Pope Francis Speaks Out for the First Time on China’s Persecution of the Uyghurs

via CNN:

Pope Francis has for the first time publicly named China’s Uyghur minority among a list of the world’s persecuted peoples, breaking his silence on allegations of widespread human rights abuses in the country’s far-western Xinjiang region.

“I think often of persecuted peoples: the Rohingya, the poor Uyghurs, the Yazidi — what ISIS did to them was truly cruel — or Christians in Egypt and Pakistan killed by bombs that went off while they prayed in church,” Francis says in a new book, “Let Us Dream: The Path to A Better Future,” published on Monday.
The US State Department has said as many as two million Uyghurs, who are predominately Muslim, and other minority groups have been taken to huge detention centers in Xinjiang, where former detainees have described being subjected to indoctrination, physical abuse and sterilization.


Pope Francis Meets with NBA Players to Discuss Social Justice

via Zach Lowe:

In an unprecedented meeting, a delegation of five NBA players and several officials from the National Basketball Players Association met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday morning for a private audience to discuss their work on social justice issues.

An assistant to Pope Francis reached out to the players’ association last week indicating the Pope wanted to learn more about how players had recently brought attention to pressing social justice issues and economic inequality — and what they planned for the future, union officials told ESPN. The union agreed and quickly scheduled an overnight flight Sunday to make their private meeting with the pope, which happened at 11:45 a.m. local time Monday morning at the Vatican….

The delegation included Kyle Korver and Sterling Brown; Jonathan Isaac of the Orlando Magic; Anthony Tolliver, the union’s secretary-treasurer; Marco Belinelli; and Michele Roberts, executive director of the players’ union….

“We’re here because, frankly, we’re inspired by the work that you do globally,” Roberts told the pope during the meeting, according to The Associated Press.

The union said the players spoke about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities.”

Pope Francis on Universal Values and Dialogue

Highlights from Pope Francis in chapter 6 of Fratelli Tutti:

  • Approaching, speaking, listening, looking at, coming to know and understand one another, and to find common ground: all these things are summed up in the one word “dialogue”. If we want to encounter and help one another, we have to dialogue. (198)
  • We need constantly to ensure that present-day forms of communication are in fact guiding us to generous encounter with others, to honest pursuit of the whole truth, to service, to closeness to the underprivileged and to the promotion of the common good. (205)
  • The solution is not relativism. Under the guise of tolerance, relativism ultimately leaves the interpretation of moral values to those in power, to be defined as they see fit. (206)
  • What is law without the conviction, born of age-old reflection and great wisdom, that each human being is sacred and inviolable? If society is to have a future, it must respect the truth of our human dignity and submit to that truth. (207)
  • We need to learn how to unmask the various ways that the truth is manipulated, distorted and concealed in public and private discourse….As it peers into human nature, reason discovers universal values derived from that same nature. (208)
  • Is not the indifference and the heartless individualism into which we have fallen also a result of our sloth in pursuing higher values, values that transcend our immediate needs? Relativism always brings the risk that some or other alleged truth will be imposed by the powerful or the clever. (209)
  • Once those fundamental values are acknowledged and adopted through dialogue and consensus, we realize that they rise above consensus; they transcend our concrete situations and remain non-negotiable. (211)
  • That every human being possesses an inalienable dignity is a truth that corresponds to human nature apart from all cultural change. (213)
  • Each of us can learn something from others. No one is useless and no one is expendable. This also means finding ways to include those on the peripheries of life. For they have another way of looking at things; they see aspects of reality that are invisible to the centres of power where weighty decisions are made. (215)
  • All this calls for the ability to recognize other people’s right to be themselves and to be different. (218)
  • Sooner or later, ignoring the existence and rights of others will erupt in some form of violence, often when least expected. Liberty, equality and fraternity can remain lofty ideals unless they apply to everyone. Encounter cannot take place only between the holders of economic, political or academic power. Genuine social encounter calls for a dialogue that engages the culture shared by the majority of the population. (219)
  • Kindness frees us from the cruelty that at times infects human relationships, from the anxiety that prevents us from thinking of others, from the frantic flurry of activity that forgets that others also have a right to be happy….Kindness ought to be cultivated; it is no superficial bourgeois virtue. (224)

In the Face of Tragedy, We Can Do Better Than Throw-Pillow Theology

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

Millennial Catholic Ellen Koneck writes:

He’s at peace,” the chorus of well-meaning Christians wrote in notecards and whispered in the days and weeks after my brother died. But such sentiment – even if true – didn’t, doesn’t work when facing down the dark abyss of death.

He’s in heaven now,” they asserted, as if it were easy or obvious. As if heaven were an effortless expression, the kind well-suited for stitching on throw pillows. As if we could rest our heads on such a theology, stuffed with the fluff of bromide. As if something so shallow could do more than decorate. As if decoration could distract from death.

Believers like to pretend we hope because: because of confidence in the promise of an afterlife or the reassurances of our faith. But in fact, we hope despite: despite the unavoidable evidence of death and decay we daily face. Despite knowing death intimately while merely hearing the rumor of heaven through a friend of a friend (of a friend). Despite discovering our desire and our desperation for heaven, oftentimes, only because death has visited us. “Parting is all we know of heaven,/And all we need of hell” writes Emily Dickinson.

Before his parting, the parting that has given me all I need of hell, I didn’t know that cheap hope – the kind offered me by well-meaning Christians, the kind I’m sure I’ve offered others – betrays us in the hour when the real thing is most needed. When we’re pacing, frantically, desperately, as the stitching begins to unravel. When it’s gently slipped into sympathy cards. When offered, this throw-pillow theology wounds when it should reassure. It decorates our daily lives but offers no cushion when everything comes crashing down….

Far from sentimental, Christian hope faces hell, and then Christian hope rebels. It rebels against the despair and nihilism that would be so easy to accept and so clear to concede. Facing hell, Christian hope does not resign to these horrors but is at rest beside them. Because God dove down to these horrors, these places designed only to host despair, and now God dwells in this darkness.

The Faithful Voters Who Helped Biden Win

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

2017 Millennial of the Year Michael Wear writes:

Joe Biden succeeded in his mission to end Donald Trump’s presidency, and he did so, in part, because of the wise, persistent and strategic way his campaign related to faith. This was not inevitable.

Mr. Trump’s re-election effort, like his campaign in 2016, relied on his ability to appeal to Christian voters directly, without robust competition. While Hillary Clinton certainly won among some religious communities, including people of faith who are racial or religious minorities, Democrats did not do nearly enough in 2016 to contest Mr. Trump’s explicit appeals to Christians of all backgrounds, who still comprise over two-thirds of the electorate….

Nationally, he won 23 percent of white evangelicals, closing the gap from 2016 by 11 percentage points (from 64 to 53). This amounts to a swing of well over four million votes nationally, which accounts for much of Mr. Biden’s lead in the popular vote. While there has been significant discussion of Mr. Trump’s gains among Black and especially Hispanic voters, Mr. Biden more than made up for those losses with his increased share of white evangelical support….

Mr. Biden, a committed Irish Catholic who ran in large part because he believed he could win in the Great Lakes states Mrs. Clinton lost, proved his case by winning Catholics nationally — an eight-point, three-million vote swing from 2016, in the preliminary accounting — and keeping the margin among white Catholics close enough to win in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Arizona and Michigan….

This focus on faith wasn’t kept to targeted slices of the electorate, but was made an integral part of the most far-reaching, high-stakes moments of the campaign, including the first hour of the final day of the Democratic convention. That night, Sister Simone Campbell delivered an invocation. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Mr. Biden’s close friend and a national co-chair of his campaign, delivered a speech about faith and Mr. Biden’s character and leadership. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta introduced an entire segment about the civil rights movement that unabashedly included the Christian convictions that motivated many of its leaders. Jon Meacham, the historian and a Christian himself, gave his perspective on the moral stakes of the election. Later in the night, Father James Martin, Rabbi Lauren Berkun and Imam Dr. Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid delivered benedictions (Mr. Biden won the Muslim and Jewish votes by significant margins), with Father Martin directly mentioning the unborn in his prayer (as did the Rev. Gabriel Salguero in his invocation earlier in the convention), which communicated that pro-life voters were included in Mr. Biden’s vision for the Democratic Party and the country.

The Biden campaign’s concern for faith voters was evident in its staffing as well, which included a faith outreach team, led by Josh Dickson, that relentlessly communicated to diverse communities of faith that the Biden campaign wanted their vote. Other Biden campaign aides, like Jen O’Malley Dillon, Mike Donilon, Greg Schultz, Bruce Reed, Ashley Allison, John McCarthy, Sheila Nix and others have long histories working with the faith community, so it wasn’t just Mr. Dickson who was attentive to these dynamics.

A Time for Reconciliation?

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Bill McCormick, S.J. writes:

Do Americans have any appetite for reconciliation after this year’s tense election season? Should they?

During the first week after the election, I interviewed several Catholic thought leaders with these questions in mind. They did not all agree on what our objectives should be, but there was a consensus that any talk of a quick reconciliation is unrealistic. It will be slow, difficult work, and reconciliation may not even be desirable if the cost is too high…

Reconciliation can sometimes feel like building a bridge to nowhere when the parties involved do not have the same goal, which can be an intensely frustrating experience. A meaningful dialogue would seem to require an honest acknowledgment about such differences and conversation about what room there is for closing that gap.

Kevin Vallier, a professor of philosophy at Bowling Green and author of the recently published book Trust in a Polarized Age, told me, “Reconciliation requires policies that build social and political trust directly, and not just telling people to be cool to one another.”…

If Christians are not oriented toward the kingdom of God, then they will not be able to participate in the work of reconciliation at its most profound levels. And if one discerns that others are not oriented toward the kingdom, perhaps attempts to reconcile with them are impossible or even wrong….

Robert Christian of the online journal Millennial told me: “Christians are called to be countercultural in the United States. The throwaway culture is more deeply rooted in our society than we’d perhaps like to believe—and courage is required to consistently promote a politics of solidarity and the common good. But with the election over, there really is no excuse for American Catholics and other Christians to not press those who have won to consistently defend human dignity and promote human flourishing.”

Ultimately, the challenge seems to be that set by Pope Benedict in his encyclical “Caritas in Veritate”: how to resist the “dictatorship of relativism” with an affirmation of truth that is both objective and personal, a truth that both lovingly meets people where they are and calls out of them their deepest desires in the truth.


Pope Francis Congratulates Joe Biden on Winning the Presidency

via Biden-Harris Transition:

President-elect Joe Biden spoke this morning with His Holiness Pope Francis. The President-elect thanked His Holiness for extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation for His Holiness’ leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world. The President-elect expressed his desire to work together on the basis of a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.