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Hunger_in_Vatican_CityOn July 4, 2017, Pope Francis made a vibrant statement regarding the world’s suffering and hungry. He declared world hunger to be a direct result of nothing less than indifference and selfishness. Further, he saw the effects of these same problems in his immediate surroundings—there is hunger in Vatican City. Since the beginning of his service, Pope Francis has made addressing poverty, hunger and homelessness some of the most important goals for the Catholic Church in hopes to lead by example.

Due largely to the Catholic Church’s presence in the world’s smallest country, many of the poor and needy draw near to the Vatican. As the impoverished seek refuge, hunger is becoming a bigger problem for the Church to address. With Pope Francis at the helm of the Vatican’s efforts, the needy are being tended to with a vigorous priority.

Pope Francis has personally addressed hunger by appealing to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and pointing out the “uneven distribution of resources and the lack of agricultural development.” The Vatican has sponsored several refugees and their families facing the challenges of displacement, especially hunger. Further, the rest of Europe’s Catholic community has been encouraged to follow suit in accepting, housing and aiding those seeking refuge.

Contrary to tradition, Pope Francis insists on mobilizing the church by sending out the Vatican’s almoner. In the past, the almoner waits for letters from the poor for guidance on how to meet needs. However, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski has taken to the streets of Vatican City in attempts to help the poor and hungry. Krajewski’s method aligns with the rumors of Pope Francis instructing him to “sell his desk” since he would not be needing it.

One of the more controversial techniques to fight hunger in Vatican City came with a corporate lease of a Vatican building to McDonald’s in 2016. While some members of the Church and the Catholic community responded with alternative uses of the building, like housing the homeless, that attitude has since shifted as McDonald’s promised to hand out over 1,000 meals to the poor in their first six months of operations.

The 2030 Development Agenda of the U.N. reflects this same commitment of the Catholic Church. The fight for universal food security cannot be put off and Pope Francis recognizes that it is a demanding task. However, intentions to provide for everyone are not enough. Rather, people need to make a commitment to their country to increase the level of nutrition, to improve agricultural operations, to improve living conditions of rural communities and promote effective distribution of resources like food supplies. When a country is unable to provide for its people, then intergovernmental institutions need to step in. As Pope Francis said in his July 4 address, every person has a right to be free from poverty and hunger. Further, it is the duty of the entire human family to intervene and actually do something about it.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr;

10 Facts About Cuban Refugees
Following Fidel Castro’s disposal of the Batista regime, Cuba became known as a refugee state. Thereafter the United States began receiving the majority of Cuban refugees.

  1. There are more than 1.5 million Cuban refugees living in the United States.
  2. The Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. The law allowed any Cuban citizen the legal right to become a U.S. permanent resident after being in the U.S. for at least two years.
  3. The first type of Cuban refugee consisted of mostly middle and upper social classes. They left Cuba in the 1950s to 1970s following the dictatorship take-over of Fidel Castro. In fear of reprisals from the Communist party, they left everything in search of political asylum.
  4. The second type of Cuban refugee consisted mostly of poor Cubans seeking economic opportunities in the 1980s.
  5. The majority of Cuban refugees fled to Florida because of the state’s close proximity. Currently, approximately 68% of Cuban refugees live in Florida.
  6. To counteract the emigration, Castro began incarcerating and executing those he perceived as opponents.
  7. Between 1960 and 1962, over 14,000 Cuban children were sent to the U.S. by their parents in what was known as Operation Peter Pan. These children were placed in foster homes and cared for by the Catholic Church in an effort to avoid indoctrination into the Communist party.
  8. In order to go to war with Cuba, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff drafted a plan to trick the American public into supporting a war against Castro. This project was code-named Operation Northwoods and included plans to sink boats filled with Cuban refugees and then blame the violence on Castro. The plan was rejected by the Kennedy administration.
  9. In 1980, frustrated with the lack of help, a group of Cubans drove a bus through the gates of the Havana Peruvian Embassy to request asylum. The Peruvian ambassador refused to return the asylum-seeking Cubans to the Cuban authorities. Eventually, these Cubans were allowed to seek asylum in the U.S.
  10. Currently, many organizations focus on giving aid to Cuban refugees and immigrants. Their mission is to search for Cuban refugee rafters in the Florida seas.

Since 2012, the Cuban government began easing its restrictive immigration policies. A visa is no longer required to leave the country. Because of this, there has been an influx of Cuban refugees entering the United States and more are expected this year.

Marcelo Guadiana

Photo: Flickr

Mother Teresa
Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa, a nun who committed her life to helping the poor. The Pope will do so on the 19th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, where she did extensive work assisting the impoverished.

An article written in USA Today describes Mother Teresa as, “Affectionately known as the saint of the gutter for her unconditional love for the poor, abandoned and marginalized.” As a result of her work in India, Mother Teresa earned several international honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Mother Teresa was born in Albania in the year 1910. At the age of 18, she joined an Irish Convent and received the name, “Sister Mary Teresa.” Months later, she moved to India, where she taught at St. Mary’s School for girls.

According to an article on the CNN website, “There, she took her Final Profession of Vows and became Mother Teresa.” Her Vatican biography stated that “nearly 20 years later, during a train ride in India, she felt a calling from Jesus to care for the poor.” She established Missionaries of Charity to serve the poorest of all.

She was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II, who approved her first posthumous miracle. A USA Today report explains that beatification, recognition by the Catholic Church that a person is welcomed into heaven, requires at least one miracle, while to be sainted, requires two. Mother Teresa’s first miracle was declared after the Vatican Committee found no scientific explanation for the recovery of an Indian woman who prayed to Mother Teresa while suffering from a stomach tumor.

CNN reports that, in December of last year, Pope Francis recognized a second miracle attributed to Mother Teresa, the recovery of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors. Pope Francis will be canonizing Mother Teresa on September 4 of this year.

Isabella Rolz

Photo: Wikipedia

Pope Benedict's New Look for the Catholic Church
With appointments set in the near future with both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, his having chosen the first round of Cardinals, and being Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”, it is a good time to look at who the new Pope Francis is.

Most people have now run across some piece of news about him, most likely having to do with his groundbreaking decision to denounce most luxuries afforded to the Pope, such as his insistence in driving his old car, or the latest quote he made, which was deemed extremely progressive as far as how the Catholic Church has portrayed itself in the past.

Born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Pope Francis has been changing things up since he became Pope. News titles such as, “The Political Genius of Pope Francis” from Politico, or “Pope launches Vatican Bank Purge” from WND, give the impression that the Pope is a man of the people. Certainly Catholic followers, many more have been impressed by the new Pope, and it seems the popularity of the Catholic Church is on the rise.

This Pope comes off the heels of an unprecedented occurrence: the living Pope, Pope Benedict, stepped down while he was still alive. This means for the first time in modern history, there is a living former Pope. Mystery and occult knowledge have always enshrouded the Vatican, and one cannot expect centuries of tradition to be broken overnight. However, all the trends and decisions of Pope Benedict as of yet seem to be doing just that.

Pope Francis recently had one of his first major opportunities to manifest his vision of what the Church he now leads should look like. This came in the form of his first round of electing new Cardinals. Given most of the reporting from reputable sources, a continuance of this progressive trend, this was very heavily enacted. With so much influence and resources at its disposal, the Catholic Church, and, more succinctly the Vatican hold immense sway on the direction of how this global society progresses.

The decisions made have vast ripple effects that few other institutions have the capacity to do. With a seemingly new direction and a new leader, a new era for the Catholic church may be beginning; of course, only time will tell.

– Tyler Shafsky

Sources: The Guardian, USA Today, Huffington Post, ABC News
Photo: Slate

pope_francis_time
“Just like Pope John Paul II was in 1995, Pope Francis has been named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ for presenting the Church’s ‘timeless truths’ to today’s world. In all that he does, through his humble ways and simple lifestyle, Pope Francis clearly radiates the joy that comes from loving God and caring for his people.  There could be no finer choice for ‘Person of the Year.'” – Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York

 Pope Francis has been named Time’s Person of the Year for 2013. The popular magazine states that in order to gain this title a person must cast a strong influence over the world. It is clear that he has done this. His humility and selfless acts of kindness has renewed some faith back in to the Catholic Church. Catholics and non-Catholics have started to see the Pope in a different light. Aptly named “The Peoples Pope,” Pope Francis is no stranger to the poor. He states,  “Many of you have been stripped by this savage world,”  “[It] does not give employment [and it] does not care if there are children dying of hunger.”
“The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal. Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”
Pope Francis urges world leaders for the inequality gap between the rich and poor to be closed. Until this is met Francis will continue to lead by example. He gathers to hear stories from Syrian refugees and eats with the poor. He washes the feet of juvenile delinquents and blesses people by the handful. His frugal lifestyle and refusal to live in luxury shows his love and devotion for the sick and the suffering. He believes that if humility is shown through his hands, others will follow suit.– Amy Robinson

Sources: BBC, NBC News, RT, CNN
Photo: Business Insider

cuba_opt
Last Monday, the Brookings Institute hosted a panel of policy analysts and religious leaders to discuss recent changes in Cuba and, specifically, the role of the Catholic Church in Cuban reform.

Ted Piccone, a Brookings Senior Fellow, spoke with praise about the Church’s dynamic role at both the governmental and local levels in promoting dialogue about Cuba’s future. He also introduced Orlando Marquez, the senior editor of a major publication by the Archdiocese of Havana, who spoke about its increasing role in attacking poverty and mediating policy reform.

According to Marquez, the Cuban Church has a two-pronged approach. First, it is working locally to improve media access, establish public education, and grow businesses. Toward those ends, churches across Cuba have started publishing global news, forming partnerships to make educational programs available at every academic level, and working across sectors to offer enterprise development for Cuba’s farmers and entrepreneurs.

Second, the Church is engaging in dialogue with the government. In 2011, the conference of Cuban bishops negotiated the release of 75 political prisoners, a hard-won victory that garnered much international attention. They also urged the government to lift its crushing business regulations and tax policies on behalf of the many struggling businesspeople in their church provinces. Marquez says their impact was extraordinary.

“For the first time in about 50 years, the church has been recognized as a valid internal interlocutor,” he said. “This is new. This is very new.”

Marquez affirms that the influence of the Church as an interlocutor is key to continuing reform. The struggle for justice in Cuba, he says, is not about a battle between the ideologies of socialism and capitalism. Rather, it is a battle for the dignity of the human person, which is at the center of the Church’s ideology.

Tom Quigley, the former advisor on Latin America to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expresses similar optimism about Cuba’s future and the Church’s role in it.

“The Church in Cuba, more than any other entity, is deeply serious about reconciliation between all sectors of the Cuban family,” he said at the Brookings panel. “It hasn’t been easy—not once over these past six decades—but there have been more advances than backward moves.”

–  John Mahon

Sources: Brookings, Christian Post
Photo: Translating Cuba