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Troubling allegations require thorough review

 The media is reporting alarming allegations of sexual misconductagainstminors, inhumane conditions, and improper retaliatory actions on the part of certain Customs and Border Patrol agents at the Yuma, Arizona holding facilities.  These deeply troubling allegations have been made public by Department of Health and Human Services workers.

  I would note that in recent years the clergy of the Catholic Church has been under intense scrutiny for gross misconduct.  It is tragic that a small number of clerics has tarnished the reputations of the vast majority of men who, in my opinion, are heroic in their everyday efforts to serve our people and our communities. In the same way, I trust it is a small number of Customs and Border Patrol agents who may have perpetrated crimes on children, women, and other highly vulnerable persons. The integrity of the majority of officers should not be called into question.  However, if a culture has evolved within Customs and Border Patrol of ignoring abuse perpetrated by certain officers, or covering up the crimes of co-workers, then this must be held up to the light of day.  The gross abuse of children and vulnerable persons by powerful officers of the state or any institution has no place in our great nation. 

 I stand in solidarity with those vulnerable asylum seekers who have been forced from their homes and communities in what is oftentimes a life-or-death decision.  I also stand in solidarity with law enforcement and all those who serve our nation with professionalism and integrity.  I have faith in the ability of Customs and Border Patrol leadership to address this matter in a transparent and just manner, and that justice for any officers who have perpetrated crimes will be swift and firm. 

 

Tentative agreement leads to enhanced temporary housing for asylum seekers

Catholic Community Services (CCS), an affiliated organization of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, has entered into tentative agreement with Pima County that will enable the community services organization to use sections of the Pima County Juvenile Detention Center as temporary housing for asylum seekers recently released from federal facilities.  I learned earlier this week  (7/8/2019) that the Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote on the agreement at their August 6th meeting. 

If approved, the result will be a clean and safe environment for those seeking asylum in a facility designed to house between 200 and 300 people.  The areas under consideration are apart from any detention areas currently used by the county.

For the past six months, CCS has been housing asylum seekers legally released to it by a DHS agency.  CCS has been housing people in the former Benedictine Monastery at 800 N. Country Club Road in Tucson.  The former monastery is now owned by Ross Rulney who has been exceptionally gracious in allowing its use by CCS for this humanitarian crisis.

The Ajo Road facility provides a safe and properly designed area for temporarily housing so many people. At first thought, the idea of using a detention center may not seem the best option; we hope that the treatment provided, along with some de-institutionalizing of the interior, will help those staying there feel safe and welcome. 

The county tentatively has agreed to cover the building, operating costs, utility and food service through the in-facility kitchen.  There also is a laundry service on site.  The excellent condition of the facility and its amenities should result in a safe, welcoming, and healthy site for a people who oftentimes have experienced great trauma. 

I expressed to key members of the Board of Supervisors my tremendous gratitude for this collaboration between churches, local private charitable groups, and the county.

 

Prayer & Action, Yuma

About 20 teens are participating in our annual Prayer &Action program taking place in Yuma this week. As I have reported in the past, the program brings high school aged youths together to work at a mission service retreat where they help elderly or other homeowners with yard work, painting or cleaning. 

Prayer & Action is a multi-day summer camp. The experience emphasizes service to others. There is work, but also fun and games and prayer. It is a program that was successful in my last  diocese and very much taught teens by giving them a better understanding of the needs of others, what they could do to help, and how wonderful it is to  be of service.

It is our hope that the experiences gained in Prayer & Action programs can become the starting ground for these teens to consider future ministries and careers dedicated to others.

 

Congratulations Msgr. Pinti!

The Solemn Vespers and Ceremony of Investiture of Monsignor Domenico Camillo Pinti, pastor of St. George Parish in Apache Junction, is set to take place Monday.  As you may know, Father Dom has been named a Monsignor.  We here at the Pastoral Center, and many around our diocese, know Msgr. Pinti as a generous person, always the best host and always standing to offer a blessing at a moment’s notice.

 The title Monsignor is a papal honor bestowed by the pope in recognition of a priest’s service to the Church. The diocesan bishop nominates candidates for the honor by submitting their names to the Holy See along with the particulars of their service to the Church. With the pope’s decision to confer the honor, the Vatican Secretariat of State issues a certificate designating the new title and rank.

 The use of the title “monsignor” dates to the 14th century and the papal court in Avignon, France. At that time, bishops were referred to as “monseigneur,” French for “my lord.” Priests who worked in the papal curia (the administrative and judicial offices of the pope) also were referred to as “monsignor” and were allowed to wear some of the regalia of a bishop.

There are three ranks of “monsignor,” and priests of one rank may be elevated to a higher rank at the will of the pope. They are Protonotary Apostolic, Prelate of Honor to His Holiness, and Chaplain to His Holiness. This third rank is the most often conferred papal honor for priests. This is the honor conferred by Pope Francis on Msgr. Pinti.

All monsignors are considered to be members of the papal household and thus are listed in the Annuario Pontificio, the papal directory that is issued annually. A monsignor can wear a black Roman cassock with purple buttons, trim and hem and a purple fascia (sash) worn at the waist.

 We are pleased for Msgr. Pinti and I ask you join me in congratulating our newest monsignor and praying for his continued good work in our diocese.