CNA General News

Syndicate content CNA
ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa (www.aciprensa.com) is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.
Updated: 17 min 1 sec ago

Catholic Studies founder Don Briel remembered for his fidelity to Christ

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 2:01 PM

Bismarck, N.D., Feb 16, 2018 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Dr. Don Briel, who held a chair in liberal arts at the University of Mary and who had founded the first Catholic Studies program, at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, died Thursday night.

The University of Mary has confirmed to CNA the news of Briel's Feb. 15 death.

Briel was 71, and had been diagnosed with two untreatable acute leukemias Jan. 19. He had been in hospice care at his home.

In recent weeks he has been the subject of tributes for his contribution to the renewal of Catholic higher education in the US, most notably through this founding, in 1993, of the Catholic Studies Program at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn. That program was the inspiration for similar programs at both Catholic and public universities across the country.

Briel remained at the University of St. Thomas for 20 years, and in 2014 he was given the Blessed John Henry Newman Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D.

At the University of Mary, he helped develop a Catholic Studies program, developed its Gregorian Scholars Honors Program, and taught at its Rome campus.

Briel's doctoral work focused on Bl. John Henry Newman, “whose vision of university education had a profound impact on my vision of what was necessary in our own time, [through] his insistence that the purpose of university was to form the mind and habit of students, which enables them to see things in relation and make judgments about reality,” as he told The Catholic Spirit in the weeks preceding his death.

In a Jan. 24 homage to Briel at First Things, George Weigel included his founding the Catholic Studies program among the three seminal moments for Catholic higher education in the US since World War II.

Weigel described Briel's work as, in part, an effort “to repair the damage that was done to institutions of Catholic higher learning in the aftermath of Land O’ Lakes.”

At the Land O'Lake conference in 1967, Catholic universities also began to distance themselves from the hierarchy of the Church, insisting on their “true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of any kind, lay or clerical.”

“But there was, and is, far more to Don Briel’s vision, and achievement, than damage-repair,” Weigel wrote. “Nourished intellectually by John Henry Newman and Christopher Dawson, Briel has aimed at nothing less than creating, in twenty-first-century circumstances, the 'idea of a university' that animated his two English intellectual and spiritual heroes.”

Weigel characterized conversion “to the truth of Christ and the love of Christ as manifest in the Catholic Church,” and thereby the conversion of culture, as what “Don Briel’s life-project [is] all about.”

John and Madelyn Dinkel, who studied under Briel in Rome, wrote to him after his illness that “Your course taught us that following Christ through truth, beauty, and goodness is something always to strive for. You taught us that being a saint will not be easy, but that it truly is the only way worth living. Dr. Briel, your course did teach us this, but most importantly, your character, your virtue, and your Holy Christian example, taught us this during our time abroad.”

Briel is the subject of a recently published festschrift, Renewal of Catholic Higher Education: Essays on Catholic Studies in Honor of Don J. Briel. Edited by Matthew Gerlach, the book includes reflections from Catholic Studies professors, alumni, and scholars.

In the weeks preceding his death, Briel exhibited a profound peace and a sense of gratitude.

In an interview with Maria Weiring of The Catholic Spirit conducted Feb. 8, he said that when told he had a month to live, “I felt great peace about this. I had always prayed that I would have some advance knowledge of dying, and my ideal time frame was actually one month. It’s time enough to focus on the reality of death; it’s not too short, and it’s not too long.”

“The thing is, that if I hadn’t had this incidental appointment with this surgeon, I wouldn’t have known, and therefore I wouldn’t have had this knowledge, which I had always prayed for. So there seems to be providence in it, on every aspect of the diagnosis and my experience of it.”

He characterized his time as spent primarily in prayer and in greeting friends: “I do read, but it’s more [a] time of this combination of prayer – an intensification of prayer – and seeing so many former students and colleagues.”

“I have to say that I look forward to death, not with a sense a great success, but a sense of the privilege, again, of having been invited into the work that has had these remarkable results … This is not my work, it’s not our work, it’s God’s work, and to have been given this possibility to assist in realizing this great educational vision has been the great privilege of my life.”

Youth look forward to sharing hopes, concerns in pre-synod meeting

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 1:24 PM

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the pre-synod meeting set to take place next month, several young participants voiced excitement to meet with peers from all over the world to exchange ideas and talk about life's major questions.

“This is a step the Church is making to listen to all youth,” said Stella Marilene Nishimwe, a participant in the pre-synod gathering. “It will give us an opportunity to say everything that we think. This is an opportunity that we must really take.”

A young Burundi woman living in Italy, Nishimwe told journalists that she believes the March gathering is “something that God wants from the Church, to do something new for all the youth of the world.”

“Because youth from all over the world, whether they are Catholics or from other religions, we have the same questions,” she said, adding that she thinks it is important that the Church wants to walk with youth “in this world with so much pain, with so many questions that don't have answers.”

She said that what she mainly wants to share is the experience of “the life that we live.” Namely, “we want to find happiness, like everyone in the world, we want to live in unity, we want to feel at home in all parts of the world. We want to really find a path together...in this synod, I really want this.”

Nishimwe was one of four panelists at a Feb. 16 news conference on the upcoming pre-synod meeting, which will be held March 19-24 in Rome with some 300 youth from various backgrounds and countries throughout the world.

The event is a precursor to the October Synod of Bishops on “Faith, Young People and the Discernment of Vocation,” and will include youth in different states of life and from different vocations. Priests, seminarians and consecrated persons will also participate, as well as non-Catholics.

Special attention will also be given to youth from both global and existential “peripheries,” including people with disabilities, and some who have struggled with drug use or who have been in prison.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions will be gathered into one comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod.

Alongside Nishimwe at the news conference were Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops; Bishop Fabio Fabene, the synod dicastery’s undersecretary; and Italian youth Filippo Passantino.

In comments to journalists, Passantino said participants are expecting to hear “an echo of their requests, of their needs, of their proposals” in the meeting, not only in the synod hall, “but also on social media, so that social media can become [a] great and luminous reflection to shine on their problems.”

Social media will also play a key role in the pre-synod gathering, which is being promoted on various platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with 15 special hashtags.

Passantino, who has helped to promote the event on social media, said many young people have shared their experiences, and that so far, most of the testimonies and questions posted have been related to problems such as finding work and building meaningful relationships in an increasingly superficial world.

He stressed the importance of youth being able to listen to one another and share their experiences, saying that “we will be listened to, but we must and we want to listen to all those situations of difficulty.”

The pre-synod meeting will kick off Monday, March 19, with an audience with Pope Francis, marking the 5th anniversary of the start of his papal ministry. True to form, Francis during the audience will take questions from young people from all five continents.

In the afternoon, participants will be divided into language groups, which throughout the week will discuss different themes outlined in the preparatory document for the synod, which was released Jan. 13, 2017.

Each session will include five questions to help guide discussion. The questions will focus on various topics, such as the search for meaning, technology, vocational discernment, politics and volunteer work.

Entertainment and moments of prayer will also be included. On Friday, April 23, participants will pray the Way of the Cross while walking to the Roman catacombs of San Callisto. On Saturday, they will spend the morning at the Pontifical Villa in Castel Gandolfo and in the evening will have a celebration with youth from the Diocese of Albano.

The event will conclude with Palm Sunday Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square, which also marks the diocesan celebration of World Youth Day, this year dedicated to the theme: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Participants in the gathering were selected by local bishops conferences for both the Roman and Eastern rites, and for those involved in movements, associations and ecclesial movements. Students at Catholic schools and universities will also attend.

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Baldisseri said the pre-synod gathering is not “an isolated event,” but is rather “a phase on the journey of preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October.”

The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.

According to Baldisseri, some 221,000 youth participated, with the majority being in the younger age bracket. Europe was the continent most highly represented, with Central and South America coming in second, and Africa in third.

The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.

The pre-synod gathering will be “very, very important for the synod,” Baldisseri said. It aims to ensure that young people are heard and understood, so that the synod is not just an event “about” youth, but “with” them.

The meeting will seek to define specific pastoral projects and outreach plans. Parents, educators and priests will also be present to listen to what the youth are saying and be better equipped to address the problems and situations they encounter.

An exchange of cultural experiences and different religious backgrounds will also be encouraged.

In order to help young people unable to participate in the Rome gathering to have a voice in the discussion, special Facebook groups have been created based on language, which Bishop Baldisseri said will allow those not present to follow the discussion and interact with their peers from around the world.

Links to all social media pages, as well as the hashtags that will be used, can be found on the synod website: www.synod2018.va

From North Korea to Catholicism: Mi Jin’s answered prayer

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 11:38 AM

Seoul, South Korea, Feb 16, 2018 / 09:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During her childhood in North Korea, Mi Jin Kang never believed in the existence of God, until one person began to spark her curiosity.

“From school education, I learned that religion is a drug,” Mi Jin told CNA, “However, I heard the story of God from a girl that I met in North Korea before my escape. This was the first step to belief.”

“Before escaping North Korea, the story of God was a curiosity and miraculous,” said Mi Jin who decided to escape North Korea in 2009, at the age of 40.

“When I escaped from North Korea, I prayed with my two hands,” remembered Mi Jin, “When my prayer to God at the moment of escape was answered, I decided to be a child of God.”

“It was especially this prayer to God at the moment of escaping from North Korea that led me to be a believer during the process of settling in South Korea.”

Though she did not share details of her escape, many North Korean defectors are helped to South Korea by a network supported by Chinese Christians.

In South Korea, an order of Korean religious sisters taught Mi Jin and other North Korean defectors about the Catholic faith. Mi Jin learned about Saint Therese the Little Flower from the sisters.

At her baptism, Mi Jin took a new Christian name, as is the custom for Korean Catholics. She became Teresa.

“I wanted to be like Saint Teresa, who lived a faithful life,” Mi Jin said.

When Pope Francis visited South Korea in 2014, Mi Jin was invited by the Korean bishops to see  Pope Francis face-to-face, in the front row of the beatification Mass for 124 Korean martyrs. She also attended to Pope’s Mass in Seoul’s historic Myeongdong Cathedral.

“I got to experience the glory of a Mass close to the Pope,” said Mi Jin.

Mi Jin now works as a journalist in South Korea at the Daily NK, helping others to understand what life is like inside the world’s most opaque country.

Mi Jin told CNA that American Catholics can help North Koreans. “I think it is necessary to provide humanitarian assistance for people who are in need in North Korea. I also hope that support for organizations who are broadcasting to reach out to residents in North Korea, such as Daily NK, can help it go smoothly.”

Mi Jin especially encouraged prayer for North Korea. “I hope that Kim Jong Un’s regime in North Korea realizes economic democratization for North Korean's true freedom and life by giving up nuclear weapons.”

She also “hopes to see the unification Korea as the relationship between North and South Korea has developed in a positive way like recently.”

Mi Jin told CNA that she has been watching the Pyeongchang Olympic Games everyday. Her favorite event to watch is skiing.

Hyo Jeong Kim assisted with translation for this story.

Priesthood isn't an assignment – it's a mission, Pope tells seminarians

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 9:38 AM

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2018 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis met with the community of the Pontifical Maronite College, explaining how their seminary formation isn’t about them or even for them, but for the people they will eventually serve in their parishes and dioceses.

“The human, intellectual and spiritual enrichment you receive in these years is not a reward for you, much less a good to be earned for your career, but a treasure for the faithful who await you in your Eparchies and to whom your life looks forward to being donated,” the Pope said Feb. 16.

“You will not be called to exercise, even well, an assignment – it is not enough! – but to live a mission, without savings, without many calculations, without limits of availability.”

Pope Francis held an audience at the Vatican with around 45 seminarians and priests of the Pontifical Maronite College in Rome, which was founded in 1584 by Pope Gregory XIII as a place of study for Catholic seminarians of the Maronite rite.

The Maronite Catholic Church traces its roots to the early Christians of Antioch, the first believers to be called Christian. In its liturgy, the rite still uses the Syriac language, which is a dialect of Aramaic, the same language Jesus spoke.

The rite takes its name from the fourth century hermit St. Maron, whose way of life inspired many monks and laity to follow him, eventually resulting in the distinctive Maronite rite.

During the encounter, Pope Francis told the priests and seminarians that as pastors, they will need to listen to people a lot, and that God will “confirm you through their lives, through many encounters, through its unpredictable surprises.”

“And you, as pastors in close contact with the flock, will savor the most genuine joy when you bend over them, making yours their joys and their sufferings, and when, at the end of the day, you can tell the Lord the love you have received and given,” he said.

Pointing to the Maronite Church’s recent Feb. 9 celebration of St. Maron, the Pope praised the monastic life of the saint, saying it shows a proper discontent with living only a moderate or mediocre faith, but wants “to love with all its heart.”

“It is by drawing on these pure sources that your ministry will be good water for today's thirsty people,” he explained.

Our heart is like a compass: It orients and directs itself toward what it loves, Francis said, quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be.”

He explained that these years of study, spiritual formation, and community life in Rome are a good time to “arrange the heart well.”

“All this you are called to live in a time not without suffering and dangers, but also pregnant with hope,” he said, pointing out how the people they will be called to serve will be unsettled by the instability which continues to plague the Middle East.

They “will search for, in you, pastors that console them: pastors with the word of Jesus on their lips, with their hands ready to wipe away their tears and caress suffering faces,” he continued.

“Pastors forgetful of themselves and their own interests; pastors who are never discouraged, because they draw every day, from the Eucharistic Bread, the sweet power of love that satisfies; pastors who are not afraid to ‘be eaten’ by the people, as good bread offered to brothers.”

Senator: Extreme EEOC nominee puts religious liberty at risk

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 5:28 AM

Washington D.C., Feb 16, 2018 / 03:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Trump administration’s re-nomination of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission puts religious liberty and marriage in danger and should be withdrawn, one U.S. Senator said this week.

“If Feldblum were a typical Democrat, it might make sense to let her nomination proceed through the Senate along with her two Republican colleagues,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a Feb. 14 commentary at The Daily Signal.

“But Feldblum is no typical Democrat. Her radical views on marriage and the appropriate use of government power place her far outside even the liberal mainstream.”

Lee objected that Feldblum, a former law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center appointed to the EEOC by President Barack Obama, opposes religious exemptions where they would conflict with LGBT advocates’ goals.

In 2006, writer Maggie Gallagher reported in the Weekly Standard that, in Feldblum’s words, “there can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

In Lee’s view, this differs from the Supreme Court’s view of an all-embracing tradition of religious freedom.

“Rather than a ‘zero-sum game’ that pits Americans against each other, we should work to build an America where ‘all possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship’, as George Washington wrote in 1790,” the senator said.

He contended that Feldblum’s position contrasts with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision mandating the legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the First Amendment “ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.”

In 2009, President Barack Obama named Feldblum to the EEOC as a recess appointment, later confirmed by the U.S. Senate. She was re-appointed in 2013.

In December 2017, the Trump White House said Feldblum’s nomination had been forwarded to the Senate. Feldblum’s current term expires in July 2018. If confirmed, she would serve until 2023, Reuters reports.

Lee said President Donald Trump and Senate Democrats should find “a more mainstream candidate” who “respects the institution of marriage and religious freedom for all Americans.”

Senator Lee’s commentary cited Feldblum’s doubts that marriage is “a normatively good institution” and her support, which she later withdrew, for the 2006 manifesto “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families & Relationships.” That document advocated the equality of polygamy and monogamy, praising “committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

Current EEOC publications have held that “sex stereotypes” like “the belief that men should only date women or that women should only marry men” constitute illegal discrimination on the basis of sex. They say that the 1964 civil rights legislation against sex discrimination in the workplace includes discrimination “based on an applicant or employee's gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Lee noted that Feldblum has said that even though the EEOC only has jurisdiction over employment, other federal agencies that enforce sex discrimination provisions look to the EEOC for guidance.

 

Slander lawsuit against Guam's suspended archbishop dismissed

Fri, 02/16/2018 - 2:29 AM

Hagatna, Guam, Feb 16, 2018 / 12:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Guam court has dismissed part of a defamation lawsuit against Archbishop Anthony Apuron of Agana, who is facing several accusations of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

The archbishop had publicly renounced the sexual abuse charges in a 2016 statement soon after the accusations were made, saying there were “intentional lies.”

The archbishop’s accusers brought a two-part defamation case against him shortly after his 2016 statement. Guam Pacific Daily News reported that the plaintiffs were seeking $500,000 each for a total $2 million in defamation charges.

In recent decision, Superior Court Judge Michael Bordallo dismissed the slander case but will allow the libel case to stand.

“It dismissed half the suit essentially...the complaint is two-fold: it's a defamation suit. One for libel. One for slander. The slander was dismissed so all that's remaining is libel,” said the archbishop’s attorney, Jacque Terlaje, according to Kuam News.

The court instructed the defendant to “seek dismissal of the suit based on the affirmative defenses of qualified privilege,” Terlaje said.

“If someone accuses you of sex abuse, and in this context in a public forum… every person has the right to defend against that, to repel the allegations of abuse is the language that is used by many courts.”

Archbishop Apuron has been accused by four former alter boys of sexual molestation in the 1970s, when Apuron was a parish priest at Mount Carmel Parish in Agat. The allegations were made public in 2016.

In January 2018, the archbishop’s nephew accused him of rape around 1989 or 1990.

Archbishop Apuron continued to deny all allegations. “God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me include this one,” he said in January, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.

 

Priest in Idaho faces drug, child pornography charges

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 5:07 PM

Boise, Idaho, Feb 15, 2018 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A retired priest of the Diocese of Boise is facing multiple charges involving child pornography and drug possession, which has sparked a feeling of shock and betrayal in the local bishop.

“When I heard the news for the first time, certainly sadness entered my heart, followed by shock and a sense of betrayal,” said Bishop Peter Christensen in a Feb. 11 announcement from the Diocese of Boise.

“I wish I could take away the pain that follows such horrific stories, but I cannot,” Bishop Christensen continued, saying that “we live in troubled times.”

The allegations were brought against Fr. W. Thomas Faucher, a 72-year old retired priest, who spent 20 years as the spiritual head of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School in Boise. Fr. Faucher retired three years ago, and is now facing charges for allegedly possessing or distributing child pornography, as well as being in possession of marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy.

According to the Idaho Statesman, there had been no previous complaints against Fr. Faucher, who was arrested after authorities had received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last week.

As Faucher faces court, Bishop Christensen said the Diocese of Boise will not be funding Faucher’s legal defense or financially contributing to a bond for the priest's release, which is currently set at $250,000.

Christensen also said that the diocese will not be paying for Faucher’s housing, further noting that the church is working towards evicting Faucher from his church-owned home for the safety of the surrounding neighbors.

Faucher’s preliminary hearing will take place on Thursday at the Ada County Courthouse.

According to local reports, Christensen addressed the scandal at St. Mary’s parish last Sunday, where he thanked the current priest, principal of the school, law enforcement, and media. The bishop also called child pornography “the work of the devil,” and lamented the alleged crime.  

Christensen also noted how the alleged scandal affects the universal Church, saying that such crimes “breaks the morale for the priests.”

“I do not know what the eventual outcome of Fr. Faucher’s legal case will be. Regardless, damage has been done to so many who have put their trust in his past leadership and friendship,” Christensen said.

“I encourage our Catholic community to seek God’s healing presence in each of our lives, placing our dependence and trust in Him. Let us pray for all children who are victimized by all forms of abuse and exploitation. Let us also pray for each other, and for our Church.”

Vatican denies rumors that Benedict XVI has degenerative nerve disorder

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 3:33 PM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 01:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After rumors spread in German media that Benedict XVI has a paralyzing nerve disease, the Vatican debunked the story, saying the retired Pope is experiencing nothing more than the normal aches and pains of aging.

“The recent news of a paralyzing or degenerative illness are false,” the Vatican said Feb. 15.

The statement was in response to a story published in German tabloid Neue Post Feb. 14, which quoted Benedict’s older brother Georg Ratzinger as saying that the Pope Emeritus had a degenerative nerve disease which left him increasingly in need of a wheelchair.

Benedict XVI recently sent a letter to Italian daily Corriere della Sera saying he is in the last phase of his life, and that while his physical strength might be waning, he is surrounded by love and consolation.

“I can only say that at the end of a slow decline in physical strength, inwardly I am on pilgrimage home,” he said in the letter, published Feb. 7 on the front page of Corriere della Sera.

He said that “it's a great grace for me to be to be surrounded in this last piece of the road, which is at times a bit tiring, by a love and goodness that I could never have imagined.”

Benedict addressed the letter to Italian journalist Massimo Franco of Corriere della Sera, who was charged with the task of presenting the retired pontiff with letters expressing concern and asking about his well-being five years after resigning from the papacy.

Despite the recent report on Benedict's health in Neue Post, the Vatican in their statement said that “in two months Benedict will turn 91 years old and, as he himself recently said, he feels the weight of these years, as is normal at this age.”

 

Lunar New Year bumps Friday abstinence for some Asian Catholics

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 3:02 PM

Vancouver, Canada, Feb 15, 2018 / 01:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Archbishop of Vancouver has dispensed from the Friday Lenten abstinence Asian Catholics and their guests who are celebrating Lunar New Year Feb. 16.

“It is my pleasure to offer greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all Asian Catholics in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, as well as to all who will join them in celebrating the Year of the Dog,” Archbishop John Miller wrote in his Lunar New Year Message.

“Although this year’s celebrations fall during the solemn season of Lent, it is certainly fitting that social celebrations among families and loved ones take place,” he said.

“As is customary in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, dispensation from the Lenten discipline of abstinence is granted to Asian Catholics and their guests celebrating the festival on Friday, February 16. Even so, I urge you to keep in mind the spirit of prayer and charity that we seek to practise during the Lenten season.”

Archbishop Miller concluded his message, saying: “May God’s abundant blessings be with you and your loved ones during this special time and through this entire year.”

He also asked for prayers regarding a rumored agreement in the works between the Chinese government and the Vatican on the appointment of bishops.

“I would also ask you to use this occasion to keep in your prayers current discussions between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China as they work to better the relationship between them and improve the situation for Chinese Catholics.”

The communist government of China expelled foreign missionaries after 1949, and later established the “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association,” a government-sanctioned Catholic Church. This has existed in opposition to the 'underground' Church, which is persecuted and whose episcopal appointments are frequently not acknowledged by Chinese authorities.

The archbishop's message was written in both English and Chinese.

The Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese people all observe a calendar in which the lunar new year falls this year on Feb. 16.

In the Vancouver archdiocese, five parishes offer Mass in Cantonese, three in Mandarin, four in Korean, and two in Vietnamese. In British Columbia (of which Vancouver is the largest city), more than 10 percent of respondents to the 2006 Canadian census identified as Chinese, and about one percent each as Korean and Vietnamese.

Dispensations like Archbishop Miller's are common throughout East Asia.

In 2015, Chinese New Year coincided with Ash Wednesday, and dispensations from the day's requirement of fasting and abstinence were granted by bishops across the Philippines and southeast Asia, or moved to a different day. Archbishop Miller also granted such a dispensation that year.

Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice; it will be celebrated until the Lantern Festival, observed this year March 2.

The event is celebrated culturally, and Catholics observe it with Masses of thanksgiving, blessings of cemeteries, agape meals, and sharing charitable gifts.

The festivities unite families in offering thanksgiving and in praying for their predecessors' souls.

Abstinence from meat on Fridays of Lent is obligatory for Roman Catholics from the age of 14.

Pope says he prays for those who call him a heretic

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 2:50 PM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Chile last month that he’s willing to have discussions with people who disagree with him, but that when people just shout ‘heretic’, he prays for them instead.

“When I perceive resistance, I try to dialogue, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and they accuse you of being a heretic.”

“When in these people, for what they say or write, I do not find spiritual goodness, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I do not dwell on this feeling…” the Pope said in a conversation with Jesuits in Chile, published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta’ Cattolica Feb. 15.

Francis’ comment was part of a Jan. 16 conversation with around 90 Jesuits in Chile. The private encounter took place on the first full day of his apostolic visit to Chile and Peru Jan. 15-21.

In the meeting Francis answered a question about what resistance he’s encountered during his pontificate and how he’s responded to it.

“Faced with difficulty I never say that it is a ‘resistance,’ because it would mean giving up [the process of] discernment,” he said, pointing out that to do so is to dismiss the “shred of truth” that is often at the heart of conflict.

To help with this in discussions, he said he often asks a person, “What do you think?” This helps him to put into context things that at first seem “like resistance, but in reality, are a reaction that arises from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things must be repeated, explained better...” he said.

The Pope also noted that misunderstandings or conflict are sometimes his own fault, as when he considers something to be obvious, or makes a logical leap without explaining the process well, thinking the other person has understood his reasoning.

“I realize that, if I go back and explain it better, then at that point the other says, ‘Ah, yes, all right…’ In short, it is very helpful to examine well the sense of the conflict,” he stated.

Francis acknowledged that when there is real resistance, he feels sorry, noting that the temptation to resist change is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another.

Nothing new, resistance to the Second Vatican Council is real, he said, trying to “relativize” or “water down the Council.”

He said he’s aware of the “campaigns” against Vatican II, but he does not read the websites “of this so-called ‘resistance.’”

“I know who I am, I know the groups, but I do not read them, simply for my mental health. If there's something very serious, they inform me so that I know it,” he said. “It’s a disappointment but we have to move on.”

Catholic institutions aim for mission fidelity, not discrimination, defenders say

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 2:13 PM

Denver, Colo., Feb 15, 2018 / 12:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reports that Catholic institutions exercise unfair employment biases are undeserved, some defenders have said.

Benedict Nguyen, chancellor of the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas, told CNA that Catholic institutions are “really just institutions that seek to live out the Catholic faith in a concrete way, whether it be in charity work, education, or some other endeavor."

“As faith-based institutions, these have the duty, according to Catholic identity and mission, to live out our deeply-held beliefs and morals in everyday functioning,” he continued.

“When an employee publicly lives or advocate things contrary to Catholic faith and morals and makes no movements to correct the situation,” he said, “the institution should have the right to determine whether their continued employment is an inconsistency with the integrity of the mission of the institution.”

Some cases of Catholic church or school employees fired for conduct violations attract negative media coverage and even prompt protests and lawsuits, especially on charged subjects.

In recent years, legal cases and media controversies have involved a Montana Catholic school teacher who become pregnant out of wedlock; a Wisconsin coach who spent the night with a girlfriend, an Ohio schoolteacher fired after becoming pregnant via in-vitro fertilization; or couples who contract a same-sex union or live in a same-sex relationship.

One of the latest cases involves a school in the Archdiocese of Miami, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School, which fired first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi on Feb. 8 after she contracted a same-sex marriage in the Florida Keys.

“As a teacher in a Catholic school their responsibility is partly for the spiritual growth of the children,” Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta told the Associated Press. “One has to understand that in any corporation, institution or organization there are policies and procedures and teachings and traditions that are adhered to. If something along the way does not continue to stay within that contract, then we have no other choice.”

Morffi objected to her firing in a social media post, saying “in their eyes I'm not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner,” the Associated Press reports.

The firing drew protests from some parents, about 20 of whom attended a meeting at the school for an explanation. Morffi had been an employee for close to seven years, coaching basketball and running a volunteer organization that took students to downtown Miami to distribute meals to the homeless.

The action also drew criticism from New Ways Ministry, an LGBT activist group that the U.S. bishops have said confuses the faithful on Church teaching.

“With each new firing, the injustice of these actions becomes clearer and clearer to Catholic people in the pews,” New Ways' director Francis DeBernardo told the Jesuit-run America Magazine.

DeBarnardo contended LGBT employees were being singled out as “the only group whose lives must be in full accordance with the hierarchy’s sexual ethics” and so they faced “blatant discrimination.”

“Differing enforcement of a religious policy based on the person who violates the policy has not been my experience,” Scott Browning, an attorney and partner with the law firm Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie, told CNA.

Browning said that in his experience representing a significant number of bishops and religious superiors, Catholic administrators “act in good faith” to ensure their institutions are faithful to their mission.

“They apply their moral teaching and the policies that implement those teachings uniformly,” Browning said. “They are not focused on any particular circumstance or group; they are focused on being true to their beliefs.”

New Ways Ministry, which has charged that enforcement is unfairly focused on Church employees in same-sex partnerships, is part of the Equally Blessed Coalition, whose member Dignity USA is being funded by the Arcus Foundation. The foundation’s June 2016 grant announcement said the coalition’s work to “combat the firing of LGBT staff and allies, who support marriage equality, at Catholic institutions” is part of the foundation's focus on limiting religious freedom exemptions it considers discriminatory.

Speaking generally, Nguyen said that in his experience conduct codes aren’t enforced “in an arbitrary or discriminatory manner.”

“If anything, I find that most Catholic institutions go out of their way to rectify the situation in a fair way,” he said.

While Browning said he could not speak to every circumstance around the country, he commented, “what I can say is that in the many situations and cases I have been involved with, charges of discriminatory application of the policy simply don’t hold up.“

He said Catholic bishops and administrators he has worked with have tried to make sure that such situations are handled fairly.

“They do this by having a policy so people know the rules, and then they apply those rules to any violation,” he said. “I’ve seen no animus towards any particular group.   I’ve seen no focus on homosexuality. To the contrary, the focus starts with the religious teachings and making sure people stay true to those teachings.”

“For instance, I’ve been charged with enforcing policies inside the civil legal system in circumstances where couples were living out of wedlock and making that fact publicly known, in circumstances where a teacher is teaching concepts that are contrary to the gospel and many other instances that don’t have anything to do with homosexuality,” he said.

“My experience is that the bishops and other administrators whom I’ve worked for are focused on applying the policies as they are written and as their faith requires.”

Browning said such policies are “clearly protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” He noted that one relevant U.S. Supreme Court case, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC, was issued unanimously in 2012.

“The First Amendment allows religious people to live their faith free from being controlled by the government. This freedom of religion is at the core of the American system,” he said.

Parents who do not like these policies in their schools have secular alternatives, he noted.

Nguyen said that not allowing Catholic institutions the right to such policies would allow the state, courts and judges to “determine arbitrarily who can serve as a representative of a Catholic institution.”

“This would be a serious blow to the heart of religious liberty,” he said.

According to Nguyen, codes of conduct should be “applied fairly to all employees,” with clear expectations for employees when they accept a position.

“If the person finds that in conscience this is not possible, he or she should have the integrity to seek employment elsewhere,” he said.

South African bishops welcome president's resignation

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 1:48 PM

Cape Town, South Africa, Feb 15, 2018 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholic leaders in South Africa applauded news of President Jacob Zuma’s resignation, stressing the need to root out corruption at all levels of government.

A Feb. 14 statement from the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference welcomed news of the resignation, calling it “long overdue.”

“While for some it may be a painful event, we call on all to accept his decision as part of our democratic process,” said the statement, signed by Archbishop Stephen Brislin, president of the bishops’ conference.

Following pressure from his party, Zuma announced his resignation Feb. 14. Zuma, age 75, had been president since 2009, and his term of office was not due to end until 2019. His presidency had been marked by numerous corruption allegations.

“The fact that Mr. Zuma has been allowed to hold on to the highest position in the land despite longstanding and overwhelming evidence of his unfitness for office, has done immense harm to our country’s international reputation, to its economy and, especially, to its poorest and most vulnerable citizens,” Brislin said.

He noted the general perception that Zuma’s presidency had been marked by corruption and fostered a decline in morality in public life, calling on the government to examine the ways in which this was allowed to happen, and how it can be prevented in the future.

“In this centenary year of Nelson Mandela’s birth, we hope and pray for a return to the ideals of servant leadership with which South Africa was blessed in the first years of its democracy,” he said.

Archbishop Brislin pledged prayerful support of the incoming administration and prayed that during the season of Lent, “just as we make our spiritual journey towards the renewal and hope of Easter, our country will begin its own political journey to a future of renewed hope and commitment to the ideals of our Constitution.”
 
Mike Pothier, program manager for the bishops’ conference Parliamentary Liaison Office, released a Feb. 15 analysis offering lessons for the people of South African to reflect upon.

“It should be remembered that Mr. Zuma was put in power by a consortium of disaffected constituencies within the [African National Congress] precisely because they wanted a weak, malleable, pliant leader to replace the supposedly aloof and authoritarian Thabo Mbeki,” he said.

“Mr. Zuma’s already notorious record of corruption, dishonesty, cronyism, philandery and self-advancement did not bother them at all as they foisted him on us, and thereby set in motion the disastrous decade that has sullied our reputation and set us back economically, institutionally and politically.”

He also noted the accomplishment of the resignation taking place “in an orderly, procedural and peaceful manner,” in contrast to situations in Venezuela, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries where an embattled leader’s refusal to step down has led to violence.

Finally, Pothier reflected, “the governmental rot did not start with Mr. Zuma’s ascent to the presidency, and it will not end with his exit.”

He called for a deeper examination of government corruption and an effort “to rebuild an ethos of good governance; to restore trust in the institutions of democracy; to resurrect hope for a better life for all; and to regain the straight and narrow way of constitutionalism, the rule of law, and a politics of service.”

Hundreds rally in support of Ireland's pro-life amendment

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:36 PM

Dublin, Ireland, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Hundreds of people rallied in the coastal suburb of Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, on Saturday to show support for the country’s 8th amendment, which protects the right to life of both mothers and their unborn children.

The Feb. 10 event was called “Loving the 8th” and was organized by Dún Laoghaire Life Canvas and Cherish All the Children Equally as an extension of the Save the 8th Campaign.

Ireland’s 8th constitutional amendment was added in 1983 with nearly 67 percent of voters in favor and 33 percent opposed. It recognizes the equal right to life of the unborn child and the mother, outlawing abortion except in medical emergencies.

A referendum in May will ask voters if they want to repeal the amendment.

Mairéad Hughes, spokesperson for the Save the 8th Campaign, expressed the movement’s gratitude for local pro-life groups, and said the theme “Loving the 8th” would continue through this week.

“We were so delighted to see such a great crowd come out for this event today, and it's really indicative of how people are becoming energized at a local level to save the 8th amendment ahead of the referendum,” she said in a statement on the campaign’s website.

“It was such a positive event, pointing out that the pro-life 8th amendment protects both mother and baby, and is a provision [that] has saved so many lives.”

Those in attendance showed their support for the amendment with heart-shaped balloons, posters, and hats with the logo “Loving the 8th” in response to the upcoming referendum.

“I believe our laws currently show love to both mother and child, and we want people to understand that the 8th is life-saving, and that is why we're Loving the 8th,” Hughes said.

“The 8th encourages us to support women in crisis and to love both them and their baby, and surely that's the most progressive and compassionate way forward for Ireland,” she said. “[As] a mother whose baby was born very early because I had serious complications, I know the 8th protected us both. I know the value of the 8th.”

 

Francis modifies norms for the resignation of bishops

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:22 PM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis tweaked the Church’s policies on bishops and Curial officials reaching the age of retirement, indicating that they should accept what God wants, whether accepting retirement or accepting continued service.

The changes were made through a motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, meaning “Learning to take your leave,” published Feb. 15.

Previous norms stated that the appointment of most bishops serving as curial officials and papal diplomats lapsed after the officials had reached the Vatican’s usual age of retirement of 75. Now, like diocesan bishops, they are requested to resign at 75, and will continue in their positions unless the Pope accepts their resignation. He may also request them to stay on, at his discretion.  

In the motu proprio, signed Feb. 12, Pope Francis cited the generous commitment and experience of many bishops in dioceses or working in the Curia, as a reason for the update in norms.
 
He noted that the period of transition, whether a resignation is accepted or not, can require an interior attitude of acceptance, and that even the conclusion of an ecclesial office itself is a service and requires “a new form of availability.”
 
“This interior attitude is necessary both when, for reasons of age, one must prepare oneself to leave office, and when asked to continue that service for a longer period, even though the age of seventy-five has been reached,” he said.

The Pope also provided some examples of reasons he might choose to extend a Curial bishop’s service in an ecclesial office past the age of 75.

The reasons could include, he said, the importance of continuity and the adequate completion of important projects, the difficulties associated with changing leadership of a dicastery already in a period of transition, and the contribution of the person in the application of new directives or new magisterial guidelines from the Holy See.

Francis explained that the transition from active service to retirement requires adequate internal preparation, which includes stripping oneself of the desire for power and or the need to be indispensable to others.
 
Such preparation will help to make the transition full of peace and confidence, rather than pain and conflict, he said.

As much as possible, this new “project of life,” should include austerity, humility, intercessory prayer, and time dedicated to reading and providing simple pastoral services, he said, noting that prayer is also a powerful tool for discerning how to live out this time.

On the other hand, if a bishop’s resignation is not accepted, and he is asked to continue his service for a longer period, this requires that he abandon his personal desires and projects “with generosity,” the Pope said.

He also emphasized that such a request of the Pope should not be considered a “privilege, or a personal triumph,” a favor between friends, or even an act of gratitude for the service he has provided.
 
“Any possible extension can be understood only for certain reasons always linked to the ecclesial common good,” he said, and is not an “automatic act, but an act of government.”

The Pope said that the virtue of prudence is applied, along with adequate discernment, in order to make the appropriate decision in these cases.

Court likely to withdraw charge of key accuser in Cardinal Pell abuse case

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 12:05 PM

Melbourne, Australia, Feb 15, 2018 / 10:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard Wednesday that a charge related to a key witness in the case against Cardinal George Pell, accused of historical sexual abuse, is likely to be withdrawn.

In the Feb. 14 hearing, the director of prosecutions for the Melbourne Magistrates Court said that while they had not decided on the matter, the charge of a key complainant who died in January would likely be withdrawn.

Defense attorney Ruth Shann argued against the man's credibility, saying Pell's legal team would be examining the credibility of the “unreliable” witness when the formal four-week committal hearing begins March 5.

The witness, Damian Dignan, who died of leukemia in early January, and a fellow classmate at St. Alipius school in Ballarat accused Pell in 2016 of inappropriate sexual behavior when they were minors. The cardinal had previously been accused of acts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961.

Shann said Dignan's complaints – which he made to Australia's Royal Commission in 2015, nearly 40 years after the alleged abuse, after reading about other cases in the commission in newspapers – had a “domino effect” in terms of other people contacting the police.

She said Pell's lawyers had subpoenaed material from the Dignan's lawyer and that they would pursue material connected to his complaint whether it was included as part of the case or not, since he was the “starting point,” and other accusers who spoke out after can't be understood without first dealing with their knowledge of Dignan's own complaint.

Pell's legal team last week subpoenaed medical records for other complainants to build their argument, however, the magistrate overseeing Wednesday's hearing, Belinda Wallington, denied the request due to a lack of what she believed was “substantial probative value” in the case.

She also questioned a request for a complainant's medical records from Justice Health, which provides medical services for Victorian prisoners, saying she would delay her decision until a hearing next week, the Australian reports.

This week's hearing took place Feb. 14 in Melbourne, and is the latest step in the ongoing case against the cardinal, who in June 2016 was charged by Victoria state police of multiple instances of historical sexual abuse.

After the charges were announced, Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy and a member of the Pope's council of nine cardinal advisers, was granted leave from his post by Pope Francis in order to return to Australia for the trial.

Cardinal Pell, who was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966, has pled not guilty to the multiple counts of sexual abuse, and has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

“I am innocent of these charges, they are false,” he told journalists June 29, 2017, after the charges were announced, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Pell has testified multiple times before Australia’s Royal Commission denying abuse charges and is known to have spoken out against sexual abuses in the past.

“It is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors,” stated Holy See spokesman Greg Burke last summer.

However, Burke also underscored the importance of respecting the proceedings of the Australian justice system, which will ultimately “decide the merits of the questions raised.”

Pope Francis regularly meets with abuse victims on Fridays

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 7:45 AM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 05:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a conversation with Jesuits during his recent visit to Peru, Pope Francis said he regularly meets with victims of sexual abuse on Fridays, and that while the percentage of priests who abuse is relatively low, even one is too many.

When it comes to sexual abuse, roughly “70 percent of pedophiles are in the family environment, acquaintances. Then in gyms, at the pool,” the Pope said in a conversation with Peruvian Jesuits, published Feb. 15.

The meeting took place Jan. 19 after a courtesy visit to Peruvian President Pedro Kuczynski during a three-day visit to the country, which was part of a wider, Jan. 15-21 visit to South America.  

“The percentage of pedophiles that are Catholic priests doesn't reach 2 percent, it's around 1.6 percent. So it's not a lot,” he said. However, Francis stressed that “it's terrible even if it were just one of our brothers!”

“God anointed them for the sanctification of children and adults, and he, instead of sanctifying them, has destroyed them. It's horrible!” he said, and underlined the importance of listening to victims and hearing directly about the suffering they've undergone.

To this end, he said he regularly meets with victims of abuse on Fridays, and “their process is so difficult, they are annihilated. They are annihilated!”

For the Church, abuse is “a great humiliation,” he said. “It shows not only our fragility, but also, let's say it clearly, our level of hypocrisy.”

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke confirmed the Pope's comment about the Friday meetings, saying in a Feb. 15 statement that “several times a month” Pope Francis meets with victims of sexual abuse either individually or in groups.

Pope Francis, he said, “listens to the victims and tries to help them heal the serious wounds caused by the abuses they've undergone. The meetings are held with the utmost privacy, in respect of the victims and their suffering.”

The Pope's comments were made to Peruvian Jesuits during his recent Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru. He met privately with Jesuits in both countries, taking questions from attendees and listening to their concerns.

The conversations, published in Jesuit journal La Civilta' Cattolica, touched on a variety of issues, and included Francis' discussion with both the Chilean and Peruvian Jesuits. Chile and Peru are at the center of two major, high-profile cases of sexual abuse, with abuses committed by a Chilean priest and a Peruvian layman.

Francis met privately with abuse victims in Chile, and spoke openly about the tragedy in his Jan. 18 meeting with priests and religious in the country. His comments on abuse were made in response to a question posed by a Peruvian Jesuit about how to handle sex abuse, and whether he had any encouragement to give.

Speaking to the some 100 Jesuits present for the Jan. 19 encounter, Francis responded to the question saying sex abuse is “the greatest desolation that the Church is undergoing.”

He recalled a time when was returning home in Argentina. After getting off the metro, he saw a couple with a young toddler walking down the street. When the child started to run in his direction, the father immediately yelled for the child to come back, and to “watch out for the pedophiles.”

“What shame I underwent! What shame!” Pope Francis said. “They didn't realize that I was the archbishop, I was a priest, and what shame!”

He noted that often times abuse, particularly in new and flourishing communities, is linked to corruption, citing three types of abuse which often go together.

“Abuse in these congregations is always the result of a mentality linked to power, which must be healed at its evil roots,” he said, explaining that the various communities undergoing scandals generally all suffer from a deadly trio of “abuse of authority – with which it means to mix the internal and external forum – sexual abuse, and economic messes.”

Noting how both he and Benedict XVI have had to “suppress” various communities, such as the Legionaries of Christ, Francis said there are “many painful cases,” and that this phenomenon has also affected new and prosperous congregations, most notably the Peruvian-born Sodalitium Christianae Vitae.

In cases like this, “money is always in the middle,” he said, adding that “the devil enters through the wallet.”

According to St. Ignatius, one of the first steps of temptation is for wealth, he said. “Then come vanity and pride, but first there is wealth. In the new congregations that have fallen into this problem of abuse these three levels are also found together.”

However, citing the Ignatian spiritual exercises, the Pope said the shame experienced can also be a grace, and urged his fellow Jesuits to accept these experiences “as a grace and be deeply ashamed,” because “we must love the Church with her wounds.”

Though spoken beforehand, the Pope's comments have been made public at a time when he is under fire for his reaction to accusations of abuse cover-up on the part of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, Chile.

Appointed to head the Osorno diocese by Pope Francis in 2015, Barros is accused of both witnessing and covering the abuse of his longtime friend Fr. Fernando Karadima, who was found guilty of abuse in 2011. Barros has repeatedly denied these claims.

Opposition to Barros and his appointment has been relentless since his installment in 2015. Pope Francis faced major blow-back during his visit to Chile for saying the accusations against Barros were unfounded, and amounted to “calumny.”

On his flight back to Rome, Francis apologized for the comment, saying he had intended to say that there was not enough evidence to convict Barros of cover-up, and that no victims had come forward with information that could prove the Chilean prelate's guilt.

Shortly after the visit, Francis tapped Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican's top man in clerical abuse appeals cases, to go to Santiago to hear victims' testimonies. The trip also includes a stop in New York to speak with one of Karadima's most high-profile victims, Juan Carlos Cruz, who has been among the most vocal opponents of Barros.

After Scicluna's appointment, reports came out indicating that before Barros' appointment in 2015, Cruz had sent an 8-page letter detailing Karadima's abuse to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, alleging that Barros had not only witnessed his abuse and the abuse of others, but had at times participated and covered it up.

According to reports, members of the commission had given the letter to the commission's president, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, who is said to have presented it to the Pope, raising questions as to whether Francis had read it and was aware of Cruz's testimony before naming Barros to Osorno.

Pope Francis voices sorrow for 'devastating' Florida school attack

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 7:01 AM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 05:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, Pope Francis assured his spiritual closeness to all those affected by a deadly shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead, offering prayer for the victims and voicing hope that such acts of violence would end.

In a Feb. 15 letter addressed to Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, the Pope said he was “deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting” that took place yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter assured all those affected by the “devastating attack” of the Pope's spiritual closeness, saying he prays “that Almighty God may grant eternal rest to the dead and healing and consolation to the wounded and those who grieve.”

“With the hope that such senseless acts of violence may cease, Pope Francis invokes upon all of you the divine blessings of peace and strength.”

The Pope's telegram comes the day after a former student stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle, killing at least 17 students and teachers and injuring dozens more, according to reports.

The 19-year-old suspected shooter had been expelled from the school for “disciplinary reasons.” He is said to have a history of violence and has been treated for mental illness.

Students at the school posted videos and photos of the shooting – the third largest school shooting in American history – and its aftermath as it unfolded. The suspected shooter was arrested by police about an hour after the attack and remains in custody.

In a statement published on the diocesan website, Archbishop Wenski said he offered his prayers as well as those of the Catholic community for everyone affected by this “senseless tragedy.”

“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” said Wenski.

He urged Floridians to rise above their “understandable outrage,” and “come together as a community to support one another” in the aftermath of the shooting. With the Lord’s help, Wenski said, “we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

“May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

Catholic aid organizations respond to Oxfam prostitution scandal in Haiti

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 7:00 AM

Washington D.C., Feb 15, 2018 / 05:00 am (CNA).- Amid allegations that Oxfam UK aid workers hired prostitutes in Haiti and Chad while administering humanitarian aid, Catholic aid organizations are responding with prayers, strong condemnation, and renewed commitments to protect the vulnerable.

“We are aware of The Times’ investigation of Oxfam UK members and their conduct in the Haiti earthquake response. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these atrocious acts. We unequivocally condemn any act that violates the rights and human dignity of individuals,” Catholic Relief Services Communications Director, Kim Pozniak, told CNA.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, the Oxfam official responsible for the agency’s Haitian recovery efforts following a devastating 2010 earthquake, repeatedly paid for sex, arranging groups of prostitutes to meet with Oxfam officials at the charity’s guesthouse, according to an investigation published by The Times of London on Feb. 9.  

Some reports have characterized events arranged by van Hauwermeiren as “orgies.” Oxfam officials are also accused of financial mismanagement, harassment, bullying, and negligent supervision.

One of the staff members working with van Hauwermeiren in Haiti later went on to work for the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD).

CAFOD dismissed the staffer on Feb. 14, after Oxfam confirmed the employee was accused of sexual misconduct, according to the BBC.

CAFOD Director Chris Bain said in a statement, “We were not aware of allegations made against this employee and received two references, as standard practice, at the time of recruitment.”

Before working in Haiti, van Hauwermeiren previously led a team in Chad, where it is alleged that he hired prostitutes for staff events as early as 2006.

Earlier this week, Oxfam officials acknowledged that the issue had been raised before van Hauwermeiren was transferred.

“It is now clear that these allegations—involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the country director and members of his team in Chad—were raised before he moved to Haiti,” said Oxfam Great Britain’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, in a Feb. 12 statement announcing her resignation.

Oxfam celebrity ambassador and actress Minnie Driver withdrew her support from the aid organization on Feb. 14 in response to the scandal in Haiti, writing on Twitter that she was “devastated for the women who were used by people sent there to help them.”

“I feel deeply, deeply hurt. ... What happened in Haiti was a few privileged men abusing the very people they were supposed to protect - using the power they had from Oxfam to abuse powerless women. It breaks my heart,” said the executive director of Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyima, in a Feb. 11 television interview with Reuters.

David Adams, who lived and worked in Haiti for years as U.S. Agency for International Development Haiti Mission Director, told CNA that the majority of humanitarian aid workers in Haiti did not abuse their power in such an appalling way.

Adams now serves as the Vice President of Missions for Cross Catholic Outreach (CCO).

“Cross Catholic Outreach was deeply involved in the humanitarian response to the 2010 earthquake and observed that the great majority of humanitarian workers including our own staff responded to the needs of the vulnerable with nothing but love and compassion,” he said.

CCO tries to ensure its employees do not abuse the imbalance of power in Haiti by only hiring staff with extensive experience in the country, he said.

Adams explained, “We deliberately select staff with work experience in Haiti who understand the cultural context and underlying causes of poverty rather than aid workers who accept short-term positions moving from one country or disaster situation after another.”

Other Catholic aid organizations who work in Haiti also say that they have protocols for aid workers and partners in international development, intended to ensure the protection of the vulnerable people they serve.

Catholic Relief Services told CNA that their protocol includes a whistleblower system and a protection training course that all CRS employees (and partners) must complete.
Following Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake in Jan. 2010, which left an estimated 230,000 dead and nearly 2 million displaced, Haitians were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking.

Adams told CNA that Cross Catholic Outreach assisted the Haitian Sisters of Charity of Saint-Louis in efforts to counsel and train women at risk of prostitution and trafficking in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Cross Catholic Outreach continues to support another religious order, the St. Jean Evangeliste Sisters, who operate a safe house along Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic for women and children who have been trafficked or abused.

 

Curial reform as a matter of pastoral concern

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 2:00 AM

Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Reform of the Vatican Curia aims to emphasize pastoral care, and should not be seen as a reform that will overturn the whole Curia, a bishop involved in Rome’s Curia reform process has explained.
 
Bishop Marcello Semeraro is the secretary of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, appointed to assist the Pope in the government of the Church and to tailor a Curia reform. In a recent article for the Italian Catholic magazine Il Regno, Bishop Semeraro explained how the reform is being carried forward, and the rationale behind it.
 
Bishop Semeraro stressed that the reforms are intended to emphasize pastoral concern, and are not intended as a revolution. He said that recent reforms to Vatican communications offices might be considered a model for the reform project.
 
According to Bishop Semeraro, the establishment of a third section within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State is a sign of the major emphasis given to the pastoral work.
 
The third section of the Secretariat of State, announced in November, is intended to show the Pope’s attention and closeness to the Vatican’s diplomatic staff. For this reason, the head of the third section is tasked with visiting the Holy See’s nunciatures around the world.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that care for Vatican diplomats has been a main topic of discussion during meetings of the Council of Cardinals, and that the meaning of the secretariat’s reform lies in the way that the job of papal nuncios, similar to ambassadors, developed after the Second Vatican Council.
 
Bishop Semeraro noted that nuncios were once considered exclusively diplomatic figures, but the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law “met the Second Vatican Council’s hope that the office of the Pontifical legate – that is, the Apostolic nuncio – was to be described with reference to the pastoral ministry of a bishop.”
 
The 1983 Code “made explicit the distinction between ecclesial and diplomatic mission,” and underscored that “pontifical representatives, although having a diplomatic side, are mostly ecclesial figures,” and their main tasks “are religious and ecclesiastical duties” undertaken on behalf of the Pope, Bishop Semeraro said.
 
For this reason, Pope Francis wanted to show a pastoral concern toward the Vatican diplomatic staff, since “the focus on human resources is a non-secondary aspect of the Curia reform process,” Semeraro said.
 
To explain the ‘big picture’ of curial reform, Bishop Semeraro recalled Pope Francis’ 2017 Christmas greeting to the Roman Curia, and in particular, the way the Pope explained the Curia’s “ad extra” functions.
 
According to Bishop Semeraro, the Pope asked the Curia to be “extroverted,” that is, oriented beyond the Vatican, with a capacity to read the signs of times.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that the need to look outside, toward the local Churches, is also demonstrated by the motu proprio Magnum Principium, which liberalized the process of translating the Roman Missal from Latin into vernacular languages.
 
The secretary of the Council of Cardinals said that the Council itself was called to give its opinion on the issue, “with a context and competence other than the opinion of the Commission of Bishops and experts established.”
 
He also emphasized the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in assisting the local Churches as another example of a Curia that sets its gaze to the outside.
 
He also said that the Pope wants the reform to be gradual, and this is happening with the new Dicasteries for the Promotion of Integral Human Development and for Laity, Family and Life.
 
Bishop Semeraro said that the Council of Cardinal relies on three principles in Curia reform: tradition, innovation, and focus on what is really necessary.
 
For what concerns tradition, Bishop Semeraro said that “it is misleading thinking of a reform overturning the overall Curial framework,” as the Curia includes “dicasteries regarding some fundamental ecclesial actions, like the announcement of the Gospel,  the safeguarding of faith, the liturgical life, the service of charity.”
 
The key principle of innovation is epitomized by the reform in the area of communication, that was intended to respond to new media realities.
 
The principle of “focus” might also be called “simplification”, as has happened with the merging of some dicasteries.
 
The Pope intends the reform as a “process” – Bishop Semeraro concluded – that needs time to be completed, according to Pope Francis’ sentence in Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium that states the need to “start processes, rather than possessing spaces.”
 
In this sense, the Curia’s Lenten spiritual exercises, which Pope Francis requested be set outside of Rome, are part of this reform, Bishop Semeraro stressed.

 

'Senseless violence and horrifying evil'—Archbishop Wenski urges prayers for Parkland

Wed, 02/14/2018 - 11:20 PM

Miami, Fla., Feb 14, 2018 / 09:20 pm (CNA).- Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami urged Broward County to unity, mutual support, and strength after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland killed at least 17 students and teachers and injured dozens more. Parkland is in the Archdiocese of Miami.

In a statement published on the diocesan website, Wenski said he offered his prayers as well as those of the Catholic community for everyone affected by this “senseless tragedy.”

“We pray for the deceased and wounded, for their families and loved ones, for our first responders and our entire South Florida community,” said Wenski.

Wenski urged Floridians to rise above their “understandable outrage,” and “come together as a community to support one another” in the aftermath of the shooting. With the Lord’s help, Wenski said, “we can remain strong and resolute to resist evil in all its manifestations.”

“May God heal the broken hearted and comfort the sorrowing as we once again face as a nation another act of senseless violence and horrifying evil.”

USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston echoed Wenski’s sentiment, and issued a call Wednesday evening for Christians to “unite our prayers and sacrifices for the healing and consolation of all those who have been affected by violence...and for a conversation of heart, that our communities and nation will be marked by peace.”

DiNardo said the USCCB was “deeply saddened” by Wednesday’s shooting, and would be praying for an end to gun violence. “I pray also for unity in seeking to build toward a society with fewer tragedies caused by senseless gun violence,” he said.

A 19-year-old former student of the school, who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons,” stormed Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday afternoon and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle. The alleged shooter has a history of violence and has been treated for mental illness.

Students at the school posted videos and photos of the shooting and its aftermath as it unfolded. The shooter was arrested by police about an hour after the attack and remains in custody.

This is the third-deadliest school shooting in American history.