Catholic leader calls on Church in the US to be welcoming
President Obama told his administration Thursday to take in at least 10,000 displaced Syrians over the next year.
At a briefing at the White House on Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the US would “accept at least 10,000 refugees in the next fiscal year,” which begins Oct. 1, the New York Times reported.
Meanwhile, the leader of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops called on American Catholics to express openness and welcome to refugees fleeing Syria and other countries.
“The Catholic Church in the United States—with nearly 100 Catholic Charities agencies and hundreds of parishes assisting refugees to this country each year, and with Catholic Relief Services providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the Middle East and Europe—stands ready to help in this effort,” Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement Sept. 10.
Archbishop Kurtz encouraged the U.S. government “to assist more robustly the nations of Europe and the Middle East in protecting and supporting refugees and in helping to end the conflict that are pushing people out of the region.
According to the Times, Secretary of State John Kerry said at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill that that the total number of refugees taken in by the United States could rise to more than 100,000, from the current figure of 70,000. State Department officials said that not all of the additional 30,000 would be Syrians, but many would be.
But Earnest said members of Congress “misunderstood” Kerry when he said the number of refugees could rise to as high as 100,000 next year.
On Wednesday, a senior state department official said that any increases would include people from Syria and other countries.
“When we talk about increasing the overall numbers, we’re talking about increases for people from around the world,” the official said. “The top three groups we resettle these days are from Burma, Iraq, and Somalia. If we increase, in addition to bringing more Syrians, which is already in the plan, we would like to admit more African refugees next year.”
Earnest sought to reassure Americans that the administration would not skimp on screening refugees, which involves a lengthy criminal and terrorist background vetting procedures that can take 18 to 24 months to complete. He said Syrian refugees would not receive the kind of expedited resettlement Vietnamese and Iraqi refugees received in the past.
The Times said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has already referred 18,000 cases to the United States for resettlement.
Many of them are the most vulnerable from Syria’s collapse: Torture survivors, people with special medical needs, and women who head households. More than half are children, officials say.
But the vetting process has created huge delays, the report says.
Archbishop Kurtz’s appeal came in the same week that Pope Francis said the Vatican would take in some of the refugees and called on parishes throughout Europe to do likewise.
The archbishop addressed the question of the predominantly Muslim nature of the massive wave of migrants flooding into Europe–and now potentially the US.
“Regardless of their religious affiliation or national origin, these refugees are all human persons—made in the image of God, bearing inherent dignity, and deserving our respect and care and protection by law from persecution,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
A Dominican nun who has been working with internally displaced Christian in the north of Iraq said that 20-25 families leave for Turkey every day, many of them going on to “endanger their lives” to get to Europe.
“Many refused to have another tough winter” living in temporary housing that resembles shipping containers, said Sister Diana Momeka.
“Sadly, the world is so busy about Syria, and nobody is paying attention about our crisis. … I don’t know for how long people could tolerate the situation.”