Religion

Biloxi, Jackson dioceses issue statement criticizing Trump’s budget

Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III presents the Apostolic Letter to his congregation during his ordination and installation as the fourth bishop of Biloxi on April 28. He and the Most Reverend Joseph Kopacz of Jackson issued a statement Friday criticizing President Donald Trump’s federal budget.
Bishop Louis F. Kihneman III presents the Apostolic Letter to his congregation during his ordination and installation as the fourth bishop of Biloxi on April 28. He and the Most Reverend Joseph Kopacz of Jackson issued a statement Friday criticizing President Donald Trump’s federal budget. amccoy@sunherald.com File

The Catholic Dioceses of Biloxi and Jackson issued a joint statement Friday criticizing President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget, which was released earlier this week.

“The budget includes steep cuts to both domestic and international funding for programs that help the poor, while increasing military spending,” the statement says.

The Most Reverend Louis Kihneman of Biloxi and the Most Reverend Joseph Kopacz of Jackson question in the statement whether the budget is a reflection of American values, as Trump claims.

The statement explains how the cuts will drastically affect Mississippians in particular, because the state is so reliant on federal funding. A recent ranking put Mississippi as the second-most federally dependent state. It has the most federal contracts, second-most federal grants and the lowest GDP per capita, according to 2014-15 numbers.

“For years, federal funding has been a revenue stream that supports essential health and social needs throughout Mississippi,” the dioceses’ statement reads. “Drastic cuts are certain to be harmful to all segments of the population, especially to vulnerable children and the elderly.”

The bishops also speak out about how “the draconian cuts to foreign aid funding” will impact millions across the world.

“As Catholics, we’re called by the gospel to help our neighbors — whether they’re down the street or across the globe — and pay attention to ‘the least of these.’ Millions of people around the world depend on our generosity for their next meal, their clean drinking water, or the roof over their heads.”

Trump has touted his America First Foreign Policy, but the bishops argue as the wealthiest country, the United States has a responsibility to help others.

As an example, the bishops said Catholic Relief Services — which receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding each year — provides famine relief to millions of starving people in East Africa and school lunches to hundreds of thousands of children in Mali, which is “often their only reliable meal.”

They acknowledge the “difficult decisions” that come with balancing the federal budget, but again make reference to the Bible verse, Matthew 25, that those decisions should be “guided by moral criteria that protect human life and dignity to ‘the least of these.’ ”

The statement comes two days after Trump met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where the pontiff pointedly gave him a book he’d penned on the importance of protecting the environment, and a medal depicting a symbol of peace.

Read the full statement here.

Lauren Walck: 228-896-2393, @laurenwalck

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