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Pope Francis’ Program for Apostolic Trip to Panama for World Youth Day 2019

Staying in Central American Nation, Will Hear Confessions in Juvenile Detention Center and Visit Those Suffering With AIDS

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Pope Prays at Santa Maria Maggiore Before Departing for Panama

Francis Travels to Rome's Marian Basilica to Pray for Mary's Protection for His 26th Apostolic Visit Abroad

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Archbishop Ulloa of Panama City Discusses Pope Francis’ Visit for XXXIV World Youth Day

Speaking to ZENIT About World Youth Day, Reminds 'God enables great works to be done from the littleness of His children'

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Update: After initial outrage, details of students' exchange emerge

IMAGE: CNS photo/Kaya Taitano, social media via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- An exchange between Catholic high school students and a Native American tribal leader in Washington Jan. 18 was vilified on social media the following day, but the immediate accusations that the students showed racist behavior have been stepped back as more details of the entire situation have emerged.

Many say the incident still needs to be investigated or discussed and others have pointed out that what happened can still provide a teaching moment not just about racism but also about news coverage and social media's rapid response.

The student most prominent in the footage, junior Nick Sandmann of Covington High School in Kentucky, issued a statement Jan. 20 saying he has "received physical and death threats via social media, as well as hateful insults" based on reaction across social media. He also said he would cooperate in any investigation church leaders plan to undertake.

The group's chaperones, also criticized on social media, said later the students "were targeted from the get-go."

Covington High School, Covington Latin School and Covington's diocesan offices were closed Jan. 22 due to threats of violence and will reopen when it is safe to do so, according to a diocesan statement reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. A few dozen people took part in a protest vigil at the diocese's headquarters Jan. 21 in reaction to the incident in Washington.

Robert Rowe, principal of Covington Catholic, sent a letter to parents announcing that school would be canceled Jan. 22 "to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff," the newspaper reported.

On Jan. 18, tens of thousands gathered in Washington for the annual March for Life, a march along Constitution Avenue after a rally on the National Mall to the Supreme Court to mark the court's Jan. 22, 1973, decision that legalized abortion.

The march, held a few days before the actual anniversary this year, took place on the same day as the first Indigenous People's March where marchers walked in the other direction on Constitution Avenue to draw attention to injustices against indigenous people.

At the day's end, while students from Covington Catholic High School who had attended the March for Life were waiting for their buses to pick them up near the Lincoln Memorial, they met up with members of the Indigenous People's March, in particular Nathan Phillips, tribal elder for the Omaha Tribe.

In clips from a video that went viral almost immediately, students are shown surrounding the leader, who is chanting and beating a drum. They appear to be mocking him and one student in particular, who is inches away from the drummer and never moves, was accused of flagrant disrespect.

Some students in the crowd were identified by their Covington High School sweatshirts but the attire that drew the most rage was the "Make America Great Again" hats worn by a few in the group. That phrase, which President Donald Trump coined during his successful presidential campaign, has been deemed to be "racist" by his opponents.

The clip caused immediate outrage.

In response to the escalating fury and disgust on social media against these students, Covington High School and the Diocese of Covington issued a joint statement Jan. 19 saying they condemned the students' actions "toward Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general."

"We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person," it said, adding that the incident was "being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."

The school and diocese also said the event "tainted the entire witness of the March for Life" and they apologized to those who attended and "all those who support the pro-life movement."

March for Life president Jeanne Mancini also issued a statement that day saying the encounter did not represent her organization or "the vast majority of the marchers" and that the students' behavior is not welcome at the march and never will be.

The next day the March for Life said it in a tweet had deleted its original tweet about the students "given recent developments.

"It is clear from new footage and additional accounts that there is more to this story than the original video captured. We will refrain from commenting further until the truth is understood," the tweet said.

The day after the initial clip of the exchange went viral, extended footage of how the situation unfolded appeared on social media, and the students issued their own statements about it, like Sandmann, who was directly in front of the Native American drummer.

Longer videos shown online reveal that another group at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial included members of the Hebrew Israelites, who also were attending the Indigenous People's March to share their own beliefs that African-Americans are God's chosen people and the true Hebrew descendants.

Members of this group, as shown in video footage, taunted the students and some responded back. Phillips, the Native American, walked over to the students and the group, as an intervention, singing and beating a song of prayer.

Sandmann, in a statement, said Phillips "locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face."

"I did not speak to him. I did not make any hand gestures or other aggressive moves. To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me. We had already been yelled at by another group of protesters. ... I was worried that a situation was getting out of control."

Sandmann said the group started doing school spirit chants to "counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group" and they had asked for chaperone permission to do so.

He said he stayed motionless to help diffuse the situation and also prayed silently that it would not get out of hand.

"During the period of the drumming, a member of the protester's entourage began yelling at a fellow student that we 'stole our land' and that we should 'go back to Europe.' I heard one of my fellow students begin to respond. I motioned to my classmate and tried to get him to stop engaging with the protester," an action that can be seen on the video where he motions to the student to stop and points and nods to the tribal leader.

The student said he didn't understand "why either of the two groups of protesters were engaging with us, or exactly what they were protesting" and that his group was just there to meet a bus, "not become central players in a media spectacle."

"I was not intentionally making faces at the protester. I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation. I am a faithful Christian and practicing Catholic, and I always try to live up to the ideals my faith teaches me -- to remain respectful of others, and to take no action that would lead to conflict or violence," he added.

The student said he has been called "every name in the book, including a racist" and has received death threats and hateful insults.

"I am mortified that so many people have come to believe something that did not happen -- that students from my school were chanting or acting in a racist fashion toward African-Americans or Native Americans. I did not do that, do not have hateful feelings in my heart, and did not witness any of my classmates doing that," he said. His statement was posted on the CNN website, https://cnn.it/2FOLNCC.

A local CBS-affiliate, WKRC in Cincinnati, also received statements from students, some who asked to remain anonymous, also saying they were unfairly portrayed in media coverage of this incident.

Chaperones, also criticized on social media, spoke to the TV station reiterating that the students had been taunted. "They were targeted from the get-go. Immediately, there were people running around filming and this isn't going to be a truthful depiction of what happened," one chaperone said.

In a statement released Jan. 22, Phillips said he was disappointed that Sandmann "didn't accept any responsibility." The tribal leader said he is willing to meet with the Covington Catholic High School students to discuss cultural appropriation, racism, and the importance of listening to and respecting diverse cultures.

Jesuit Father Jim Martin, an author and editor of America magazine, who was critical of the students' behavior on Twitter Jan. 19, said in a tweet the following day that he would be "happy to apologize for condemning the actions of the students if it turns out that they were somehow acting as good and moral Christians. The last thing I want is to see Catholic schools and Catholic students held in any disrepute."

He also tweeted: "We may never know exactly what happened and the various 'sides' may continue to disagree and condemn one another. But I hope the truth emerges."

He said the situation can provide a teachable moment with "important lessons about racism and marginalization, about dialogue and encounter, and about truth and reconciliation, during this coming week, which is, believe it or not, Catholic Schools Week."

Eileen Marx, a religion teacher at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, who also is the faculty moderator of the school's diversity club, told Catholic News Service Jan. 21 that she certainly planned to discuss this incident with her classes this week in light of Catholic social teaching which "so clearly states that we are meant to live in relationship with one another, not as enemies. We are all part of the human family."

She also acknowledged that there is more to discuss now as more details of what happened after the march are emerging.

As this story continues to be sorted out, she said, she also will bring up the role of social media with her students and its power to "build up and to knock down individuals."

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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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.

Archbishop Auza Addresses UN Security Council on Middle East

Appeals to Israeli and Palestinian Authorities to Resume Dialogue

The post Archbishop Auza Addresses UN Security Council on Middle East appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Pope says he's pained by deaths in Colombia, the Mediterranean

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luisa Gonzalez, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Jan. 20, he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that he had "two pains in my heart: Colombia and the Mediterranean."

"I want to assure the Colombian people of my closeness after the serious terrorist attack" Jan. 17 outside the national police academy in Bogota.

Police said the suicide car-bomb attack left at least 20 people dead and more than 60 injured. The National Liberation Army (ELN) later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the government violating a cease-fire agreement by attacking rebel camps.

"I pray for the victims and for their families," Pope Francis said, "and I continue to pray for the journey of peace in Colombia."

Pope Francis also led the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square in praying the Hail Mary for migrants feared drowned in the Mediterranean and for "those responsible for what happened."

Some 170 migrants were believed to have drowned in the sea in two separate shipwrecks in mid-January. "They were seeking a future" and "perhaps were victims of human trafficking," Pope Francis said.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said Jan. 19 it had been unable to verify the exact death toll, but a nongovernmental humanitarian organization reported 53 people died at sea between Spain and Morocco. "One survivor is understood to have been rescued by a passing fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea and is receiving medical treatment in Morocco. Moroccan and Spanish rescue vessels have been searching for the boat and survivors for several days to no avail."

In addition, the agency said, the Italian navy reported "an additional shipwreck on the central Mediterranean." Three survivors were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment and they "reported that 117 people, who are currently dead or missing, were on board with them when they departed from Libya."

As many European governments close their ports to migrants attempting the crossing by sea and to the humanitarian organizations that rescue them, Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said, "We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe's doorstep. No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea."

The U.N. statement said it is "concerned that actions by states are increasingly deterring NGOs from conducting search and rescue operations and is calling for these to be lifted immediately."

However, the statement said, the United Nations also wants a greater focus on discouraging and preventing refugees and migrants "from taking these desperate journeys in the first place. More safe and legal pathways to access asylum in Europe are needed for those fleeing war and persecution so that no one feels they have no other choice than to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers."

 

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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.

Panama: DOCAT Distribution Set for World Youth Days 2019

Starting Point of Largest Social Doctrine Movement in Central America

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Panama: WYD Welcomes Youth from Around the World

Large Groups from Colombia, Poland, Brazil, United States, Mexico, and Guatemala.

The post Panama: WYD Welcomes Youth from Around the World appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Philippines: Bishops to Invite Pope Francis for 2021 Jubilee

Holy Father Visited Nation in 2015

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Ireland: Archbishop Martin Consults Faithful Ahead of Rome Summit

Asks for Answers to Six Key Questions

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