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The day of the Tycoon. US bishops keep watch, whilst awaiting the next moves

It’s the day of the tycoon. After one of the most battled election campaigns in the history of the United States, today Donald Trump will be officially sworn in office in Washington as 45th President of the United States. The tycoon’s moves will be under close scrutiny, especially by US bishops. Migrants, foreign policy, notably in the Middle East, the decision to build a wall on the border with Mexico, health, are some of the themes that are dear to the US Episcopate whose intention, voiced by Monsignor Oscar Cantú, bishop of Las Cruces, President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the US Bishops’ Conference, is to cooperate with the new US administration in full adherence to Gospel principles and values

The day of the tycoon: after one of the most bitterly fought election campaigns in the history of the United States, today, in Washington, Donald Trump will be sworn in as 45th President of the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts of the US Supreme Court will administer the oath. Trump will swear the oath upon the Bible used by president Abraham Lincoln and upon the one given to him by his mother in 1955. Immediately after, the President will deliver his inauguration speech: it is hoped that it will be richer in constructive content compared to statements that marked his election campaign, as when the US magnate hailed against the Muslim population equating Islam to terrorism, accused immigrants of taking away jobs from US citizens and of perpetrating “heinous crimes.” Thus the President-elect announced his intention to build a wall on the border with Mexico in order to keep them out of the Country. Not only, Trump has called for the shutting down of the Internet to stem online fundamentalism; he described NATO as “obsolete”; he announced that the US Embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem  “the eternal capital of the Jewish people”, sparking off the outrage of the Palestinians. All this and much more “to make America great again”: the slogan used by Ronald Reagan in his 1980 election campaign. It is widely hoped that from now on such “visceral” communication may be replaced by veritable political activity. This is expected first of all by the US bishops, as Monsignor Oscar Cantú, bishop of Las Cruces (diocese that includes the southern part of New Mexico), President of the Justice and Peace Commission of the US Bishops’ Conference, told SIR.

Standing the test. “We are waiting to see the facts. Until now we only heard words, often contradictory”, the bishop said from Bethlehem, where they are paying the traditional solidarity visit to Gaza, Hebron, Jerusalem and Jaffa (January 14-19) within the framework of the Holy Land Coordination of bishops from the US, Canada and South Africa. “We will do or say nothing right now. We will wait for the facts. As members of the Bishops’ Conference we intend to cooperate with the new administration on sensitive issues such as life, abortion, religious freedom and health”, on which there are some points of convergence.

“If President Trump were to act against the moral principles contained in the Gospel, we would promptly reaffirm them.”

Such cooperation could vacillate especially on the theme of migrants. In fact the US episcopate is concerned about Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico. “We are deeply worried – said Msgr. Cantú -.

Several young migrants committed suicide immediately after Trump’s election. They were waiting to obtain a Green Card, but the tycoon’s victory crushed all their hopes.”

“Now something seems to be changing in Trump’s language – said the bishop of Las Cruces –. It is hoped that he will reconsider his position on the wall that wouldn’t solve any problem. We believe that the best option is to cooperate with Mexico and with other Countries in the Central-American region to boost their national development and employment opportunities. Emigration can be stopped with development and cooperation, not with walls.” For Msgr. Cantú, who returned from a visit to Jesus’ birthplace only a few hours ago, from the wall in Mexico to the cement Wall in Bethlehem it’s a short step. Moreover, the bishops are equally concerned about Trump’s decisions with regard to the Middle East. “Trump’s first statements on foreign policy highlight his pro-Israeli stance. Such an unbalance could further complicate an already serious situation.”

We are against the plan of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

Such decision would bring no advantage to Israel or to Palestine, nor would it further the chances of peace. In fact, it could act as additional trigger for violence. The best solution, called for by the international community and by Pope Francis, is that of “two Peoples and two States.” Moreover, as US bishops we will remind the President of the situation of Christians in the Holy Land. Most of them are Palestinians, and

The idea that all Palestinians are terrorists is unacceptable.

Christians in the Middle East are a marginalized minority group. That’s why they must be supported, as said Pope Francis, who denounced the persecution and the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.” But the concerns of the US bishops are not confined to the political realm of the US tycoon President. Trump’s election carried with it the division of Catholic voters, amounting to 65 million faithful; 52% were for Trump and 45% for Clinton. “This rift occurred also on other occasions, and it didn’t come as a surprise – said Msgr. Cantù. It’s a consequence of secularization that leads people to judge the Church through political lenses instead of viewing the Church with the eyes of the faith and of the moral values she demands. It’s a cultural problem that needs to be addressed with the appropriate means.” From this perspective next July the Bishops’ Conference will hold a meeting to discuss the theme of Catholic identity with US Catholics, “meant as a starting point leading to peaceful coexistence and to shared decisions in the light of the Gospel”, whilst awaiting the first moves of Donald Trump.


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