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Head of African youth network: Listen to young people on ecology

IMAGE: CNS photo/Fredrick Nzwili

By Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (CNS) -- The head of an African youth network urged the world's religions to embrace the voices of young people, as the leaders explore ways to tackle the current global ecological crisis.

Allen Ottaro, founder and executive director of the Catholic Youth Network for Environment Sustainability for Africa, said young people were aware of the current realities of climate change and were ready to join in the search for solutions.

"Youth have said they will do their homework, but you (adults) also need to do yours," Ottaro said during a side event during the U.N. Environment Nairobi Convention. "While we are asking for space, we're also prepared to take responsibilities. The best way to take the responsibilities is to get involved in those decision-making processes that in the ultimately affect our future."

Ottaro was one of several delegates from faith and faith-related organizations who attended the U.N. convention in Nairobi. More than 5,000 delegates from around the world gathered March 11-15 to discuss ways of accelerating environmental protection.

"We can no longer delay taking action to protect people and this planet," Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, said at the opening session March 11.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed a similar call at the meeting, noting that young people were pushing for urgent action.

"Our youths are saying: You are not moving fast enough. They are right to get impatient, because we are too late," Macron told the meeting March 14.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the presence of faith leaders at the meeting, saying they could provide useful lessons in environmental protections.

"Faiths for Earth" was a side event at the assembly.

The Catholic Youth Network for Environment Sustainability for Africa joined Brahma Kumaris, a worldwide Hindu spiritual movement, to host a session during the side event, where Ottaro spoke.

He said faiths should not fear young people's critical voices even when the matter is sensitive and controversial.

"Young people are not a time bomb. They are a key asset to tap to care for our common home. We need to tap into this asset, rather than see it as a time bomb. They are not the future but the now of God," he said. He also urged young people to raise their voices so that they can be heard by their leaders.

Catholic youths from Kenya, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Rwanda and South Africa launched the youth network in 2012 after being inspired by St. John Paul II's 1990 World Day of Peace message, which called for increasing ecological awareness and finding fitting expressions in concrete programs and initiatives.

The network aims to unite young Catholics in Africa in the response to climate change and environmental degradation, through creating awareness, training, networking groups and supporting parishes in the work around the environment.

"We are looking at how we can use Catholic social teaching to form young people to discover how they are called to care for creation as Catholics. We are also looking at formation on ecological issues to understand what is happening to our common home (through) climate change," Ottaro told the Catholic News Service in an interview, referring to Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical, "Laudato Si'." In networking and advocacy, he explained, the organization attempts to find interfaith collaborations with like-minded interfaith groups, for example, hosting the event with Brahma Kumaris.

"We work with non-Catholics, as long as they respect the Catholic traditions and Catholic social teachings," he said. "We need to give voice and visibility to that core identity we have, and this is unique perspective we can bring to this space and this kind of forum as people of faith."

He cited progress in mobilizing young people but said their capacity could be strengthened.

"People are starting to listen, but we do not have the luxury time," he said.

Franciscan Father Hermann Borg, director of Mother Earth Network, an organization that deals with environmental issues, said that while the U.N., some governments and private institutions have developed policies that care for the environment, there are still many holes.

"Deforestation is already there, and the demand for clean water. The pollution (in the) air and water is increasing," Father Borg told Catholic News Service. "It's all human made. It is all made because of our comforts. We have seriously damaged our common world. That mean we have to come in and plan the next activities."

"We have to change lifestyles. We have to change our behaviors, otherwise the globe will collapse," added the priest.

But Father Borg said he was concerned that climate change has never been a priority from top of the church hierarchy down to the parishes.

"The initiative the Catholic Church can have tremendous impact, but the care for the environment has been neglected for a number of generations," said the priest.

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Update: Amid call for boycott of Lenten appeals, some see harm to poor, needy

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Jacob Comello

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Lent is a penitent season -- a time for sincere reflection on one's mistakes and a time to make amends for one's life before the joy of the Easter season.

And some say that the Catholic bishops need to be compelled by the laity during this season into recognizing their own faults especially in light of addressing the sex abuse crisis and questions about the results of the Vatican's recent summit on the issue.

In a time of anger and frustration, some Catholics might be tempted to withhold donations to the church -- especially when urged to do so in a recent column by Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post. But others say that taking that kind of action will only hurt those the church helps most.

In a March 8 letter to the editor responding to Thiessen's March 6 column, Kathleen Swanson of Highland, Maryland, said a boycott "might sound like a great way to send a message by those who rightly want to see the Catholic Church finally deal with the issue of sexual abuse and harassment."

But, she asked, "whom would it really be sending a message to? The thousands of children from our poorest communities who seek a way out of poverty through the Catholic education heavily subsidized by the church and generous donors? The poorest parishes and schools that receive much-needed subsidies from their dioceses to continue operating in the neighborhoods they anchor as beacons of hope and opportunity?"

"As a former employee of a diocese whose job was to work with poor inner-city parishes," she said, "I know firsthand that many Catholic dioceses operate close to the margin," and if the annual appeal fails, she added, "networks of vital ministries and services also fail, with real-life consequences."

In his column, Thiessen, a fellow with the American Enterprise Institute and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote: "My advice to my fellow Catholics? Don't give them a dime."

After reeling off a list what he said were the bishops' failures in handling the crisis, including serious missteps surrounding the scandal involving former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who was recently laicized, Thiessen admits he does not take his own words lightly, saying: "I offer this advice with a heavy heart, because I remain, and always will remain, a faithful Catholic."

But he wants accountability and sees a boycott as possibly the only way for the church to grow out of this ongoing dark chapter: "They covered up or ignored sexual misconduct and moved around predator priests -- and continue to do so."

In a phone interview with CNS, Thiessen stood by his position: "Because it's not a democracy, the bishops are not accountable ... the only way to get through to them is to withhold our money." He's glad that the church isn't run by popular opinion, he said, but thinks that squeezing the bishops financially might awaken them on this issue.

"If the poor are hurt (by withholding funds)," Thiessen said, "the bishops need to look to themselves" and figure out what should be done to reinstate stability and trust. "There are other sources of funds they can tap into" to keep the church's good works going, he added.

Disagreeing with Thiessen is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Bill Donohue, who told CNS that Thiessen's point, while well made, fails to take into account the progress that the church has made with regard to the abuse scandal, let alone the limits to the scandal itself.

"He gives the reader no idea that the crisis in this country has been licked," Donohue said, noting that Georgetown University studies commissioned by the bishops have revealed allegations against clergy to be dropping starkly for over two decades.

Donohue said the expose on priestly sex abuse done in 2002 by The Boston Globe accurately revealed that the crisis was largely confined to priests who were ordained during the social throes of the 1960s.

"The damage was done to the church during the sexual revolution," Donohue said. "The way (Thiessen's) article is written ... suggests that we are stuck in the same time warp."

In closing, Donohue noted that the anger of Catholics over the scandal and allegations of a cover-up are well deserved, but withholding funds is not the right way to go because it holds bishops to account for a crisis that is long in the past: "A lot of the priests who were delinquent ... they're either out of ministry or dead. ... If we give off the idea that we have not made progress, that is simply wrong."

Mark Zimmermann, editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, said in a blog post he thought Thiessen's call for Catholics to boycott diocesan appeals "could not be more wrong."

"(This) would ultimately hurt not the bishops -- whom the writer seems to want to bring to their knees not in prayer but in shame -- but would instead harm the church's outreach to those in need and undermine its everyday ministries to people."

Zimmermann said he understands the "righteous anger felt by the faithful over the abuse crisis and the church's response to it." "As a fellow Catholic, I share that anger and sorrow," he said, pointing out that the people of the Archdiocese of Washington have had "the heart-rending dimension of having our former cardinal archbishop ... found guilty by the church of sexual abuse and misconduct and stripped of his priesthood."

He said Catholics "need to help rebuild the church" and support "its foundation of good work" through annual appeals that in turn support outreach programs and ministries that "are needed now more than ever."

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has acknowledged the anger among laity over the abuse crisis. Bishops, particularly younger ones, he said, share in that anger and "want to move with real force" toward solutions, which he said could yield a new season for the church.

He made the comments at a conference in early February at The Catholic University on Washington.

After the Vatican's Feb. 21-24 summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, which he attended as USCCB president, he said the proceedings affirmed the U.S. bishops' strong belief that bishops and cardinals who abuse children or cover up abuse must be held accountable.

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Bishops’ Conference Committee Chairman Welcomes Governor of California’s Declaration of Moratorium on Death Penalty

WASHINGTON—After California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions, Bishop FrankJ. Dewane of Venice, FL, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, expressed gratitude for the decision as a step to further the recognition of the inherent dignity of all human life.

The full statement follows:

"We join the California Catholic Conference and all people of good will in welcomingCalifornia Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaration issuing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in his state. We are grateful and urge California lawmakers to take the next logical step to repeal the death penalty to bring a permanent end to this practice.  

“In his 2015 address to the U.S. Congress, Pope Francis called for 'the global abolition of the deathpenalty,' as he explained, 'I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes. . . . [A] just andnecessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.' Today’s decision is a wise step in better orienting the criminal justice system to recognize the inherent dignity of all human life.”


Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Committee onDomestic Justice and Human Development, Governor Gavin Newsom, California Catholic Conference, death penalty, moratorium, U.S. Congress, Pope Francis, human person, inalienable dignity, rehabilitation, criminal justice system, inherent dignity

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Media Contact:

Judy Keane



South Carolina Catholic school given national award for 'full inclusion'

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Nativity School on James Island

By Theresa Stratford

JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (CNS) -- When Nativity School was approached with the idea of integrating a child with Down syndrome into a regular classroom setting, officials' first reaction was "sure, let's figure this out and make it work," said Cindy May, a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston.

May contacted the school about Maybelle, her adopted child with Down syndrome and autism, when she was in the first grade. Now, three years later, Nativity School has received the Dandy Award from the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion for their leadership and vision in including all students.

The board is a nonprofit, public benefit corporation that seeks to educate and support Catholic schools nationwide on including diverse learners with typical learners.

This movement has been gaining momentum in recent years, although Bishop England High School has been practicing full inclusion since 2007 with May's guidance. Back then, May was working toward getting Grace, her biological daughter with Down syndrome, into Bishop England.

Sadly, Grace died of leukemia just before she was to begin high school, but the groundwork was established, and the program has been going on successfully ever since.

The Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities provides a report and statistics showing that regular education is more stimulating for academic skill development.

More Catholic schools have integrated the full inclusion program, including St. John in North Charleston and Summerville Catholic.

Full inclusion means that any student with a diverse learning ability, such as autism, Down syndrome, or any other intellectual disability, is fully integrated into the classroom with other typical learners. At Nativity, for example, Maybelle participates in every aspect of the day-to-day classroom setting.

Patti Dukes, principal at Nativity, said their diverse learners will have tests and lessons modified to accommodate their learning needs, but for the most part they do everything that all the other students do.

Maybelle also plays on the basketball team, Dukes said.

Amber Knight is the staff's "academic success in a resourceful environment" teacher at Nativity.

When the children test, they go with her to the "stim" classroom. "Stim" stands for self-stimulatory behavior, and the room provides gadgets and comfort devices to help the students feel more at ease. It has a swing, stationary bike, balance-ball chairs, iPads and more for the students to use for testing purposes and other lessons.

May said the school infuses inclusion into their educational model and social culture well.

"(Maybelle) has friends there and they truly accept her for who she is," May told The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston. "I think it makes the other students more tolerant of people who are different than you."

Dukes said the program started on a leap of faith.

"We have the desire to meet all our children's needs," she said. "We are serving our population and we want all our students to reach their full potential. It has taken a lot of teamwork, but together we have made a difference in the lives of these children."

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Editor's Note: The website of the National Catholic Board on Full Inclusion is

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Stratford writes for The Catholic Miscellany, newspaper of the Diocese of Charleston.


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

For Lent, Irish Catholics urged to abandon 'weapons of mass distraction'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Nick Bramhill

DUBLIN (CNS) -- Alcohol, smoking and chocolates are some of the most well-known vices that people traditionally give up during Lent. But now Massgoers in Ireland are being urged to make what might be an even harder sacrifice throughout the penitential six-week period -- switching off their mobile phones.

Parishioners in Navan, County Meath, are being urged to "reconnect with their families" in the weeks leading up to Easter by talking to one another rather than texting and browsing online. The "Invitation for Lent 2019" urges churchgoers to "reduce screen time in order to increase family time."

Father Robert McCabe of St. Mary's Church, Navan, said he hopes parishioners will make a permanent lifestyle change, rather than just putting down their devices during Lent.

"Everybody can benefit from spending less time on their phones and laptops and using that time to communicate instead with their families," he said.

"Even members of the clergy are guilty of being on their phones too much, and Pope Francis himself has highlighted this point when he chastised priests and bishops who take pictures with their mobiles during Masses, saying they should lift up their hearts rather than their mobiles."

Father McCabe, a former military chaplain, said mobile phone etiquette has even been introduced in the pre-baptism courses he runs in his parish.

"One of the things we stress in the course is that just one person should be taking photos of the baptism, while everyone else relaxes and enjoys the occasion," he said. "If people are holding up their phones to take photos of the event, then they are not properly engaging with it.

"The same can be said of weddings. The last thing a bride wants to see as she walks down the aisle is loads of people with taking photos with their phones. The only person that should be taking pictures is the wedding photographer."

While Father McCabe acknowledges that some people -- including those on call for their work -- are not in a position to turn off their smartphones, he insists everyone could all benefit from spending less time staring into devices.

"A good description of phones that I've heard is that they are 'weapons of mass distraction.' If you're in a position to switch them off, then do so and use that time positively," he said.

"I hope people will heed this message during Lent, and that people will make changes for life, and not just for this period. People are spending too much time in the virtual world, and need to come back to the real world."


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USCCB Migration Chairman and CRS President Issue Statement Supporting Texas-Mexico Border Bishops’ Statement on Recent U.S. Government Asylum Policy

WASHINGTON— Bishop Joe S. Vásquez, of Austin, Texas, Chairman of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Sean Callahan, President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services issue the following statement in solidarity with the March 4th statement of the Texas and Mexico Border Bishops.

The full statement follows:

“Consistent with the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops’ March 4th statement, we oppose U.S. policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while waiting to access protection in the United States. We urge the Administration to reverse this policy, which needlessly increases the suffering of the most vulnerable and violates international protocols. We steadfastly affirm a person’s right to seek asylum and find recent efforts to curtail and deter that right deeply troubling. We must look beyond our borders; families are escaping extreme violence and poverty at home and are fleeing for their lives. Our staff and partners in Central America witness the suffering there and fight against it. Our government must adopt policies and provide more funding that address root causes of migration and promote human dignity and sustainable livelihoods. Like the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops, we recommit to Pope Francis’s call to welcome, protect, promote, and integrate our immigrant brothers and sisters in Christ.”

For more information on the U.S. government’s Migration Protection Protocol policy which requires certain asylum seekers to wait in Mexico please click here.
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez, Committee on Migration, Sean Callahan, Catholic Relief Services, Texas-Mexico, Border Bishops, migrants, asylum, Immigration, Central America.


Media Contact:
Judy Keane


Update: Judge sentences Cardinal Pell to six years in prison on abuse charges

IMAGE: CNS photo/Erik Anderson, Reuters


MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell, 77, was sentenced to six years in prison March 13, just over two weeks after a Melbourne court allowed the publication of news that he had been found guilty of sexually abusing two boys.

Cardinal Pell, who continues to maintain his innocence, will try to appeal the verdict. The court has set June 5-6 as the dates to consider the basis for the appeal.

In December, a jury had found him guilty on five charges, each of which carried a maximum jail term of 10 years.

The jury unanimously found that Cardinal Pell, shortly after being named archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, sexually assaulted two choirboys in the sacristy of Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral. The guilty verdict regarded one count of "sexual penetration," in this case oral sex, and four counts of indecent acts with or in the presence of a minor under 16 years of age.

Judge Peter Kidd spent more than one hour explaining the reasoning behind his sentencing and the factors he considered. He repeatedly referred to the cardinal's position of authority over the choirboys and the breach of trust his actions caused.

"You were a pillar of St. Patrick's Cathedral by virtue of your position," Kidd told the cardinal.

"The brazenness of your conduct is indicative of your power over the victims," he said.

The judge also said he had to consider the cardinal's age and health problems, including noting that the stress of imprisonment would exacerbate his hypertension and heart condition.

He said he realized that "each year you spend in custody" would represent a large portion of the remainder of his life.

"You may not live to be released from prison," he said.

The judge said he did not consider Cardinal Pell a risk to offend again and noted that it had been more than 20 years since the incidents in the trial. He also referred to character references he had received.

However, he ordered the cardinal to register as a sex offender and told him he would remain on that registry the rest of his life.

The cardinal will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months.

The verdict in this case was withheld from the public while Cardinal Pell was awaiting trial on other abuse allegations, but when prosecutors decided not to go forward with the second case, a judge lifted the ban on publishing the verdict Feb. 25.

The cardinal's legal team has lodged an appeal that will be heard by the Victorian Supreme Court (Appeal Division) on three grounds. The first is that the conviction by a 12-person jury is "unreasonable" because it relied on the "word of one complainant alone."

"The verdicts are unreasonable and cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence," the appeal says.

"On the whole evidence, including unchallenged exculpatory evidence from more than 20 crown witnesses, it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone."

On this ground, the three appeals judges can overturn and expunge Cardinal Pell's conviction and set him free.

The second ground for appeal is a complaint from his defense team that it was stopped from using a visual aid it wanted to use to show it was impossible for the sexual activities to have taken place in the back rooms of the cathedral.

A final ground is that there was a "fundamental irregularity" by the judge that saw Cardinal Pell not physically enter a not-guilty-plea in front of the jury. Lawyers said this was likely because he had done so in a previous trial where the jury was dismissed after being unable to reach a verdict, and the judge advised the new jury of the cardinal's plea.

On the last two grounds -- which are of legal error -- the appeals judge can overturn the verdict but must order a fresh trial.

The Australian cardinal took a leave of absence from his post as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy in June 2017 to return to Australia to face the charges. The cardinal's five-year term as head of the secretariat expired Feb. 24.

On Feb. 27, just after the verdict was published and Cardinal Pell was taken to jail, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced that it was beginning a canonical investigation of the cardinal. The congregation handles the church process for allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

One of the two victims is now deceased. Ahead of the sentencing, his father, who is now suing Cardinal Pell, released a lengthy statement.

"On the eve of George Pell's sentencing, my determination to see that man rot in jail is stronger than ever," the statement read in part.

"It will mean that he can no longer hurt any children. It will not bring my son back, but if Pell is in jail forever, he will not be able to destroy any more families the way he destroyed mine.

Apart from the civil suit, Cardinal Pell could face further legal battles. When he was in Melbourne, the cardinal set up a fund for sexual assault victims, who, when compensated, signed away rights to sue the church. The government in the state of Victoria is considering whether to restore the rights to sue. Other complainants whose allegations did not get as far as a trial could also sue him under Victoria's civil laws.

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Contributing to this story were Michael Sainsbury in Sydney, Cindy Wooden in Rome and Barb Fraze in Washington.


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Co-Chair of USCCB dialogue with National Council of Synagogues Issues Statement Regarding Opening of Vatican Archives

WASHINGTON— Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York and Co-Chair of the USCCB’s dialogue with the National Council of Synagogues, praised Pope Francis’ recent announcement regarding the opening of the Vatican Archives from the wartime pontificate of Pope Pius XII.

“I am grateful to His Holiness for taking this welcome step and allowing scholars to examine the records of Pope Pius XII’s pontificate during the Second World War,” commented Cardinal Dolan. “Along with our Jewish partners and colleagues, I have previously called for access to these files. Today, we look forward to the 2020 opening of the Archives.”

In a March 4 audience with Vatican officials, Pope Francis announced his intention to permit access to the Secret Archives of Pius XII’s pontificate. The Pope set the date of March 2, 2020 for the official opening.

Pius XII’s papacy began in 1939, just months before the outbreak of the Second World War. Scholars, particularly those interested in Catholic-Jewish relations, have been anxious to examine Vatican files, especially those related to the war years and the fate of the Jewish community in Rome.

As a U.S. leader in Catholic-Jewish relations, Cardinal Dolan has actively called for the release of these documents since becoming Archbishop of New York in 2009. “Whatever is needed to complete this project, even in phases rather than only as a whole, I suggest must be explored,” His Eminence said in a speech at Jewish Theological Seminary in 2011.

“I echo Pope Francis’ sentiment that sincere historical research will present an opportunity to grow in public understanding,” reflected Cardinal Dolan. “I pray it will bring about a new era in which Catholic and Jewish scholars, who have deepened their trust and friendship, can continue working together to examine this important new material.”

Rabbi David Straus, Senior Rabbi of Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and co-chair of the National Council of Synagogues dialogue with the USCCB, echoed the Cardinal’s sentiments, saying, “We look forward to this new moment of openness, which will only build upon our previous work together, and, we pray, continue to strengthen our relationships, friendships, understandings of each other in our important work together. Our shared commitment to making the facts known can only serve to demonstrate the mutuality of respect and concern that is reflected in Pope Francis’s decision.”

For more information, please visit our website:

Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, National Council of Synagogues, Pope Francis, Pope Pius XII, Second World War, Secret Archives, Catholic-Jewish relations, Jewish community in Rome, Rabbi David Straus, Main Line Reform Temple


Media Contact:
Judy Keane


CLINIC says South Sudan TPS extension should have included new arrivals

IMAGE: CNS photo/Andreea Campeanu, Reuters


SILVER SPRING, Md. (CNS) -- Officials with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network criticized the federal Department of Homeland Security for its March 8 decision granting an 18-month extension of Temporary Protected Status for South Sudan because it does not include recent arrivals from the war-plagued country.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the TPS extension would cover only the 84 South Sudan refugees who currently benefit from the program and have been in the United States since Jan. 25, 2016.

To include the new arrivals from South Sudan, Nielsen would have had to "redesignate" the TPS program, a decision that CLINIC's executive director called "morally reprehensible."

"South Sudan is experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world," said Anna Gallagher, head of CLINIC since February, in a March 8 statement. "This conflict is notorious for the violent targeting of civilians as well as sexual and gender-based violence regularly used as a weapon of war."

"Redesignation would have been in keeping with the law and congressional intent," Jill Marie Bussey, CLINIC director of advocacy, said March 8. "Redesignation would have allowed people who have more recently fled from the conflict to apply for protection. That could be hundreds of people. South Sudanese who currently have TPS and more recent arrivals from South Sudan are in equal need of protection and safety. This is why TPS exists."

The Christian and animist population South Sudan, which became independent from Sudan in 2011, had prior to independence been routinely been subjected to targeting and deprivation from Sudanese military forces, especially in the Darfur region.

Today, though, South Sudan has an ongoing civil war, massive displacement and a devastating food insecurity crisis. It also lacks clean water, a viable health care system and suffers from inadequate public infrastructure.

Nielsen's extension of TPS to the 84 South Sudan refugees who currently qualify for it, came five days after the legal deadline of March 3. To be eligible under the current designation, "along with meeting the other eligibility requirements," these individuals must have continuously resided in the United States since Jan. 25, 2016, and have been continuously physically present in the United States since May 3, 2016, according to a DHS news release.

They can "register for an extension of their status for 18 months," which goes through Nov. 2, 2020, the agency said. "Prior to the conclusion of the 18-month extension, the secretary will review conditions in South Sudan to determine whether the TPS designation should be extended again or terminated."

CLINIC, which is based in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, was among the more than 300 organizations and individuals across the religious spectrum who signed a letter in February asking Nielsen to grant an 18-month extension to current TPS beneficiaries from South Sudan status and redesignate TPS for the African nation.

A statistical analysis issued last September by a five-member team from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said the conflict in South Sudan has likely led to 400,000 "excess deaths" since the civil war began in 2013, close to half of them in 2016-17 alone.

The findings, the study said, "point to a conflict that, for civilians, has been arguably even more violent than has been reported, and that has caused massive waves of displacement. Violence itself appears to be the key driver of overall mortality and of deaths indirectly attributable to the war."


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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. 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

President of U.S. Bishops’ sends letter to Chairman of Catholic Relief Services following deadly plane crash

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has sent a letter to the Most Reverend Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, following the tragic plane crash yesterday. Bishop Mansour serves as the chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. Of the 157 lives lost, four were employees of Catholic Relief Services.
The full letter is below:

Dear Bishop Mansour,

It was with great sadness that I learned of the deaths of four of our esteemed colleagues from Catholic Relief Services who were on the airplane that crashed on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

I, along with my brother bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, join together with the entire CRS family, especially CRS Ethiopia and our EARO colleagues, in mourning the tragic loss of Sara Chalachew, Getnet Alemayehu, Sintayehu Aymeku, and Mulusew Alemu. Their service to the poor and their accompaniment of the marginalized stand as a great witness to Christ and His love for us all.

Please know that I have asked all our brother bishops here in the United States to pray for the repose of the souls of Sara, Getnet, Sintayehu, and Mulusew, and we will especially do so at the upcoming meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee this week. May the consolation of the Savior’s embrace be now a source of comfort to their loved ones and co-workers on this difficult and painful day.

United in prayer and vigil for the Risen Lord, I remain,

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Keywords: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Bishop Gregory Mansour, Eparchy of Brooklyn, Catholic Relief Services

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