Few Words and Many Deeds

Headshot of Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., D.Min.

Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C.

Pope Francis is calling all to be missionary disciples, to go out and draw others into relationship with Jesus Christ, not simply by words, but by deeds. During Lent, particularly on Fridays, he is witnessing to all how simple it is to do by making informal visits to the poor and the marginalized – a homeless shelter, a nursing home, a drug rehab center. Simple, but very clear actions that show how to live the Works of Mercy in everyday life.

His actions remind me of a member of my religious community who worked in the city streets caring for the poor, but at the same time helping others to recognize ways in which they could work together to be more merciful, charitable, and just. One day this community member met a woman who was physically challenged and nearly homeless. She thought that she was not capable of doing anything worthwhile. He invited her to collaborate with him and together with others – lay people, those in consecrated life, and clergy – they worked in that city to care for those most in need.

The year – 1835,
The city – Rome,
The priest – St. Vincent Pallotti,
The woman – soon to be Blessed Elisabetta Sanna.

St. Vincent Pallotti believed that all are called to be apostles – sent not only to preach, but to care for the suffering in the world since all human beings are in the image and likeness of God. He understood that our actions can be minimal when we do them alone. Instead, he promoted greater collaboration and co-responsibility among all. In a rather polarized world, both of these words can seem quaint and unattainable. But, without collaboration, solidarity cannot happen effectively and without co-responsibility, subsidiarity is not possible. Each person, then, is called to work together with God and with others and recognize who and how best to assist those in need. As Pallotti said,

“Remember that the Christian life is one of action; not of speech and daydreams. Let there be few words and many deeds, and let them be done well.”

 

Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C. is the Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and Provincial Rector of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottines).

Francis, Frontera, Faith and Family

I was blessed to be able to join “Pope Francis VIPs” as they attended a Mass on the United States-Mexico border.

These VIPs were not CEOs, VPs, or celebrities. Rather these VIPs were, as defined by Pope Francis, migrants, undocumented immigrants, unaccompanied minors, and family members separated by massive fences, armed security, and outdated immigration laws and policies.

IMG_3544 croppedPrior to the Mass, we gathered for a couple hours in St. Pius parish hall waiting for our turn to be processed through security. In the hall was an air of nervous enthusiasm, as we really didn’t fully grasp what we were about to experience. The VIPs were excited to meet cardinals, bishops, and Church leadership. There was an obvious gratitude for the work of the Church on immigration and legitimate care for the migrant.

After being processed through security, we were bussed to a levee that separates El Paso, Texas USA and Juarez, Mexico.

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Pope Francis ascends memorial to pray for migrants. Photo taken from the U.S. side of the border.

Heavy on most of our minds were the thousands of people who have died in efforts to cross the border in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Pope Francis himself spent several minutes of silent prayer on behalf of those lost lives.

In his homily, the Holy Father said: “The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those excluded as a result of poverty and violence, drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

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Painting at Casa de Migrante in Ciudad Juarez

I was reminded that how, when wanting to prove our points, we recite numbers, indices, and statistics, not sharing the human story, overlooking the faces of people and the reality of our shared humanity. This “holy” sharing hit me hardest when persons on the Juarez side of the border and the El Paso side received communion: one God, one Church, one faith, and one family — all sharing simultaneously in the Body of Christ. I heard Pope Francis at the end of his homily when he said “…we can pray, sing, and together celebrate the merciful love that the Lord gives us and that no border can stop us from sharing.”

During the Mass, despite a well-fortified border and active patrolling security, an incredible peace surrounded us, a calmness that was not the result of fences or firearms. For a brief moment, the border was inconsequential. Prayers and supplications flowed on both sides as freely as the birds that circled above us. Together we prayed for generations past and for those yet born. We prayed that their lives may be lived to the fullest, and we remembered that no border can stop us from being one family.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


Go Deeper!

Communities of faith across the United States are taking up Pope Francis’ call to see the names, stories, and families behind the human tragedy of forced migration. Here are just a few:

Francisco, Frontera, Fe y Familia

Tuve la bendición de poder acompañar a las “VIPs del papa Francisco” cuando asistieron a una Misa en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

Estas VIPs (personas muy importantes) no eran directores generales, vicepresidentes o celebridades. Más bien estas VIPs fueron, como las definió el papa Francisco, migrantes, inmigrantes indocumentados, menores no acompañados y miembros de familias separadas por grandes vallas, seguridad armada y leyes y políticas inmigratorias obsoletas.IMG_3544 cropped

Antes de la Misa nos congregamos un par de horas en el salón parroquial de San Pío esperando nuestro turno para pasar el proceso de seguridad. En el salón había un aire de entusiasmo nervioso, ya que realmente no comprendíamos del todo lo que estábamos a punto de experimentar. Las VIPs estaban contentas de reunirse con cardenales, obispos y líderes de la Iglesia. Había una obvia gratitud por el trabajo de la Iglesia en materia de inmigración y cuidado legítimo del migrante.

Después de pasar por el proceso de seguridad, fuimos trasladados en bus hacia un dique que separa El Paso, Texas, Estados Unidos, de Juárez, México.

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Papa Francisco asciende monumento a orar por los migrantes . Foto tomada desde el lado de EE.UU. de la frontera.

En la mente de la mayoría de nosotros estaban muy presentes los miles de personas que han muerto tratando de cruzar la frontera con la esperanza de una vida mejor para sí y sus familias. El propio papa Francisco pasó varios minutos de oración en silencio en nombre de esas vidas perdidas.

En su homilía, el Santo Padre dijo: “Esta tragedia humana que representa la migración forzada hoy en día es un fenómeno global. Esta crisis, que se puede medir en cifras, nosotros queremos medirla por nombres, por historias, por familias. Son hermanos y hermanas que salen expulsados por la pobreza y la violencia, por el narcotráfico y el crimen organizado. Frente a tantos vacíos legales, se tiende una red que atrapa y destruye siempre a los más pobres. No sólo sufren la pobreza sino que además tienen que sufrir todas estas formas de violencia. Injusticia que se radicaliza en los jóvenes, ellos, ‘carne de cañón’, son perseguidos y amenazados cuando tratan de salir de la espiral de violencia y del infierno de las drogas”.

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Mural en la Casa de Migrante en Ciudad Juarez

Me hizo recordar cómo, al querer probar nuestros argumentos, recitamos números, índices y estadísticas, que no comparten la historia humana, que pasan por alto los rostros de las personas y la realidad de nuestra humanidad compartida. Esta compartición “santa” me impactó más cuando las personas del lado de Juárez de la frontera y del lado de El Paso recibieron la comunión: un solo Dios, una sola Iglesia, una sola fe y una sola familia, todos compartiendo al mismo tiempo el Cuerpo de Cristo. Escuché al papa Francisco al final de su homilía cuando dijo: “…podemos orar, cantar y celebrar juntos ese amor misericordioso que el Señor nos da y que ninguna frontera podrá impedirnos compartir”.

Durante la Misa, a pesar de una frontera tan fortificada y el intenso patrullaje de seguridad, una paz increíble nos rodeaba, una calma que no era resultado de los cercos o las armas de fuego. Por un breve momento, la frontera fue intrascendente. Oraciones y súplicas fluían en ambos lados tan libremente como los pájaros que daban vueltas encima de nosotros. Juntos oramos por las generaciones pasadas y por las aún no nacidas. Oramos para que sus vidas puedan ser vividas al máximo, y recordamos que ninguna frontera puede impedirnos ser una sola familia.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud es el director de la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano de la Conferencia Catolica de Obispos de los Estados Unidos.

¿Cómo podemos responder al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

La Cuaresma, la intención de oración del papa Francisco y las lecciones de su viaje a México

Justamente este mes en su video de intención de oración, el papa Francisco pidió a la gente de todo el mundo que “cuidemos de la creación” y de nuestra casa común. Hizo hincapié en que tanto “[c]reyentes y no creyentes estamos de acuerdo en que la tierra es una herencia común, cuyos frutos deben beneficiar a todos”. Él nos llama a reconocer “[l]a relación entre la pobreza y la fragilidad del planeta”.

Durante su visita a México la semana pasada, el papa Francisco dio testimonio de los efectos de la exclusión social, económica y ambiental al poner a los marginados —migrantes, presos, trabajadores y pueblos indígenas— en el centro de su viaje. A través de su visita a Chiapas el papa envió un poderoso mensaje. Allí se alzó en solidaridad con la población indígena del país, que viene resistiéndose cada vez más a los abusos a los derechos humanos y ambientales.

En una santa Misa con representantes de las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas, el papa Francisco exclamó que no podemos ignorar el clamor de la Creación, diciendo que “entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra”.

En su homilía en Chiapas, el papa Francisco dijo:

Esta hermana clama por el daño que le provocamos a causa del uso irresponsable y del abuso de los bienes que Dios ha puesto en ella. Hemos crecido pensando que éramos sus propietarios y dominadores, autorizados a expoliarla. La violencia que hay en el corazón humano, herido por el pecado, también se manifiesta en los síntomas de enfermedad que advertimos en el suelo, en el agua, en el aire y en los seres vivientes. Por eso, entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra, que “gime y sufre dolores de parto” (Rm 8,22)” (Laudato si’, 2). El desafío ambiental que vivimos, y sus raíces humanas, nos impactan a todos (cf. Laudato si’, 14) y nos interpelan. Ya no podemos hacernos los sordos frente a una de las mayores crisis ambientales de la historia.

A la luz de las crisis ambientales que enfrentamos y el clamor de la Creación y los pobres, el papa Francisco reitera su llamado a que examinemos el camino que estamos recorriendo y que hagamos un examen de conciencia: “Qué bien nos haría a todos hacer un examen de conciencia y aprender a decir: ¡Perdón!, ¡perdón, hermanos! El mundo de hoy, despojado por la cultura del descarte, los necesita”.

Si miramos alrededor, vemos muchos signos de esta “cultura del descarte”, que se deshace de cosas y personas como “sobrantes”, ya sean las personas sin hogar que viven en nuestras calles, los trabajadores que producen bienes de consumo baratos por salarios ínfimos en las maquilas de Juárez, o los pueblos indígenas que han sido desplazados de sus tierras o las han visto contaminadas por otros “mareados por el poder, el dinero y las leyes del mercado”.

El papa Francisco, durante este periodo de Cuaresma, nos llama a examinar nuestros pasos y el camino actual que estamos recorriendo, para rechazar una “cultura del descarte” y abrazar una cultura de solidaridad y encuentro.

El papa Francisco llama a la Iglesia y al mundo a reconocer la urgencia de nuestros desafíos ambientales y sumarse a él en embarcarse en un nuevo camino. Como dijo el papa Francisco durante su visita a nuestra nación, “Ahora es el tiempo de acciones valientes y de estrategias para implementar una ‘cultura del cuidado’ y una ‘aproximación integral para combatir la pobreza, para devolver la dignidad a los excluidos y simultáneamente para cuidar la naturaleza’”.

Como individuos, podemos adoptar medidas importantes para responder al llamado del papa Francisco de cuidar nuestra casa común examinando nuestro estilo de vida, reduciendo nuestro consumo y siendo conscientes de nuestras opciones. También podemos contribuir a una escala más amplia a un cambio duradero trabajando activamente dentro de nuestras comunidades para abordar los desafíos ambientales en nuestros barrios, pueblos y ciudades, y promoviendo políticas ambientales que protejan a los pobres y vulnerables en nuestro país y en todo el mundo.

¿Cómo responderá usted al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

Francisco nos recuerda que “[n]o hay que pensar que esos esfuerzos no van a cambiar el mundo. Esas acciones derraman un bien en la sociedad que siempre produce frutos más allá de lo que se pueda constatar, porque provocan en el seno de esta tierra un bien que siempre tiende a difundirse” (Laudato si’, 212).

Profundice:

  • ¿Existe una organización comunitaria local a la que pueda unirse (o crear) para promover el bien común y construir una ecología integral? Para encontrar un grupo de la CCHD, busque en el sitio web PobrezaUSA. Eche un vistazo a las Historias de esperanza para informarse de cómo organizaciones apoyadas por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano están trabajando por la justicia ambiental.
  • Y para empezar la conversación en su parroquia o comunidad local, mire la guía de discusión y otros recursos educativos sobre la encíclica en el sitio web del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB.
  • Infórmese de cómo las comunidades católicas en todos los Estados Unidos, incluyendo parroquias, diócesis, escuelas y comunidades religiosas, están cuidando de la creación, en WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • ¡Apoye el llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común! Diga a sus senadores que cuiden de la creación ayudando a organizaciones sin fines de lucro a hacer mejoras necesarias en la eficiencia energética y protegiendo un estándar nacional de carbono.
  • Adopte la Promesa de San Francisco de cuidar de la Creación y de los pobres. Se trata de una promesa y un compromiso de personas, familias, parroquias y organizaciones católicas de vivir nuestra fe cuidando de la creación de Dios y de los más vulnerables.

ceciliaCecilia Calvo es la coordinadora del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB en el Departamento de Justicia, Paz y Desarrollo Humano de la USCCB.

How Can We Respond to Pope Francis’ Call to Care for Our Common Home?

Lent, Pope Francis’ prayer intention and lessons from his trip to Mexico

Just this month in his prayer intention video Pope Francis asked people around the world to “take good care of creation” and to care for our common home. He emphasized, both “[b]elievers and unbelievers agree that the earth is a common heritage, the fruits of which should benefit everyone.” He calls us to recognize “[t]he relationship between poverty and the fragility of the planet.”

During Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico last week he gave testimony to the effects of social, economic, and environmental exclusion by putting those on the margins — migrants, prisoners, workers and indigenous peoples — at the center of his trip. Through his visit to Chiapas the pope sent a powerful message. There he stood in solidarity with the country’s indigenous population, who has increasingly withstood environmental and human rights abuses.

In a holy Mass with representatives of the indigenous communities of Chiapas, Pope Francis exclaimed, we cannot ignore the cries of Creation, the poor and the earth who “is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.”

In his homily in Chiapas, Pope Francis said:

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22)” (Laudato Si’, 2). The environmental challenge that we are experiencing, and its human causes, affects us all (cf. Laudato Si’, 14) and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history.

In light of the environmental crises we face and the cries of Creation and the poor, Pope Francis reiterates his call for us to examine the path we are traveling on and to examine our conscience: “How worthwhile it would be for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, “‘forgive me!’, ‘forgive me, brothers and sisters!’ Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!”

If we look around, we see many signs of this “throwaway culture,” which discards things and people as “leftovers,” whether it is the homeless who live on our streets, the workers who produce cheap consumer goods for abysmal wages in the maquilas in Juárez, or the indigenous peoples who have been displaced from their lands or seen them contaminated by others “intoxicated by power, money and market trends.”

Pope Francis, during this period of Lent, call us to examine our steps and the current path we are traveling on, to reject a “throwaway culture,” and to embrace a culture of solidarity and encounter.

Francis calls the Church and the world to acknowledge the urgency of our environmental challenges and to join him in embarking on a new path. As Pope Francis said during his visit to our nation, “Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.'”

As individuals, we can take important steps to answer Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home by examining our lifestyles, reducing our consumption, and being conscious of our choices. We can also contribute on a broader scale to lasting change by working actively within our communities to address environmental challenges in our neighborhoods, towns and cities, and advocating for environmental policies that protect the poor and vulnerable in our nation and around the world.

How will you respond to Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home?

Francis reminds us that “[w]e must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread” (Laudato Si’, 212).

Go deeper:

  • Is there a local community organization you can join (or create) to promote the common good and build an integral ecology? To find a CCHD group, look on Poverty USA’s website. Check out the Stories of Hope to learn how organizations supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are working for environmental justice.
  • And to start the conversation in your parish or local community, look at the discussion guide, and other educational resources on the encyclical on the USCCB Environmental Justice Program website.
  • Learn how Catholic communities around the United States, including parishes, dioceses, schools, and religious communities, are caring for creation, at WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • Support Pope Francis’ call to care for our common home! Tell your Senators to care for creation by helping nonprofits make needed energy-efficiency improvements and protecting a national carbon standard.
  • Take the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor. The Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes and organizations to live our faith by caring for God’s Creation and the most vulnerable.
Cecilia Calvo, USCCB

Cecilia Calvo, USCCB

Cecilia Calvo is the coordinator of the USCCB Environmental Justice Program at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

 


¿Cómo podemos responder al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común? La Cuaresma, la intención de oración del papa Francisco y las lecciones de su viaje a México

Justamente este mes en su video de intención de oración, el papa Francisco pidió a la gente de todo el mundo que “cuidemos de la creación” y de nuestra casa común. Hizo hincapié en que tanto “[c]reyentes y no creyentes estamos de acuerdo en que la tierra es una herencia común, cuyos frutos deben beneficiar a todos”. Él nos llama a reconocer “[l]a relación entre la pobreza y la fragilidad del planeta”.

Durante su visita a México la semana pasada, el papa Francisco dio testimonio de los efectos de la exclusión social, económica y ambiental al poner a los marginados —migrantes, presos, trabajadores y pueblos indígenas— en el centro de su viaje. A través de su visita a Chiapas el papa envió un poderoso mensaje. Allí se alzó en solidaridad con la población indígena del país, que viene resistiéndose cada vez más a los abusos a los derechos humanos y ambientales.

En una santa Misa con representantes de las comunidades indígenas de Chiapas, el papa Francisco exclamó que no podemos ignorar el clamor de la Creación, diciendo que “entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra”.

En su homilía en Chiapas, el papa Francisco dijo:

Esta hermana clama por el daño que le provocamos a causa del uso irresponsable y del abuso de los bienes que Dios ha puesto en ella. Hemos crecido pensando que éramos sus propietarios y dominadores, autorizados a expoliarla. La violencia que hay en el corazón humano, herido por el pecado, también se manifiesta en los síntomas de enfermedad que advertimos en el suelo, en el agua, en el aire y en los seres vivientes. Por eso, entre los pobres más abandonados y maltratados, está nuestra oprimida y devastada tierra, que “gime y sufre dolores de parto” (Rm 8,22)” (Laudato si’, 2). El desafío ambiental que vivimos, y sus raíces humanas, nos impactan a todos (cf. Laudato si’, 14) y nos interpelan. Ya no podemos hacernos los sordos frente a una de las mayores crisis ambientales de la historia.

A la luz de las crisis ambientales que enfrentamos y el clamor de la Creación y los pobres, el papa Francisco reitera su llamado a que examinemos el camino que estamos recorriendo y que hagamos un examen de conciencia: “Qué bien nos haría a todos hacer un examen de conciencia y aprender a decir: ¡Perdón!, ¡perdón, hermanos! El mundo de hoy, despojado por la cultura del descarte, los necesita”.

Si miramos alrededor, vemos muchos signos de esta “cultura del descarte”, que se deshace de cosas y personas como “sobrantes”, ya sean las personas sin hogar que viven en nuestras calles, los trabajadores que producen bienes de consumo baratos por salarios ínfimos en las maquilas de Juárez, o los pueblos indígenas que han sido desplazados de sus tierras o las han visto contaminadas por otros “mareados por el poder, el dinero y las leyes del mercado”.

El papa Francisco, durante este periodo de Cuaresma, nos llama a examinar nuestros pasos y el camino actual que estamos recorriendo, para rechazar una “cultura del descarte” y abrazar una cultura de solidaridad y encuentro.

El papa Francisco llama a la Iglesia y al mundo a reconocer la urgencia de nuestros desafíos ambientales y sumarse a él en embarcarse en un nuevo camino. Como dijo el papa Francisco durante su visita a nuestra nación, “Ahora es el tiempo de acciones valientes y de estrategias para implementar una ‘cultura del cuidado’ y una ‘aproximación integral para combatir la pobreza, para devolver la dignidad a los excluidos y simultáneamente para cuidar la naturaleza’”.

Como individuos, podemos adoptar medidas importantes para responder al llamado del papa Francisco de cuidar nuestra casa común examinando nuestro estilo de vida, reduciendo nuestro consumo y siendo conscientes de nuestras opciones. También podemos contribuir a una escala más amplia a un cambio duradero trabajando activamente dentro de nuestras comunidades para abordar los desafíos ambientales en nuestros barrios, pueblos y ciudades, y promoviendo políticas ambientales que protejan a los pobres y vulnerables en nuestro país y en todo el mundo.

¿Cómo responderá usted al llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común?

Francisco nos recuerda que “[n]o hay que pensar que esos esfuerzos no van a cambiar el mundo. Esas acciones derraman un bien en la sociedad que siempre produce frutos más allá de lo que se pueda constatar, porque provocan en el seno de esta tierra un bien que siempre tiende a difundirse” (Laudato si’, 212).

 

Profundice:

  • ¿Existe una organización comunitaria local a la que pueda unirse (o crear) para promover el bien común y construir una ecología integral? Para encontrar un grupo de la CCHD, busque en el sitio web PobrezaUSA. Eche un vistazo a las Historias de esperanza para informarse de cómo organizaciones apoyadas por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano están trabajando por la justicia ambiental.
  • Y para empezar la conversación en su parroquia o comunidad local, mire la guía de discusión y otros recursos educativos sobre la encíclica en el sitio web del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB.
  • Infórmese de cómo las comunidades católicas en todos los Estados Unidos, incluyendo parroquias, diócesis, escuelas y comunidades religiosas, están cuidando de la creación, en WeAreSaltAndLight.org.
  • ¡Apoye el llamado del papa Francisco a cuidar de nuestra casa común! Diga a sus senadores que cuiden de la creación ayudando a organizaciones sin fines de lucro a hacer mejoras necesarias en la eficiencia energética y protegiendo un estándar nacional de carbono.
  • Adopte la Promesa de San Francisco de cuidar de la Creación y de los pobres. Se trata de una promesa y un compromiso de personas, familias, parroquias y organizaciones católicas de vivir nuestra fe cuidando de la creación de Dios y de los más vulnerables.

Cecilia Calvo es la coordinadora del Programa de Justicia Ambiental de la USCCB en el Departamento de Justicia, Paz y Desarrollo Humano de la USCCB.

“A Church Which is Poor and For the Poor” – Poverty Awareness Month

Pope Francis holds dove before his weekly audience at the Vatican

Pope Francis holds a dove before his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 15. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Since Pope Francis was elected Pope in March 2013, he has made evident through both word and deed that poverty is a core theme of his papacy. He implores us to make the circumstances of those who are poor a central concern guiding our action in the world at all times, not just for a day, a month, or for an hour a week.

He began his papacy by expressing “How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor!” And in the first homily of his papacy, Pope Francis reminded us that it is everyone’s responsibility to “embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love.” Pope Francis challenges us to take a disposition of ‘encounter’ offering that “you can’t speak of poverty without having the experience with the poor,” and that “the path to Jesus is to find his wounds, to touch his wounds, to caress the wounds of Jesus, and to bind them with tenderness.”

In the United States, 46.7 million people, including 1 in 5 children, experience poverty, and an additional 14.7 million Americans are ‘near poor’, or have incomes between 100% and 125% of the federal poverty level.

Poverty continues to disproportionately impact families of color, and some states and jurisdictions have child poverty rates at 29 and 30%. In their 2015 book,  Edin and Shaefer offer a portrait of deep poverty (income below half the poverty line), in which 20 million Americans, including 7.1 million children, live in conditions and are forced to make choices that undermine their dignity and imperil their health and safety.

Pope Francis speaks about poverty as a ‘scandal, in a world where there is so much wealth,’ and calls us to address “the structural causes of poverty, inequality, the shortage of dignified work and housing, and the denial of their rights as members of society and as workers.” The Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the U.S. Bishops’ initiative to address the structural causes of poverty through community organizing and economic development. Their grants support movements for living wages, affordable housing, and dignified work, as well as economic development initiatives that give attention to the dignity of people and the care of our planet. Cultivating a deeper awareness of poverty and supporting CCHD are two ways we can heed Francis’ call to fight against the ‘globalization of indifference, [and help build] a new civilization of love and solidarity.’

 

Photo by Ed Pfueller

Photo by Ed Pfueller

Linda Plitt Donaldson, MSW, PhD is Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America, National Catholic School of Social Service and serves as a consultant to the bishops’ subcommittee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

 


Learn more about Poverty Awareness Month at the USCCB website, including downloadable resources in English and Spanish.

 

 

 

 

 

Living Joy and Hope as a Global Church

Welch_RomeIt was the writings of great Church thinkers such as Augustine, Aquinas, and Newman who first introduced me to the intellectual heritage of the Roman Catholic faith. At that time, I was a young student on the campus of what was then a conservative Protestant Christian college. Reading these thoughtfully deliberative texts seemed like a provocative act. When I moved on to the papal encyclicals, I was fascinated by the way in which the Church outlined principles for how people of faith might relate to the world, particularly with regard to social issues and issues of justice that affect those on the margins.

Fast forward many years to early November 2015 and I found myself standing in the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the heart of the City of Seven Hills. I had entered the basilica from a side door and it took a minute for my eyes to adjust from the bright light of the Mediterranean sun to the soft interior glow of the sacred space. I heard a dull roar to the right and looked over to see myself dozens of yards from a rope line that separated me from a throng of tourists. This was my third visit to the Vatican, but my first as a Catholic and certainly my first time on that side of the rope.

Mass at St. Peter’s that day was the highlight of a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of Gaudium et Spes, which is considered a landmark document of the Second Vatican Council that promoted interfaith dialogue and reinvigorated the Church’s approach to social justice. The Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace coordinated the Young Generations at the Service of Mankind that assembled members of the council, heads of institutes for social doctrine, representatives from international youth movements based in Rome, and a handful of selected young adults to represent the future of the Catholic faith across the continents. I was incredibly honored to be selected by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of USCCB, who had been invited by Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson to send one young person from the United States.

During two days of intensive conference presentations and panel discussions facilitated by leading Catholic scholars, I became more familiar with the substantive message of Gaudium et Spes, which challenges Catholics and all people of good will to be responsive to what is happening in the world. Economists, political scientists, theologians, historians, and other experts spoke about pressing global concerns related to family, immigration, economics, technology, and good governance. Each of the young adult representatives was asked by Cardinal Turkson to present synthesizing remarks at the conclusion of the sessions. In this way, the council sought to create a “dialogue among generations.”

GaudiumetSpes_DocsThe group also gathered at the New Synod Hall in Vatican City for a ceremonial handing over of the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes. The six young representatives received a parchment and, in keeping with the future-oriented theme, a flash drive containing the social doctrine. These were handed out by individuals who had been part of the 1962-1965 Vatican II council. I was particularly moved, as a layperson, to receive my materials from Alain DeLauney who was a lay expert on financial matters at the Council.

Being part of the Gaudium et Spes conference and celebration reinforced my initial pull to a faith tradition that creates space for thoughtful dialogue. The robust discussion and interactions with young people from around the world also reminded me that today’s young adults desire to practice a real, engaged faith. They are eager for a global voice—a prophetic voice—that can speak boldly and exhort world leaders and structures. Pope Francis is offering us that opportunity, to root ourselves in Scripture and Church teaching, that we might go forth to practice mercy, sustained by the Eucharist, and emboldened by joy and hope.

 

Bethany Welch 2014Bethany J. Welch, Ph.D. is the founder of the Aquinas Center in Philadelphia, PA and recipient of the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award granted by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

 


 

Learn more about Catholic Social Teaching in our new CST 101 videos, a collaborative video series between Catholic Relief Services and the USCCB that explores the 7 themes of Catholic Social Teaching.

 

Pope Francis’ Messages to Africa

Pope Francis visited three African nations November 25-30 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters, June 6, 2015)

Pope Francis visited three African nations November 25-30, 2015 (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters, June 6, 2015)

“Passing to the other side” – the theme of the Holy Father’s recent Apostolic Visit to Africa – references the crossing of the sea when Jesus calms the storm and calls on his disciples to faith. This image is poignant for a continent that many see either poised for a leap ahead to a new “African Century,” or doomed to continued stagnation caused by conflict, bad governance, and environmental degradation. Pope Francis offered the people of Africa calm guidance in a stormy time.

1. “May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor…”

Throughout his three-country visit, he reminded political and religious leaders that the way of Jesus is to serve those who are poor and marginalized. Pope Francis made this point in the middle of the slum of Kangemi, a place where 150,000 people live in tin shacks with no access to clean water nor proper sewage facilities.  He quoted an African proverb, “there is always room for one more seat at the table” to illustrate the wisdom of the poor, but he condemned poverty and exclusion as “…wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy and run-down peripheries.”“A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with young people…”

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. In 2010, 70% of Africans were below the age of 30. The Holy Father reminded leaders that, “[t]o protect [youth], to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders….” He called leaders to feed the aspiration of the youth for a more peaceful and just society.

2. “Corruption is something which creeps in. It’s like sugar: it’s sweet, we like it, it goes down easily. And then? We get sick!”

Pope Francis addressed the problem of corruption in Africa in response to a question from a Kenyan girl, “Can corruption be justified simply because everyone is involved in wrongdoing, everyone is corrupt?”

Pope Francis replied, “Corruption is not the way to life. It is a path which leads to death.” He added that it steals a person’s joy and harms those living in poverty. It also robs society of peace.

3. “There is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order.”

In his first speech in Africa the Holy Father said, “We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul.” The Pope cited an African proverb that says that we don’t inherit land from our ancestors, but rather borrow it from our children and are responsible for passing it on in better shape than we found it.

This message is so important to Africa, a continent that is rich in natural resources, but mired in poverty.

4. “Passing to the other side, in the civil sense, means leaving behind war, divisions and poverty, and choosing peace, reconciliation, development.”

The theme, ‘Passing to the other side’ was most prominent in the final leg of Pope Francis’ visit to CAR, a country that is desperately struggling to emerge from a bloody two-year conflict.  In a gesture that raised this peripheral country to the world’s attention, Pope Francis opened the Jubilee Year of Mercy doors to the Cathedral in Bangui and announced that, “Today Bangui becomes the spiritual capital of the world. The Holy Year of Mercy comes in advance to this land. A land that has suffered for many years as a result of war, hatred, misunderstanding, and the lack of peace. But in this suffering land there are also all the countries that are experiencing the Cross of war”.

5. “Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury”

Pope Francis stressed the need for ecumenical and interfaith dialogue throughout his visit. In Uganda, he along with Anglican and Catholic bishops prayed at the monument of the holy martyrs where in the late 1880’s 45 Catholic and Anglican men and women were killed for their faith.  He noted that “[e]cumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is … essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”

The Holy Father spent even more time discussing interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, especially in Kenya and the CAR where violent conflict has been perpetrated in the name of faith. At the central mosque in Bangui, CAR he stated that, “Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters….”

 

On the plane home, the Holy Father told a team of journalists: “Africa is a martyr. She is a martyr to exploitation in history. Those who say that from Africa come all calamities and all wars do not understand well, perhaps, the damage that certain forms of development do to humanity. And it is for this reason that I love Africa….”

 

Hilbert headshotSteve Hilbert is a policy advisor on Africa for the Office of International Justice and Peace at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A look ahead to Pope Francis’ visit to Africa

Pope Francis holds dove before his weekly audience at the Vatican

Pope Francis holds a dove before his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 15. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Later this week, Pope Francis will make his first pastoral visit to Africa. He will visit Kenya, Uganda, and if the security situation allows, the Central African Republic. Throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father has championed the cause of those living in poverty. On the world scene, Sub Saharan Africa is where the marginalized of the world are concentrated. According to the World Bank, in 1990 50% of the world’s poor lived in Southeast Asia while Africa accounted for only around 15%. The Bank projects that in 2015 those continents will change places with Africa holding about half of the world’s poor. Yet, Africa represents only around 15% of the world’s population.

Pope Francis very likely will make this disparity a key message to the world. He will probably call on the world’s developed countries to increase their investment in poverty eradication where the poor are concentrated – in Africa.

November 25-27, Pope Francis will be in Kenya. There, Pope Francis may address the long-term ethnic conflict that has been instigated and used by political leaders for decades. Conflict over land, especially in the fertile areas of the country, is closely linked to ethnic tensions. Ethnic groups tend to be concentrated in particular areas of the country, and some groups feel their land has been taken by the more powerful and politically connected ethnic groups. Church leaders have spoken out against ethnic-based politics and the resulting violent conflicts. The Holy Father may urge the Church and the government to defuse tensions through more systematic and sustained dialogue and reconciliation programs.

For decades, Muslims and Christians have lived side-by-side in relative peace in Kenya. When Somalia descended into conflict, refugees streamed into Kenya, but Muslim-Christian relations remained positive. When the Kenyan army intervened in Somalia, however, that changed. The Westgate Mall attack and more recent terrorist acts have created significant anti-Muslim sentiments, resulting in heavy-handed actions by government police and military against Muslims. This in turn has fostered grievances among peaceful people in the Muslim community. The Holy Father will perhaps stress the need for greater Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Governance issues and corruption have been long standing problems in Kenya. They are some of the root causes of the worsening ethnic conflict. The Holy Father may call for greater inclusive, transparent, and responsive government in a pastoral way.

While South Sudan is not on the Pope’s visit schedule, the Holy See has followed the tragic civil war there closely. Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council on International Justice and Peace, visited South Sudan last year. Pope Francis may make a statement on the situation in South Sudan and encourage the Catholic Church and the South Sudan Council of Churches to persist in their efforts to promote reconciliation, dialogue between political leaders, and regional cooperation to help South Sudan achieve peace.

From November 27-29, Pope Francis will be in Uganda, a country that has been relatively peaceful. Tensions are rising due to worsening corruption and neglectful governance and increasing civil rights violations by President Museveni’s government, in power for almost 30 years. The Holy Father may address governance issues by evoking his themes of caring for the poor and the marginalized.

On November 29-30, Pope Francis is expected to visit the Central African Republic, which is struggling to recover from decades of bad governance and two years of violent conflict. The country is trying to organize elections and inaugurate the first legitimate government in its history. Violence between militia groups continues, and the fate of a peaceful transition hangs in the balance. The Church leads the Religious Leaders’ Platform that is calling for donor nations to give the transitional government the time and resources it needs to organize a credible election. The Pope’s visit could be the catalyst for real positive change if he can encourage the belligerents to reject their violent ways, empower religious leaders, and urge donors to fund peacebuilding efforts.

Throughout his journey, we expect to see Pope Francis bringing the hallmarks of his Papacy: preaching joy of the Gospel, being close to the poor and marginalized, and spreading message of mercy and reconciliation.

In advance of the Pope’s visit to Kenya, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a special prayer for the visit. We invite you to follow Pope Francis’ visit in the news and ask that you pray for him and for peace in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

See the full schedule for Pope Francis’ Visit to Africa, November 25-30.

 

Hilbert headshotSteve Hilbert is a policy advisor on Africa for the Office of International Justice and Peace at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

How to address the Syrian refugee crisis in a humane way

Found lying face down and lifeless on a Turkish beach, the three year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, was another victim of the violence in Syria that had caused his family to flee their home in pursuit of a better life elsewhere. Photos of his drowned, crumpled body quickly went viral, and the scales from people’s eyes seemed ready to fall away as the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis it helped produce suddenly became personal. As tragic and unnecessary as his death was, his case was not an isolated event. More than four million refugees have fled the region since 2010, with most taking shelter in surrounding countries. Many thousands have died in the process; countless others struggle with the daily ritual of just trying to survive.

Some 2,000 refugees and economic migrants are entering Serbia daily en route to the European Union. Serbia's public spaces, like this park in the border town of Kanjiza, have become temporary homes to those in transit.

Some 2,000 refugees and economic migrants are entering Serbia daily en route to the European Union. Serbia’s public spaces, like this park in the border town of Kanjiza, have become temporary homes to those in transit.

As many as one in three people living in Lebanon today is a refugee from the Syrian crisis. Turkey hosts nearly two million, and Jordan 600,000 more. Syrians have begun to face increasing challenges to find safety and protection in neighboring countries, which, faced with overwhelming refugee numbers, insufficient international support, and security concerns, have taken measures this year to stem the flow of refugees – including restricting access or closer management of borders and introducing complex requirements for refugees to extend their stay.

As a consequence, tens of thousands of refugees have begun the difficult trek west, with the hope of finding a new home in countries throughout Europe. Despite initial efforts to provide a humanitarian response to these refugee populations, signs of strain are clearly beginning to set in as leaders of countries throughout the region have begun to tighten their borders and restrict further access.

Reflecting on this expanding and deepening problem, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, KY and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged “all Catholics in the United States and others of good will to express openness and welcome to these refugees, who are escaping desperate situations in order to survive. Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons—made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution.”

Elsewhere Pope Francis has highlighted the moral obligations of the international community toward migrants, emphasized the need to establish institutional structures that can more effectively respond to crises of this sort, and called on “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe” to take in one refugee family.

Recognizing that inaction will only have dire consequences for the many vulnerable refugees who are seeking a place of safety, the Catholic bishops of the United States have made a number of recommendations related to this problem. These include

  • Ending the conflict in the region and establishing a workable peace is of paramount importance.
  • Building an inclusive and lasting peace to allow Syrian refugees—also including those who are ethnic and religious minorities– to return home, rebuild their communities, and share in the governance of their country.
  • Providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring refugee countries.
  • Providing development aid to refugee host countries near Syria so they are able to properly welcome and care for the refugees.
  • Authorizing the admission and resettlement of 200,000 refugees into the U.S. from refugee countries across the world, including 100,000 resettlement slots designated for the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syria conflict.

Please, take a moment to learn what steps you can take to help Syrian and other refugees in their moment of need.

Todd ScribnerTodd Scribner is the Education Outreach Coordinator for Migration & Refugee Services at the USCCB.


Take action now! Support for Syrian Refugees is Needed Now More Than Ever – Action alert from Catholics Confront Global Poverty, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services.