open heart; he throws open that mercy he has in his heart; he forgives, embraces, understands, approaches: this is how Jesus is!

At times we forget that for Jesus this is not an easy love, that came cheaply. The Gospels record the first negative reactions towards Jesus, precisely when he forgives a man’s sins (cf. Mk 2: 1-12). He was a man whose suffering was twofold: because he was unable to walk and because he felt “in error”. And Jesus understood that the second pain was greater than the first, so he welcomed him immediately with the announcement of his liberation: “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5). He is freed of that sense of oppression, of feeling in the wrong. It is then that some of the scribes – those who think they are perfect … I think of many Catholics who believe themselves perfect and look down on others, this is sad – some of the scribes present are scandalized by Jesus’ words, which sound to them like blasphemy, because only God can forgive sins.

We, who are accustomed to experiencing the forgiveness of sins, perhaps at too easy a price, should at times remember how much we have cost to God’s love. Each one of us cost a lot: Jesus’ life! He would have given it even for just one of us. Jesus does not go to the cross because he heals the sick, because he preaches charity, because he proclaims the beatitudes. The Son of God goes to the cross above all because he forgives sins, because he wants the total and definitive liberation of man’s heart. Because he does not accept that the human being spends all his existence with this indelible stamp, with the thought of not being able to be received by God’s merciful heart. And with these sentiments Jesus goes towards sinners, which all of us are.

So sinners are forgiven. They are not only reassured at a psychological level, since they are freed of a sense of guilt. Jesus does much more: he offers those who have erred the hope of a new life. “But, Lord, I am a wretch” – “Look ahead and I will give you a new heart.” This is the hope that Jesus gives us. A life marked by love. Matthew the publican becomes an apostle of Christ: Matthew, who is a traitor of the homeland, an exploiter of the people. Zacchaeus, a corrupt rich man of Jericho – he must surely have had a degree in taking bribes – is transformed into a benefactor of the poor. The woman of Samaria, who had five husbands and now lives with another, feels she is promised a “living water” that will always flow inside her (cf. Jn 4: 14). This is how Jesus changes the heart; He does this with all of us.

It is good for us to think that God has not chosen as the first clay to form His Church those people who have never made a mistake. The Church is a people of sinners who experience God’s mercy and forgiveness. Peter understood more truth about himself at the cockcrow than from his efforts of generosity that swelled his chest and made him feel superior to others.

Brothers and sisters, we are all poor sinners, in need of the mercy of God Who has the strength to transform us and to restore our hope, every day. And He does this! And to those who have understood this basic truth, God gives the most beautiful mission in the world, that is, love for brothers and sisters, and the proclamation of a mercy He denies to no one. And this is our hope. Let us go ahead with this trust in forgiveness, in Jesus’ merciful love.

USCCB Chairman Expresses Ongoing Support for DACA

from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Over 750,000 youth have received protection from Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since its inception by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2012. While DACA provides no legal status, it does provide recipients with a temporary reprieve from deportation and employment authorization for legal work opportunities in the United States.

In response to the recent petition to the U.S. Department of Justice to terminate DACA, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, Chair of the Migration Committee and Bishop of Austin, TX, expressed support for DACA:

“The Catholic Bishops have long supported DACA youth and continue to do so. DACA youth are contributors to our economy, veterans of our military, academic standouts in our universities, and leaders in our parishes. These young people entered the U.S. as children and know America as their only home. The dignity of every human being, particularly that of our children and youth, must be protected.

I urge the Administration to continue administering the DACA program and to publicly ensure that DACA youth are not priorities for deportation.
However, DACA is not a permanent solution; for this reason, I also call on Congress to work in an expeditious and bipartisan manner to find a legislative solution for DACA youth as soon as possible. My brother bishops and I pledge continuing efforts to help find a humane and permanent resolution that protects DACA youth. Additionally, I note the moral urgency for comprehensive immigration reform that is just and compassionate. The bishops will advocate for these reforms as we truly believe they will advance the common good.

Lastly, to DACA youth and their families, please know that the Catholic Church stands in solidarity with you. We recognize your intrinsic value as children of God. We understand the anxiety and fear you face and we appreciate and applaud the daily contributions you make with your families, to local communities and parishes, and to our country. We support you on your journey to reach your God-given potential.”

From the Pope: Christian Hope as the Strength of Martyrs

from Vatican Information Services

Today we reflect on Christian hope as the strength of martyrs. When, in the gospel, Jesus sends His disciples on their mission, he does not delude them with mirages of easy success; on the contrary, he warns them clearly that announcing the Kingdom of God will always face opposition. And he even uses an extreme expression: “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Mt 10: 22). Christians love, but they are not always loved. From the very beginning Jesus places this reality before us: to a greater or lesser degree, the confession of faith takes place in a hostile environment.

Christians are therefore “counter-current.” It is normal: since the world is marked by sin, which manifests itself in various forms of selfishness and injustice, he who follows Christ walks against the current. Not out of a polemic spirit, but out of faithfulness to the logic of the Kingdom of God, which is a logic of hope, and translates into a style of life based on Jesus’ indications.

And the first indication is poverty. When Jesus sends His disciples on the mission, it seems as though he takes greater care to “denude” them than to “dress” them! Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from the wealth of power and above all detached from the self, does not resemble Jesus. The Christian walks his path in this world with the essentials for the journey, but with the heart full of love. The true defeat for him or for her is to give in to the temptation of revenge and violence, responding to evil with evil. Jesus tells us: “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt 10: 16). So, without teeth, without claws, without weapons. The Christian must instead be prudent, at times shrewd: these are virtues accepted by the evangelical logic. But violence, never. To defeat evil, one cannot share the methods of evil.

The only force for the Christian is the gospel. In times of difficulty, one must believe that Jesus stands before us, and that he never ceases to accompany His disciples. Persecution is not a contradiction of the Gospel, but forms part of it: if they persecuted our Master, how can we hope to be spared this struggle? However, in the midst of the whirlwind, the Christian must not lose hope, thinking he has been abandoned. Jesus reassures his own by saying, “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered” (Mt 10: 30). As if to say that none of the man’s sufferings, even the most minute and hidden, are invisible to the eyes of God. God sees, and surely protects; and will give His redemption. There is indeed in our midst Someone who is stronger than evil, stronger than mafias, than obscure networks of those who profit from the skins of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance … Someone who has always listened to the voice of the blood of Abel shouting from the earth.

Christians must therefore always place themselves on the “other side” of the world, the one chosen by God; not persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not peddlers of smoke, but submissive to the truth; not imposters, but honest people.

This faithfulness to the style of Jesus – which is a style of hope – unto death, was given a beautiful name by the first Christians: “martyrdom,” which means “witness.” There were many other possibilities offered by the dictionary: it could have been called heroism, or abnegation, or self-sacrifice. And instead the Christians of the earliest times gave it a name with the perfume of discipleship. Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas,  and they accept the duty to die only through faithfulness to the gospel. Martyrdom is not even the supreme ideal of Christian life, because above it there is charity, understood as love of God and of one’s neighbor. The Apostle Paul says so clearly in his hymn to charity: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not loved, I gain nothing” (1 Cor 13: 3). Christians are repelled by the idea that suicide bombers can be called “martyrs”: there is nothing in their aim that can be considered close to the attitude of children of God.

At times, reading the stories of the many martyrs of yesterday and of today – who are more numerous than those of the earliest times – we are astonished by the fortitude with which they faced the test. This fortitude is a sign of the great hope that inspired them: the certain hope that nothing and no-one could separate them from the love of God given to us in Jesus Christ (cf Rm 8: 38-39).

May God always give us the strength to be His witnesses. May He let us live Christian hope especially in the hidden martyrdom of carrying out our everyday duties well and with love.

Thank you.

Pope Francis Celebrated Mass and Canonization at Fatima Shrine

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At 10:00 a.m. on May 13, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fátima, on the plaza of the Shrine, the Holy Father Francis celebrated Holy Mass on the occasion of the centenary of the apparitions, during which the Blesseds Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto were canonized. The Eucharistic Celebration was attended by the Presidents of the Republic of Portugal, of Paraguay and of São Tomé e Príncipe, whom the pope greeted at the end of the rite.

During the Mass, after the rite of canonization and the proclamation of the Gospel, the Holy Father pronounced the following homily:

“[There] appeared in heaven a woman clothed with the sun.” So the seer of Patmos tells us in the Book of Revelation (12:1), adding that she was about to give birth to a son. Then, in the Gospel, we hear Jesus say to his disciple, “Here is your mother” (Jn 19:27). We have a Mother! “So beautiful a Lady,” as the seers of Fatima said to one another as they returned home on that blessed day of May 13, a hundred years ago. That evening, Jacinta could not restrain herself and told the secret to her mother: “Today I saw Our Lady.” They had seen the Mother of Heaven. Many others sought to share that vision, but… they did not see her. The Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.

Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes God in His creatures. Such a life – frequently proposed and imposed – risks leading to hell. Mary came to remind us that God’s light dwells within us and protects us, for, as we heard in the first reading, “the child [of the woman] was snatched away and taken to God” (Rev 12:5). In Lucia’s account, the three chosen children found themselves surrounded by God’s light as it radiated from Our Lady. She enveloped them in the mantle of Light that God had given her. According to the belief and experience of many pilgrims, if not of all, Fatima is more than anything this mantle of Light that protects us, here as in almost no other place on earth. We need but take refuge under the protection of the Virgin Mary and to ask her, as the Salve Regina teaches: “show unto us… Jesus.”

Dear pilgrims, we have a Mother. We have a Mother! Clinging to her like children, we live in the hope that rests on Jesus. As we heard in the second reading, “those who receive the abundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17). When Jesus ascended to heaven, He brought to the Heavenly Father our humanity, which He assumed in the womb of the Virgin Mary and will never forsake. Like an anchor, let us fix our hope on that humanity, seated in heaven at the right hand of the Father. May this hope guide our lives! It is a hope that sustains us always, to our dying breath.

Confirmed in this hope, we have gathered here to give thanks for the countless graces bestowed over these past hundred years. All of them passed beneath the mantle of light that Our Lady has spread over the four corners of the earth, beginning with this land of Portugal, so rich in hope. We can take as our examples Saint Francisco and Saint Jacinta, whom the Virgin Mary introduced into the immense ocean of God’s light and taught to adore Him. That was the source of their strength in overcoming opposition and suffering. God’s presence became constant in their lives, as is evident from their insistent prayers for sinners and their desire to remain ever near “the hidden Jesus” in the tabernacle.

In her Memoirs, Sister Lucia quotes Jacinta who had just been granted a vision: “Do you not see all those streets, all those paths and fields full of people crying out for food, yet have nothing to eat? And the Holy Father in a church, praying before the Immaculate Heart of Mary? And all those people praying with him?” Thank you, brothers and sisters, for being here with me! I could not fail to come here to venerate the Virgin Mary and to entrust to her all her sons and daughters. Under her mantle they are not lost; from her embrace will come the hope and the peace that they require, and that I implore for all my brothers and sisters in baptism and in our human family, especially the sick and the disabled, prisoners and the unemployed, the poor and the abandoned. Dear brothers and sisters, let us pray to God with the hope that others will hear us; and let us speak to others with the certainty that God will help us.

Indeed, God created us to be a source of hope for others, a true and attainable hope, in accordance with each person’s state of life. In “asking” and “demanding” of each of us the fulfilment of the duties of our proper state (Letters of Sister Lucia, 28 February 1943), God effects a general mobilization against the indifference that chills the heart and worsens our myopia. We do not want to be a stillborn hope! Life can survive only because of the generosity of other lives. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (Jn 12:24). The Lord, Who always goes before us, said this and did this. Whenever we experience the cross, he has already experienced it before us. We do not mount the cross to find Jesus. Instead it was he who, in his self-abasement, descended even to the cross, in order to find us, to dispel the darkness of evil within us, and to bring us back to the light.

With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true face of Jesus the Savior, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love. •

From the Pope: The Mother of Hope

from Vatican Information Services

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In our catechesis on Christian hope, today we look to Mary, Mother of hope. Mary went through more than one dark night on her journey as a mother. From her earliest appearance in the history of the Gospels, she stands out as if she were a character in a drama. It was not easy to answer “yes” to the angel’s invitation: yet she, a woman still in the flower of youth, answered with courage, despite knowing nothing about the fate that awaited her. Mary at that moment appears to us like one of the many mothers of our world, brave to the extreme when it comes to welcoming in her womb the story of a new person to be born.
That “yes” is the first step in a long list of acts of obedience – a long list of acts of obedience! – who will accompany her mother’s itinerary. So Mary appears in the gospels as a silent woman who often does not understand all that is happening around her, but ponders every word and every event in her heart.

In this arrangement there is a beautiful outline of Mary’s psychology: she is not a woman who is discouraged by the uncertainties of life, especially when nothing seems to go in the right direction. Nor is she a woman who protests with violence, who inveighs against the destiny in life that often reveals a hostile face. Instead, she is a woman who listens: do not forget that there is always a great relationship between hope and listening, and Mary is a woman who listens. Mary welcomes existence just as it is given to us, with its happy days, but also with its tragedies we would never have wished to encounter – up to the supreme night of Mary, when her Son is nailed to the wood of the cross.

Until that day, Mary had almost disappeared from the story of the gospels: the sacred writers leave implicit this slow eclipse of her presence, her remaining silent while faced with the mystery of a Son who obeys his Father. But Mary reappears precisely at that crucial moment, when a good number of his friends have fled out of fear. Mothers do not betray, and at that moment, at the foot of the cross, none of us can say what was the cruelest passion: that of an innocent man who dies on the scaffold of the cross, or the agony of a mother who witnesses the last moments of her son’s life. The gospels are laconic, and extremely discreet. They record in a simple verb the presence of the mother: she “stood” (John 19:25). She was standing. They say nothing of her reaction: whether or not she wept… nothing; not even a brushstroke to describe her grief: the imagination of poets and painters were to seize upon these details, giving us images that have entered the history of art and literature. But the gospels just say, she was “standing.” She was there, in the worst moment, in the cruelest moment and suffered with her son. “She stood.”

Mary “stood,” she was simply there. Here she is again, the young woman of Nazareth, now with her hair greyed by the passing of the years, still coming to grips with a God who must only be embraced, and with a life that has reached the threshold of the deepest darkness. Mary “stood” in the deepest darkness, but she “stood,” she stayed. She did not go away. Mary is there, faithfully present, every time that there needs to be a lighted candle in a place of mist and fog. Not even she knew the destiny of resurrection that her Son was at that instant opening up for all humanity: she is there out of fidelity to God’s plan, to which she proclaimed herself a servant in the first day of her vocation, but also due to her instinct as a mother who simply suffers, every time that there is a son who goes through a passion. The sufferings of mothers: we have all known strong women, who have faced so many sufferings for their children!

We find her again in the first day of the Church, she, mother of hope, in the midst of that community of disciples, so fragile: one had renounced, many had fled and all had been afraid (cf. Acts 1:14). But she was simply there, in the most normal of ways, as if it were something entirely natural: in the first Church enveloped in the light of the resurrection, but also in the tremors of the first steps that she needed to take in the world.

This is why we all love her as a mother. We are not orphans: we have a mother in heaven, Who is the holy mother of God. Because she teaches us the virtue of waiting, even when everything seems to be without meaning; she is always trustful in the mystery of God, even when He seems to be eclipsed by the evil in the world. In moments of difficulty, may Mary, the mother who Jesus gave to all of us, always be able to sustain our steps, may she always be able to say to our hearts, “Arise! Look ahead, look to the horizon,” because she is the mother of hope. Thank you.

U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria

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U.S. Bishops Conference Calls for Renewed Peace Efforts in Syria
Bishops Echo Call of Pope Francis to Attain Peace in Syria “Through Dialogue and Reconciliation”
from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Oscar Cantú, chair of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace, have issued a joint statement calling for renewed peace efforts in Syria.

The full statement is as follows:

“Three days ago, our Conference of Bishops decried the chemical attack in Syria as one that ‘shocks the soul. The use of internationally banned indiscriminate weapons is morally reprehensible. At the same time, our Conference affirmed the call of Pope Francis to attain peace in Syria ‘through dialogue and reconciliation.

The longstanding position of our Conference of Bishops is that the Syrian people urgently need a political solution. We ask the United States to work tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.

We once again make our own the earlier call of our Holy Father, Pope Francis: ‘I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries.

Join us as we pray for the intercession of Our Lady Queen of Peace that the work of humanitarian assistance and peacebuilding will find strength in the merciful love of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

From the Pope: Celebration of Palm Sunday

from Vatican Information Services

Today’s celebration can be said to be bittersweet. It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time. We celebrate the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to the cries of his disciples who acclaim him as king. Yet we also solemnly proclaim the Gospel account of his Passion. In this poignant contrast, our hearts experience, in some small measure, what Jesus himself must have felt in his own heart that day, as he rejoiced with his friends and wept over Jerusalem.

For 32 years now, the joyful aspect of this Sunday has been enriched by the enthusiasm of young people, thanks to the celebration of World Youth Day. This year, it is being celebrated at the diocesan level, but here in Saint Peter’s Square it will be marked by the deeply moving and evocative moment when the WYD cross is passed from the young people of Kraków to those of Panama.

The Gospel we heard before the procession (cf. Mt 21:1-11) describes Jesus as he comes down from the Mount of Olives on the back of a colt that had never been ridden. It recounts the enthusiasm of the disciples who acclaim the Master with cries of joy, and we can picture in our minds the excitement of the children and young people of the city who joined in the excitement. Jesus himself sees in this joyful welcome an inexorable force willed by God. To the scandalized Pharisees he responds: “I tell you that if these were silent, the stones would shout out” (Lk 19:40).

Yet Jesus who, in fulfillment of the Scriptures, enters the holy city in this way is no misguided purveyor of illusions, no new age prophet, no imposter. Rather, he is clearly a Messiah who comes in the guise of a servant, the servant of God and of man, and goes to his passion. He is the great “patient,” who suffers all the pain of humanity.

So as we joyfully acclaim our King, let us also think of the sufferings that he will have to endure in this week. Let us think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.

He had spoken clearly of this to his disciples: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Jesus never promised honor and success. The Gospels make this clear. He had always warned his friends that this was to be his path, and that the final victory would be achieved through the passion and the cross. All this holds true for us too. Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily.

This Jesus, who accepts the hosannas of the crowd, knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry: “Crucify him!” He does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs, or in the videos that circulate on the internet. No. He is present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own: they suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases… They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike. Women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded… Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved.

It is not some other Jesus, but the same Jesus who entered Jerusalem amid the waving of palm branches. It is the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross and died between two criminals. We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.  •

U.S. Bishops Chairman on Migration Says New Executive Order Still Leaves Many Innocent Lives at Risk

from the USCCB

WASHINGTON—The Most Reverend Joe S. Vásquez, Bishop of Austin and Chair of the USCCB Committee on Migration, says that President Trump’s latest Executive Order still puts vulnerable populations around the world at risk. In a statement issued after the announcement of the day’s travel suspension, Bishop Vásquez says that while we seek to maintain our values and safety, we must also exercise compassion in assisting and continuing to welcome the stranger.

Bishop Vázquez’s full statement follows:

We remain deeply troubled by the human consequences of the revised executive order on refugee admissions and the travel ban. While we note the Administration’s efforts to modify the Executive Order in light of various legal concerns, the revised Order still leaves many innocent lives at risk.

The removal of one of the original seven predominantly Muslim countries temporarily barred from entering the United States is welcome, but we are disappointed that the revised order maintains the temporary shutdown of the U.S. refugee admissions program, continues the more than 60 percent reduction in the number of refugees who can be resettled into the United States this year, and still temporarily bars nationals from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The U.S. Catholic Bishops have long recognized the importance of ensuring public safety and would welcome reasonable and necessary steps to accomplish that goal.

However, based on the knowledge that refugees are already subjected to the most vigorous vetting process of anyone who enters the United States, there is no merit to pausing the refugee resettlement program while considering further improvement to that vetting process.

The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion, including Christians, Muslims and all others. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith and “welcoming the stranger” as Jesus has challenged us to do.

Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops reaffirm their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in defense of vulnerable persons. Resettling only 50,000 refugees a year, down from 110,000, does not reflect the need, our compassion, and our capacity as a nation. We have the ability to continue to assist the most vulnerable among us without sacrificing our values as Americans or the safety and security of our nation.