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U.S. Catholic Bishops Concerned About Trump's Plans For Immigrants, Refugees


      Religious leaders in western Massachusetts are condemning acts of intolerance that have been reported locally since the election.

     The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Rev. Mitchell Rozanski, called on local Catholics to not remain silent when acts of hatred, discrimination, and religious intolerance occur in their midst.

    " Any type of hate crime against any faith is really an insult to all faiths and needed to be spoken about and needed to be addressed," said Rozanski.

    In a letter sent to parishes this weekend and in speaking with reporters Monday, Rozanski referenced two acts of hatred: the painting of racist and anti-Semitic graffiti on a rocky cliff on the Mount Tom State Reservation, and the smashing of bottles of alcohol outside a mosque in West Springfield.

   He said the recent acts of vandalism are sad reminders that the “trouble is much closer to home,” and he urged people to confront bias and discrimination head on.

  "I would encourage people to be able to explain what their faith is about and reach out to others of different faiths and when they encounter such bias to speak the truth: to tell the truth about their own faith and what it means to them," he said.

  On Saturday, about 50 people hiked up Mount Tom for an interfaith vigil led by Bishop Douglas Fisher, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts.

  Rozanski said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who met last week in Baltimore, are concerned about likely changes to U.S. policy on immigration and refugee resettlement based on statements President-elect Donald Trump made during the campaign.

" The bishops are certainly concerned that we are objectifying people and not looking upon them as people who are looking for a better life who can contribute to society," said Rozanski.

   He said the U.S. bishops are worried about the plight of an estimated 60 million people who have fled their homes around the world because of war or religious persecution.

  " The bishops remain very very committed to the resettlement of those who are fleeing war torn countries," said Rozanski.

  Catholic Charities is preparing to help resettle 51 refugees in Northampton beginning in January. Some of the refugees may be from Syria.

Rozanski spoke with reporters after announcing $300,000 in grants to community-based organizations from the Annual Catholic Appeal.  Recipients included emergency food pantries, an organization that facilities support groups for grieving children, and a sober-living rooming house for recovering alcoholics.

Homework House, an after-school tutoring program in Holyoke, received $19,000. Executive Director Virginia Dillon said they don’t charge students and don’t accept government funds.

" That is why funding from the Annual Catholic Appeal is so important to us. It provides the rock around which we can build all our other funding. It is a critical piece for us," said Dillon.

The Annual Catholic Appeal in the Springfield Diocese, which has another month to go, has raised $2.7 million so far.  Most of the money goes to support church-run programs and services.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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