The new annulment process went into effect this week

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2015 / 03:33 pm (CNA).- With the launch of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis’ reforms to the annulment process have gone into effect, giving more of a role to the local bishop, dropping automatic appeals, and ensuring that the process is free of charge.   The new process is aimed at streamlining the system for granting annulments out of concern “for the salvation of souls” while affirming the longstanding Catholic teaching on marriage indissolubility.   Originally announced in September, the changes went into effect Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the opening day of the Jubilee for Mercy.   The changes were initially published in two motu proprio – or letters issued by the Pope “on his own initiative.” The documents were entitled “Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus” (The Lord Jesus, a meek judge), which deals with modifications in the Latin Rite’s Code of Canon Law, and “Mitis et misericors Iesus” (Jesus, meek and merciful), which outlines changes for Eastern Churches who, although in full communion with Rome, have historically had a different process.   Both documents reflect many of the same changes, however instead of bishops, “Mitis et misericors Iesu” refers to Eastern patriarchs and eparchies.   In a brief introduction, Pope Francis stressed that his adjustments “do not favor the nullifying of marriages but the promptness of the processes.”   He said that he decided to make the changes in line with the desire of his brother bishops, who during last year’s extraordinary synod on the family called for the process to be “faster and more accessible.”   Many have criticized the current process of obtaining an annulment for being long, complex and in some places, too expensive.   Reform was also required due to “the enormous number of faithful who…too often are diverted from juridical structures of the Church due to physical or moral distance,” the Pope said, adding that “charity and mercy” require the Church as mother to draw close to her children who consider themselves far off.   Among the more significant changes the Pope made were dropping the automatic appeal needed after a decision on nullity has been reached, as well as allowing local bishops to make their own judgements on “evident” cases of marriage nullity.   Until now, once a decision had been made to declare a marriage null, the ruling was automatically appealed to another body, a practice many have blamed for unnecessary delays in the process.   With Francis’ new changes, only one judgement will be needed. However, in the case that it is appealed, the Pope said that appeals can be done in the nearest metropolitan diocese, rather than needing to go to Rome.   He also decided that each diocese throughout the world will have the responsibility to name a judge or tribunal to process incoming cases.   The bishop can be the only judge, or he can establish a three-member tribunal. If a three-member tribunal is established, it must have at least one cleric, while the other two members can be laypersons.   Francis has also declared that the annulment process will be free of charge. Although the practice is already in place in many dioceses around the world, the new change makes it universal.   In his introduction, the Pope recognized that the streamlined process, particularly the new procedures surrounding the decisions made by bishops, could raise concern over the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.   “It has not escaped me how an abbreviated judgment might put the principle of indissolubility of marriage at risk,” he said.   “Indeed, because of this I wanted that in this process the judge would be composed of the bishop, so that the strength of his pastoral office is, with Peter, the best guarantee of Catholic unity in faith and discipline.”   The Pope also explained that he wanted to offer the new process to bishops so it can be “applied in cases in which the accused nullity of the marriage is sustained by particularly evident arguments.” Photo credit: isak55 via version of this article originally ran on CNA Sept. 8, 2015, with the headline, “Revamped annulment process focuses on speed, role of local bishops.”   Read more

Nevada Catholic churches targeted in bizarre string of protests

Las Vegas, Nev., Dec 10, 2015 / 03:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Las Vegas Catholics are disturbed after self-described Muslim-turned-Christian protestors disrupted Masses at several churches in the metropolitan area within the past few weeks. In at least three incidents, the group “Koosha Las Vegas” have walked in to churches in the middle of Mass, shouting at Catholics to repent and later posting videos of the protests to their YouTube page. According to their videos, the group consists of street preachers and self-proclaimed “soldiers” for Jesus.   One video shows at least four men wearing bold “Trust Jesus” t-shirts walking up the aisle during a Mass, handing out pamphlets and telling the congregation that as Catholics they have “sinned against (God) and broken all of his laws.” The man behind the camera then shouts “Guys repent! And turn to Jesus Christ! Pope is a Satan! Mary statue is a Satan!” Another video shows the same camera man shouting: “Stop worshiping to the idols! Idols not going to save you! You need Jesus Christ! You need the father, the son, and the holy spirit,” at Catholics during Mass at Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church on Dec. 5. While the group’s YouTube videos show that members have engaged in street preaching in and around the Las Vegas strip for at least a year, they have only recently begun entering churches and disrupting Masses. Last week, the group protested outside of Bishop Gorman Catholic School in Las Vegas. In that video, a man can be heard telling passerby students, “If you look at the catechism of the Catholic Church and you look at scripture, you know why god hates this religious system.” The Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas confirmed to a local news station that there have been “multiple disturbances at several of their properties.”   The group’s emphasis of their Muslim background in their videos concerns Catholics in the area in light of the recent terror attacks, and several Catholics told local ABC affiliate KTNV Channel 13 News that they find the aggressive protests so unsettling that they fear for their lives. Metro area police told Channel 13 that the incidents do not appear to be connected to any terrorist threats. So far, no arrests have been made since no crimes have technically been committed by the group, according to police. Randy Sutton, crime and safety expert with Channel 13, said he is not sure he agrees with police that a crime has not been committed. The group could be violating a state statute, NRS 201.270, which classifies the disturbance of a religious meeting as a misdemeanor. The statute reads: “Every person who shall willfully disturb, interrupt or disquiet any assemblage or congregation of people met for religious worship: 1. By noisy, rude or indecent behavior, profane discourse, either within the place where such meeting is held, or so near it as to disturb the order and solemnity of the meeting… shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.” “This is really unusual behavior. This isn’t something that happens all the time. So the fact that it even happened, would be enough to cause alarm and legitimately so,” Sutton said. The Diocese of Las Vegas is working with police to educate their clergy about the incidents.Photo credit: Read more

Down syndrome research is coming to Spain

Madrid, Spain, Dec 10, 2015 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Jerome Lejeune Foundation is opening its doors in Spain to support research and further study of Down syndrome and bioethics to promote better care for those who are living with the condition… Read more

What history can teach us about why the ‘genocide’ label matters

Washington D.C., Dec 10, 2015 / 07:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A U.S. designation of genocide for ISIS’ actions would offer prompt and significant support to the religious minorities it has targeted, said one researcher, warning that history cautions… Read more

Pope Francis postpones Milan visit due to ‘intense’ Jubilee schedule

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2015 / 05:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced today that due to Pope Francis’ busy schedule during the Jubilee of Mercy, he has decided to postpone his May 7, 2016, visit to the diocese of Milan until the following… Read more

The Year of Mercy and theology: a conversation with Cardinal Müller

Vatican City, Dec 10, 2015 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the opening of the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has granted to  CNA an exclusive interview touching on mercy in several of its aspects. Please find below the full text of the conversation:CNA: What is mercy for a theologian?Cardinal Müller: Above all the theologian, every theologian, is a human being, a baptized person who experiences mercy just as does everyone else. Without this in mind, without the living experience of mercy, paraphrasing what St. Paul said on charity, even our words that were spoken would be like “a resounding gong,” as a mere breath of sound… Mercy for us is inseparable from the face of Jesus. That Jesus who first made himself known to us through the face of the families into which we are born and then in the context of the Church that we have lived. After, we learn to know him in Scripture, in the Sacraments, through the life of his witnesses, of the saints more or less known that are present in history in every age. And then also through the teaching of the great ecclesial tradition, with the word of theologians, of teachers and doctors of the Church, through the teaching of the Magisterium. But all of this is necessary in reference to a vital experience, with the aim of making us deepen that experience and the the deep gaze that we have over that experience. So the theologian is an aid in deepening this gaze on that fact which is the mercy of God, a fact which is manifested to us in many ways, so that the field of God’s action is the entire world. It can be manifested with the gesture of someone who supports us or corrects us, or even with the fact that they remind us to live in the truth of our existence. In any case, mercy is for me an event through which my life is called with renewed strength to the good and to truth, with which I feel called to live in that goodness and in that truth, which recreates my life and re-energizes in me that interior face that I received from God and which puts me into relationship with him, continuously opening me to the good of my brothers and sisters. The mercy with which Jesus invests our hearts, at times strongly, a times with tenderness, is a surge of goodness and of truth with which he urges us to change our lives for the better and to be open to those around us, making them feel close, like a neighbor. Mercy makes us continuously know that God who is revealed in Jesus and who increasingly reveals us to ourselves and to others. And it teaches us to look, to love ourselves and others in that perspective of goodness and truth with which Jesus himself looks at us. In this sense, the act of sacramental confession is for me paradigmatic of mercy: each time that we confess, we get closer to the Lord with a gaze burdened by our sins and we can leave rejoicing, affected by his gaze upon us, a gaze that is just and good at the same time, which doesn’t give cheap discounts, yet never abandons us to the mercy of our miseries. A gaze that demands much from us because it knows we can give a lot when we receive from him; but he does it like a good father who knows how to be patient with his children and never tires of accompanying them and therefore never abandons them.CNA: God frees us from sin with mercy. Is this the only true liberation theology?Cardinal Müller: This is the first liberation theology, from which many others result. When the heart is freed from sin, then also the rest of our personality receives the benefit. Freedom begins to dilate and take on its true dimensions, which are sustained and powered by the intellect and the will. Thanks to forgiveness and mercy, man learns to accept that his freedom begins by depending on God, learning the taste of gratuity, to recognize that everything he has was not his right but was given, and to love the good and the truth more than his own comforts and immediate advantages, to desire life without end … that is, to already love the things of heaven while on this earth! All the works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal, that the Church teaches and which educate us, tracing their origins from here: we can live mercy only because we have first received it.CNA: You are also president of the International Theological Commission; what does this have to do with mercy?Cardinal Müller: Mercy isn’t just free-market loving each other. When God bursts into the life of man, in the measure of his acceptance, it tends to change also the way he looks at things, his attitude, the criteria of his actions and thus, by grace, also his behavior. Theology, thanks to faith, is an aid to looking at our lives from the point of view of God, (who) revealing himself, opens us up to ourselves, to other men, to the world. And it does so by way of a critical and systematic reflection on everything that God gives us, in this way the gifts of God can be accepted by man with ever more clarity and depth. In this way, knowing God and the gifts of his mercy in an ever greater way, we can respond in an ever better way to his love and love him ever more in (our) actions. The International Theological Commission attempts to aid this with a specific service rendered to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pope, with the participation of some experts from the entire world, proposed by different bishops’ conferences. The fact that the experts come from all the continents helps to look at the issues with a particular openness and a universal consideration of the problems. It is important that this theological vision reflects the universal character of the Church and puts it into practice, also because theology is at the service of doctrine and, in turn, doctrine is at the service of pastoral care, which at the same time helps theology and pastoral care to better specify the object of their attention. It is an uninterrupted circularity of theology, doctrine, and pastoral care in which doctrine has a certain precedence because it authoritatively marks the path to theology and pastoral care. Currently, the Commission is deepening its study on some themes that are very close to Pope Francis’ heart, such as synodality, that is, the necessity that ecclesial life may be ever more conceived as a walking together after the Lord and toward the challenges that he opens up to us. Additionally, (there is) the relationship between faith and sacraments, an issue that was recently closely associated to the discussions that took place in the last two synods on the family. Or also on religious liberty, that is, the concrete point that is the order of the day for so many Christians in the world, persecuted for their faith. It’s a high-level reflection that has the aim of assisting the entire Church to look with ever greater truth at some important points in its life, because mercy doesn’t end with the gesture of forgiveness but it is an impetus to renewal that regards (one’s) entire life!CNA: How can one be merciful and also correct doctrinal errors?Cardinal Müller: How can a father be merciful and correct his children? In reality, if a father doesn’t correct his children, but justifies or minimizes their mistakes, he wouldn’t love them and would drive them to disaster. In the end, a father who doesn’t help his children to recognize their mistakes doesn’t really esteem them and doesn’t have trust in their ability to change. Because mercy brings inscribed in itself, indelibly and inseparably, love and truth. It belongs to the Christian tradition, from the Scriptures through the Magisterium of recent Popes, that love and truth go together, or together they fall: it isn’t love without truth and it’s not authentic truth without love. And because of this, shouldn’t doctrine also apply? Mercy is contrary to the laissez-faire… is this not God’s attitude toward man: it is enough to read the Gospel and see how Jesus acted, who was good but at the same time didn’t make cheap discounts on the truth. And doctrine has the precise goal of helping us to know the truth and to accept it in its entirety and not to cheat on truth. Today one tires of understanding the importance and the utility of doctrine also in the Church for two reasons: on one hand, because the worldview in which we live gives importance above all to that which man can immediately touch, and on the other because doctrine is heard, and many times taught, in an enlightened and idealistic way, as an abstract set of ideas that crystallize and imprison the richness of life. In reality doctrine, for us Christians, doesn’t have as its final reference of ideas on God and salvation that he offers us, but the same life of God and his ‘irruption’ in the life of man: it is an aid in understanding who God is and what is going on with the salvation God offers to the concrete life of man. But to understand this requires a humble reason which doesn’t stand presumptuously as the measure of all things. Unfortunately the thought that comes from modernity, which has left us a legacy also of many beautiful things, has deprived us of precisely that humility…CNA: The jubilee, every jubilee, begins by opening the “holy door” of Saint Peter’s. This year the Pope began the jubilee opening the “holy door of mercy” in Africa. What does all this mean?Cardinal Müller: The “door” to salvation is Jesus Christ himself. To open the “holy door” means to open wide to man the path that leads to Jesus and to invite everyone to grow closer to him without fear, as John Paul II and Benedict XVI have reminded us since the beginning of their pontificates. There is no salvation for man without Jesus: it is he who mysteriously moves the heart of every man to the good and to the true, because he is the truth and the good in person! Each jubilee is an occasion: a renewed occasion that is born from the heart of God and leads to the heart of God, because man’s life will be changed for the better and a little bit of life in heaven is already anticipated here on earth. Pope Francis gave this gesture a special meaning: since the beginning of his pontificate he has insisted on the peripheries, on reality seen from the geographic and human peripheries of the world, in order to give relief to the human condition lived there, to put into relief the needs of the people who live in those conditions, as kairos to encounter and announce the face of Christ today. Where lives the face of Jesus crucified and disfigured – from which our gaze would gladly turn elsewhere – it is exactly there that the Pope invites us to look. Perhaps also discovering a human richness that we wouldn’t imagine. This is why, I believe, Pope Francis wanted to open the holy door first of all in Africa, and specifically in an area troubled by conflict and violence. I remember the gesture of John Paul II when he wanted to celebrate Mass in Sarajevo, where war was raging, a fratricidal war. It is a prophetic call to recognize the face of Jesus where we would never go to look for it. And it’s also an invitation to serve Jesus there, wherever the most pressing and essential needs of man arise. Knowing full well that along with bread and even more than bread, man needs Jesus, and that the first poverty is the absence of God, from which derive all other forms of poverty. So the jubilee is a great occasion to rediscover all of that and to break the silence on this fact, on the face that the first poverty of man is the lack of God in his life.CNA: What do you hope for from this Year of Mercy?Cardinal Müller: I desire that the Church and all of us follow Jesus with increasing fidelity, so that we no longer remain prisoners of our fragility and misery, and in this way we will be able to better serve our brothers and sisters, both inside and outside the Church. Because the entire world needs Christ, needs to be relieved and renewed by his love. And because mercy is a grace that comes from on high and changes our lives: it takes us as we are but doesn’t leave us as we are. Thank God! This is what I hope for above all in my life, as for the Church and the entire world: to continuously experience this love which doesn’t leave us at ease, but opens wide our heart and changes us. Read more

Tough, funny and fearless: A bold new take on women saints

Denver, Colo., Dec 10, 2015 / 12:01 am (CNA).- Maria Johnson has a scar behind her ear, a small memento from that time she leaped off her dresser, aiming for her bed – and missed, grazing the corner of her nightstand with the back of her head. She’d always had a rambunctious spirit and a proclivity for chaos, earning her the Spanish nickname “Tremenda,” bestowed by her Cuban mother.   “It does mean tremendous, sometimes,” she writes. “It also means terrific, and terrible. It translates as bold. Daring. Fearless. Stalwart. Smart. Courageous. In a lot of cases, it can be used as a modifier to express both judge-y disdain and profound admiration.” “But mostly, it means badass.” As a born-and-raised Catholic, though, Johnson struggled to find saints who were sometimes reckless and stubborn like her; she thought she’d never achieve the level of saccharine holiness she read about on the backs of holy cards. Or if she did discover a true story of courage and bravery, there was always the temptation to think: “They don’t make women like that anymore,” Johnson told CNA. “But no, God does, he makes women like that all the time.” Johnson compiles the stories of some of her favorite badass, saintly women in her new book, “My Badass Book of Saints.” It all started after she posted a blog about Sr. Blandina Segale, a gun-toting Italian nun who faced down outlaws in the American Wild West. “It really engaged a conversation about some really fascinating women who really were doing some remarkable things,” she said. She started compiling the stories of the formidable, dresser-jumping-type, and, well, badass women to whom she felt especially drawn. “This book is really speaking to an audience that might not pick up a regular history of saints,” she said. “But it uses this word that’s in the culture and I think can get the attention of some people who would be interested in picking it up.” “(We thought) we can take the risk with that title because it’ll inspire maybe a chuckle or some curiosity in people,” she said. Each chapter explores a pair of women – one a Saint in the traditional sense, and one not. The “gun-toting nun” Sr. Blandina makes her appearance again alongside St. Teresa of Avila, the formidable reformer of the Carmelite order and Johnson’s patron saint. Audrey Hepburn, glamorous movie star and fashion icon of Hollywood’s Golden age, graces the same chapter as St. Rose of Lima, under the title “Passionate beauties who made the world a better place.” “So you’ve got these extremely powerful women, but I also wanted to show that there’s some power and bravery and courage in this other, gentler side of our feminine genius,” she said. When asked why she picked some of the historical figures that she did, some of whom aren’t Catholic, Johnson said she simply selected virtuous women with inspiring stories. “I think that we all have the same essential dignity as women, and we all have the same capacity for love, and the same capacity for service,” she said. “And so it’s not that I didn’t want to make it a uniquely Catholic thing, but it’s a uniquely woman thing. These are people who were exceptional because of their virtue as women.” Each chapter also includes a few discussion questions at the end, and Johnson hopes the book can spark further discussion about inspiring women in the Church and the world. “We have examples of leadership and strength and of perseverance of beauty, and all the values that I bring up in the book, and we just have to look for them and embrace them and own them, because its who we are,” she said. “We are badass, that’s how we’re made.” Read more

Don’t let evil win over your hearts, bishop urges after San Bernardino attacks

San Bernardino, Calif., Dec 9, 2015 / 04:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders offered prayers and comfort at an interreligious gathering in San Bernardino on Monday in the aftermath of the mass shooting there last week. &ldq… Read more

Why a Jubilee of Mercy? Because the Church needs it, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Dec 9, 2015 / 11:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The day after opening the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis dedicated his general audience remarks to answering the question of why he called for a jubilee on the subject, saying the primary reason is simply because it’s needed.   “Why a Jubilee of Mercy? What does this mean?” the Pope asked pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 9 for his weekly general audience.    The answer, he said, is because “the Church needs this extraordinary moment. I’m not (just) saying ‘it’s good,’ no! I’m saying: the Church needs it.”   Pope Francis opened the Jubilee of Mercy, an Extraordinary Holy Year, Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Holy Year will close Nov. 20, 2016, with the Solemnity of Christ the King.   The Jubilee was officially inaugurated by the by the Pope when he opened the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Basilica. Pilgrims who pass through the door – which is only opened during Jubilee years, ordinarily every 25 years or when a Pope calls for an extraordinary Jubilee – can receive a plenary indulgence under the usual conditions.   Francis presided over the rite of the Holy Door’s opening before passing through himself. He was followed by retired pontiff Benedict XVI, who attended the rite in one of his rare public appearances.   The opening of the door is meant to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church’s faithful are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of jubilee.   In his remarks at the general audience, Francis noted that in an age of great change, the Church is called to make God’s presence and closeness known.    The Jubilee, he said, “is an ideal time for all of us, because in contemplating Divine Mercy, which overcomes every human limit and sheds light on the darkness of sin, we can become more convincing and effective witnesses.”   Through the Holy Year, the Church is turning our gaze to the heart of the Gospel, Jesus Christ who is “mercy made flesh,” the Pope said. To celebrate a Jubilee dedicated to mercy, he added, means putting “the specific aspects of the Christian faith” back at the center of our personal and communitarian life.   “This Holy Year is offered to us in order to experience in our lives the sweet and gentle touch of the forgiveness of God, his presence beside us and his closeness above all in moments of greatest need,” he said.   Pope Francis then noted that mercy is in fact what “pleases God most,” and is what is most needed by the world today, when there is “little forgiveness” in society, institutions, work and even the family.   He stressed the importance of recognizing that forgiving his children is what most pleases God, but without falling into the temptation “of thinking that there is something else more important or more of a priority.”    Nothing, he said, “is more important that choosing that which pleases God most: his mercy!”   The Pope then observed that this need for mercy also includes the reform of the Church and her structures and institutions.    “Mercy is truly able to contribute to the building of a more human world,” he said, questioning whether the mere contemplation of God’s mercy is enough in front of the many needs of today’s world.   While there is certainly a lot to do, Francis cautioned that the biggest enemy of mercy is “self-love,” which in the world is manifested in the exclusive pursuit of one’s own interests, in the search of hedonistic pleasures and honors, as well as the greedy desire to accumulate wealth.   However, in the life of Christians, this self-love it is often disguised “in hypocrisy and worldliness,” he said, adding that “all these things are contrary to mercy.”   “The movements of self-love, which make mercy foreign in the world, are so numerous that often we fail to recognize them as limitations and as sin. This is why it’s necessary to recognize that we are sinners, to reinforce in us the certainty of Divine Mercy,” he said.   In forgetting God’s mercy, we become blind to seeing sin for what it really is, the Pope said, explaining that this is why this Jubilee of Mercy is so important.   Francis closed his audience by praying that Mary, the Mother of God and also our mother, would intercede for us “so that in this Holy Year we can experience the mercy of God and manifest it to others.”   Read more

They fled terrorists, too – why Catholics are resettling a refugee family in Indiana

Indianapolis, Ind., Dec 9, 2015 / 06:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Efforts to resettle a Syrian refugee family in Indiana are part of a long Catholic tradition that saves lives, the Archbishop of Indianapolis has said after meeting with the state’s governor about his security concerns. “Three years ago, this family fled the violence of terrorists in their homeland of Syria. After two years of extensive security checks and personal interviews, the United States government approved them to enter our country,” Archbishop Joseph Tobin said Dec. 8. “For 40 years the archdiocese’s Refugee and Immigrant Services has welcomed people fleeing violence in various regions of the world. This is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition.” The Indianapolis archdiocese was asked to help settle the family through a public-private partnership program between the federal government, the U.S. bishops’ conference, and the conference’s Migration and Refugee Services office. The archdiocese regularly participates in the program. In mid-November Indiana Gov. Mike Pence suspended state agencies’ involvement in the relocation of Syrian refugees following terrorist attacks that killed more than 120 people in Paris Nov. 19. Pence cited security concerns. About 40 Syrian refugees have been resettled in Indiana since 2010, the Indianapolis Star reports. Pence met with the the archbishop Dec. 2 for about an hour to discuss the situation. Archbishop Tobin thanked the governor for meeting with him. The archbishop said he was able to explain to him “the plight of this family” and the role of the archdiocese’s refugee services program in welcoming them to Indianapolis. He said the family already has relatives in the area. On Dec. 8 Pence’s office said that he holds Catholic Charities “in the highest regard but respectfully disagrees with their decision to place a Syrian refugee family in Indiana at this time.” His statement cited the alleged involvement of a Syrian refugee in the November Paris attacks by Islamist extremists, an FBI director’s statement about failures in the resettlement program, and a statement from the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee that individuals with links to Syrian terrorist groups have attempted to access the U.S. through its refugee program. “The safety and security of the people of Indiana is Governor Pence’s top priority,” the governor’s office said. “The State of Indiana will continue to suspend its participation in the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana until the federal government takes action to address the concerns raised about this program.” Archbishop Tobin explained his reaction to the governor. “I listened to the governor’s concerns regarding security and prayerfully considered his request that we defer from welcoming them until Congress had approved new legislation regarding immigrants and refugees. I informed the governor prior to the family’s arrival that I had asked the staff of Catholic Charities to receive this husband, wife and their two small children as planned.” The archbishop also reflected on the need for prayer, peace, and hope. “We welcome this family during Advent, a time when the Christian community asks God to renew our hope and recognize God’s saving power among us,” he said. “As we wait with hope during this season of Advent, I ask all people of good will to pray for peace in our homes, local communities and throughout the world.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit against Pence on behalf of an Indiana refugee resettlement non-profit Exodus. The lawsuit accuses the governor of violating the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause by accepting refugees from other countries but not from Syria. The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the greatest consequences of the Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011. There are more than 4.1 million Syrian refugees in nearby countries, most of them in Turkey and Lebanon. The year 2015 marked a massive effort on the part of some refugees to move to Europe. Read more