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Nation and world briefs

U.S.

Report: Accurate number of separated children unknown

WASHINGTON — A report published Jan. 17 states the number of immigrant children separated from their parents at the border last year is unknown and the number given by government officials at the end of 2018 — 2,737 — is not accurate. The number may be much higher. The separations officially reported took place between July and November 2018, when then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced what he called a zero tolerance policy, which meant that undocumented migrant parents caught crossing the border with their children would risk being separated from them. After lawsuits were filed and public outcry, the policy was reversed. But the report from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services states that children had been separated from parents or guardians long before then and the Department of Homeland Security which implemented the policy, observed an uptick in separations in 2017. Children may also have been separated after the policy officially ended.

Archbishop reflects on effects of racism, calls for ‘repentance, action’

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori issued his second pastoral reflection in 12 months on the effects of racism on society. Titled “The Journey to Racial Justice: Repentance, Healing and Action” the pastoral was released at St. Bernardine Parish in West Baltimore on Jan. 21, the day the nation commemorated the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Even as we Americans celebrate the inspiring example of Dr. King, we feel the shame of witnessing public demonstrations of racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance toward newcomers to our country such as we have not seen in decades,” Archbishop Lori said at St. Bernardine. “Likewise, there seems to be no lessening of the institutional racism we see all around us — whether in the criminal justice system, employment, health care, education or political enfranchisement,” he said. The announcement of the pastoral was to have been followed by a peace walk through the neighborhood, commemorating eight recent homicide victims in the area. However, due to the city’s “code blue” warning because of the subzero wind chill, the prayer service was held indoors.

Bishops urge bipartisan plan to stop shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and Congress “must come together” to reach a bipartisan solution that reopens the government and “recognizes the economic struggle” now facing federal workers and their families and people helped by federal nutrition and housing programs, according to two U.S. bishops. Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, issued a joint statement late Jan. 20 in reaction to a plan announced the previous day by Trump. They state they were encouraged by the president’s plan to provide protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, known as DACA, and those covered by Temporary Protected Status, but said such protections must be permanent, not temporary, as Trump has proposed. Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Vasquez reiterated the strong objection the U.S. bishops and Mexico’s bishops have to construction of “a wall” across the U.S.-Mexico border.

WORLD

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

VATICAN CITY — 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 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square in praying the Hail Mary for migrants feared drowned in the Mediterranean and for “those responsible for what happened.” About 170 migrants were believed to have drowned in the sea in two shipwrecks in mid-January.

Bishops express unity with Israeli Christians, warn of Palestinian crisis

JERUSALEM — Bishops from North America, Europe and South Africa who joined this year’s Holy Land Coordination reiterated their solidarity with all of Israel’s Christians and called for their equal inclusion in Israeli society. “Throughout our visit, we have experienced how there are Israeli citizens from many different backgrounds who coexist and work together for the common good of their society. We recognize that Israel was founded on the stated principles of equality between all its citizens. This urgently needs to become the lived reality,” they said in the final statement, issued Jan. 18. “We stand with Israel’s Christians and all those challenging discrimination, in support of their call to protect the country’s pluralism.” The nation-state law, which was passed as one of Israel’s Basic Laws by the Israeli Knesset last July, holds Israel as “the national home of the Jewish people” and states that “the right to exercise national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” In addition, it downgrades Arabic from Israel’s second official language to one with a “special” status. Though the law will have little short-term effect, opponents are concerned about its long-term impact, which will depend on the character of future Israeli governments and how they choose to implement the law within government policy. Taking place this year in the northern Israeli city of Haifa Jan. 12-17, the coordination focused on the challenges and opportunities for Christians in Israel. The bishops visited Christian hospitals, schools and villages in Israel. They also met with Christian religious leaders, Christian mayors from Israeli towns, members of the Israeli Knesset, academics and people displaced from the Melkite Catholic village of Ikrit.

— Catholic News Service

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