Bishops ask for prayers for the Middle East

By August 8, 2014No Comments

One of the main goals of the Iowa Catholic Conference is to help inform your conscience and encourage involvement in the political process, particularly on issues at the state legislature. To that end, next month we’ll be releasing the latest version of our “Faithful Citizenship for Iowa Catholics” document. However, recent events on the national and international scene are worthy of your immediate prayer and attention.

The situation is grave for many Christians and other minority groups in Iraq. ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) issued an ultimatum for Christians and others demanding conversion to their extremist form of Islam or pay a tax, threatening their lives. Some are paying the ultimate price for a lack of religious freedom.

Des Moines Bishop Richard Pates, chair of the U.S. bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee, has sent a letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice on the situation. Bishop Pates has also asked the U.S. bishops to invite the people of their dioceses to pray for peace in Iraq on Sunday, Aug. 17. Apparently the U.S. has begun airstrikes against ISIS.

The hostilities between Israel and Hamas are also a concern.Click here for a recent letter to Congress on the situation from Bishop Pates and Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services.

You’ve also heard from the Iowa bishops about the ongoing situation of unaccompanied minors coming to the southern border of the United States. In a recent letter, Pope Francis spoke out on the issue of migrant children arriving at our southwest border, calling it a humanitarian emergency. Many of these children are literally fleeing for their lives because of drug violence and gangs. According to U.S. law, these children have a valid claim to be refugees, which means they would have legal status to be present in the United States. This is one reason the Church is insisting on a proper adjudication of claims for asylum.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, a member of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) board, recently testified before Congress on the spike in unaccompanied children. Bishop Seitz called for policies which 1) placed children in child appropriate shelters as soon as possible; 2) place families with children in a community-based setting with case management services; 3) give children access to legal representation so they can navigate the complex legal immigration system; 4) provide pastoral services to the children; and 5) expand post-release services, including home studies and case monitoring of children in family settings.

This complex situation deserves prayerful consideration of the right action to take as individuals and collectively by government, but we should not demand these children be immediately returned to life-threatening situations. Over the longer term, the root causes of the issue in the countries of origin should be addressed through joint efforts between the U.S. and governments in the region.

Unfortunately, before taking its August break, Congress was unable to agree on supplemental funding to address the urgent humanitarian situation. There are reports that the Administration is fast-tracking deportations as well. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Senate vote to proceed fails on anti-religious liberty bill

A bill intended to counter the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has failed to proceed in the U.S. Senate. The “Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act” (S. 2578), was intended to negate any right that employers, insurers or employees may have, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or any other federal law, to opt out of federally mandated health care coverage. This misnamed measure could allow federal officials to mandate abortion or any other item in all health plans.

The measure required 60 votes to proceed but received 56 (unfortunately, more than half of the Senate).

The National Committee for a Human Life Amendment has issued a follow-up action alert, with a message thanking those who voted to stop S. 2578 from advancing and a message expressing regret to those who support the bill in some way. All Senators are urged to vote against any future motion to advance or approve the bill. Go to www.nchla.org/actiondisplay.asp?ID=311 for the alert.

Bishops support EPA rulemaking

The chairs of the U.S. bishops’ domestic and international justice committees have sent a letter to the Environment Protection Agency welcoming the setting of standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants and thereby mitigate climate change. The letter from Bishop Pates and Bishop Thomas Wenski, archbishop of Miami, says, in part: “We support a national standard to reduce carbon pollution and recognize the important flexibility given to states in determining how best to meet these goals. These standards should protect the health and welfare of all people, especially children, the elderly, as well as poor and vulnerable communities, from harmful pollution emitted from power plants and from the impacts of climate change.”

The EPA is currently accepting public comments on the standards through Oct. 16.


While the news is often depressing, the “Good News” isn’t. You can follow the daily readings at www.usccb.org/bible.