Bishop Paul McAleenan responds to Trump Travel Ban

‘Justice Violated and Hardship Imposed’ by Trump Travel Ban

‘What has President Trump’s travel ban achieved? Initially amazement and confusion, now as it is enforced extreme hardship precisely for those to whom we should be offering hope and a chance of a new life. Opposition to this decision goes beyond any political agenda, it is being rejected by those who clearly see that with this ban justice is being violated and hardship wilfully imposed.

‘Those who have the welfare of all humanity, especially refugees, at heart, must continue to let President Trump know that his protectionist policies are not the way forward. These policies do not correspond with the rest of the world’s attempt to alleviate the hardship of those who are long familiar with violence, fear and impoverishment.

‘One of the principles of Catholic social teaching is solidarity and the promotion of peace. Never was there a better time to proclaim it.  Those who believe in it will feel obliged to oppose President Trump’s policies, the proposed wall between Mexico and the US, and now the travel ban.’

President Trump issued the executive order entitled, ‘Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States’, on Friday 27 January, International Holocaust Memorial Day.

The executive order suspends the refugee admission programme for 120 days and prioritises refugee claims of religious-based persecution, provided it is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality. It halts the admission of Syrian refugees and restricts entry to no more than 50,000 refugees in the fiscal year 2017.

The executive order further imposes a travel ban on nationals from a number of countries of ‘particular concern’ (seven, predominately Muslim, countries have been named) and introduces a vetting system for everybody entering the US.

This statement originally appeared on the Diocese of Westminster website,

Statement from the USCCB on 27 January Executive Order

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration has issued the following statement regarding the recent US Executive order on migration policy:

President Donald J. Trump issued today an Executive Order addressing the U.S. refugee admissions program and migration to the United States, generally. The executive order virtually shuts down the refugee admissions program for 120 days, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and indefinitely suspends the resettlement of Syrian refugees. In addition, it prioritizes religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, thereby deprioritizing all other persons fleeing persecution; calls for a temporary bar on admission to the United States from a number of countries of particular concern (all Muslim majority); and imposes a yet-to-be determined new vetting process for all persons seeking entry to the United States.

Regarding the Executive Order’s halt and reduction of admissions, Bishop Joe S. Vásquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration, stated:

“We strongly disagree with the Executive Order’s halting refugee admissions. We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope. We will continue to engage the new administration, as we have all administrations for the duration of the current refugee program, now almost forty years. We will work vigorously to ensure that refugees are humanely welcomed in collaboration with Catholic Charities without sacrificing our security or our core values as Americans, and to ensure that families may be reunified with their loved ones.”

Regarding the Executive Order’s ban on Syrian refugees, the prioritization of religious minorities suffering from religious persecution, Bishop Vásquez added:

“The United States has long provided leadership in resettling refugees. We believe in assisting all those who are vulnerable and fleeing persecution, regardless of their religion. This includes Christians, as well as Yazidis and Shia Muslims from Syria, Rohingyas from Burma, and other religious minorities. However, we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

Moving forward after the announcement, Bishop Vásquez concluded:

“Today, more than 65 million people around the world are forcibly displaced from their homes. Given this extraordinary level of suffering, the U.S. Catholic Bishops will redouble their support for, and efforts to protect, all who flee persecution and violence, as just one part of the perennial and global work of the Church in this area of concern.”

Is the Calais camp really closed?


‘Migrants have gravitated to the North French coast for the last 17 years,’ we were told, on our Justice and Peace visit to France on 3rd-4th November.  ‘And we will wait just a few weeks for them to start drifting back to seek access to the UK all over again’.  This is the background to the highly publicised Jungle camp clearances over the last 2 weeks.

Westminster Justice and Peace were visiting Calais to take food and toiletries from St John Vianney parish and to find out what the needs were after the Jungle camp clearances.  Our first stop was at Ste Marie Skobstova Catholic Worker House, to leave the goods and make contact.  Brother Johannes Maertens,  explained that the house was operating like a hospice at the moment.  We saw young men with, respectively, a broken arm, leg and jaw, but could not find out why, due to language barriers.  One young man with cancer needed supporting in hospital  Johannes himself was exhausted.  Other guests had had to leave in case there was a check up on their documentation.  The food gifts were hugely important as the house had been feeding at least 11-12 people a night, and sometimes up to 20 or more.

Johannes, and Simon Jones – a Baptist minister from Bromley, took us to see the last of the shelters being demolished – on Thursday morning it was the Sudanese mosque being squashed like balsawood and dropped in a skip by a giant claw crusher.  Johannes, Secours Catholique workers and a Muslim French woman managed to save, between them, the last cross and  several of the paintings of the Ethiopian makeshift church, and  a homemade metal crescent from one of the mosques. Everyone was anxious to have evidence of the symbols of hope that had kept many keeping on striving for survival in the ‘Jungle’ camp.  Father Joe found a good working bicycle, and I a French-English dictionary.  We wondered about the hopes that all these abandoned objects represented.  The authorities did seem to have respected the sacred spaces of church and mosque, waiting till after dispersal to clear them, and had allowed the volunteers to salvage mementos.

We found the Jules Ferry purpose-built refugee centre, and witnessed the last buses taking the women and children away to the CAOs – reception-orientation centres of which around 300 have been set up throughout France.  Dozens of security police were in attendance, but the compound and surroundings were fairly deserted.  We waved as each coach left – taking refugees to some new unknown.

Next we visited the coordinator of the Secours-Catholique vestiaire, the newly-acquired clothing storage and distribution depot.  Marie-Christine Descamps has worked there as a volunteer for 10 years, and the warehouse, recently transferred from a smaller building, showed a huge amount of her and others’ careful planning.  Clothes, sorted by size and type, had been distributed on specific days over two-week periods – men’s on one day, women and children on another, shoes on another, and so on, to avoid chaos, and promote dignity.  Marie-Christine organises 25 or more volunteers twice a week, not only sorting and distributing, but also providing a safe space during that day, with snacks, tea and coffee.  She smiled: ‘Your English teabags – in wholesale quantities, not available in France, would be appreciated!’

Our bed-and-breakfast hostess – a retired teacher – filled out this volunteer picture:  she has been helping in the camp and elsewhere on the coast for several years, and has supported Ethiopan men in particular, one of whom obtained asylum in France, and is now signed up to a programme of integration.    Three are now in England, travelling by what means she didn’t know.  She told us that there had been many schemes of soup runs, and informal aid on the coast going back 17 years, from the closing of the Sangatte camp in 2002, through major expulsions in 2009, 2012 and 2014.  The recent phenomenon was merely much more of the same trend: only in mega-proportions.  ‘They will drift back’, she said, as did Brother Johannes.  The UK is the only hope for many who feel they have lost everything else but this gleam of possibility.

Our last port of call was to try and visit the newer, more secure camp in a Dunkirk suburb, set up by Médecins Sans Frontières, and now managed by the local authority of Grande Synthe.  We arrived at the entry barrier, and explained we were looking for ways to support migrants, post-jungle clearance, but were turned away since Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace is not a registered charity there!  We could apply, officials said, if we went to the Town Hall, just a few minutes’ drive away.  The Town Hall,alas,  told us the system had changed, and to go back to explain this  (we now know Grande Synthe main street well).  The young kiosk officials did their best to persuade the camp director to let us in but it was not to be.  While annoying for us, it is reassuring that this place offers inhabitants some protection not just from the curious but from smuggling gangs and other exploiters of such a vulnerable group.

We reflected on the good and the bad in our visit.  There were some distressing sights of course;  the young men virtually housebound at the Catholic Worker either unable or unwilling to go out, whether for lack of mobility or of papers.  And the knowledge that 6000 people were facing yet another twist in their fate, out of their control.  And that there had been two attempted suicides amongst the young men known to the Catholic Worker.

The admirable French achievement in dispersing this huge number with as much dignity as possible cannot be underestimated however.    While there have been some protests in various regions at having to accept numbers of these Calais migrants, the achievement of finding so many centres is astonishing.  In answer to some regional criticism the French minister of housing, Emmanuelle Cosse replied,

‘You can’t have it both ways:  criticising the State for not managing the situation, and then being astonished that we are taking things in hand’.  The key to the success of the policy was, according to her, ‘We have shown the people that everything has been put in place to manage this exercise. And the charity world has cooperated with the effort’.

Meanwhile, our government has paid out already £80m to secure more fencing in Calais, with a wall currently under construction.  Moreover, Home Secretary Amber Rudd  has recently promised a further £36million for the cost of the clearance of the camp.  Some of this will presumably pay for all those coaches and policemen, some for identifying and receiving a small number of minors, and the rest on further security measures.

It is not hard to see which government has been more humanitarian.  Meanwhile, civil society on both sides of the Channel has acted with compassion, practicality and solidarity, with the migrants and with one another. Simon Jones told us that bizarrely,  immigration officials at Lunar House became more human, the lower down the hierarchy they were  We at Justice and Peace will continue to work in partnership with the charitable associations we have met, and to resist the notion that we can be fenced off from Europe by millions of pounds worth of fencing.

The refugee ‘crisis’ has not gone away.  The funding of war by our arms industry, providing drones, RPGs, tanks and fighter bombers is all the more tragic when we see these, usually male, refugees being pushed around so indiscriminately.  The war crisis in Syria, not to mention ongoing war in Sudan and the violently enforced conscription in Eritrea will drive more people to Europe, and probably towards the North French coast.   We must continue in partnership with Caritas France and other charities.

Lampedusa Cross Services

Praying for Refugees with the Lampedusa Cross through the year in the DioceseThe Cross, made by Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter from the island of Lampedusa, is available from either Justice and Peace or CAFOD Westminster.  It can be accompanied with display pictures as desired, and the CAFOD prayer service can be downloaded from the website here:  Already it has been hosted in Welwyn Garden City, the French Church at Leicester Square, St John Vianney West Green and St James Spanish Place, St Mellitus Tollington Park.

Lampedusa Services will be held at: 

Wednesday 19th October at 10.30am
St Matthew, 32 Hallowell Road, Northwood, Middlesex,HA6 1DW.

Saturday 22nd October at 11am
St Benedict, Ealing Abbey, 2 Marchwood Crescent, London, W5 2DY.

Saturday 26th November at 2pm
Church of the Transfiguration, Kensal Rise, 1 Wrentham Avenue, NW10 3HT.

The Lampedusa Cross will also be hosted at the following parishes:

7th – 9th October ·         St Thomas More Manor House,

11th – 14th November ·         St Alban and St Stephen, St Albans

Each parish will need to book the Cross, and arrange transport (which could be public transport).

Please contact Justice and Peace at or CAFOD at  to book a slot.  This is an excellent way to keep refugees in our minds and hearts, as they struggle for survival in an often hostile world.

You may also visit a cross and pray at Westminster Cathedral, or with the original cross at the British Museum.

Refugee Welcome! Vigil in Whitehall

Lampedusa Cross Downing Street“What can I do to stop what is happening to refugees?” Joe and banner Whitehall  asked a passerby.  Our posters said things like, ‘Refugees Welcome’,  and ‘If children are sent to sea it’s because it’s safer than on land’.   We were a small number  but got lots of attention as we stood for 2 hours beside Downing Street over  Wednesday lunchtime with the London Catholic Worker to pray for refugees.  We heard the names of the Lampedusa migrationhundreds who have died as they tried to reach places of safety from war and persecution.   Folksingers sang old and new songs of hope and justice.  Scores of schoolchildren passed us curiously and lots of foreign visitors stopped for a while in sympathy.  A Sixth Form college group studying Government and Politics took our flyers.  Our Lampedusa Cross display showed pictures of overcrowded open boats as well as one of the crosses from island carpenter Franco Tuccio.

We didn’t have a simple answer for the passerby.  So we pray and witness during this Refugee Week.  The London Catholic Worker will be vigilling from September onwards either in Whitehall or in front of the Home OfFranco Tucciofice on the first and third Tuesday of the month.  We CAN do this.  Justice and Peace will be praying in Notre Dame de France Leicester Square church on Saturday 25th June at 2.30pm.


Barbara Kentish

Commission Statement on EU-Catholic Relations and the Referendum

Since its inception, the European Union has had an appeal for Catholic Britain. Indeed, it is at the foundations of the EU where its Catholic heart is most evident. The four founders of the European Coal and Steel Community were all devout Catholics.

But the EU, like Europe in general, is not as Catholic as it was in the 1950s. Secularization in Europe, combined with booming Catholic populations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, have driven a wedge between Catholicism and its European heartland.

The 2003 EU draft constitution was a bellwether point, in purposefully avoiding a reference to Christianity as part of Europe’s heritage. John Paul II wrote a lengthy critique of this decision. Yet, at the same time, he actively campaigned for his home nation of Poland to join the EU.

This represents, even today, how many Catholics view the EU. The appeal of integration with Europe, and with the faith of Europe, remains strong. But we recognise that the EU is in many respects a secularized bureaucracy, which stands at risk of forgetting its Catholic Christian foundation.

At a more practical and immediate level, the EU may also be criticized in its recent approach to poorer member states, especially Greece and Portugal. Since the global recession, the EU has followed an economic policy which seems to favour the strongest member states at the expense of the weaker. The poor are disproportionately affected, while many of the source cities of Europe continue to gain wealth and prosper. 

But, when voting, it is particularly important to reflect that economic arguments are not the beginning and end of the Referendum debate. Economic arguments have a tendency to drive debate in the current political climate. But despite the importance of the economy at this time, there are other issues which are arguably as important, if not more important, to the Catholic Christian ethos. Moreover, it is perhaps in the economic debate where a lack of Christian behaviour is most evident, from both the Remain and Brexit campaigns.

The EU is involved in many areas of public concern, behind the economic marquee. For example, the EU is on the frontlines of the response to the refugee crisis in the Middle East. This response does not always reflect Catholic Christian values. However, within the EU, we have opportunities to exert positive change for those fleeing their homes in search of peace and shelter. In many cases, advocacy for refugees is backed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which effectively links Catholic Natural Law principles to British Common Law principles – a lingering testament to the EU’s Catholic heritage. Moreover, we cannot abscond from our responsibility to refugees, or to human rights in general, by allowing a populist xenophobia to take root in our country. As the Catechism states: “Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him”.

Our membership in the EU is also meaningful for the issue of climate change. In his recent encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis called for “stronger and more efficiently organized international institutions… empowered to impose sanctions” to combat climate change and encourage ecological responsibility. In the same text, he has also noted the “myopia of power politics” which is driven by overly “technological” or “consumerist” responses to climate change. While far from an endorsement of the EU itself, this highlights the need for organisations like the EU to exert pressure on nation-states and other, more localised political organisations when needed.

Lastly, there is the ongoing need for integration and co-operation. While the EU may not be the ideal organ for exercising civic responsibility in Europe, that responsibility is not dimmed. As one of the strongest and most influential members of the EU, the United Kingdom has a particular responsibility. To quote Pope Francis’ most recent address to the EU, in September of last year, the values of “peace, subsidiarity, and solidarity” must be promoted where and when we can.

May the peace of Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit be with us as we cast our votes this week.


Though Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, has been very careful not to allow his personal views to be interpreted as spiritual instruction, the Justice and Peace Commission would like to voluntarily extend our support to his personal statement on the EU. His comments were ably represented by the Telegraph in April:

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued a statement which remains neutral on the issue, while highlighting some important points for prayerful consideration. It can be read in full here:


Sources and Further Reading

Catechism of the Catholic Church
2241 (care of refugees)
1913-1917 (active citizenship and participation)

European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms 1950
(with amendments)

St. John Paul II’s statements on Poland’s accession to the EU

Lampedusa Cross Pilgrimage Service at Notre Dame Leicester Square

25.06 – Lampedusa Cross Pilgrimage Service (14:30 – 15:30)
Westminster Justice and Peace is hosting a pilgrimage service with the Lampedusa Cross, made from the wreckage of a refugee boat, at the historic Notre Dame de France Church in Leicester Place. or

A carpenter on the small Italian island of Lampedusa took some wood from a boat that had just brought refugees from Africa and carved some crosses for them to give them hope.  He gave one to Pope Francis on his visit, and now has made them for many throughout the world.  CAFOD has obtained some for our cathedrals and we will hold our pilgrimage service led by one of these crosses during refugee week.  Come and pray this tragic situation which affects us all:  Europeans and new arrivals.  The theme for Refugee Week is Welcome.  Can we  find the space in our hearts to welcome the victims of war and hardship at many of the gateways of Europe?

Calais camp – a Franco British dilemma

I have just received and am passing on  guidance on how to offer practical help in Calais, from that excellent organisation, Seeking Sanctuary – see the link,

HowevIMG_20150919_145501937er,  I would  argue that we should, as well as showing compassion and welcome, also speak up about the injustice and inhumanity of treating thousands of refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa in the way we do.  One of the  allegories  we often use to explain what Justice and Peace is about is about ‘The babies in the stream’: Seeing babies floating down the river a horrified community jumps in to save them.  They keep coming and the community keeps jumping in. Finally one citizen suggests going upstream to find out what is going on, so as to prevent this horrible phenomenon.  That response is  ‘justice and peace’.

I never thought we would actually see this situation happen, but day after day we hear about worse phenomena than those allegorical babies, as drowning continues on a shocking scale in the Mediterranean.    In the European context, the refugee situation – I prefer to call it a ‘political’ problem not a ‘refugee’ problem, since it seems obvious that a unit of 500 million


Rally for refugee rights in Calais September 2015

people should be able to absorb 1 million incomers – is caused by the failure of rich countries to coordinate a response .  War and instability in the Middle East,  and failing states in Africa need foreign policy responses, but also a coordinated humanitarian response.  We are closing our eyes if we think these issues will go away tomorrow.

The UK have contributed  around £80m on security and  fencing around Calais (you will see it still going up as  Eurostar pulls away from Calais-Fréthun station), and the French government have provided only for  those applying for asylum in France.  With no policing inside the camp, and no medical or education services  this seems to me to be pretending that there is no problem, that the camp is full of non-persons.  Compare that with the generosity of people we read about in Lesbos and Lampedusa, and Europe presents a very uncoordinated picture.

A Europe-wide policy is needed.   Thirteen aid agencies, including CAFOD, published in early April an excellent, detailed analysis of what needs to happen on  a UK and a Europe-wide level, called SAFE HAVENS.   It remains to be seen whether these measures can be achieved in or out of the EU.   We have a duty to inform ourselves and to vote in solidarity with the poorest, for the Common Good, and for peace.




Migrants Mass at Westminster Cathedral

From Independent Catholic News:

More than 2,000 Catholic migrants living and working in London brought colour and international music to a special Mass for Migrants at Westminster Cathedral on Monday 2 May. The principal celebrant this year was Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

In his homily Cardinal Nichols deplored “reports of sadness, dismay, frustration, anger, rejection and humiliation from Iraq and Jordan, to Libya and Calais.” He felt it was important to speak out when vulnerable children “are perishing at sea or at risk in hostile camps”, and to act with “compassion and justice.”

He said, it is vital to acknowledge the hard work of refugees and migrants in Britain, “who have arrived in this country, in this city, and who work hard not only to survive and to support their loved ones, but also to make their contribution to the well-being of others”. He called for “a change of heart in our society, so that we begin by appreciating the great contribution made by so many migrant communities, without whom this city would not function.”

The Cardinal went on to urge more responsible leadership “from those who deal in creating fear of migrant people and who seek to profit from that fear, whether financially or politically”. He concluded by saying: “We pray earnestly for those who are in positions of authority and leadership that they will find the courage and imagination to respond more generously to those in need, speeding up our own resettlement programme and looking to see how other avenues of rescue and support can be provided.”

Alongside Cardinal Nichols at the Mass were bishops representing Westminster, Brentwood, and Southwark dioceses, and more than 40 priests from ethnic chaplaincies and missionary societies, including the Superior General of the Columban Missionaries, Australian Fr Kevin O’Neill. The Mass was organised by the Justice and Peace commissions of Westminster and Southwark and Citizens UK, in dialogue with Bishop Paul McAleenan, auxiliary in Westminster. Among those handing out Mass brochures to the congregation were Barbara Kentish of Westminster Justice and Peace, Phil Kerton of Seeking Sanctuary (a charity which supports refugees in Calais) and Alison Gelder of Housing Justice.

A procession before Mass, led by the Brazilian chaplaincy, reflected the diversity of London’s Catholic community, as various communities made their way up the aisle, singing, drumming and dancing to their traditional music. Particularly appreciated was an accompaniment of the Offertory by London’s Vietnamese Catholic community, involving the dancing of garlanded young people and the singing of a Vietnamese choir.

Biddings prayers at the Mass were spoken in a variety of languages, including Mandarin, Yoruba and Portuguese, by students of Our Lady’s Convent High School in Hackney. They remembered refugees who have died crossing seas and borders to escape wars and persecution, and victims of human trafficking. The well-being of migrants working in London was recalled with, “may we live together in harmony and may our employment policies enable all to be treated justly”.

Banners heading up the aisle at the end of the Mass included the Ethiopian chaplaincy, the London Chinese Catholic Association, Syro-Malabar churches of India, Catholic Nigerian and Ghanaian chaplaincies, the London Catholic Worker and ‘Justice for Domestic Workers’ (J4DW). They rubbed shoulders with Julian Filochowski of the Archbishop Romero Trust, Maria Elena Arana of CAFOD and representatives of Catholic organisations and religious sisters.

In recent years, Catholic Churches in London have seen a growing number of parishioners from Africa and Asia, from Eastern and Western Europe, from the islands of the Caribbean and more recently from South America. This annual Mass is a visible sign of the Catholic Church’s desire to celebrate this rich diversity which enhances parish life, and to underline the church’s pastoral care for migrants and their families. It has been celebrated on the first Monday in May (Bank Holiday Monday) since 2006.

Read the full text of Cardinal Nichol’s homily here