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February 29, 2016   •   VOL. 54, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
News in Brief

Pope Francis visits Mexico

Pope Francis gives a vaccine to Rodrigo Lopez Miranda, 5, held by Mexico's first lady Angelica Rivera during a visit to the Federico Gomez Children's Hospital of Mexico in Mexico City Feb. 14.

'No more death, no more exploitation'

Left, A prisoner kneels before Pope Francis during the pope's visit to Cereso prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — Speaking from the symbolic platform of the U.S.-Mexico border, Pope Francis pleaded for the plight of immigrants while warning those refusing to offer safe shelter and passage that their actions and inhospitable attitudes were bringing about dishonor and self-destruction as their hearts hardened and they "lost their sensitivity to pain."

Recalling the story of Jonah and his instructions from God to save the sinful city of Ninevah by telling the residents that "injustice has infected their way of seeing the world," Pope Francis' homily called for compassion, change and conversion on migration issues.

He alluded to Mexico and the United States as Ninevah, the city he said was showing symptoms of "self-destruction as a result of oppression, dishonor, violence and injustice."

He also said mercy was a way to win over opponents. He also preached urgency. "We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant the migration of thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometers through mountains, deserts and inhospitable areas," Pope Francis said Feb. 17 to hundreds of thousands of people from both sides of the border.

"The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want to measure instead with names, stories and families."

Earlier, excitement turned potentially dangerous and elicited an angry snap from Pope Francis at a meeting with young people in Morelia Feb. 16. As the 79-year-old pope made his way to greet a boy in a wheelchair, one of the many pilgrims behind the boy pulled the pope's arm, causing him to fall over the disabled youth. Security personnel immediately helped him up as the pilgrim continued to latch onto him. Visibly concerned for the young boy in the wheelchair he leaned against, the pope emphatically scolded the young pilgrim, saying: "Pero que te pasa? No seas egoista! No seas egoista!" ("What is the matter? Don't be selfish! Don't be selfish!") The scene, which was witnessed by thousands watching the event, prompted organizers to plead with pilgrims to show some restraint. "Please contain yourself," the announcer said. "Pope Francis wants to greet us, but if we pile up, it will be difficult to do so."

Throughout the trip, from Feb. 12-17, politicians flocked to be seen with the pope.

Shortly after arriving in Mexico City Feb. 12, President Enrique Pena Nieto introduced Pope Francis to most of his Cabinet and senior staff. The next morning, he introduced the pope again to his team at the National Palace in central Mexico City, where presidents and leaders have projected power to the country since colonial times.

Pena Nieto, whose Institutional Revolutionary Party was founded by anti-clerical revolutionaries and governed for most of the last century, spoke in platitudes during his address to an audience of politicians and diplomats.

"Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development," the pope said.

The pope's admonishment struck a chord with many in Mexico, where the media in parts of the country are controlled, corruption is commonplace and outspokenness can come with consequences. It also spoke to the advances in church-state relations since St. John Paul II visited the country in 1979 and then-President Jose Lopez Portillo told him, "Welcome to Mexico. I'll leave you with your flock."

Pope ires Trump over borders

Pope Francis

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM MEXICO — As the plane carrying him back to Rome from Mexico was flying over Texas, Pope Francis insisted building walls to keep immigrants out of one's country is un-Christian.

Holding his customary in-flight news conference Feb. 17 after a six-day trip that ended at the Mexico-U.S. border, Pope Francis was asked about his reaction to U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's proposal that the United States extend the fence along the full length of the border and his comments to Fox Business Network that Pope Francis is a politician and is being used by Mexicans. "Aristotle defined the human person as 'animal politicus' — (so) at least I'm a human person" in Trump's eyes, Pope Francis said. "As far as being 'a pawn,'" the pope said, "that's up to you, to the people, to decide."

But one thing Pope Francis said he did know was that "a person who thinks only of building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, isn't Christian." Asked if a Catholic could vote for such a candidate in good conscience, the pope told reporters: "I'm not going to get mixed up in that. I'll just say, this man is not Christian if he says this" about building walls.

— Catholic News Service

News In Briefs

Father Michael Sweeney

Purpose of formation

SAN FRANCISCO — Dominican Father Michael Sweeney, president of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley from June 2004 to July 2015, brings an evangelizing spirit and academic credentials to his new role as director of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's revamped diaconate formation program.

The preparation to be ordained a deacon was altered beginning last fall and now includes more academic rigor, including five hours of biweekly Saturday courses at St. Patrick Seminary & University taught by seminary professors and another two and a half hours "to process it, focus it" each month at the archdiocesan pastoral center, Father Sweeney said.

Father Sweeney accepted the invitation from Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone to head the program after much thought because of his commitment to the formation of the ordained and of the laity, he said.

Antonin Scalia

Mourners praise Scalia

WASHINGTON — After the Feb. 20 funeral Mass for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, some who attended the funeral shared their profound admiration and fond memories of the late justice. Michael Novak, a Catholic scholar, theologian and a former colleague of Scalia at the American Enterprise Institute in the 1970s, said the funeral Mass was an event that would have made his old friend very proud. Susannah Patton, a member of the John Carroll Society, the sponsor of the annual Red Mass, which Scalia faithfully attended every year, said the Mass was both "joyful and intimate," even though it was on an historic and grand scale. Of the late justice's deep-rooted Catholicism, she said it was incorporated into his life completely.

Combat 'bigotry'

SAN DIEGO — San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy is challenging U.S. Catholics to take an active role in combating "the scourge of anti-Islamic prejudice. We are witnessing in the United States a new nativism, which the American Catholic community must reject and label for the religious bigotry which it is," he said in a keynote address delivered Feb. 17 in the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. The evening event took place against the backdrop of the first national Catholic-Muslim dialogue, which was held Feb. 17-18 at the Catholic university. Last May, after more than 20 years of regional dialogues with representatives of the U.S. Muslim community, the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established a national Catholic-Muslim dialogue.

Cardinal under fire

LYON, France — French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin of Lyon is facing questions about how he dealt with a priest who faces abuse and rape charges. On Jan. 27, proceedings opened against Father Bernard Preynat, charged with "sexual aggression and rape of minors" between 1986 and 1991 at Lyon's Saint-Luc parish, where he ran a large Catholic Scout group over two decades. French newspapers said the priest had been moved to a new parish in Neulise after his crimes were reported to Lyon Cardinal Albert Decourtray, who died in1994. Father Preynat was removed from parish work last August.

— Catholic News Service


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