Syrian refugees wait on the Syrian side of the border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, June 10. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Migration, says the United States should welcome Syrian refugees and work for peace. (CNS photo/Sedat/Suna, EPA)

Welcome the Syrian refugees

FOR THE JUNEAU EMPIRE“Lord, when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? … And the king will answer, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers [and sisters] of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:38,40).

In my home, in front of the icon of Jesus and Mary in my prayer corner, I keep a photo of a Syrian refugee family. The mother is wearing what looks to be a hijab, which would indicate that this holy family fleeing the violence and killing in Syria is probably Muslim.

Which is all to the good because when Jesus commanded us to welcome the stranger, he meant everyone, including Muslims. I put their picture there because I want their beautiful faces to be a daily reminder to pray for them and for all of the refugees fleeing from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who are desperate to find shelter, safety and most importantly, welcome.

The horrific attacks last week by Islamist terrorists in Paris are a reminder of the unrelenting warfare and daily violence that has forced tens of thousands of families to flee Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in search of refuge and safety. Their situation continues to be dire and their needs are basic and urgent.

The numbers alone are staggering. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) reports that since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, 4 million refugees have fled Syria to nearby Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Another 6.5 million are internally displaced, having been forced by the conflict to seek refuge in other parts of Syria. 300,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed during the war.

Since the start of 2015, CRS estimates that more than 360,000 refugees have landed on the shores of Greece, enroute to European Union countries such as Germany where they hope to find asylum. It is a perilous journey: the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that some 2,500 Syrian refugees have drowned making the dangerous sea crossing from Turkey to Greece and from Libya to Italy.

Because Syrian refugees are unable to apply for asylum outside of the European Union, those seeking asylum are forced to enter Europe illegally. Crossing by sea is not only dangerous but very costly and many refugees have spent their life savings or gone into debt to pay for their passage. They are at the mercy of those trafficking them, risking abuse and death at every stage of their journey.

Families that survive the journey arrive in Europe with very little and need food, water, sanitation, protection from the elements and legal advice. CRS, alongside many other humanitarian and relief organizations, has been working to provide help to these refugees as they arrive in Europe.

Working in transit camps in Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Serbia, CRS has provided Syrian and Iraqi refugees with their basic physical needs as well as seeking to help them cope with the trauma of war dislocation and the disruption of their daily lives. CRS estimates that 45 percent of the refugees are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and that at least 60 percent are suffering from depression. Many of the children who have witnessed the violence and cruelty of war exhibit severe symptoms of trauma. CRS, in partnership with the local churches and other aid groups is working to help provide therapy and counseling to the some of the tens of thousands of children spiritually and emotionally wounded by the war.

As I have looked at the photos of exhausted refugees trudging down roads in their hundreds or sleeping wherever they can find a place to lie down in open fields, parks or in makeshift camps, I try to remember that every single person belongs to a family. Every refugee has a mother or father, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a son or daughter who knows their name and loves them. Even more importantly, every single one of them is known uniquely by God, who loves and cherishes them infinitely.

People light candles in tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, outside the French Embassy in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 13. Dozens of people were killed in a series of attacks in Paris Nov. 13. (CNS photo/Lukas Schulze, EPA)

Nothing can justify terrorist attacks, pope says

By Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — “This is not human,” Pope Francis said after a night of terror in Paris left more than 120 people dead and more than 200 people injured.

As French authorities investigated the almost simultaneous attacks Nov. 13 on at least six different sites — inside a concert hall, outside a soccer stadium, and at four cafes and restaurants — Pope Francis spoke briefly Nov. 14 with the television station of the Italian bishops’ conference.

“I am shaken and pained,” the pope said. “I don’t understand, but these things are difficult to understand, how human beings can do this. That is why I am shaken, pained and am praying.”

The director of the television station recalled how the pope has spoken many times about a “third world war being fought in pieces.”

“This is a piece,” the pope responded. “There are no justifications for these things.”

On social media, Islamic State militants claimed responsibility, but Pope Francis insisted there can be no “religious or human” excuse for killing innocent people and sowing terror. “This is not human.”

Armed police officers go on foot patrol around Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Nov. 14. Dozens of people were killed in a series of attacks in Paris Nov. 13. (CNS photo/Ian Langsdon, EPA)

Armed police officers go on foot patrol around Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris Nov. 14. Dozens of people were killed in a series of attacks in Paris Nov. 13. (CNS photo/Ian Langsdon, EPA)

French authorities reported Nov. 14 that eight terrorists were dead after the night of attacks; six of them committed suicide and two were killed by police, who stormed the concert hall where the terrorists had taken hostages and where the majority of victims died.

Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois of Paris issued a statement calling for calm and for prayers, not only for the Paris victims, but also for the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Africa.

He urged all parishes to strictly follow the security guidelines of the police, but also asked for special memorial Masses over the weekend. He said he would celebrate a special Mass for the victims Nov. 15 in Notre Dame Cathedral.

“May no one allow himself to be defeated by panic and hatred,” the cardinal said. “Let us ask for the grace of being peacemakers. We must never lose our hope for peace if we work for justice.”

Church needs to remind faithful of steps toward safety

The clergy abuse crisis beyond the ‘Spotlight’
Bishop: While we must never forget facts, Church needs to remind faithful of steps toward safety
By Gretchen R. Crowe, OSV Newsweekly

In recent weeks, Bishop Edward J. Burns of the Diocese of Juneau, Chairman of the US Bishops’ Committee on Child and Youth Protection has been responding in the national Catholic media to the upcoming U.S. release of the movie ‘Spotlight.’

In two articles to-date (OSV and CNS), Bishop Burns has highlighted the progress that the Church has made toward securing safe environments for children in all dioceses, and in creating widespread victim assistance programs for those who have suffered abuse.

“We have a responsibility to reach out to those who have been victimized in any way. We’re grateful for the courage that they have had in telling their story.”

LINK to OSV article

Bishop Burns 1

Bishop Edward J. Burns of the Diocese of Juneau is the current chairman of the USCCB Committee on Child and Youth Protection.

Church still stands ready to offer help to abuse victims, says bishop

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. church still stands ready to help the victims of clergy sexual abuse, according to Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau, Alaska, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Child and Youth Protection.

“Victims of abuse have helped us see the errors of the past,” Bishop Burns said in a Nov. 10 telephone interview from Juneau with Catholic News Service. “It’s important that we assist them in the healing process.”

Bishop Burns added, “We express our gratitude for the way they’ve called us to look at ourselves, and see that there is a need to change, to be contrite, and to assist in the healing process. It’s important that we continue to work together in order to be sure that there is a safe environment within the church, and that we never grow lax in assuring that all our children are safe.”

He cited background checks for close to 99 percent of the diocesan and religious priests and deacons, and safe environment instruction for 92 percent of the estimated 4.4 million children who have been enrolled in Catholic educational programs.

“What needs to be done? We need to get to 100 percent,” Bishop Burns said.

Bishop Edward J Burns of Juneau said the Church stands with victims of abuse (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Bishop Edward J Burns of Juneau said the Church stands with victims of abuse (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Bishop Burns acknowledged the subject of clergy sex abuse is being brought into the headlines again with the release of the new movie “Spotlight,” which has opened in a handful of cities but will open Nov. 20 in a nationwide release, adding he hoped to see the movie soon.

“I’ve heard some wonderful acclaims for how well it’s presented and how well it’s been produced,” he said, but “I’m not looking forward to watching it, because I know the topic is heart-wrenching.”

“Spotlight” deals with the Boston Globe’s investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. The stories published by the newspaper in 2002 brought significant changes in the way the church operates with regard to addressing abuse claims and abuse prevention.

Bishop Burns, then the executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said he was working as staff when the bishops met in Dallas in 2002, when the abuse crisis was part of the national conversation.

“I still remember the frenzy of media surrounding the hotel and the anxiety of the bishops in addressing this issue, as well as the opportunity for the bishops to hear from the victims of abuse during their general session,” he said. “I remember it being very poignant, very direct. The bishops recognized at that point that they needed to collectively take action.” What resulted was the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” Since its adoption in 2002, the charter was revised in 2005 and 2011.

“The Dallas charter has laid clear how we are to respond whenever there is a credible allegation of sexual abuse by anyone in the church,” Bishop Burns said, adding the “zero tolerance” principle was put into place with the charter.


By Reverend Patrick J. Travers, J.C.L., J.D.

(Fr. Travers made the following presentation on Natural Law following the annual Archdiocese of Anchorage Red Mass, which was celebrated in Anchorage, AK on October 4, 2015.)

It has been my opportunity as a practitioner both of American secular law and the canon law of the Catholic Church to observe a variety of differences and similarities between these two legal systems. The similarities are not surprising, given the important role that canon law played in the development of the English legal system during the Middle Ages. The differences can largely be attributed to the close relationship between canon law and the Roman “Civil Law” that lies at the basis of many continental European legal systems. One sharp difference between the two systems of law that has long puzzled me, and has come increasingly to the fore in recent years, is the clear acceptance by canon law of the natural law as a source of foundational legal principles, contrasted with the almost total silence about and even hostility toward natural law in modern American legal doctrine and practice. My purpose here is to suggest that there is no good reason for this radical difference; that the rejection of natural law as a direct source of legal norms has been a development that has detached American law from its foundational roots in natural justice; that natural law approaches have nevertheless continued to play an important role in the American system of justice, albeit one that is largely hidden; and that there would be significant advantages to a more honest and open recognition of this fact.

Pope Francis pauses in front of the  sculpture of St. Junipero Serra in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, pool)

Pope Francis pauses in front of the sculpture of St. Junipero Serra in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Sept. 24. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, pool)

Libraries can be and have been filled with the writings of eminent philosophers, theologians, legal scholars, judges, and statesmen on the nature and definition of natural law. For present purposes, I would define it very generally as those principles of law that are inherent in the nature of the world and particularly of human beings that can be discovered through the activity of human reason. This vision of natural law incorporates a number of propositions that have been contested and defended repeatedly over the centuries. It regards natural law, first of all, as “law” in the proper sense, consisting of norms of behavior that directly bind human beings, capable of implementation and enforcement by human governmental authorities. While natural law is an object of philosophical reasoning and speculation, its actual content does not consist of merely speculative and theoretical abstract propositions, but rather of directly binding and enforceable legal norms. Secondly, these norms have their basis in the nature of the world and especially of human nature. Natural law is based on the insight that the facts of human nature give rise to norms of human behavior: that the “is” of human life forms a basis of the “ought” of human conduct and relationships. While this has been formulated in many different ways in the course of philosophical and legal history, one useful way states that the natural law consists of those foundational norms by which human beings individually and human society generally are helped to fulfill the potential of human nature.

Thirdly, the norms of natural law can be discovered through and are consistent with human reason. They do not depend for their force on the will of any human authority, nor can they be contradicted by such authority. The fact that they are inherent in human nature does not mean that natural law principles are automatically known by all human beings. They are, however, accessible to those human persons who are able and willing to reflect honestly on human reality through the activity of the intellect, and are thus referred to as “self-evident.” Because of differences among human individuals and their circumstances, not all persons will perceive the content of natural law principles in exactly the same way, and the foundational principles themselves are very broad. Among them is the very basic principle that good should be done and its opposite, evil, avoided; with good being identified as what is most conducive to the fulfillment of human nature. Another is the principle of contradiction—that something cannot both be and not be at the same time. Still another is the principle of justice: that each human person must be accorded what rightfully belongs to him or her. The general content of the “Second Tablet” of the Judaeo-Christian Ten Commandments governing human relations and condemning disrespect of family members, killing and other violence, sexual infidelity, stealing what belongs to another, dishonesty, and coveting the good to which others are entitled also seems to be widely accepted by natural law theorists regardless of their religious background.

Galbraith ordained to priesthood for Diocese of Juneau

Congratulations to Fr. Mike Galbraith, who was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Juneau on Friday evening, October 23, 2015, by Bishop Edward J. Burns.

May God bless his ministry abundantly!

PHOTOS of Ordination MASS

VIDEO (Soon to be available)

GB lr blessing

The newly ordained Father Mike Galbraith blesses Bishop Edward J. Burns at the closing of the Ordination Mass on Friday, October 23, 2015.