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What Eminem has to say about post-abortion regret

Denver, Colo., Jan 15, 2018 / 02:37 pm (CNA).- After an abortion,men and women can experience deep feelings of sadness and emptiness, suicidal thoughts, dreams of the aborted child, trouble with intimacy and difficulty bonding with future children, according to an expert in the field.

Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel and the National Office for Post Abortion Reconciliation and Healing, told CNA Jan. 11  these experiences are “a big secret” nobody wants to address, which sometimes prevents women and men who have been involved in an abortion from talking about their difficulties.

“There's a lot involved there,” she said, explaining that many abortion clinics and post-abortion websites will tell women that having an abortion was a good thing, but minimize adverse reactions by saying “we understand you might be feeling bad.”

However, Thorn –  a certified trauma counselor and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life – said that despite apparent reassurances that feelings of sadness and regret are no big deal, the reality is that post-abortion, men and women both are “haunted by this experience.”

According to a recent report from the Guttmacher Institute, some 56 million abortions were performed globally each year between 2010-2014, with 25 percent of all pregnancies during those years ending in abortion.

The highest number of abortions took place in developing nations, as well as many eastern European countries. While the number of annual abortions in developed nations dropped significantly during the years of the study, it rose in underdeveloped nations, mostly due to population growth, according to the study.

But despite the relative silence on the post-abortive experience, some celebrities have spoken out about the profound pain and regret they feel over past abortions, some of which took place years ago.

Among the high-profile personalities who've addressed the issue are Eminem, Sinead O'Connor, Nicki Minaj, Kid Rock, and Kenny Rogers.

In his new album “Revival,” released Dec. 15, 2017, Eminem includes a song called “River,” telling the story of a man who had an affair with a woman, and the couple’s choice to end a pregnancy through abortion.

The chorus of the song talks about the pain he feels, and his desire for forgiveness from the “sins” of his past: “I've been a liar, been a thief/Been a lover, been a cheat/All my sins need holy water, feel it washing over me/Well, little one/I don't want to admit to something/If all it's gonna cause is pain/The truth and my lies now are falling like the rain/So let the river run.”

Later, in the last verse of the song, he speaks to both the woman and the baby, saying: “I made you terminate my baby/This love triangle left us in a wreck, tangled/What else can I say? It was fun for a while/Bet I really woulda loved your smile/ Didn't really wanna abort, but – it/What's one more lie, to tell our unborn child?”

Similarly, in her 2012 track “Autobiography,” Nicki Minaj refers to an abortion she had at 16. In the song, she asks her child for forgiveness, saying “I'm trapped in my conscience/I adhered to the nonsense, listened to people who told me I wasn't ready for you.”

“But how the – would they know what I was ready to do? And of course it wasn't your fault (no)/It's like I feel you the air, I hear you saying 'Mommy don't cry, can't you see I'm right here?' (yes)/ I gotta let you know what you mean to me, when I'm sleeping, I see you in my dreams with me.”

In his song “Abortion,” released in 2000, Kid Rock talks about the grief of a father after an abortion that is so great he contemplates suicide, saying “I've never heard you cry I've never seen you whine...I must die to get to you...where's my gun...”

Kenny Rogers released the song “Water and Bridges” in 2006, in which he sings about decisions that are “much too late to change.../How a father could have held his son/If I could undo what's been done/But I guess everyone is living/With water and bridges.”

Thorn said Sinead O'Connor was the first artist she ever heard sing about abortion in her 1990 track “My Special Child,” which talks about the sadness she experienced after she had an abortion after a relationship broke down.  

Each of the sentiments expressed by these artists “are common experiences,” Thorn said, explaining that men and women can have different reactions to abortion based on their biology and experiences of pregnancy.  

For women between the ages of 11-19, Thorn noted that their brains haven't finished developing, and they operate mostly out of the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain. Many young women who have abortions, then, “make this decision out of fear.”

A woman's brain can't fully process trauma until 25, when the corpus callosum, which is “the linker between the right brain and left brain,” becomes fully active, Thorn said, explaining that in the early years of her pro-life work, she couldn't understand why most of her calls were from women around 25 years old.

“I thought that was the weirdest thing in the world,” she said, noting that it wasn't until several years later when she learned more about brain research that she understood women were calling “because now they can process it.”

For the woman who's had an abortion and is struggling with the decision, “we have to remember that she's a mother who lost her child in a traumatic and unnatural fashion,” Thorn said. “Society says abortion is a simple medical procedure, but we don't talk about what really happens.”

In terms of biology, Thorn said pregnant women go through something called “microchimerism,” in which cells from the child pass to the mother. And in cases of abortion or miscarriage, women carry more cells from those children than children they give birth to.

“These cells are part of biological knowledge, someone's missing,” she said, explaining that the feelings could come up at any time, even years later, but at a certain point there is a “trigger-incident', and I'm suddenly aware that that abortion was an offending event.”

The sense of loss that comes after is enormous, she said. And while globally abortion is discussed as something that “solves a problem” as simple as a fixing a bunion, “it's much, much deeper, and that knowledge of the cells makes a difference.”

“The sadness, this sense of responsibility, 'I did this.' Those are all parts of her experience,” Thorn said, adding that many times a woman will have a second or third abortion because “she's compelled to get pregnant again. It's a biological thing. She started the cycle of pregnancy and all the changes that go with it, and didn't finish it.”

And it's not just women. Men also have a biological experience, she said, and can tell that a woman is pregnant before she herself knows “because our scent changes...at four weeks we smell different.”

If the woman is with her partner during pregnancy, his body also undergoes “the whole raft of changes, hormonal and other things.” Men, she said, frequently experience “couvade,” also called “sympathy pregnancy,” in which they have some of same symptoms as the expectant mother.

As the end of the pregnancy gets nearer, the man's hormones “go crazy,” Thorn said. “His testosterone drops, his estrogen goes up, he gets more of a bonding hormone and he gets a nursing hormone for at least six weeks. We don't talk about that. But those are real, physiological changes.”

She said there are many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child if they'd had the chance. “They would have put their life in front of a car, and they grieve deeply, deeply.”

There are the men who wanted the abortion and later regret it, there are men who wanted to keep the baby but were told it wasn’t not their decision, and there are men who were never told about a pregnancy and didn't find out until years after the abortion and are “blown out of the water,” Thorn said.

“For men, in a sense the grief for men is difficult because they're told that they should have no feelings about this. It's her body, it's her life, it's none of your business, so he doesn't have a place to turn,” she added.

In the end, “they turn to drugs, they turn to pornography because they swore they'll never touch a woman again, depression, all kinds of things.”

She said it's important for men to have a voice in the discussion because “biologically they are changed by the pregnancy, there's a physiological thing going on here. He can't control that, that's biology. God is turning him into a father.”

Suicide is also frequent and strong temptation for both men and women post-abortion, she said, recalling stories she's heard of men with seemingly perfect lives who jumped from bridges and no one understood why until a friend or relative revealed that there had been an abortion that the man “had never recovered from.”

Thorn said that just a few years ago in Milwaukee there was a murder-suicide prompted by an abortion in which a man killed his girlfriend and then killed himself after she had an abortion he did not want.

Many men who would have tried to stop the abortion of their child but couldn't do it at times confess to having “violent thoughts” because “they couldn't protect” their baby, Thorn said. “It's this sense of male impotence, not sexual impotence, but that men are protectors, and they really struggle with that.”

Women, especially during the teen years, “are ten times more likely to attempt suicide after an abortion in the months that follow, that first six to eight months,” Thorn said. “That tells you the depth of the woundedness.”

After those first months, “denial kicks in,” she said, noting that while women will say they are doing fine, “they're emotionally very numb.”

Commitment also becomes an issue for men and women after abortions, she said, explaining that “only about 30 percent of couples survive abortions as a couple.”

If they move on to another relationship, they often won't tell their partners about feelings of betrayal or regret, “and that's going to be an intimacy killer in the bedroom, because she doesn't trust men – the one she was with forced her to have an abortion – and he doesn't women, it was his fiance that had his child aborted, so this is a huge wound.”

Women suffering from an abortion loss will often go into a “shut-down” phase, she said, noting that it is these women who become staunch defenders of abortion, and are the loudest voices arguing that it’s a woman's right.

“That's another way to cope,” she said. Pointing to various stories of people who have left the abortion industry, Thorn noted that “almost all of them had their own abortions first or during that time. It's a way to cope with what they've done; I need it, other women must need it, so I'm going to protect that right.”

“It's a very incredibly deep sadness and women never forget. They have the biology that makes it impossible to forget, it's always a part of them,” she said, adding that in her experience, the people who have found help and healed from past abortions “never support abortion again.”

Abortion can also affect parenting and one's relationship with future children, because women who don't heal after an abortion “don't bond very well in a different pregnancy. They're very over protective, but sometimes they're emotionally distant from their child.”

Fathers, on the other hand, “are overly committed to the child and become enmeshed, they really sort of take the role of the mother and push the mother away.”

Other family members, such as siblings or cousins, are also affected by abortion, she said, noting that she has met many people who grew up with a strong sensation that they should have had a brother or sister, and only later found out that an abortion had taken place.

In her view, Thorn said there is not enough discussion or awareness about the effects of abortion “because it's an uncomfortable piece, because there are so many abortions and people do not want to talk about it.”

“But what we're seeing in these songs is people are finding a way to tell their story to somebody in hopes that somebody's listening, and that's part of the healing process, is an opportunity to tell the story,” she said.

The fact that so many songs are being sung about the topic is “an indication that people are looking for a way to speak the truth about what happened,” she said, “and that's a way to do it if that's your talent and your gift.”

 

If you or someone you know is suffering after abortion, confidential non-judgmental help is available:

Call Project Rachel's national toll-free number: 888-456-HOPE(-4673) or visit HopeAfterAbortion.org.

Spanish-speakers may visit EsperanzaPosaborto.org”

Help is also available for men at http://menandabortion.info/

 

 

Pro-life bill would eliminate vast majority of legal abortions in Poland

Warsaw, Poland, Jan 15, 2018 / 12:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Lawmakers in Poland proposed pro-life legislation last week that would outlaw abortions performed because of a congenital disorder or deformity in the unborn child.

Members of parliament shot down a “Save Women” bill Jan. 10 that would have liberalized abortion access, allowing abortion through the first trimester of pregnancy and opening access to emergency contraception.

Instead, the country’s lawmakers promoted the “Stop Abortion” bill that would ban abortion for pregnancies in which the baby had received a congenital disorder diagnosis or deformity.

The new proposal, if passed, could eliminate the majority of abortions legally performed in Poland. According to Deutsche Welle, around 1,100 legal abortions took place in 2016. Of these abortions, 1,042 took place because the child was deformed.

“We have come to parliament today because we don’t want hospitals turning into abattoirs,” said Kaja Godek of the Life and Family Foundation, who introduced the bill to parliament, according to The Guardian.

Abortion in Poland is legal in Poland only in cases of rape or incest, if the mother’s health is threatened, or if the baby has received a fatal diagnosis or deformity.

The “Stop Abortion” bill began taking shape late in 2017; it was originally met with threats from the European Parliament, which said it would take legal action if legislators promoted the new restrictions.

However, Poland’s bishops' conference dismissed the pressure of EU sanctions, and gave their full support for the abortion restriction bill.

“The Polish bishops’ conference underlines that the right to life is fundamental to every human being, so we should all protect this right for defenseless children,” said Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, a spokesman for the bishops’ conference, according to the Catholic Herald.

“Nobody can take this right away, nor can external or internal pressure change the scientifically proven fact that human life begins at the moment of conception,” he continued.

A crowd of approximately 2,000 met on the steps of the Polish parliament in Warsaw on Saturday to protest the abortion restriction bill. Many of the protestors held signs saying, “My mind, my body, my choice,” and “Women will die without abortions.”

“The women whose rights and freedoms are being violated today have been left to face this problem alone,” stated Anna Karaszewska of the Let’s Save Women 2017 group, according to Deutsche Welle.

The Law and Justice party (PiS), which has been in power since 2015, has introduced multiple pro-life bills over the past few years. The PiS has also effectively cut off public funding for in-vitro fertilization and required a prescription for the morning-after pill.

PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski supported the “Stop Abortion” bill, saying that all babies – deformed or not – have the right to life.

“We will strive to ensure that even in pregnancies which are very difficult, when a child is sure to die, strongly deformed, women end up giving birth so that the child can be baptized, buried, and have a name,” Kaczynski said, according to The Guardian.

The BBC reported in 2016 that it is estimated there may be 10,000 abortions performed illegally in Poland every year.

A 2016 bill to ban all abortions in Poland was defeated.

A look at world's 50 most anti-Christian countries

Washington D.C., Jan 15, 2018 / 11:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- There are more than 215 million persecuted Christians worldwide according to the 2018 World Watch List, Open Doors USA's annual ranking of the 50 worst countries for violence and persecution against Christians.

The report found that one in twelve Christians worldwide are victims of violent persecution. Open Doors USA cites the spread of radical Islam and increasing religious nationalism as the two major drivers of global Christian persecution.

North Korea tops the list of worst offenders, as it has for the past 16 years. Although the communist North Korean government claims to provide freedom of religion in its constitution, no one can be openly Christian within the atheist state without facing arrest, re-education in a labor camp, or, in some cases, execution.

Despite the danger, Open Doors USA finds that there has been tremendous growth in underground Christianity in North Korea in the last two decades. The report estimates that there might be up to 300,000 Christians living clandestinely in North Korea.

Afghanistan comes in a close second in this year’s World Watch List ranking. Afghan citizens in this 99 percent Muslim country are banned from becoming Christian. Open Doors USA reports that underground Christians in Afghanistan have been killed by their own family members, who viewed the Christian conversion as a shameful apostasy.

Islamic oppression continues to be a growing concern for many Christians around the world. For eight of the top ten countries on the World Watch List, Islamic extremism is the primary cause of Christian persecution.

Islamic militancy has been on the rise in Somalia, where Christians, if discovered, are often martyred. Christians in Egypt, India, Libya, and Kazakhstan also experienced increased persecution since last year’s report.

Pakistani Christians experienced the most documented violence according to the report. Islamic militants in Pakistan specifically target Christians. A suicide bomb on Easter Sunday 2016 killed 74 people and injured hundreds more.

In addition to the spread of radical Islam, the report identified a rise in religious nationalism and intense persecution in central Asia as major trends in the persecution of Christians. Hindu nationalism has increased in India and Nepal, as has Buddhist nationalism in Burma and Sri Lanka. And persecution of Christians in central Asian nations, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, is intensifying under nationalist, pro-Islamic governments.

Also included on the list were Mexico and Colombia, where organized crime and corruption were cited as the source of Christian persecution.

Open Doors USA documented that 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked within the reporting period for the 2018 World Watch List.

The World Watch List includes specific prayers requests for each of the top 50 countries, recalling Open Doors USA's founder Brother Andrew’s faith in the power of prayer to aid those who are suffering afar: “Our prayers can go where we cannot … There are no borders, no prison walls, no doors that are closed to us when we pray.”

The nuns who witnessed the life and death of Martin Luther King

Washington D.C., Jan 14, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- This Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be the first without Sister Mary Antona Ebo, the only black Catholic nun who marched with civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma, Ala in 1965.

“I'm here because I’m a Negro, a nun, a Catholic, and because I want to bear witness,” Sister Mary Antona Ebo said to fellow demonstrators at a March 10, 1965 protest attended by King. Ebo was, in fact, the only African-American nun at the protest.

The protest took place three days after the “Bloody Sunday” clash, where police attacked several hundred voting rights demonstrators with clubs and tear gas, causing some severe injuries among the non-violent marchers. 

She passed away Nov. 11, 2017 in Bridgeton, Missouri at the age of 93, the St. Louis Review reported at the time.

After the “Bloody Sunday” attacks, King had called on church leaders from around the country to go to Selma. Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter of St. Louis had asked his archdiocese’s human rights commission to send representatives, Ebo recounted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2015.

Ebo’s supervisor, also a religious sister, asked her whether she would join a 50-member delegation of laymen, Protestant ministers, rabbis, priests and five white nuns.

Just before she left for Alabama, she heard that a white minister who had traveled to Selma, James Reeb, had been severely attacked after he left a restaurant.

At the time, Ebo said, she wondered: “If they would beat a white minister to death on the streets of Selma, what are they going to do when I show up?”

In Selma on March 10, she went to Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, joining local leaders and the demonstrators who had been injured in the clash.

“They had bandages on their heads, teeth were knocked out, crutches, casts on their arms. You could tell that they were freshly injured,” she told the Post-Dispatch. “They had already been through the battle ground, and they were still wanting to go back and go back and finish the job.”

Many of the injured had been treated at Good Samaritan Hospital, run by Edmundite priests and the Sisters of St. Joseph, the only Selma hospital that served blacks. Since their arrival in 1937, the Edmundites had faced intimidation and threats from local officials, other whites, and even the Ku Klux Klan, CNN reported.

The injured demonstrators and their supporters left the Selma church, with Ebo in front. They marched towards the courthouse, then blocked by state troopers in riot gear. She and other demonstrators then knelt to pray the Our Father before they agreed to turn around.

Despite the violent interruption, the 57-mile march would draw 25,000 participants. It concluded on the steps of the state capitol in Montgomery, with King’s famous March 25 speech against racial prejudice.

“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” King said.

King would be dead within three years. On a fateful April 4, 1968, he was shot by an assassin at his Memphis hotel.

He had asked to be taken to a Catholic hospital should anything happen to him, and he was taken to St. Joseph Hospital in Memphis. At the time, it was a nursing school combined with a 400-bed hospital.

There, too, Catholic religious sisters played a role.

Sister Jane Marie Klein and Sister Anna Marie Hofmeyer recounted their story to The Paper of Montgomery County Online in January 2017.

The Franciscan nuns had been walking around the hospital grounds when they heard the sirens of an ambulance.  One of the sisters was paged three times, and they discovered that King had been shot and taken to their hospital.

The National Guard and local police locked down the hospital for security reasons as doctors tried to save King.

“We were obviously not allowed to go in when they were working with him because they were feverishly working with him,” Sister Jane Marie said. “But after they pronounced him dead we did go back into the E.R. There was a gentleman as big as the door guarding the door and he looked at us and said ‘you want in?’ We said yes, we’d like to go pray with him. So he let the three of us in, closed the door behind us and gave us our time.”

Hofmeyer recounted the scene in the hospital room. “He had no chance,” she said.

Klein said authorities delayed the announcement of King’s death to prepare for riots they knew would result.

Three decades later, Klein met with King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, at a meeting of the Catholic Health Association Board in Atlanta where King was a keynote speaker. The Franciscan sister and the widow of the civil rights leader told each other how they had spent that night.

Klein said being present that night in 1968 was “indescribable.”

“You do what you got to do,” she said. What’s the right thing to do? Hindsight? It was a privilege to be able to take care of him that night and to pray with him. Who would have ever thought that we would be that privileged?”

She said King’s life shows “to some extent one person can make a difference.” She wondered “how anybody could listen to Dr. King and not be moved to work toward breaking down these barriers.”

Klein would serve as chairperson of the Franciscan Alliance Board of Trustees, overseeing support for health care. Hofmeyer would work in the alliance’s archives. Last year both were living at the Provinciate at St. Francis Convent in Mishawaka, Indiana.

For her part, after Selma, Ebo would go on to serve as a hospital administrator and a chaplain.

In 1968 she helped found the National Black Sisters’ Conference. The woman who had been rejected from several Catholic nursing schools because of her race would serve in her congregation’s leadership as it reunited with another Franciscan order, and she served as a director of social concerns for the Missouri Catholic Conference.

She frequently spoke on civil rights topics. When controversy over a Ferguson, Mo. police officer’s killing of Michael Brown, a black man, she led a prayer vigil. She thought the Ferguson protests were comparable to those of Selma.

“I mean, after all, if Mike Brown really did swipe the box of cigars, it’s not the policeman’s place to shoot him dead,” she said.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis presided at her requiem Mass in November, saying in a statement “We will miss her living example of working for justice in the context of our Catholic faith.”

 

 

Fear becomes sin when it leads to hostility toward migrants, pope says

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need.

"The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection," the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, "the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord."

Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland's national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass.

While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914.

After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that "for pastoral reasons" the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus' response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. "Come and you will see," Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other.

"His invitation 'Come and see!' is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals," the pope said. "It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her."

For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. "It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future," he added.

For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself "without prejudices to their rich diversity," understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential.

'In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?" Pope Francis asked.

"It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences," the pope said. That is one reason why "we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves."

People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers "will disturb the established order (or) will 'steal' something they have long labored to build up," he said. And the newcomers have their own fears "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure."

Both set of fears, the pope said, "are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view."

Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially "the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker."

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Don’t let fear keep you from welcoming the stranger, Pope says

Vatican City, Jan 14, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a special Mass Sunday for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said that while it is normal to be afraid of the unknown, we can’t let this direct how we respond to newcomers in our midst, who should be treated with respect and generosity.

It’s not easy to put ourselves in another person’s shoes, especially those very different from us, and this can cause us to have doubts and fears, Francis said Jan. 14.

“These fears are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view. Having doubts and fears is not a sin.”

“The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection,” he continued. “The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, to encounter the different, to encounter the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”

Pope Francis gave this homily at a special Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the 104th celebration of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The theme for this year was: “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.”

Present at the Mass were immigrants and refugees from around the world who are now part of the Diocese of Rome.

In his homily, Francis quoted a line from his message for the day, published Aug. 21: “Every stranger who knocks on our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ, who identifies himself with the foreigner who has been accepted or rejected in every age (cf. Mt 25:35-43).”

He emphasized that in welcoming the migrant or refugee, we have an opportunity to welcome Jesus.

The communities that receive migrants and refugees aren’t the only ones with fears and doubts. Migrants and refugees themselves, who have just arrived in a new place, also have fears, such as the fear “of confrontation, judgment, discrimination and failure,” the Pope said.

Francis explained how in the Gospel reading for the day, Jesus calls his disciples to “Come, and see,” and how today this invitation is addressed to all of us.

“It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her. It is an invitation which offers the opportunity to draw near to the other and see where and how he or she lives.”

Entrusting the world’s migrants and refugees to the care of Mary, Most Holy, the Pope concluded by asking her intercession, that “responding to the supreme commandment of charity and love of neighbor, may we all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

Following the Mass, Pope Francis led the usual Sunday Angelus from a window in the Casa Santa Marta for pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

Following the prayer, he announced that “for pastoral reasons,” the World Day of Migrants and Refugees will be moved from Jan. 14, as established by Pope St. Pius X in 1914, to the second Sunday of September. Therefore, the next celebration of the day will take place Sept. 8, 2019, he said.

In his Angelus message the Pope also spoke about the importance of not leaving our knowledge of Jesus to “hearsay,” but how we need to really encounter him “in prayer, in meditation on the Word of God and in the frequenting of the Sacraments.”

“Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a journey of faith and discipleship,” he said.

“We could have many experiences, accomplish many things, establish relationships with many people, but only the appointment with Jesus, at that hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our lives and make our projects and initiatives fruitful.”

In Cairo, a Christmas season tinged with sorrow

Cairo, Egypt, Jan 13, 2018 / 04:02 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- Marian Nabil Habib recently observed the first anniversary of what she refers to as “the martyrdom of my father.”

Nabil Habib was 48; he was among the 29 people who died Dec. 11, 2016, in a suicide attack claimed by ISIS. The targets were worshippers at St. Peter and St. Paul's Coptic Church in Cairo, also known as El-Botroseya Church.

Marian, who is 15, tells her story, with some of the details of that dark day gleaned from the church’s security cameras:

“That day was a watershed in my life and the life of my family. I always feared that I would lose one of my family members and then it turned out to be my father, who was a good friend to me. I will never forget the details of that day.

“We live in an apartment in the compound of St. Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, where El-Botroseya Church is located. My father worked as a guard of the church. I celebrated my birthday two days before the attack and I exchanged laughs and jokes with my dad that day. Then, the day before the attack, my father did not seem normal. He came back repeatedly to our apartment to check on my younger brother, Fadi, who is two years-old.

“That Saturday evening, the suicide bomber had come to the church and asked dad about religious books, saying that he wanted to know more about Christianity; a deacon overheard the conversation and told the young man to come back the next morning at 10 am.

“On Sunday morning, as soon as my father saw the young man he recognized him; the bomber was quickly making his way to the women’s pews, looking confused. My father got on the phone with my uncle to tell him about the man, but quickly ended the call to give chase. Next, the suicide bomber blew himself up.

“Just a few minutes before the explosion, my father had asked me to go to our apartment and prepare a cup of tea for him. When I heard the explosion, I thought that the kettle had exploded. But soon there was thick smoke and bricks fell from the kitchen walls. I rushed outside and found people running in all directions, screaming hysterically. There was a scene of complete destruction, but I still I did not know what had happened.

“I asked about my father but nobody knew where he was. I continued looking for him; then, at the entrance of the church, I found my father lying on the ground and bleeding heavily from his head. I took off my jacket for his head to rest on. There were wounds across his entire body; his hand looked shattered; my hair got wet with his blood.

“He was still alive and, looking me in the eyes, he told me to take care of my younger sister and brother; and he gave me the keys to the church gate and to our apartment. I will always remember his smile right before he died.

“Before all this happened I had worried for a long time that I would lose something precious. Losing my dad put me in a state of shock for more than a month and a psychiatrist visited me. Finally, it was God's mercy, his consolation, which helped me recover.

“I feel great comfort from God and I also got support from the Church, my friends, and many of people around us; there also has been great interest from people from other countries and international bodies that visit us to this day.

“I do not feel scared now – but I still long for my father and my little brother needs his hugs; we miss him very much. I do not want to leave my country and the place where my father served and lived his whole life. All my memories of my father are here.

“Despite the pain, my life has changed for better: I feel stronger than before and I care more about my studies than ever before – the future no longer frightens me. I have joined the church choir, which gives me inner peace, because it is one of the things that bring me closer to God.

“My message to all those who suffer, and who might read my words: do not be afraid. God is great and I ask everyone to pray for all people facing violence and hatred; we must pray for peace around the world.”

 

Engy Magdy writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

How inmates at a Chilean women's prison are preparing for the Pope

Santiago, Chile, Jan 13, 2018 / 04:00 am (ACI Prensa).- As Pope Francis prepares to visit Chile next week, the inmates at San Joaquin Women's Penitentiary Center in Santiago are cleaning, decorating, and preparing for what they believe is a providential papal visit.

The Pope will visit the prison on Jan. 16, making a 40-minute stop to meet with the women there.

Ever since the Holy Father's visit was confirmed, the 620 women incarcerated in the prison – serving sentences for drug trafficking, homicide, robbery or other crimes – have been planning for the encounter.

“People are suffering here, there's a lot of pain, and that the Pope would come and remember us means that God has remembered us,” said inmate Nelly Dominguez. “I believe it's the providence of God, nothing less.”

Dominguez is serving a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. “For me, this visit is a before-and-after,” she told ACI Prensa. “Not just in my life but in the lives of all the people here.”

“I am in the process of changing, I'm working on my spiritual life, I intend to change,” she said.

“I think good things are coming for Chile,” she added, describing the Pope's upcoming visit as “a very great blessing from God.”

Dominguez and the prison's other inmates are making the paper decorations for the garlands that will decorate the gymnasium where the Pope will meet with the prisoners. They are constructing 7,000 paper doves and 5,000 flowers.

As part of the program, the prison choir will perform a song composed by the inmates. Entitled “Shepherd who smells of the sheep,” the song talks about life in the prison, and the pain and hopes of the women.

Sister Nelly León, a member of the Congregation of the Good Shepherd, works in the prison. She told ACI Prensa that the time of preparation is one of “a lot of joy, festivity and gladness. It's a second Advent for us.”

The religious sister said her community has created worksheets entitled “From Forgiveness to Peace” to help the prison population spiritually prepare.

The inmates “feel a special connection with Jesus who welcomes them,” Sister León said. She compared the Pope traveling through Chile and stopping at the prison with Jesus stopping to encounter people at various moments of his earthly life, such as Martha and Mary, the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Veronica during the Way of the Cross.

Sister León will deliver a welcome speech to Pope Francis. She said the first thing she will do is thank the pontiff for “showing his concern for incarcerated women, because he has shown his concern for the poorest of the poor, and because his presence dignifies the lives of people in prison.”

Staff members at the women's prison agreed that the encounter will be special for everyone involved.

Petty Officer Alicia Contreras, who participates in the prison ministry, said she thinks the visit with renew the faith of all those who participate.

Chile's national police chief, Jaime Rojas, expressed his hope that the visit will reinforce the country’s commitment to reintegrating released prisoners back into society through education, work and spiritual support. He added that he hopes the visit will “shake up the consciences of Chileans.”

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

Catholics urged to ignore rhetoric, help immigrants facing deportation

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

By Beth Griffin

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Catholics have a responsibility to look past the noisy rhetoric of the current debate on immigration and answer the "cry of the poor" by engaging with individuals facing deportation.

That was the focus of a National Migration Week discussion Jan. 11 at the Church of St. Francis Assisi in New York examining the plight of individuals affected by President Donald Trump's Jan. 25, 2017, executive order on deportation. Presenters discussed practical actions to extend Christian charity and seek justice.

National Migration Week began Jan. 7 and ends with the World Day of Migrants and Refugees Jan. 14.

"We're talking about being correct with our faith response as Christians. Are detention and deportation the right solutions?" Franciscan Father Julian Jagudilla asked the participants. "Are we here for our interests or the interests of the people we serve?"

Father Jagudilla, director of the Migrant Center at St. Francis of Assisi since 2012, detailed routes to legal immigration and said there are more than 12 million people who face removal from the United States because of an irregular or precarious immigration status.

This number is made up of more than 11.4 million people in the country without legal permission and about 700,000 "Dreamers," those currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Also included are 325,000 people from 13 countries whose Temporary Protected Status has been terminated, and 60,000 unaccompanied minors who fled Central America in 2014.

The executive order, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," described people in the country without legal authorization as being "a significant threat to national security and public safety" and also described the priorities for deporting "removable aliens."

Father Jagudilla said those individuals make up 3 percent of the U.S. population and the reasons cited in the order for their removal are vaguely worded and open to broad interpretation.

The Catholic Church shies away from using provocative words to describe immigrants because such words are "an assault and insult to their dignity" and contradict "what we believe about the value of the human person," Father Jagudilla said.

The Migrant Center was founded at the Franciscan parish in 1999 and has a mission to minister "to people who are alienated, displaced or persecuted, the 'pilgrims and strangers' in our midst and welcome immigrants and migrants of all ethnic backgrounds regardless of political or religious affiliation."

Father Jagudilla said the center has given legal, advocacy and education services to more than 3,000 people since it was reinvigorated in 2012.

Legal assistance is provided by two contract attorneys and trained volunteers. The center's education programs include forums on immigrant rights, labor unions and human rights.

"Our battle cry is, 'The power is in your hands'," Father Jagudilla said. "The accurate info we bring people is power. When you know your rights, you can protect yourself from raids and fraudulent practices."

"Through our campaigns, we cautiously engage the undocumented. They trust us because we are from the church. It is a re-victimization if they turn to the Catholic Church and there is nothing for them," Father Jagudilla said.

Migrant Center volunteers visit people held in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Lawrence Omojola, the Migrant Center's volunteer liaison officer to the detainees, described the twice-monthly visits as a corporal work of mercy and an expression of hope.

"For some people detained at the airport on their first trip to the United States, we are the first people they interact with from outside the immigration system. We are representatives from the outside world and a reminder that there is a community that remembers them," he said.

Omojola said most of the detainees at the Elizabeth facility have no prior convictions and some are held for more than one year. "They need someone to listen to them. We don't give advice. We reach out and hear their stories," he said.

Omojola conducts an orientation for volunteer visitors from the Migrant Center. They join volunteers from Jesuit-run St. Francis Xavier Parish in Manhattan on visits organized by First Friends, a local organization that works on behalf of detained immigrants and asylum seekers.

Father Jagudilla said 380,000 to 420,000 people are detained in the U.S. each year by immigration authorities. They are held in 47 private, for-profit detention centers and more than 200 county jails.

Jennifer Engelhart became a volunteer visitor with the Migrant Center through the young adult group at St. Francis of Assisi.

"It was really powerful to look into the face of someone who was trying his best to remain hopeful and positive in a tough and uncertain situation," she said of a recent visit. The 37-year-old construction worker she visited was brought from Mexico as a child. His car was pulled over in a traffic stop 15 months ago and he was detained when he could not produce legal documentation.

"You hear about this on the news, but it's not a reality until you speak with someone who tells you his story," she said.

Father Jagudilla gave urgency to his call for a compassionate response to immigrants without papers when he said a colleague in the immigration movement was detained earlier in the day.

Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, a network of faith and community groups that advocates for immigrants, was arrested Jan. 11 when he appeared for a routine check-in appointment with immigration authorities at the Federal Building in New York.

Ragbir was convicted of a nonviolent felony in 2001 and has fought a deportation order for more than a decade. His arrest sparked street demonstrations in Manhattan.

One of the participants at the St. Francis of Assisi event urged people to call ICE and federal elected officials. The script she offered for the calls included a detention number she said was necessary to identify Ragbir, "even though he's a real person."

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Trump comments 'harsh, offensive,' Vatican newspaper says

IMAGE: CNS/Bob Roller

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In its continuing coverage of the U.S. immigration debate, the Vatican newspaper noted media reports that President Donald Trump "used particularly harsh and offensive words about immigrants" from several countries.

"No agreement on Dreamers" was the headline on the lead story for L'Osservatore Romano's edition dated Jan. 13 and published late Jan. 12.

In the past few days, the paper reported, "the tension on the theme of immigration has risen noticeably" with Trump and a bipartisan group from Congress meeting Jan. 11 to discuss a measure that would keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program intact, but also include Trump's demands for a border wall.

The program, known by its initials DACA, protects from deportation between 700,000 and 800,000 young people illegally brought to the United States as children.

Based on media reports about the meeting, L'Osservatore said, "Trump used particularly harsh and offensive words about immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti and some African countries. The expressions immediately gave rise to controversy and indignation."

The Associated Press and other media outlets reported that, according to people present at the meeting, Trump questioned "why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and '(expletive) countries'" in Africa.

While the Vatican newspaper noted that the White House did not immediately deny the remarks, Trump later tweeted, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used."

The Vatican newspaper also noted that a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco temporarily blocked Trump's decision to rescind DACA and that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Jan. 8 that it was ending a provision called Temporary Protected Status for some 200,000 citizens of El Salvador currently in the United States.

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Copyright © 2018 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.