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DeSantis spokeswoman charges Miami archbishop with lying about governor’s migration remarks

February 16, 2022 Catholic News Agency 10
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints judges to Miami’s Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court, March 27, 2019. / Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Feb 16, 2022 / 16:37 pm (CNA).

The governor of Florida is taking issue with an ad campaign featuring a quote from Archbishop Thomas Wenski criticizing the governor for his views on immigration. 

In a Feb. 15 tweet, Christina Pushaw, the press secretary for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), said that “lying is a sin” in reference to a recent ad campaign featuring the Wenski’s words.

“And yes, if someone makes a false statement, whether it’s an organization of CEOs for illegal immigration or the Archbishop, I will call it like it is. They made a blatantly false statement and they should retract it,” she said.

Pushaw, a Catholic, said that she has “no antipathy toward any religion” and that “Catholics do not have to support illegal immigration or human smuggling.” 

The advertisements, placed by the American Business Immigration Coalition Action, quote Wenski claiming that DeSantis called immigrant children “disgusting.”

“DeSantis wants to eliminate immigrant children’s shelters in Florida, like the ones that housed Cuban children who came alone during the Pedro Pan exodus in the 1960s,” said the Spanish-language advertisement. 

An English translation of the advertisement was published on its Vimeo page. 

“To please his political base, DeSantis wants to convince us that the suffering of those children was more worthy of help than that of these Venezuelan and Haitian children who are fleeing dictatorship, socialism and violence,” said the ad. “That’s why many of the Pedro Pans, who today are pillars of this community, are expressing their outrage alongside Catholic Archbishop Wenski and business leaders.” 

Operation Peter Pan, also known as Operación Pedro Pan, was a clandestine program in the early 1960s that brought 14,000 unaccompanied Cuban minor children to the United States amid fears that Fidel Castro would seize custody of children to indoctrinate them to communism.

The program ended in October 1962. About 90% of the “Pedro Pans” were eventually reunited with their parents during the “Freedom Flights” exodus from Cuba. 

DeSantis issued an executive order in December that prohibited state regulators from issuing licenses to shelters that house unaccompanied minors in partnership with the federal government. The governor said that he believed funding these shelters would be akin to cooperating with human smuggling. 

It is unclear how many unaccompanied minors found at the U.S. border are victims of human trafficking. 

On Feb. 7, DeSantis told a group of former Pedro Pan participants that the comparison between their situation and the current unaccompanied minor crisis was “disgusting.” 

In a press conference on Feb. 10, Wenski condemned this rhetoric, saying it was a “new low in the zero-sum politics of our divisive times.”  

“At Governor DeSantis’ Monday meeting with a few former Pedro Pan kids in Miami’s Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, he described any comparison of unaccompanied minors from Cuba in the early 60’s with those from Central America today as ‘disgusting’”, Archbishop Thomas Wenski said during a Feb. 10 press conference.

“Children are children — and no child should be deemed ‘disgusting’ — especially by a public servant,” he continued at his Feb. 10 press conference.

The Archdiocese of Miami declined to comment when reached for contact, telling CNA that they were not behind the ads and that “any communication involving the Governor and the Archbishop would be conducted between them, not through the media.”


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Pope Francis prays for victims of Florida building collapse

June 26, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis prays before the tomb of St. Paul VI in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica, Nov. 2, 2020. / Vatican Media/Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Jun 26, 2021 / 13:01 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday offered prayers and condolences to all those affected by a deadly condominium building collapse in Florida this week.

Early on Thursday morning, the 12-story Champlain Towers beachfront condominium building in Surfside, Florida, partially collapsed. As of Saturday morning, four people had been declared dead and 159 people were still unaccounted for in the collapse, Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

In a June 26 message of solidarity on behalf of Pope Francis to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the Holy Father wished to “express his deep sadness at the grievous loss of life” in the building collapse.

Pope Francis “offers heartfelt prayer that Almighty God will grant eternal peace to those who have died, comfort to those who mourn their loss, and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy,” the Vatican stated.

“With gratitude for the tireless efforts of the rescue workers and all engaged in caring for the injured, the grieving families and those left homeless, Pope Francis invokes upon the entire community the spiritual gifts of consolation, fortitude and perseverance in every good,” the message stated.

The Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, transmitted the message to Archbishop Wenski.

Mayor Cava noted at a Saturday morning press conference that 127 people had been accounted for in the collapse.

The pastor at nearby St. Joseph’s Catholic parish, located just several blocks away from the condominium complex, told CNA on Friday afternoon that nine families from the parish who lived in the complex were still missing. Some of them were daily communicants, the pastor, Fr. Juan Sosa, said.

The total number of persons unaccounted for in the collapse, 159, had not changed in between Friday and Saturday morning, according to authorities.

Three other parish families who lived in the complex were either not present at the time of the collapse, or evacuated the building in time, Fr. Sosa said, and “for this, I am grateful,” he added.

“The entire community, however, is praying for those we do not know about,” he said. A Mass was scheduled to be offered at St. Joseph’s on Friday morning for all those affected by the collapse.

“May the Lord grant us much hope and peace at this time and always!” he said.

Mayor Cava on Saturday said that a fire in the rubble of the collapse has become an obstacle to the search and rescue team on site. The smoke has spread laterally in the rubble, she said.

“Our top priority now continues to be search and rescue,” she said. “Our teams have not stopped.”

Jackie Carrion, a senior staffer with the archdiocesan Catholic Charities, told Florida Catholic of the sadness at the scene at the collapse.

“I have worked hurricanes, but nothing like this: It is just a look of sadness you see on everyone’s face. It is heartbreaking,” she said.

The chairman of the Miami-Dade board of county commissioners, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, on Saturday urged continued prayer for the victims and the rescue teams.

“Your prayers have been extremely well-received. Please continue the prayers, they’re very important,” he said at the Saturday morning press conference.

On Friday, Archbishop Wenski also offered prayers for the victims and their families.  

A staffer for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami told CNA on Friday that the organization is accepting financial donations for families affected by the tragedy, is providing counseling, and is looking into temporary housing for residents who are homeless due to the collapse.

Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami reported in a Facebook post on Friday morning that members of the school community were among those still unaccounted for. Another post on the school’s page asked followers to pray a rosary on Monday, June 28, at 8 p.m. local time, in the Garrido Family Plaza.

“In times of such sadness, we must remain faithful to our heavenly Father and place our trust in Him,” the post stated. “Under the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and together as a Belen family, we will place all those affected by this tragedy in the hands of Our Lady of Belen.”

St. Patrick Catholic parish, located in nearby Miami Beach, also reported a parishioner missing in the collapse, Florida Catholic noted.