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Migrants are revitalizing the Church in Chile, missionary priest says

Santiago, Chile, Mar 21, 2019 / 12:31 am (CNA).- For six years, Fr. Marcio Toniazzo has worked as the director of immigration services for the Archdiocese of Santiago in Chile.

In that time, he says he has witnessed “a good marriage…between migration and Chile,” in which “both [have] had to reinvent themselves.”

Toniazzo, a priest with the Congregation of the Missionaries of Saint Charles Scalabrinians, spoke with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency, as he concludes his work in the Latin American country.

He said that in his work to help foreigners integrate and assimilate in Chilean culture, he has found that “God was providential with the Church in Chile, because migration is what is revitalizing the Church in the midst of its crisis.”

“The migrant is the one who is working to help incorporate, integrate, improve, heal and go forward,” he said. “The migrant has given a new dynamism to the faith and a clear example is the choirs they have joined in the communities. It’s with that participation that they find a way of showing their love for God and to live the faith through music.”

The energy in the workplace, the cuisine available, and culture that Chile is experiencing “show that migrants came to contribute and have a life experience,” he reflected.

Chile’s economic and political stability has made it a major destination for Latin American immigrants. Politicians in the last year have proposed cracking down on immigration through tighter border control and increased restrictions on access to social services for immigrants.

Toniazzo himself is an immigrant, originally from Brazil. During his time in Chile, he has directed the Chilean Catholic Institute for Migration and served as pastor at a parish.

He has also witnessed the development of the Integrated Center to Serve Migrants, which includes two shelters for men and women, an employment exchange for migrants, and activities to support the assimilation of foreigners and enhance parish work with diverse communities.

This growth has been joyful for the priest. But he has also witnessed moments of sadness, particularly in seeing the limited resources and capacity for immediate housing assistance and food available to migrants who have come to Chile with high hopes.

“As a country, we don’t have enough places to receive and care for the children who come with their mothers, or pregnant women. Many of them have nowhere to live,” he said.

“The big challenge now for immigration is inculturation, an encounter between those who arrive and those who receive them. How to help each other so there is cohesion and a family is formed, a Pentecost and not a Tower of Babel,” he reflected.

Concluding his assignment in Chile, Toniazzo is now headed to Miami, where he will begin a new pastoral ministry with the Brazilian community there.

He said he is both fearful and anxious about migrating the U.S. and starting over with a new country and culture and he works to spread the Gospel.

At the same time, he is grateful for his experiences in Chile and all the volunteers there who “are working in a committed and dedicated manner to advance God’s work” in the two shelters and in the parish.

Toniazzo said he hopes their work will continue to bear fruit, guided by “the words of Jesus: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’.”

“To welcome the migrant is to welcome Christ,” he said. “There can be a lot of difficulties, problems, dissatisfaction and challenges – but Christ is in the migrant and all the good that is done. God doesn’t forget it.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Will Pope Francis meet the Chinese president this week?

Vatican City, Mar 20, 2019 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- As Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Rome this week, there has been much speculation as to whether his trip will also include an unofficial visit with Pope Francis.

Ahead of the Chinese president’s arrival in Italy March 21, the AP reported that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said, “Our door is always open.”

“The proclamation of the Gospel in China cannot be separated from a stance of respect, esteem, and trust toward the Chinese People and their legitimate state authorities,” Parolin wrote in his introduction to the book, The Church in China: A Future Yet to be Written, published this week to coincide with Xi’s visit to Italy.

Parolin wrote that the provisional agreement signed by the Holy See and China in September was “not so much a point of arrival as a starting point.”

Italian media have been speculating about a possible meeting, noting that Pope Francis’ schedule does not have many appointments planned for the dates when Xi will be in Italy March 21-23.

However Chinese sources have expressed that a potential meeting between the pope and the Chinese leader is unlikely.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was “not aware” of a potential meeting between the pope and the president, but said that China is ready to meet the Vatican halfway through “constructive dialogue” to “accumulate mutual trust.”

Since China severed diplomatic ties with the Holy See in 1951, a potential meeting between the pope and the Chinese leader would have to be an unofficial meeting.

Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy beginning March 21 will focus on the two countries' economic ties with the Chinese hoping to secure Italian support for their Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to expand commerce through infrastructure investments.

The Chinese president will then travel to Monaco and meet with President Emmanuel Macron in Nice, France before returning March 26.

A Vatican source told the National Catholic Register that it is unlikely that a meeting will occur, but said that “last-minute decision is possible.”

The source added that the Vatican has been planning a papal trip to China for at least two years and hopes that it will take place by 2020.

The Vatican-China provisional agreement, signed Sept. 22, 2018, is still confidential in nature. The deal reportedly allows the Communist government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association to choose a slate of nominees for bishop. One effect of the agreement, the Holy See recognized seven illicitly consecrated Chinese bishops and entrusted them with the leadership of Chinese dioceses.

At the moment all of China’s bishops have recognition of both the government and the Holy See. Since the deal, no new bishops have yet been appointed to China.

“History often forces religious matters and political issues, ecclesial themes and cultural discussions, moral questions and social drama, into inextricable knots,” Cardinal Parolin wrote.

“The path of unity is not yet entirely complete and the full reconciliation between Chinese Catholics and the respective communities to which they belong remains a primary objective. It is more than ever necessary, therefore, that in China a serious path of purification of memory begin progressively,” he said.

US bishops: Equality Act will hurt more than help

Washington D.C., Mar 20, 2019 / 02:16 pm (CNA).- In a March 20 letter to members of the U.S. Senate, three bishops warned that while the proposed Equality Act purports to address issues of discrimination, it would actually create new problems and threaten fundamental freedoms.

“This proposed legislation does not accomplish what its supporters assert, but rather creates new difficulties and will hurt more people than its designers want to help,” the bishops said, urging Senators to oppose the bill.

The Equality Act, reintroduced in Congress this month, would add anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to existing protections for race, color, national origin, sex, disability and religion.

It would apply not just to employment, but other areas like housing, jury duty, credit, and education, as well as at retail stores, emergency shelters, banks, transit and pharmacies, among others. It would also specify facility access for self-identified transgender persons, such as access to male and female bathrooms.

David Cicilline, D-R.I., is the bill’s main sponsor in the House, NBC News reports. As of March 13, the bill had 239 co-sponsors in the House.

The March letter to the U.S. Senate was signed by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee; Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, head of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“As a nation we have a laudable history of confronting and overcoming unjust discrimination and attempting to balance the rights of various groups,” the bishops said.

“As Catholics, we share in this work of justice. It is our firm belief that each and every person should be treated with dignity and respect,” including the right to gainful employment with discrimination and the right to services necessary to maintain health and safety, they said. “In this, we whole-heartedly support nondiscrimination to ensure that everyone’s rights are protected.”

But instead of providing these protections, the Equality Act would create broad regulations that would harm society, they warned.

“The Act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence. Furthermore, the Act also fails to recognize the difference between the person – who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it – and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications. Conflating the two will introduce a plethora of further legal complications.”

The legislation would threaten the right to free speech, conscience and exercise of religion by making illegal certain beliefs about the human person - held by many individuals and groups, the bishops said. It would particularly threaten religious freedom, a foundational principle of the American founding, by exempting itself from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a move that the bishops noted is “unprecedented.”

Also dangerous, they said, is the lack of criteria for “gender identity,” which could open the door for abuses in restrooms and locker rooms.

“This risk arises not so much from those who experience gender incongruence, but from others who would take malicious advantage of open-door policies in these private spaces,” they stated.

The Equality Act would also put many charitable organizations at risk, requiring that homeless shelters place biological men with vulnerable women and adoption agencies place children with same-sex couples, even if this violates their beliefs and the birth mother’s wishes, the bishops said.

“The resulting closures of such charitable services would be unconscionable – especially when the opioid crisis is leaving more and more children in need of foster care.”

The legislation could threaten professionals in the wedding industry, such as cake bakers, photographers, and florists, who will serve all customers but cannot express messages to which they object. It would require health professionals to provide “gender transition” treatments and surgeries in violation of their medical and ethical judgments.

“Given all of these effects, we strongly oppose the Equality Act and respectfully urge you to oppose it as well,” the bishops wrote to the Senate. “We pray that wisdom will inform your deliberations on these matters and we readily stand with you, and are willing to assist you, in developing compassionate and just means to eradicate unjust discrimination and harassment from our country.”

Colombian diocese has served 1 million meals to Venezuelan migrants

Cucuta, Colombia, Mar 20, 2019 / 12:11 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Cúcuta in Colombia reported this week that it has provided 1 million meals to Venezuelan migrants affected by the humanitarian crisis in their country.

In a statement released March 18, the diocese thanked the volunteers and donors who since June 5, 2017, have provided support to those affected by the emergency at the Colombian-Venezuelan border.

“As the Holy Father Francis has well reminded us, the Church is like a field hospital where wounded people come seeking the goodness and closeness of God,” Bishop Víctor Manuel Ochoa Cadavid said in the statement.

Since Nicolas Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, the country has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen hyperinflation and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, and millions have emigrated.

Currently, thousands of Venezuelan citizens live on the remittances that relatives send them from abroad. However, only a maximum of 6,000 bolivars a day can be withdrawn from the bank, the equivalent of about $2.00.

Colombia has been a major destination for Venezuelans fleeing their home.

The Diocese of Cúcuta is serving the migrants through the Divine Providence House of Transit in addition to eight parish soup kitchens.

Speaking on RCN Radio March 19, Fr. David Cañas, the coordinator of the Divine Providence House, said that between 3,800 and 4,200 people arrive daily, starting very early, in search of food.

“Previously between 3,000 and 3,500 used to come (…) despite the blockades on the international bridges” that join Colombia and Venezuela, the priest said.

Bishop Ochoa voiced gratitude for “the 800 Catholic volunteers, men and women religious, priests and deacons, donors, coordinated by Fr. José David Caña Pérez, [who] make it possible for the Diocese of Cúcuta to become a prophetic witness of the charity of the Church.”

“The Lord in his infinite goodness blesses the families of Cucuta through the generosity and availability which they have had since the beginning of the border crisis in order to serve their neighbor with love,” he said.

He also thanked the institutions that have donated food, money, and resources to make the program possible: the World Food Program, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Caritas International, Adveniat, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

On March 19, in a meeting with migrants and volunteers at the Divine Providence House, Bishop Ochoa praised the 800 volunteers who have given their time to serve those in need.

“It’s the work of the Catholic Church…it’s the work of the Church for the beloved people of Venezuela… we ask you to pray for the people that help us help others.”

Victoria parliament considers ending daily Our Father

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 20, 2019 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The parliament of the Australian state of Victoria is considering a proposal to end the convention of beginnings daily sessions with the Our Father. The prayer has been a fixture of proceedings for more than a century.

 

The proposal is being reviewed by a committee of the upper house of the parliament, the Victoria Legislative Council, after referral by Gavin Jennings, Special Minister of State for the Labour Party government.

 

The Our Father is currently recited during legislature proceedings in the Australian federal parliament and the parliaments of every state and province. In the assembly of the Australian Capital Territory, a jurisdiction similar to the District of Columbia, a moment of silent reflection is held.

 

According to a March 20 report by 9 News, Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews – who is Catholic – has indicated he is open to the proposal, as is Marlene Kairouz, Minister for Consumer Affairs and also a Catholic.

 

"If we need to share other prayers and recognize other religions or other traditions I am more than happy to consider that," she said.

 

The plan has also been welcomed by the leader of the Reason Party, Fiona Patten, who called the plan “a nod to how diverse the Victorian parliament is.”

 

The Our Father has been recited daily in the Victorian legislature since 1918. Last year a Senate inquiry in the Australian federal parliament rejected a similar call led by Green Party MPs.

 

According to 9 News, the state of Victoria has the highest non-Christina affiliation rate in the country, more than 10 percent.

 

Anti-Christian, and anti-Catholic sentiment in particular, has been a much-discussed topic both in the state and nationwide. A Royal Commission report last year uncovered decades of incidences of child sexual abuse by personnel in Church-run institutions in the country.

 

The verdict to convict Cardinal Pell, formerly Archbishop of Melbourne, by a Victoria court last year has come under sustained criticism in some quarters of the national media, with many questioning if anti-Catholic sentiment, conditioned by years of negative media coverage of the Church, may have tainted public opinion – including the jury pool.

 

In the neighboring state of South Australia, the conviction of former Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson was overturned on appeal when a judge found anti-Catholicism had played a determining factor in the initial decision.