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Florida senators ask Trump to waive visa requirements for some Bahamians

IMAGE: CNS photo/Marco Bello, Reuters

By Tom Tracy

MIAMI (CNS) -- In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, two Florida Republican senators have asked President Donald Trump to waive or suspend certain visa requirements for Bahamian citizens with relatives residing in the U.S.

Hurricane Dorian stalled over the northern Bahamas Sept. 1-3 as one of the strongest storms in Atlantic history. As of Sept. 10, the death toll was at least 50 and was expected to increase as search and rescue operations continued.

"It's important Customs and Border Protection and the Bahamian government work together to clarify the current rules regarding visas in the Bahamas," Sen. Rick Scott said in his statement. His letter was co-signed by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

"As hundreds of thousands of Bahamians seek refuge or start to rebuild after Hurricane Dorian, we cannot have the kind of confusion that occurred last night in Freeport," Scott said.

He was referring to the hundreds of people who on Sept. 8 boarded a ferry in Freeport destined for Port Everglades in Florida, only to be told to get off the boat if they did not have entry visas for the U.S., according to news reports.

"Sen. Rubio and I continue to urge President Trump to waive some visa requirements for those in the Bahamas that have family in the United States. But until that happens, there needs to be clarity on the current rules," he added.

Florida, Scott noted, enjoys deep historical ties with the Bahamas, and, due to proximity, many Floridians have family in the Bahamas. Having prepared for and avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, Floridians are now eager to help family and friends in the Bahamas.

"I also encourage Customs and Border Protection to work with the Bahamian government to set up a temporary site at their ports of entry. Professionals should be on site to help the many Bahamians trying to leave destruction," Scott said.

He also offered proposals to help families in Bahamas recover, including a change in the U.S. Tax Code to incentivize charitable giving; continued deployment of U.S. Coast Guard and other U.S. entities in providing humanitarian assistance; and a redirect of foreign aid away from countries he said are adversaries of the U.S. to put that aid toward the Bahamas recovery efforts.

For his part, Rubio, who traveled to the Bahamas following the hurricane, urged the U.S. Agency for International Development to request the USS Comfort be repositioned to the Bahamas as soon as possible, as well as any assets needed from the Bataan Amphibious Readiness Group.

In the letter, Rubio wrote that the Navy hospital ship with "its crew of trained medical staff, flight deck and ability to desalinate water, would be ideal in helping the Bahamian people."

It is critical that during this time of need for our neighbors, the United States uses all of our capabilities to continue to assist in the recovery efforts, he wrote. "This includes urgent efforts to save lives."

Regarding the situation with the ferry in Freeport, a Democratic state lawmaker, Rep. Shevrin Jones, has pointed out that many people lack all the proper documents due to the storm.

Americans' kindness cannot end at just giving donations and relief supplies, he said. "It has to extend to us helping our neighbors in the Bahamas have a place to recover while their homes and lives are rebuilt," he tweeted. "The Bahamians just need a temporary place to regroup."

U.S. State Department guidelines state that most individuals traveling to the United States require a visa but that some individuals may travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.

Bahamian citizens who meet certain requirements may apply for admission to the United States without a visa at one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance facilities located at the Nassau or Freeport International airports, if they meet certain requirements, according to the State Department rules.

But those preclearance station hours of operation may change with short notes in emergency situations such as hurricane watches, the State Department states.

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Editor's Note: Hurricane relief donations to CRS can be sent here: https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and to Catholic Charities USA here: https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm.

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Tracy writes for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Vatican calls for electoral reform, negotiations to resume in Nicaragua

IMAGE: CNS photo/Oswaldo Rivas, Reuters

By

GENEVA (CNS) -- With increasing concerns worldwide about human rights violations in Nicaragua, a Vatican representative has called for an immediate return to negotiations and a rollout of reforms necessary to hold "free and transparent elections" there.

"The Holy See has been following with great attention the sociopolitical situation in Nicaragua and believes that the unsettled disputes should be solved as soon as possible," said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

The Vatican recommended that all "political and social stakeholders" come together in a "renewed spirit of responsibility and reconciliation" in order to find a solution "that respects the truth, reestablishes justice and promotes the common good," he said in a speech Sept. 10 during a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on the situation in Nicaragua.

"The Holy See strongly believes that it is essential to implement the agreements reached last March, to return immediately to open and mutually respectful negotiations and to realize, at the earliest, the electoral reforms for the holding of free and transparent elections with the presence of international observers," he said.

The meeting came the same day Michelle Bachelet, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented her report on Nicaragua, following a Human Rights Council resolution in March dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights in Nicaragua.

A major human rights crisis was triggered after police forces and pro-government groups cracked down on nationwide protests that began in April 2018 against a series of reforms mandated by President Daniel Ortega.

Some human rights groups have estimated the resulting violence led to the deaths of at least 300 people, the wounding of more than 2,000 people and the detention of hundreds more, who have been reportedly subjected to serious abuses such as torture and the denial of due process.

Even after major protests died down, human rights violations continued, according to the high commissioner's report, with the government banning public demonstrations by groups critical of the government and with the excessive use of force by police in ways that infringed on the freedom of expression and association.

The report said a number of nongovernmental organizations have lost their legal status, international monitors have been expelled, and media outlets have been shut down and journalists prosecuted under a new anti-terrorism law.

The government has also blocked the entry of medicine and food aid from Caritas the past year, a move the Nicaraguan bishops' conference has called an act of "irrational authoritarianism."

"We cannot remain in total silence, we cannot be silent," said Bishop Juan Mata Guevara of Esteli, Nicaragua, speaking on behalf of the bishops' conference.

Caritas Nicaragua and other diocesan aid programs help the poorest and are in no way connected to commercial or business activity, Bishop Mata told Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Sept. 9.

Instead, the government controls every request by Caritas Nicaragua "in an exaggerated manner" of excessive bureaucracy, resulting in the aid, sent mostly by the U.S., Germany and Canada, never making it into the country.

"This way of proceeding is an exercise of irrational authoritarianism," he said, adding, "This reflects how the regime does not see the needs of those who suffer."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Indianapolis Colts' chaplain focuses on players' lives and faith

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy of Father Douglas Hunter

By John Shaughnessy

INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) -- As the Catholic chaplain for the Indianapolis Colts, Father Douglas Hunter has access to the training facility, the team meetings and the sidelines during games. He's even there in the locker room when head coach Frank Reich talks to the players, including the times the Colts' leader has shared this constant message: "Get 1 percent better every day."

Father Hunter also stays in contact with Chris Ballard, the Colts' general manager and a fellow Catholic, in good times and in bad, such as the Sept. 8 season-opener, a 30-24 overtime road loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Father Hunter, as keynote speaker at a 15th anniversary celebration dinner Aug. 27 of Catholic Radio Indy, said his choice to become a priest -- he was ordained in 2016 -- led to a phone call he never expected.

"About two years ago, I received a call from the now-late Father Glenn O'Connor. He said, 'the Colts are looking for a chaplain, and I think you would be great.' I said, 'Me?' He said, 'Yeah, you. They need a big guy over there, and you're the biggest one I found.'"

Father Hunter was honored by Father O'Connor's faith in him and drove to the Colts' complex for an interview with Ballard, not knowing at the time who Ballard was.

"It was not intimidating at all," Father Hunter recalled about that meeting. "We talked about faith more than we talked about football. I thought, 'I like this guy. This might work out.'

"I asked him, 'What's the first thing you want me to do?' He said, 'I want you to be present. Be present to the guys. It's going to take about a year for them to get to know who you are. It's going to take a year for them to trust you. The more you're present to them, the more they'll trust you and like you. They'll bring you in eventually.'"

Father Hunter met with Joe Reitz, a former offensive lineman for the Colts who is also Catholic, and who advised the priest just to be with the players and talk with them.

"So I started going to the training facility. I started going to the training camps. I'm there on the sidelines. After talking with Joe and then talking with Chris again, I start finding out who my Catholics are. There's a few here at Mass. There's a few more there. And then I start finding out other staff members who are Catholic. And I start inviting each and every single one of them to the liturgy that we have at the hotel" on the evenings before home games.

He recalled the time one of the Colts introduced himself, which led to a conversation in which Father Hunter focused on him as a person instead of as a football player.

"When others saw that I was talking and sitting with him, then others started coming by and started talking more and more and more. I found the best time to talk to these guys is at lunch time. One, I get a free meal. And two, we can talk," he said.

"Basically, it's exposing the faith to them but not imposing it upon them. When you do that, you're not as threatening," he added.

"I had one guy showing me how to throw a football. That gives us a chance to talk about the faith. And the more I talked to him, the more I realized this guy is Catholic. He's also introducing his girlfriend to the faith, which is wonderful because they're talking about marriage within the Catholic Church."

Father Hunter explained his approach to the players this way: "I know them by name, not by fame or fortune."

"Approaching them in their humanity," he told the audience: "I don't care what kind of car they drive, how much money they make or where they're from. I'm just treating them as Jesus would treat them."

He said sometimes when he finds out they're injured, he will call, text or write a note and put it in their mailbox, telling the players he is thinking about them and that they can call if they need anything.

He also encourages the players to be there for others and to share their commitment to their faith, reminding them they have a platform that no one else has.

"A lot of these guys are not as apt to sharing their faith publicly as many of us think they would. I tell them I see you have 50,000 people plus on social media. You could spread the word, or you could evangelize or show people how you're a disciple of Christ. They say, 'Oh, OK.' They try it, and they do it."

He told the audience that at one point, he struggled with his ministry, wondering what he was doing there, and just at that moment a player asked to speak with him.

It turned out the player wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith and showed an interest in participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. The player and the chaplain had a long talk as they walked together from the practice field. Their conversation ended with the player thanking Father Hunter for taking the time to talk.

Then at lunch, he talked with another player who told him about his life.

"We never talked football," Father Hunter said. "When I got to my car, I said, 'OK, Lord, I see how it is you're working through me. And I really appreciate that.'"

As he put it, the job really is "just being there for them. It's a ministry of presence, just showing them that Jesus loves them, that someone cares about them, that someone wants to actually know who they are on that personal level."

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Shaugnessy is assistant editor of The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Pope appoints three cardinals to help lead synod on Amazon

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring/Tyler Orsburn

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis appointed three delegate presidents for the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon.

The pope named as delegate presidents for the Oct. 6-27 assembly Cardinals Baltazar Porras Cardozo, 74, of Merida, Venezuela; Pedro Barreto Jimeno, 75, of Huancayo, Peru; and Joao Braz de Aviz, 72, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican announced the appointments Sept. 7.

Though Pope Francis, as pontiff, is president of the synod, the three cardinals will take turns presiding over the synod's daily sessions. The delegate presidents are also responsible for guiding the work of the synod and assigning special tasks to certain members, when necessary.

The special assembly on the Pan-Amazonian region will discuss the theme, "New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology."

The main objectives, the pope has said, are to find new ways for the evangelization of the people in the region, especially the indigenous, to respond to situations of injustice in the region and to look at "the cause of the crisis of the Amazonian forest, lung of fundamental importance for our planet."

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.

Text of pope's prayer for workers at Madagascar stone quarry

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (CNS) -- Here is the Vatican's English translation of Pope Francis' "Prayer for Workers," which he prayed Sept. 8 at the Mahatazana stone quarry:

God our Father, creator of heaven and earth,
we thank you for gathering us as brothers and sisters in this place.
Before this rock, split by human labor,
we pray to you for workers everywhere.

We pray for those who work with their hands
and with immense physical effort:
Soothe their wearied frames,
that they may tenderly caress their children
and join in their games.
Grant them unfailing spiritual strength and physical health,
lest they succumb beneath the burden of their labors.

Grant that the fruits of their work
may ensure a dignified life to their families.
May they come home at night to warmth, comfort and encouragement
and together, under your gaze,
find true joy.

May our families know that the joy of earning our daily bread
becomes perfect when that bread is shared.
May our children not be forced to work,
but receive schooling and continue their studies,
and may their teachers devote themselves fully to their task,
without needing other work to make a decent living.

God of justice, touch the hearts of owners and managers.
May they make every effort
to ensure that workers receive a just wage
and enjoy conditions respectful of their human dignity.

Father, in your mercy, take pity on those who lack work.
May unemployment -- the cause of such great misery --
disappear from our societies.
May all know the joy and dignity of earning their daily bread,
and bringing it home to support their loved ones.

Create among workers a spirit of authentic solidarity.
May they learn to be attentive to one another,
To encourage one another, to support those in difficulty
and to lift up those who have fallen.

Let their hearts not yield to hatred, resentment
or bitterness in the face of injustice.
May they keep alive their hope for a better world, and work to that end.

Together, may they constructively
defend their rights.
Grant that their voices and demands may be heard.

God our Father, you have made St. Joseph,
foster father of Jesus and courageous spouse of the Virgin Mary,
protector of workers throughout the world.
To him I entrust all those who labor here, at Akamasoa,
and all the workers of Madagascar,
especially those experiencing uncertainty and hardship.
May he keep them in the love of your Son
and sustain them in their livelihood and in their hope.

Amen.

 

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Copyright © 2019 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.