1. ‘Let’s Not Extinguish Hope in Their Hearts.’ Pope Francis Calls for Empathy Toward Migrants and Refugees.

By Eli Meixler, Time, January 2, 2018, 2:10 AM

Pope Francis called for people around the world to “embrace” migrants and refugees in his annual World Day for Peace address.

The theme of the 51st World Day of Peace celebration, observed on Jan. 1, was “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace.”

Francis reiterated his advocacy for “all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination and persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”

“Please, let’s not extinguish the hope in their hearts, let’s not suffocate their expectations of peace,” Francis said during his address in the Vatican, where 40,000 adherents turned out for the event.

Francis called on political, educational, and religious institutions alike to “make the effort to assure refugees and migrants, to everyone, a peaceful future.”

On Jan. 8, Francis will deliver another annual address to the Vatican diplomatic service, according to Catholic news site Crux, which is expected to be considered his most significant foreign policy statement of the year.


2. The Nuns of 2017.

By Elizabeth Bruenig, Opinion Columnist, The Washington Post, January 1, 2018, Pg. A15

Amid the turmoil and carnivalesque strangeness of 2017, it was easy to miss one of the year’s softer, gentler trends: a little efflorescence of films and popular fascination dedicated to nuns. There’s a nun tale for every age, of course, but our particular moment has given us nuns whose challenges reflect the unknowable, sometimes frightening possibilities that open up to us on the eve of change.

The nuns of 2017 embodied the tension between embracing the past and turning to the future, and the impossibility of knowing precisely what we’re due in the exchange of the old and constricting for the new and different. The past has its frustrations and its fixations, but the future is fraught with instability and uncertainty. It’s crucial that the characters facing this dilemma are women: Though they assert themselves powerfully in their choices and distinctive ways of life, they are also bound by traditions and vows with roots in a world far less progressive than our own. When we turn away from the past, do we turn toward something better or something worse — or perhaps toward something merely strange?


3. A closed abortion clinic made new.

By Julie Zauzmer, The Washington Post, January 1, 2018, Pg. B1

Scott Ross had prayed outside this clinic, along with so many fellow Catholics who gathered weekly, for years, to petition God and the government for an end to the procedures inside that office.

Then Ross’s prayers seemed to have been answered. And that was the first time he went from praying outside the abortion clinic, to walking in.

Amethyst Health Center for Women, formerly Manassas’s and Prince William County’s only abortion clinic, closed its doors last year when the owner retired at age 76. She sold the clinic, and said she believed at the time that the buyer was investing in medical offices. It turned out to be the BVM Foundation — short for Blessed Virgin Mary — a Catholic organization that first directed the calls from women seeking abortions to an antiabortion crisis pregnancy center, then handed off the clinic to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

Now, these few rooms in a Manassas office strip park are a medical clinic again. This time, Ross, the family medicine doctor who once was praying outside, is the one providing the medical care.

This is now a general-purpose health clinic for uninsured patients in Northern Virginia, most of whom have no idea that the space used to house an abortion clinic.

But the nurses and translators — who volunteer their time to make the entirely free clinic operate — know.


4. Capital Punishment Deserves a Quick Death.

By The New York Times, January 1, 2018, Pg. A18, Editorial

The pathetic scene was a fitting symbol of the state of capital punishment in America in 2017, a vile practice that descends further into macabre farce even as it declines in use. Mr. Campbell would have been the 24th person put to death last year. That’s less than a quarter of the 98 executions carried out in 1999.

The number should be zero. As the nation enters 2018, the Supreme Court is considering whether to hear at least one case asking it to strike down the death penalty, once and for all, for violating the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

Whether the justices take that or another case, the facts they face will be the same: The death penalty is a savage, racially biased, arbitrary and pointless punishment that becomes rarer and more geographically isolated with every year.

The death penalty is not and has never been about the severity of any given crime. Mental illness, intellectual disability, brain damage, childhood abuse or neglect, abysmal lawyers, minimal judicial review, a white victim — these factors are far more closely associated with who ends up getting executed. Of the 23 people put to death in 2017, all but three had at least one of these factors, according to the report. Eight were younger than 21 at the time of their crime.

Last summer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested that the death penalty would eventually end with a whimper. “The incidence of capital punishment has gone down, down, down so that now, I think, there are only three states that actually administer the death penalty,” Justice Ginsburg said at a law school event. “We may see an end to capital punishment by attrition as there are fewer and fewer executions.”

That’s a dispiriting take. The death penalty holdouts may be few and far between, but they are fiercely committed, and they won’t stop killing people unless they’re forced to. Relying on the vague idea of attrition absolves the court of its responsibility to be the ultimate arbiter and guardian of the Constitution — and specifically of the Eighth Amendment. The court has already relied on that provision to ban the execution of juvenile offenders, the intellectually disabled and those convicted of crimes against people other than murder.


5. Pope says world must not ‘extinguish hope’ in hearts of migrants, refugees.

By John L. Allen Jr., Crux, January 1, 2018

January 1 is the “World Day of Peace” on the Catholic calendar, with Pope Francis choosing this time around to focus on migrants and refugees. He backed that message up on New Year’s Day on Monday, pointing to migrants and refugees as among the “weakest and most disadvantaged” persons for whom God has special concern.

The pontiff then entrusted migrants and refugees under the protection of Mary as the Mother of God, adding an off-the-cuff reference to “ancient mystical monks” who taught that in “times of turbulence, it’s important” to seek Mary’s aid.

In his written message for today’s World Day of Peace, Francis asked the world “to embrace all those fleeing from war or hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”

The pope urged policies built on the fundamental values of “welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating” migrants and refugees, and lent his support to two Global Compacts scheduled to be signed by the United Nations in 2018, one on migrants and the other on refugees, in an effort to bring greater stability to the flow of people around the world.

Francis also denounced what he described as a worrying “spread” of anti-immigrant sentiment.

At the same time, Francis also acknowledged that “prudence” is required in crafting immigration and refugee policies, including setting the proper limits on how many new arrivals a given society can be expected to absorb.


6. Pope on 2018: forget life’s useless baggage, work for peace.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, January 1, 2018, 6:59 AM

Pope Francis on Monday recommended jettisoning life’s “useless baggage” in 2018, including what he called “empty chatter” and banal consumerism, and focusing instead on building a peaceful and welcoming world, particularly for refugees and migrants.

Francis offered his reflections on paring down non-essentials as he celebrated New Year’s Day Mass Monday in St. Peter’s Basilica and later greeted some 40,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.

His advice included setting aside a moment of silence daily to be with God. Doing so would help “keep our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting,” Francis said.

7. Pope: Migrants and Refugees Are Men and Women in Search of Peace: Papal Message for the 51st World Day of Peace.

By Pope Francis, National Catholic Register, January 1, 2018

1. Heartfelt Good Wishes for Peace

Peace to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night (Luke 2:14), is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the more than 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees. Pope Benedict XVI, my beloved predecessor, spoke of them as “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace” (Angelus, Jan. 15, 2012).

In order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.

In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.

2. Why So Many Refugees and Migrants?

As he looked to the Great Jubilee marking the passage of 2,000 years since the proclamation of peace by the angels in Bethlehem, St. John Paul II pointed to the increased numbers of displaced persons as one of the consequences of the “endless and horrifying sequence of wars, conflicts, genocides and ethnic cleansings” that had characterized the 20th century (“Message for the 2000 World Day of Peace,” 3). To this date, the new century has registered no real breakthrough: Armed conflicts and other forms of organized violence continue to trigger the movement of peoples within national borders and beyond.

Yet people migrate for other reasons as well, principally because they “desire a better life, and not infrequently try to leave behind the ‘hopelessness’ of an unpromising future” (Benedict XVI, “Message for the 2013 World Day of Migrants and Refugees”). They set out to join their families or to seek professional or educational opportunities, for those who cannot enjoy these rights do not live in peace. Furthermore, as I noted in the encyclical Laudato Si, there has been “a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation” (25).

3. With a Contemplative Gaze

The wisdom of faith fosters a contemplative gaze that recognizes that all of us “belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the Earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches. It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded” (Benedict XVI, “Message for the 2011 World Day of Migrants and Refugees”). These words evoke the biblical image of the New Jerusalem. The book of the prophet Isaiah (Chapter 60) and that of Revelation (Chapter 21) describe the city with its gates always open to people of every nation, who marvel at it and fill it with riches. Peace is the sovereign that guides it and justice the principle that governs coexistence within it.

We must also turn this contemplative gaze to the cities where we live, “a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares […] fostering solidarity, fraternity and the desire for goodness, truth and justice” (Evangelii Gaudium, 71) — in other words, fulfilling the promise of peace. When we turn that gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed. They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.

4. Four Mileposts for Action

Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating (“Message for the 2018 World Day of Migrants and Refugees”).

5. A Proposal for Two International Compacts

It is my heartfelt hope this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two “Global Compacts,” one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees. As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures. For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process. Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.

6. For Our Common Home

Let us draw inspiration from the words of St. John Paul II: “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our Earth a true ‘common home’” (“Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees” 2004, 6). Throughout history, many have believed in this “dream,” and their achievements are a testament to the fact that it is no mere utopia.


8. On New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis delivers his ‘silent majority’ speech.

John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, December 31, 2017

A pope is also the Bishop of Rome, and every once in a while, Romans expect to hear something special from their shepherd. On Sunday Pope Francis delivered, offering a New Year’s Eve homily expressing gratitude for his own Roman flock – although in terms, however, which will have resonance well beyond the Eternal City.

In effect, this was Pope Francis’s version of the famous 1969 “silent majority” speech by U.S. President Richard Nixon, suggesting that the concerns of ordinary people aren’t necessarily reflected in the rattle and hum of mediacoverage.

While Nixon meant the phrase as an assertion of support for his own conservative politics, Francis appeared to set up the silent majority in Rome as an alternative to politics of all sorts – meaning people, the pope said, who serve their communities not through noisy words, but quiet deeds.

The pope then went on to cite other examples of heroism from the silent majority.

He praised “those who respect public places, and report things that aren’t right; those who are attentive to the elderly, and people in difficulty; and so on,” Francis said.


9. Pope prays for Egyptian Copts who died in attacks near Cairo.

By Associated Press, December 31, 2017

Pope Francis has prayed for the victims of attacks on Copts in Egypt.

Francis expressed closeness Sunday to “the Orthodox Copt brothers” of Egypt after the attacks two days earlier in a Cairo suburb. At least nine people died in the attack on a church and on a nearby store that was owned by a Copt.


10. Pope Francis laments wars, injustices that ‘ruined’ 2017.

By Frances D’Emilio, Associated Press, December 31, 2017

Bidding 2017 farewell, Pope Francis on Sunday decried wars, injustices, social and environmental degradation and other man-made ills which he said spoiled the year.

Francis presided at a New Year’s Eve prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica, a traditional occasion to say thanks in each year’s last hours.

In his homily, the pope said God gave to us a “whole and sound” year, but “we humans in so many ways ruined and hurt it with works of death, with lies and injustices.”

“The wars are the flagrant sign of this repeated and absurd pride,” he said. “But so are all the little and big offenses against life, truth, brotherhood, that cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation.”

Francis added: “We want to, and must assume, before God, our brothers and Creation our responsibility” for the harm.

Despite the gloom, Francis said “gratitude prevails” thanks to those who “cooperate silently for the common good.” He singled out parents and educators who try to raise young people with a sense of responsible ethics.