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INTERVIEW: Baghdad Bishop: Despite ‘Crisis of Faith’ Today, 1st Trip of a Pope to Iraq Would Be Source of ‘Great Joy’

2 hours 34 min ago

The first trip of a Pope to Iraq would be a historic first, and many expect Pope Francis to go next year.

The Argentine Pontiff himself explicitly expressed in June his desire to visit the war-torn nation in 2020. Until this point, for safety concerns, such a visit had been considered not feasible.

Iraqi Christians have emigrated in droves after massive persecution of Christians and religious minorities by the Islamic State. While many would love to return to their homeland, and international organizations, such as the pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need, make great efforts to rebuild the Nineveh Plain, many Iraqis lack trust that they can safely re-establish themselves there, and instead await welcome in neighboring lands, and in countries afar, such as Australia, Canada and the United States. Various Iraqi refugees expressed this to ZENIT in Jordan.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT in the Middle East, Auxiliary Bishop of Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon, in Baghdad, Iraq, Bishop Robert Saeed Jarjis, discussed all these aspects and more.

“There is a faith in crisis today, because what happened has wounded the heart not only of Christians,” the Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad tells ZENIT, referring also to the Yazidis, another Iraqi minority. “There are whole villages that still need to be rebuilt, where water is not even available, there is no work,” he says, asking how one without these elements can stay in such a place…

However, at the same time, he expressed the great joy of all Iraqis of different faiths and demographics at the prospect of the first Pope visiting their country.

Around Christmas of 2018, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, visited Iraq, but at the time, upon his return to Rome, suggested the conditions were not yet in place for the Pope to visit. However, since, Francis has expressed his wish to go in 2020.

“An insistent thought accompanies me thinking of Iraq – where I wish to go next year – that it may look ahead through the peaceful and shared participation in the construction of the common good of all the religious components of society, and that it may not fall into the tensions which come from the never-ending conflicts of regional powers,” he said to the Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches in the Vatican.

Zenit Senior Vatican correspondent Deborah Castellano Lubov was recently in Amman, Jordan to speak at and attend the international conference “Media and their role in defending the truth”, reflecting on dialogue between religions and people in the Middle East. It was promoted by the Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the East, the Catholic Center for Studies and Media in Jordan, with the collaboration of the Platform for Dialogue and Cooperation between Religious Leaders and Institutions of the Arab World” and the Jordanian Office of Tourism, took place in late June 2019.

Pope Francis visited Jordan during his visit to the Holy Land in 2014, visiting the Baptism site of Jesus along the Jordan River. Francis did so in the footsteps of Benedict XVI (2009) and St. John Paul II (2000). Jordan, with a large Islamic majority, where Catholics are less than 1% of the population, has a reputation as a peaceful and tolerant country in the Middle East.

The Holy Father also welcomed the invitation of the Church and State in the United Arab Emirates to visit Abu Dhabi for an interfaith conference, Feb. 3-5, 2019, which marked the first visit of a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula. During the encounter, he signed a joint “Document on Human Fraternity: For World Peace and Living Together” with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Tayyeb.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES INSIDE LOOK: 1st Trip of a Pope to Arabian Peninsula Full of Historic 1sts, Traveled by Zenit on the Papal Flight

Iraq, however, has had a different experience than Jordan and the Emirates, full of war, persecution and suffering, and still with serious issues, including discrimination against Christians in day to day life.

In this interview with ZENIT, Bishop Jarjis dives into the current situation in Iraq, how the Christians are and focuses on the much anticipated–even if not confirmed yet by the Vatican–first trip of a Pope to Iraq, where, in the city of Ur, lies the historical roots of the three great monotheistic world religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

He also touches on emigration, noting an “Iraqi, Christian or not, does not emigrate because he likes to be uprooted from his own land,” since an “Iraqi loves his country and his culture.” “Emigration, which forces us to cut our roots against our own will,” he explains, “is the consequence of other serious problems affecting Iraq.”

Below is the exclusive Zenit interview with Bishop Jarjis, done in Amman:


ZENIT: Your Excellency, on June 10, receiving an audience with the ROACO Assembly, Pope Francis clearly expressed his willingness to visit Iraq in 2020. How did the Iraqis accept this news? What were the reactions?

Bishop Jarjis (Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad): First of all, great joy, and not only from Christians, but from all the different groups of the Iraqi people. The first thing the President of the Republic, Barham Salih, did was to contact Cardinal Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, to receive all the information relating to the news and to know how to handle such an event, the visit of a Pope. What should you do? How do you proceed? The official invitations? What protocol follows, or is necessary?

ZENIT: So, a joy for all Iraqis …

Bishop Jarjis: Of course, for Christians, Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis, and all others, since it would be the first trip of a Pope to Iraq. And being Iraq, the place where they sink their historical roots – precisely in Ur, with Abraham – the three great monotheisms of the world, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, would be an extremely significant journey, it would be important to welcome a Pope to Iraq!

ZENIT: What do Christians expect from the Pope’s visit to Iraq?

Bishop Jarjis: I would say support for Iraqi Christian communities, which need so much support. I speak of support of all kinds, but above all, moral support, after all the attacks they have suffered and the crises they have gone through, economic, social … They have suffered so much.

ZENIT: With the defeat of the Islamic State, silence seems to have fallen on Iraq by the international media …

Bishop Jarjis: Therefore, it would be important to welcome the Pope to Iraq, to attract the world’s attention to this country again. As long as there was Daesh to fight, of course the attention was not missed. But then the media turned to something else, rather than focusing on the unsolved problems of Iraq. But the suffering is not over! Above all, Christian communities still have many challenges to face. There has been no reconstruction yet. But now media attention is focused on other countries in the region, such as tensions between the US and Iran. Today, Iraq is in the background in the attention of the international press, and the Pope’s trip would be the opportune occasion to change things. Already expressing the desire to visit Iraq, Pope Francis has brought back so much attention on us! Imagine the effect of a journey, when the desire will materialize! It would be a great gift, a great grace!

ZENIT: Pope Francis would be the first Pope to visit Iraq, but not the first Pope to want to travel to Iraq. Is this correct?

Bishop Jarjis: Yes, even St. John Paul II wanted to become a pilgrim in Ur, in Iraq, during the Jubilee of 2000. But in that year, there were other more urgent challenges to face. Therefore, Pope John Paul II made a “symbolic” pilgrimage to Ur from the Vatican, in Paul VI Hall. However, the desire to visit Iraq had long been in the hearts of the Popes, perhaps even before John Paul II. Now let’s just hope it will happen very soon!

ZENIT: In the meantime, many historical events have occurred in Iraq. How would you describe the situation of Christians in Iraq today? We know that many institutions, such as Aid to the Church in Need, are committed to promoting the return of those emigrated to Iraq …

Bishop Jarjis: First of all, the Christian community is an integral part of the Iraqi people. Therefore, there are two orders of challenges that are facing today. The first are the challenges that touch and make all Iraqis suffer. Maybe I will make you laugh a little, if I say that the first challenge right now is the sun, the heat, which in summer reaches almost 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit). Yet this is truly a challenge, the result of how the environment has been treated in the past. All Iraqis suffer from environmental neglect in recent years.

ZENIT: And the particular challenges of Iraqi Christians?

Bishop Jarjis: There are Christian villages in the Nineveh Plain that have not yet been rebuilt. So, I say that the will, the Pope’s desire to visit Iraq will awaken the world’s attention on Iraq and on the Christians of this country that defeated the Daesh, they have to face many other challenges still. For young Christians – but the same applies to everyone else too – work is a challenge. But those who could invest in some economic activity, and thus create jobs, generally do not, because of the media that always spread negative news about Iraq. Today in Iraq it is possible to invest in economic activities, obviously carefully, wisely. Thus, the young, whether Christian or not, would have any hope of finding a job. Instead, everyone now aspires to a state job, but the government cannot provide jobs for everyone!

Then Christians, always talking about work, sometimes suffer from treatment different from others, even if not openly. If in an office there is to identify an employee for a higher-level job, such as a director, there are so many recommendations of the parties, even if perhaps the person in question will not be able to carry out that task. Christians, on the other hand, do not have anyone who recommends them, they feel isolated, even though they often have important qualifications and training. They work honestly, without creating problems … why do they never make a career? This would mean a more prestigious position, higher salaries, more benefits …

ZENIT: Is there still a real risk of being persecuted, for a Christian who eventually returned to Iraq after escaping?

Bishop Jarjis: Officially persecuted no, this word would be a little too harsh, excessive. Certainly, however, there is a faith in crisis today, because what happened has wounded the heart not only of Christians. I am also thinking of the Yazidis, another Iraqi minority. Then, as I said, there are whole villages that still need to be rebuilt, where water is not even available, there is no work … How can you live in a certain place if you don’t have a job? Certainly not enough to have a home. These are practical questions, of course, talking about persecution is not possible, but this is the situation.

ZENIT: Does the emigration of Iraqi Christians abroad pose risks to the survival of the Christian churches in Iraq? And how could it be stopped?

Bishop Jarjis: We need to face it wisely, to get some practical results, without forgetting that among the causes we must also mention the fact that so many Christians have been forced out of their homes. First of all, I would say that we need to start a work of reconstruction of mutual trust between the different ethnic and religious identities that make up the Iraqi people. Emigration abroad can be stopped. If an Iraqi chooses to cut off the roots of his land, he does so because of serious problems. The Iraqi, Christian or not, does not emigrate because he likes to be uprooted from his own land, no! The Iraqi loves his country and his culture. Emigration, which forces us to cut our roots against our own will, is the consequence of other serious problems affecting Iraq. And the first, I repeat, is work, the means by which the person realizes herself. Let’s think of a young jobless person who wants to get married, how does he do it?

ZENIT: What help could Iraqis emigrated abroad give to their country’s growth?

Bishop Jarjis: I am thinking of the creation of groups, outside Iraq, among the Iraqi emigrants, to transplant them to Iraq so that they in turn constitute other small groups by transmitting to them the skills and knowledge they have acquired abroad. It is true that such work, if begun today will produce results in five, ten years, but if today we do not even begin then emigration will never stop.

ZENIT: When you talk about wounded trust, what do you mean?

Bishop Jarjis: All the parts that make up the Iraqi people are wounded, all of them! But the reconstruction of this trust has not yet begun in an “organized” way. There are voices that talk about rebuilding mutual trust, peaceful coexistence, but to really understand how to do it, great wisdom is needed.

ZENIT: The Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Great Imam Al Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi speaks a lot about “citizenship”, a key issue in Iraq. What impact is this document having on Iraq? Was it widespread, read, discussed?

Bishop Jarjis: The Abu Dhabi document unfortunately was not widespread enough and taken seriously. The Catholic Church has tried to spread it and publish it, I speak especially of the work of Cardinal Patriarch Sako to make it known. But the Christian press in Iraq is still not strong enough and not widespread.

ZENIT: But is it free?

Bishop Jarjis: Quite free, yes, but sometimes wisdom must be exercised. The truth must be told, but not in all ways and moments. And here it takes wisdom to understand. Going back to the Abu Dhabi document, I think the Middle East will really understand it over time, slowly, but it is necessary for the media to pay attention to it.

ZENIT: The document is signed by an authority of Sunni Islam, but in Iraq, Shiites are the majority …

Bishop Jarjis: The Shiites claim to have brothers in both religion and creation; all, that is, according to the Shiites, we are brothers in creation. And this statement recalls the title of the Abu Dhabi document. So, since a high percentage of Shiites live in Iraq, this document should have a very strong effect on Iraq, if only we wanted to apply it, put it into practice!

ZENIT: During a papal trip to Iraq, what would you say are the places or appointments that could not be missed in the program?

Bishop Jarjis: In my opinion, the desire of Pope Francis will be the same as that of Saint John Paul II to begin the journey to Iraq from Ur, which is a biblical place, a place that unites Jews, Christians and Muslims. It would be a way to send the message that if everyone’s past is to Ur, then the present and the future can also be there. Interreligious dialogue must focus on what unites! Just see what makes us different! And Ur is a place whose meaning unites.

ZENIT: And what other stops, in addition to Ur, would you consider important?

Bishop Jarjis: Surely Baghdad, to meet the representatives of the highest institutions of the state. Then certainly Kurdistan, to the north, with the city of Erbil, as a sign of closeness to the Christians of the region, because since the Christians were driven from their villages they live mainly in Erbil. So, it would be great if the Pope went there too, and I think it’s not just my idea, but patriarch Sako also gave this indication. With regard to the issues in evidence, I certainly foresee the peaceful coexistence in Iraq, the encouragement to all the components of the Iraqi people on this road and the Abu Dhabi document as an aid along the way.

ZENIT: Thank you, Your Excellency.

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‘Rural Missionaries’ Mark 50 Years of Service in Philippines

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 2:00 PM

Clergy, religious and lay members of the “Rural Missionaries of the Philippines” (RMP), involved at a pastoral and social level, celebrated their 50th founding anniversary, confirming the work to accompany and support the poorest, in remote or rural areas, reported Fides News Agency.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is a national, inter-congregational and inter-diocesan organization, composed of religious men and women, priests and lay members who live and work with small farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk and Indigenous Peoples. Founded on August 15, 1969, it is a Roman Catholic Church organization and a mission partner of the Association of the Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

“In the last 50 years, RMP has brought the Gospel and worked alongside poor communities in remote areas, promoting human dignity, rights, peace, and social justice,” said Sister Elsa Compuesto, the new National Coordinator of RMP, elected by the National Assembly of the organization in Manila in recent days.

“The next 50 years will be years of grace in which to work with the poor. We do not want to abandon our poor despite many difficulties, struggles, risks, and challenges that our missionaries face together with the people we serve”, remarked Sister Elsa, of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary.

“Being part of RMP is a missionary commitment to live a prophetic call with the poor”, specified Sister Elenita Belardo, outgoing National Coordinator.

RMP, always on the front line against injustice, has raised its voice against the killings of the poor by the police or the military for various reasons and violations of human rights. Bishop Deogracias Iniguez stressed the effort, commitment, and contribution of RMP, whose members “are willing to work hard to bring the Church closer to people”.
“The members of RMP are willing to sacrifice so much for the sake of the Gospel as they work for justice by denouncing evil and injustice,” the Bishop said.

RMP is committed to serving farmers, indigenous peoples and fishermen “through collective testimony and prophetic action” and “to encourage people of goodwill “to support the rural poor” so that “they can enjoy the fruits of their labor and of the fullness of life, preserving the integrity of creation,” reads the note of the organization.

Among other commitments, RMP facilitates integration and seminarians and men and women religious to carry out their evangelizing mission alongside the poor in rural areas; it carries out campaigns regarding problems of rural areas; provides support services to schools on topics such as evangelization, disaster risk reduction, health services, defense of human rights, sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation; contributes to building alliances and networks of a pastoral and social nature.

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Pope’s General Audience (FULL TEXT): On the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-35)

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 1:56 PM

The General Audience of Aug. 21 was held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

Continuing with the series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: Among them, “everything was in common”. Life in the Christian Community (from Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greeting to groups of faithful present.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

Here is a ZENIT working-translation of the Pope’s full General Audience:

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The Christian community is born from the overabundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit and grows thanks to the ‘leaven’ of sharing between brothers and sisters in Christ. There is a dynamism of solidarity that builds the Church as family of God, where the experience of koinonia is centralWhat does this mean, this strange word? It is a Greek word that means “to put together”, “to put in common” to be a community, not isolated. This is the experience of the first Christian community, that is, “sharing,” “communicating,” “participating,”not isolating oneself. In the Church, at its origins, this koinonia, this community, refers above all to participation in the Body and Blood of Christ. We enter into communion with Jesus and from this communion with Jesus, we arrive at communion with our brothers and sisters. And this communion with the Body and Blood of Christ, at Holy Mass, translates into fraternal union, and therefore also to what is most difficult for us: to pool goods and collect money for the collection in favor of the Mother Church of Jerusalem (Rom 12:13 ; 2 Cor 8–9) and of the other Churches. If you want to know if you are good Christians, you must pray, try to approach communion, and the sacrament of reconciliation. But that signal that your heart has converted, is when the conversion arrives at ones pockets, touching one’s own interest: this is where we see if someone is generous with others, if they help the weakest, the poorest: When the conversion arrives there, you are sure it is a true conversion. If it remains only in words, it is not a good conversion.

The Eucharistic life, prayers, the preaching of the Apostles and the experience of communion (Acts 2:42), make believers a multitude of people who have – says the Book of the Acts of the Apostles – “one heart and one soul alone” and “they do not consider what they possess, their property, but keep everything in common (Acts 4:32). It is such a strong model of life that helps us be generous and not tire out. For this reason, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”(Acts 4:34-35). The Church has always had this gesture of the Christians who stripped themselves of the things they had, and in addition, of things that were not necessary, to give them to those in need. And not just money: even time.

How many Christians – you, for example, here in Italy – how many Christians are volunteers! This is beautiful! It is communion, sharing my time with others, to help those in need. The voluntary service, the works of charity, the visits to the sick. One must always share with others, and not just look out for one’s own interests.

The community, or koinonia , thus becomes the new relationship between the disciples of the Lord. Christians experience a new way of being among themselves, of behaving. And it is the Christian way, to the point that the pagans looked at Christians and said: “Look how they love each other!” Love was the way. But not love of words, not fake love: love of works, of helping one another, concrete love, the concreteness of love. The bond with Christ establishes a bond between brothers that flows together and expresses itself also in the gathering of material goods. Yes, this way of being together, this way of loving, reaches the pockets, no longer being impeded from giving money to others, and now looking beyond one’s own interest. Being members of the Body of Christ makes believers co-responsible for each other. Being believers in Jesus makes us all co-responsible for each other. “But look at that one, he has this problem: I don’t care…” No, among Christians, we cannot say that, we cannot just say: “Poor person, he has a problem at home, he is going through this family difficulty.” I must pray, I take it with me, I cannot be indifferent.” This is being a Christian.

This is why the strong support the weak (Rom 15:1) and no one experiences the indifference which humiliates and disfigures human dignity, because they live this sense of community: to have the heart in common. They love each other. This is the signal: concrete love. James, Peter and John, who are the three Apostles as the “columns” of the Church of Jerusalem, establish in a communal manner that Paul and Barnabas evangelize pagans while they evangelize the Jews, and only ask, Paul and Barnabas, which is the condition: do not forget the poor, remember the poor (Gal 2:9- 10). Not only the poor, materially, but spiritually, the people who have problems and need our closeness. A Christian always starts from himself, from his heart, and approaches others, as Jesus approached us. This is the first Christian community. A concrete example of sharing and communion of goods comes to us from the testimony of Barnabas: he owns a field and sells it to deliver the proceeds to the Apostles (Acts 4:36-37). But next to his positive example another negative one, sadly, appears: Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, having sold a piece of land, decide to hand over only a part to the Apostles and to hold on to the other for themselves (Acts 5:1-2). This cheating interrupts the chain of free sharing, the serene, disinterested sharing. And the consequences are tragic, are fatal (Acts 5:5,10). The Apostle Peter exposes the impropriety of Ananias and his wife, and tells him: “Why did Satan fill your heart, so that you lied to the Holy Spirit and held back a portion of the proceeds from the camp? […] You have not lied to men, but to God “(Acts 5:3-4). We could say that Ananias lied to God because of an isolated conscience, of a hypocritical conscience, that is because of a “negotiated,” partial and opportunist ecclesial belonging. Hypocrisy is the worst enemy of this Christian community, of this Christian love: that pretending to love each other, but only looking out for one’s own interest. To fail in the sincerity of sharing, in fact, or to fail in the sincerity of love, means to cultivate hypocrisy, to distance oneself from the truth, to become selfish, to extinguish the fire of communion and to turn oneself to the coldness of inner death.

Those who behave in this way pass through the Church as tourists. There are so many tourists in the Church who are always passing by, but never enter the Church: it is spiritual tourism that makes them believe they are Christians, while they are only tourists from the catacombs. No, we must not be tourists in the Church, but brothers of each other. A life set only on profiting and taking advantage of situations at the expense of others, inevitably causes inner death. And how many people say they are close to the Church, friends of priests, bishops, while they are only looking for their own interest. These are the hypocrisies that destroy the Church!

May the Lord – I ask for all of us – pour over us His Spirit of tenderness, which overcomes all hypocrisy and puts into circulation that truth which nourishes Christian solidarity, which, far from being a social assistance activity, is an inalienable expression of the nature of the Church, the tender mother of all, especially the poorest.

[Working English translation by ZENIT Senior Vatican Correspondent, Deborah Castellano Lubov)

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Caritas India Responds to India’s Monsoon Fury

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 11:01 AM

Caritas India, the social service arm of the Catholic Church, is collaborating with state governments and NGOs to bring relief to millions of people affected by the devastating monsoon with heavy rains recorded in different regions of India in August, reported Fides News Agency.

“We are coordinating with the state governments and disaster response agencies to assess the situation”, said Father Paul Moonjely, executive Director of Caritas India. “Caritas has issued an appeal to faithful, congregations and people of goodwill to contribute generously to this humanitarian call and express the solidarity at this crucial moment.”

Caritas’ team is assessing the needs of the local communities and helping the Social Development Diocesan Partners in planning the relief operations in the states affected by the monsoon rains: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, and Tamil Nadu. So far, more than 370 people have died in flood-related incidents. The death toll may continue to rise, with more than 4.7 million people displaced across thousands of relief camps in these states.
Caritas India is providing emergency assistance to 10,000 families in Kolhapur and Sangli of Maharasthra; Kasaragod, Wayanad, Malappuram, and Kannur of Kerala; Nilgiri of Tamil Nadu; Belgaum and Karwar of Karnataka; Eluru and Vizag of Andhra Pradesh with Food, Water, Non-Food Essentials, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Shelter.

“A Solidarity Appeal was issued by His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India to all the dioceses in India to generate support for the victims of Floods and Landslide,” Father Moonjely said.

Around 700,000 people were displaced in the state of Karnataka due to floods. Caritas India is working with 5 partners in 9 out of 17 affected districts of Karnataka. Kerala is once again hit by the devastating floods. Caritas India along with its partners are doing rapid needs assessment of the most affected villages.

Assistant Director of Caritas India, Fr. Jolly is visiting the flood-affected areas to assess the damage and generate support from the partners and Church leadership in responding to this calamity.
The volunteer team of Caritas India, called the “Caritas Samaritans” are engaged in humanitarian aid.

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Young Girl Spontaneously Leaves Crowd, & Joins Pope on Stage at General Audience

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 10:51 AM

At Pope Francis’ General Audience yesterday, a young girl ran from her mother in the crowds and joined Pope Francis on stage.

Suffering from an undisclosed illness, she walked back and forth in front of the Pope, stood by or in front of him at times, and would occasionally clap loudly.

The Holy Father told the security to let her be, that she was beautiful and suffering from an illness and wasn’t aware of what she was doing.

“This poor girl is a victim of an illness, and she does not know what she is doing,” the Holy Father said.

“I ask one thing, and everyone should respond in their own heart,” the Pope continued: “Did I pray for her when I saw her?”

“Did I pray so that the Lord heals her and protects her?”

“Did I pray for her parents and her family?”

“When we see a person who is suffering,” Pope Francis underscored, “we must pray. This situation should help us always ask this question.”

One can watch the Pope’s catechesis via this link from Vatican YouTube (from approximately minute 19:00, during the Pope’s catechesis).

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Call for Results from UN’s International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 10:17 AM

The international head of a Catholic charity has welcomed the UN’s new day for victims of religious-based violence – but stressed that it must lead to decisive help for persecuted religious groups.

Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, international executive president of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said that while the UN’s International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief – to be held for the first time on 22nd August 2019 – was a significant milestone, it must lead to concrete action.

He said: “This new day commemorating the victims of religious violence is an important step towards ensuring that more attention is paid to persecuted Christians in the future”.

Dr Heine-Geldern added: “It is important that 22nd August does not become an end in itself, but triggers a process that motivates the international community to implement a coordinated plan of action to end religious persecution and prevent it in the future.

“It is the duty of the United Nations, governments and political actors to enforce the human right of freedom of religion.

“This symbolic day must be followed by action.”

The resolution was adopted on 28th May after being introduced to the United Nations General Assembly by Poland, with support from Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States.

ACN’s international executive president said: “As an organisation that has been dedicated to helping suffering Christians for over 70 years, all of us at ACN are very excited that the United Nations has made this announcement.

“This has long been overdue”.

“All religious communities regularly fall victim to violence, but as international reports on religious freedom confirm time and again Christians are, unfortunately, the group that is most persecuted.”

During the last five years, UN bodies have recognised as genocide attacks on minority religious groups by Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, and on the Muslim Rohingyas in Burma (Myanmar).

Mentioning the growing threats to Christians in Africa, Dr Heine-Geldern added that the UN needed to set up a forum to promote dialogue with representatives of persecuted religious groups.

He said the UN should work towards setting up an international tribunal to prosecute groups that carried out religious violence, such as Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and Daesh.

Last year ACN internationally supported more than 5,000 projects in 139 countries.

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61 NGOs Warn of Worsening Situation in Myanmar

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 7:11 AM

Nearly one million Rohingya are still waiting for justice and a say about their future, two years after being forced from their homes by mass atrocities in Myanmar, and are struggling for safety and dignity in Bangladesh as refugees. In a joint statement released today, 61 local, national and international NGOs working in the two countries called for human rights for all to be recognized in Rakhine State and for Rohingya refugees to have a role in decision-making about their own lives, including conditions for their return to Myanmar.

The NGOs voiced strong concerns about the safety of affected families in Rakhine State, including Rohingya, as the conflict escalates and humanitarian access remains limited. They urged the Governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar to ensure that any return process be safe, voluntary and dignified, as news of the possible expedited repatriation of 3,450 Rohingya refugees circulated this week.

For the past two years, NGOs have assisted the Government of Bangladesh and UN agencies to effectively provide life-sustaining support to people living in the world’s largest refugee camp. Their collective efforts have stabilized camp conditions, strengthened monsoon preparedness and helped prevent disease outbreaks. But more needs to be done. The agencies called on the international community to increase funding for the humanitarian response in Bangladesh and Myanmar to improve the lives of refugees and host communities, as well as internally displaced persons.

David Skinner, Head of Save the Children’s Rohingya Response in Cox’s Bazar said: 

“For two years, Rohingya children and their families have been living in the camps with little hope of a bright future. After suffering some of the worst human rights abuses of the 21st century, they now live in temporary shelters made of bamboo and plastic and can’t get a proper education. One in ten children is still malnourished and fears of trafficking, drugs, and crime in the camps make children feel unsafe.

“It is time for the world to create conditions to support the Rohingya’s safe and voluntary return to Myanmar, where the government must fulfill one of the most basic responsibilities of any government – to guarantee the same level of safety and humanity for all. The Rohingya deserve justice for what they have suffered – perpetrators of human rights violations and crimes against humanity must be held to account so Rohingya children are protected from these atrocities ever happening again. It would give them the future they want.”

See the NGO joint statement here.

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Women of Diocese of Mzuzu, Malawi Prepare for Extraordinary Month

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 5:22 AM

On the occasion of the celebrations for the Extraordinary Missionary Month 2019 and World Mission Day, the Catholic Women Association (CWO) of the diocese of Mzuzu, Malawi, are committed to the evangelization of three communities that are along Lake Malawi.

Jane Mkandawire Lungu, diocesan president of the CWO, together with Father Mark Mkandawire, chaplain of the Association, and a group of Catholic women, are preparing to go on missions to remote places that are difficult to reach such as Usisya, Ruarwe, Khondowe and New Salawe, which are part of the diocese of Mzuzu, on the border with the diocese of Karonga.

“We have developed this missionary program to celebrate the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019 and the next World Mission Sunday. In line with the message of Pope Francis and the encouragement of our bishop, Mgr. John Alphonsus Ryan”, explained Ms. Lungu in a note sent to Fides News Agency.

“On Friday 11 October we will travel by boat no less than 7 hours from Nkhata Bay to Usisya. On Saturday 12 we will reach the three communities along the lake to celebrate the Word and the Eucharist and distribute rosaries among the population. On Sunday 13 we will celebrate in Usisya”, explained Lungu. “The commitments made for this month will help us, Catholic women, to rediscover the missionary dimension of our faith in Jesus Christ as bestowed upon us through baptism”.

“I am impressed by our Catholic women who, moved by the spirit of the Apostolic Letter Maximum illud of Benedict XV and the message of Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2019, want to share their Catholic faith and encourage those who live on the outskirts of society”, said Father Vincent Mwakhwawa, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Malawi.

“Our hope is that the Extraordinary Missionary Month 2019 and World Mission Day will raise awareness among all Catholics to reach those who live on the outskirts. With the help of God, we can contribute to the construction of prayer centers in the most disadvantaged areas”, concluded the president of CWO.

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With Cardinal Pell’s Appeal Dismissed, Vatican Reminds He Has ‘Maintained His Innocence’ and Has Right to Appeal to High Court

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 9:57 PM

In March, Cardinal Pell was given his sentence of six years, with possible parole after three years and eight months. The Cardinal’s appeal was heard by a panel of three judges of the Supreme Court, June 5-6. Today, Aug. 21, at 9:30 a.m. in Melbourne, the judges handed down a two to one ruling, dismissing the appeal.

The Cardinal maintains his innocence and will appeal their decision to the High Court of Australia.

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, issued the following statement in Italian and English this morning, which reaffirms ‘respect’ for the Australian judicial system and closeness to victims of abuse, but reminds that Cardinal Pell “has maintained his innocence” and “has the right to appeal to the High Court.

Here is the full text:

“While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system, as stated on 26 February after the first instance verdict was announced,” the statement began, “the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal.”

“As the proceedings continue to develop,” it reminded, “the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.”

“At this time, together with the Church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse,” the statement concluded.

#VATICAN STATEMENT on #CARDINAL #PELL, pronounced by Director of @HolySeePress, Matteo Bruni: affirms ‘respect’ for Australian courts, closeness to victims, But remembers #Cardinal #Pell has maintained #innocence, has right to #appeal to High Court (video -Zenit’s @DeborahLubov) pic.twitter.com/MVdlKOPG3L

— Zenit English (@zenitenglish) August 21, 2019

Cardinal Pell’s spokesman also issued a brief statement after this ruling, confirming they will appeal and he maintains his innocence.

“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today. However his legal team will thoroughly examine the judgement in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court.

“While noting the 2-1 split decision, Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence.
We thank his many supporters,” it concluded.

The Australian Bishops Conference also issued their own statement, along with its president, Cardinal Mark Coleridge; Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney; and Archbishop Comensoli of Melbourne. Each of the statements can be found at the end of this article.

In response to journalists’ inquiries, Matteo Bruni, later this morning, also clarified questions on the progress of the internal Church investigation that had been opened by CDF, following the sentence.

“As in other cases,” he stated, “the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case.”

“As was stated by the Holy See Press Office on 26 February, the Holy Father had already confirmed the precautionary measures imposed on Cardinal Pell upon his return to Australia, that is, as is the norm, the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors,” it concluded.

On Feb. 26, the Holy See Press Office Director ‘ad interim’ Alessandro Gisotti said that with maximum respect to Australian authorities and the country’s judicial system, the Holy See awaits the results of the appeal process, , in response to the court judgments in Melbourne, Australia, regarding the Australian Cardinal who had been Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy, until his term expired the month before.

Cardinal Pell has insisted that he has returned to Australia to clear his name of false sexual abuse charges against him. Cardinal Pell is no longer an advisor or member of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals. The Pope has thanked him for his service. The court had found him guilty of historic sexual abuses against minors.  The statement stated that this is “painful news, that as we are well aware, has shocked numerous people, not only in Australia,  and that “as already affirmed in other occasions, we reiterate maximum respect for the Australian judicial authorities.”

“Always with this respect,” it continued, “we now wait for the outcome of the appeal process, remembering that Cardinal Pell has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself until the last level.”

The statement did also note though, that while the cardinal is appealing his appeal, until there is a definitive ruling, “Cardinal Pell is prohibited from public ministry” and “contact, in any way or form, with minors.”

Vatican Press Office, Greg Burke, on May 1, 2018, in response to the court judgments in Melbourne, Australia, had stated: “Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.” The text was published that morning in Rome, after the decision of the Melbourne court to have the Prelate appear before a tribunal.

At that time, the court dismissed several charges but still was still having him stand trial. The Cardinal rejected the accusations brought against him and plead not guilty. The nature of the alleged cases was not identified.

This was Greg Burke’s declaration: “The Holy See has taken note of the decision issued by judicial authorities in Australia regarding His Eminence Cardinal George Pell. Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

Before leaving for Australia to defend himself, Cardinal Pell explained his decision in the Holy See Press Office with journalists. The Holy See Press Office issued a statement regarding the cardinal and the situation.

“The Holy Father,” it noted, “having been informed by Card. Pell, has granted the Cardinal a leave of absence so he can defend himself.’

“The Holy Father,” it added, “who has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration, and in particular, for his energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals (C9).”

“The Holy See expresses its respect for the Australian justice system that will have to decide the merits of the questions raised. At the same time, it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors; has cooperated in the past with Australian authorities (for example, in his depositions before the Royal Commission); has supported the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; and finally, as a diocesan bishop in Australia, has introduced systems and procedures both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse,” it concluded.


Cardinal Pell Loses Appeal to Victoria Supreme Court

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Catholic Bishops of England and Wales Renew Commitment to Sustainable Lifestyle

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 5:41 PM

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have renewed their commitment to care for creation.  In a written statement, they called on August 16, 2019, for the development of a “Christian spirituality of ecology” which begins in “personal” and “family life”.

Outlining the depths of the ecological crisis we are facing and the Catholic response, they also invite the Catholic community in England and Wales to take up the challenge to adopt a new lifestyle.  “We the Bishops of England and Wales commit ourselves and invite our people to engage in this urgent challenge so that together we show leadership by our actions.”

Quoting from Laudato Si’, they highlight the urgency of the environmental crisis.  The earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our own irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”

According to British Gas Business, more than 4,500 Catholic churches and schools have switched to renewable gas and electricity, making it one of the largest single consumers of green gas certificates based on annual volume in the UK.

The Catholic Church’s energy procurement group, Inter-diocesan Fuel Management (IFM), was instrumental in securing the green gas deal having provided renewable electricity for over 25 years to the dioceses that it serves.  They were keen to follow Pope Francis’ call to move away from fossil fuels and ‘protect our common home.’

Green gas and renewable electricity are supplied to 2,800 churches in 20 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales. The contracts with British Gas Business also cover more than 2,200 schools, care homes and community centers across the country.

Gab Barbaro, Managing Director of British Gas Business, said: “We commend IFM and the Catholic church for their desire to take the lead on renewable energy adoption, and hope that others will follow. This contract demonstrates that it is becoming easier than ever before to cut carbon emissions from our public and private sector buildings.”

The Bishop for the Environment, John Arnold has launched a Laudato Si’ Centre in his Diocese of Salford.  It is a flagship for effective action on climate change and is set within his home of Wardley Hall.

A walled garden houses vegetable patches and beehives.  Future phases for the center include a wildflower meadow and learning spaces for schoolchildren.

The ‘LiveSimply Award’ is awarded by CAFOD to communities which can show how they have been living simply, in solidarity with people in poverty and sustainably with creation.

There are 59 Livesimply awardees: 50 parishes, 7 schools, 1 university and one Catholic organization and there are 120 Livesimply registered parishes and schools. In 2018, 18 awards were given.

Stanbrook Abbey has placed sustainability at the heart of the design and building of their award-winning new monastery.  The building consumes very little energy and incorporates solar panels; a wood chip boiler, rain harvesting, sedum roofs, sustainable building materials, and low energy lights.

The CAFOD Salford B.O.B. Box project (B.O.B. stands for dual purpose bird-nesting or bat-roosting box) has sold over 2,000 boxes, encouraging local biodiversity.  75% of the money raised supports CAFOD’s work overseas. B.O.B boxes have been found in Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, 10 Downing Street, and Kew Gardens to name a few, and even a thank you letter from Pope Francis.

The #seasonofcreation is a global ecumenical celebration of prayer and action to protect our common home.  It begins on 1 September each year and finishes on the Feast of St. Francis, 4 October. The idea of celebrating 1 September as a Day of Prayer for Creation began at the wish of the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios in 1989 and was endorsed by Pope Francis in 2015. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has invited parishes to participate in the Season of Creation.  This year’s theme is “the web of life.”

During the Season of Creation, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales is asking to hear from the Catholic community with stories of successful environmental projects.  It is asking questions such as: Does your parish have a community garden, bike racks, car shares or has gone plastic-free? Do you keep bees and grow wildflowers, or have you found ways to reduce waste and pollution?  To report projects that might be of interest, wite to environment@cbcew.org.uk

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President of the Polish Episcopate at Celebrations of St. Stephen in Budapest

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 1:54 PM

To enter a renewed path in the light of Christ, to defend human life and family, to shape social justice according to the Gospel, true freedom in everyday life and to set an authentic example of life according to the Gospel, Christian virtues, an example of spiritual development in Hungary, Poland and all of Europe, according to Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki during the celebrations held in Budapest in honor of St. Stephen, Patron Saint of Hungary, on the occasion of the national feast.

 During the Eucharist in front of the Cathedral in Budapest presided by Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary, the President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference delivered a homily on “Christianity yesterday and today”.

 Archbishop Gądecki also pointed to the need for saint politicians like St. Stephen, who in the secularized world would be able through bold projects and initiatives to permeate with the Christian sense not only the customs and awareness of people but also the laws and structures of the secular community.

 “Let us ask God that we – in a world that tries to blur the difference between soul and body, between the spiritual and the material, between the human and the animal, between woman and man, between transcendence and immanence, in a world where consumption has become a religion – that we would pursue in such a world – following the example of St. Stephen – to achieve lasting happiness in the Holy Spirit,” said the President of the Polish Episcopate.

 Celebration in honor of St. Stephen was held in Budapest with the participation of the president of Hungary János Áder and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, the highest state authorities of Hungary, the Episcopate and the heads and representatives of other Christian Churches.


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Pope Francis’ General Audience Remarks, English Summary

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 1:17 PM

Following is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Holy Father’s General Audience commentary given August 21, 2019, in Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.


Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, we now consider how the Christian community is born of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and grows through the mutual sharing of life among the Lord’s disciples. Solidarity between Christians is essential in building up God’s family, and this fraternity is nourished by receiving the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. Here we see that a strong relationship with Jesus also establishes bonds of love among the members of his Body, the Church. Participating in the Eucharist led the earliest Christians to hold their goods in common, which enabled them to take care of the poorest of their brothers and sisters. By living fraternal charity sincerely, we too can maintain the flame of communion, and express our identity as Christian disciples. As we strive to be faithful to this vocation, may the Lord pour out his Spirit of tenderness upon us and so strengthen our solidarity, especially with those most in need.

Santo Padre:

Saluto i pellegrini di lingua inglese presenti all’Udienza odierna, specialmente quelli provenienti da Inghilterra, Malta, Giappone e Stati Uniti d’America. Su tutti voi, e sulle vostre famiglie, invoco la gioia e la pace del Signore. Dio vi benedica!


I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Malta, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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Archbishop Peter A Comensoli’s Media Statement on Cardinal George Pell

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 1:05 PM

The following statement was issued August 21, 2019, by Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli of Melbourne following the Victoria Court of Appeals ruling against Cardinal Pell’s appeal of his abuse conviction:


Today the Victorian Court of Appeal, in a 2:1 majority decision, dismissed Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for assaulting two choir boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in late 1996 and early 1997.

I respectfully receive the Court’s decision, and I encourage everyone to do the same.  That there have been two trials, and now today’s decision in the Court of Appeal, the complexity of the search for the truth in this matter has tested many, and may very well continue to do so.

My thoughts and prayers are with the man who brought this matter before the courts.  I humbly acknowledge it has been a challenging time for him, and I stand ready to offer pastoral and spiritual help, should he seek it.

In Christian charity, I will ensure that Cardinal Pell is provided pastoral and spiritual support while he serves the remainder of his sentence, according to the teaching and example of Jesus to visit those in prison.

I also want to acknowledge with gratitude the people who have been involved in this case.  For many, this has been a demanding and distressing experience.

To the faithful of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, I want to acknowledge the deep impact today’s decision will have for you. My prayer is that all of us might reach out to each other in faith, hope and love, as I do for you at this moment.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne continues to work with survivors to offer support for their healing, recovery and well-being. This is based upon an Archdiocesan-wide commitment to build a culture of respect and safety for all, and to reach out to those who courageously bring forward their stories.

I re-commit myself and the Archdiocese to a culture that listens, that seeks to bring justice and healing, and that protects children and vulnerable people.

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Statement of Archbishop Anthony Fisher on Cardinal Pell Decision

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:58 PM

The following statement was issued August 21, 2019, by Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney following the Victoria Court of Appeals ruling against Cardinal Pell’s appeal of his abuse conviction:


The Victorian Court of Appeal has today upheld the verdict of historical sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal George Pell in a 2-1 decision.

From the outset, the Cardinal has strenuously maintained his innocence. He continues to do so notwithstanding today’s decision.

Today’s split decision amongst the judges is consistent with the differing views of the juries in the first and second trials, as well as the divided opinion amongst legal commentators and the general public. Reasonable people have taken different views when presented with the same evidence and I urge everyone to maintain calm and civility.

As the Cardinal may yet decide to appeal the judgment to the High Court of Australia, I am limited in my ability to comment on today’s outcome.

Matters of the Cardinal’s status within the Church can only be determined by the Vatican, not the Church in Australia. I anticipate that the Holy See may well wait until the appeal process has been exhausted.

I recommit myself and the Archdiocese of Sydney to doing all we can to ensure that past crimes are never repeated and that Church environments are the safest possible for children and vulnerable adults.

I pray for and will continue to support survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy and other members of the Catholic Church so that they may find justice and healing. I again say how sorry I am that you were harmed by people you should have been able to trust. I am conscious of how you and your loved ones have had to live with the consequences of abuse for a lifetime.

I know that there are many in the Catholic community and beyond who will find it difficult to come to terms with this judgment, especially those who know the Cardinal and will struggle to reconcile this outcome with the man they know. I thank them for persevering in faith, hope, and love.

As we wait to hear whether the legal process will continue, I will seek to provide pastoral support to those Catholics who may have found their faith tested.

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Statement From Archbishop Mark Coleridge on Cardinal Pell Ruling

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:43 PM

The following statement was issued August 21, 2019, by Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President Of The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, following the Victoria Court of Appeals ruling against Cardinal Pell’s appeal of his abuse conviction:


The Victorian Court of Appeal has today announced that, in a 2-1 decision, Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his convictions for child sexual abuse offences has been dismissed.

The Catholic Bishops of Australia believe all Australians must be equal under the law and accept today’s judgment accordingly.

Cardinal Pell’s legal team has said it will examine the judgment in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court.

The Bishops realize that this has been and remains a most difficult time for survivors of child sexual abuse and those who support them. We acknowledge the pain that those abused by clergy have experienced through the long process of the trials and appeal of Cardinal Pell. We also acknowledge that this judgment will be distressing to many people.

We remain committed to doing everything we can to bring healing to those who have suffered greatly and to ensuring that Catholic settings are the safest possible places for all people, but especially for children and vulnerable adults.

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Full Vatican Statement on Cardinal Pell, Given by Director of Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 11:09 AM

Here is the Vatican-provided English text of the statement on Cardinal George Pell, given today in the Holy See Press Office, by its Director, Matteo Bruni:


While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system, as stated on 26 February after the first instance verdict was announced, the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal.

As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court.

At this time, together with the Church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse.

[Original text: Italian – working translation]

Later, Matteo Bruni issued another brief statement, responding to journalists’ questions. Here is the Vatican-provided text:

Responding to the questions received from journalists, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, has affirmed the following:

“As in other cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing proceedings and the conclusion of the appellate process prior to taking up the case.

As was stated by the Holy See Press Office on 26 February, the Holy Father had already confirmed the precautionary measures imposed on Cardinal Pell upon his return to Australia, that is, as is the norm, the prohibition from exercising public ministry and from any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors”.


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Religious Minorities Send 10-Point Resolution to Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:38 AM

“We are faithful to our beloved homeland, Pakistan. We are not strangers: our Churches, religious institutions, hospitals, and office buildings have a raised flag of Pakistan. We have lived in this land for centuries, well before the creation of Pakistan, and we are serving with honesty and dedication for the good of Pakistan”.

This is what Fr. Saleh Diego, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Karachi and diocesan director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace told Fides News Agency, recalling the main issues and challenges faced by religious minorities in Pakistan. A specific Day, which is celebrated on 11 August, was established for them in 2010 by the then federal minister for religious minorities, the Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti, who was assassinated on March 2, 2011.

Fr. Saleh Diego also stated: “Christianity has existed in this territory since the first century, when St. Thomas, one of Jesus’ apostles, came to the Indian subcontinent. We are 100 percent sons and daughters of this land; we should not be treated as second-class citizens.”

Catholic lawyer Tabbasum Yousaf told Fides: “We members of religious minorities are contributing strongly to the development of Pakistan. We intend to focus on issues related to our freedom, our fundamental human rights, prejudices and discrimination that exist in particular towards people of religious minorities and forced conversions of women of religious minorities.”

The lawyer presented a joint ten-point resolution that was signed by leaders and representatives of various faiths (Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths) and is addressed to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other institutions. Among the requests contained in the text, the resolution points out that the minimum age for marriage of girls should be 18; calls for the establishment of a a federal ministry for religious minorities, and the application of a 5 percent quota for national and international educational scholarships given to minorities; the joint resolution urges protection of minorities’ houses of worship from government seizure; designated minority worship areas in jails, hospitals, and state institutions; and the passage of legislation to prevent religious discrimination in employment, education, and society. Furthermore, the Memorandum calls for the elimination from books of material encouraging hatred. A specific request touches on the problem of abductions, sexual violence and forced conversions of women belonging to religious minorities, asking for legislation to counteract the phenomenon.

Commenting on the current situation, Majida Rizvi, first female judge of the High Court in Pakistan, and committed to the National Commission on the status of women, said: “At the time of the founding of Pakistan, Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah assured the equal rights, freedom, and justice for religious minorities in Pakistan. Members of religious minorities contributed to the foundation and development of Pakistan; they have proven to be true citizens of Pakistan.”

Sheema Kirmani, a well-known Muslim human rights activist, told Fides: “All Pakistani citizens are equal, the concept of considering a person on the basis of majority or minority criteria should be removed. We must also change the terminology and declare that Pakistan is a country with people of various religions. There should be no religious divisions or discrimination.”

Ghazala Shafiq, a Christian activist for women’s rights, says: “In this country, it is painful to note that the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow any non-Muslim to become president, prime minister, head of army personnel or any other top position. Forced conversions of women belonging to minorities are on the rise: they should be stopped and severely punished.”

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Mexico’s Bishops Call for End to Violence Against Women

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:34 AM

It is urgent to stop all actions that undermine the dignity of women in Mexico: this is the appeal launched by the Archbishop of Puebla, Mgr. Víctor Sánchez Espinosa, who once again highlighted the peak of violence that is recorded against women in the country, according to Fides News Agency on August 20, 2019.  Speaking at a conference to publicize the 375th anniversary of the Palafoxian seminar, the Catholic leader said that “the recent protests by women, accompanied by vandalism, are not the best way to express dissent…everybody has the right to demonstrate, in this case, women need further security in society.”

“Women,” the bishop said, “cannot continue to be victims of rape, murder, violence, and other crimes.” He urged all sectors of society to “fight the problem because life is sacred and therefore must be protected. I ask to stop all forms of violent acts against women and against all human being.”

The issue of violence against women continues to hold strong. The “women’s march”, held last Friday in Mexico City, is perhaps the largest demonstration against violence against women in this country. In fact, Mexican women took to the streets to demand respect and stop the sexual violence and insecurity they suffer in Mexico. Unfortunately, part of the demonstrators committed vandalism in public spaces such as squares, subway stations or sidewalks in Mexico City.
According to the Mexican press, which closely monitors the issue of violence against women, considering the numbers of cases of harassment, abuse, and femicide, Mexico is one of the riskiest in Latin America with regards to the safety of women.

“Almost three women are killed a day, in addition, at least 49 are sexually abused, creating an alarming situation for the number of people affected,” said Fides. According to data released by the Mexican mass media, during the first six months of the year, deaths reached the record of 470 women, 111 of whom were killed with a firearm, 99 with a cutting weapon, 261 with another type of object. Among the cases reported, there are sexual crimes: the figures reach 1,530 cases of sexual abuse reported in a single month, with an average statistic of 51 women sexually assaulted every day, without considering the victims that do not report the violence suffered or all those who remain silent for fear of reprisals.

As reported to Fides, two other bishops, Mgr. Benjamín Castillo Plascencia of the Diocese of Celaya, and Mgr. Enrique Díaz Díaz, of Irapuato, publicly expressed their concerns by solemnly declaring the urgency of adequate measures to stop the violence against women in Mexican society

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Cardinal Pell Loses Appeal to Victoria Supreme Court

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 12:23 AM
The Supreme Court in Victoria, Australia, has dismissed Cardinal George Pell’s appeal, thus upholding the conviction announced in February in his trial on charges of child sexual abuse, Vatican News reported early on August 21, 2019, Rome Time. The cardinal’s lawyers have 28 days to file what would be a final appeal. The judges’ decision was announced in Melbourne on Wednesday, just after 9:30 a.m. local time, following an appeal hearing held in early June. The decision comes after Pell’s initial trial for “historical crimes” of sexual abuse ended without a verdict, resulting in a new trial in which the jury unanimously approved a guilty verdict. A second charge was dismissed by the court for lack of admissible evidence.

Cardinal Pell became an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987 and was installed as its Metropolitan Archbishop in 1996. Pope Francis appointed him as a member of the Council of Cardinals in April 2013 and as Prefect for the newly created Secretariat for the Economy in February 2014.

After being under investigation for two years in Australia, Cardinal Pell was formally charged at the end of June 2017 with multiple counts of “historical sexual assault offenses” in two separate cases.

In a statement issued at the time, Cardinal Pell declared he was “innocent of these charges”, calling them “false”, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me”. He then announced that he would return to Australia to “clear his name”.

The Holy See issued a statement the same day announcing that Pope Francis had granted the Cardinal a “leave of absence” so he could return to Australia and “defend himself”.  According to a statement released in February 2019 by the Holy See Press Office, the local Ordinary imposed “precautionary measures” on Cardinal Pell as soon as he returned to Australia. The Holy Father confirmed those measures which included the prohibition “from exercising public ministry and from having any voluntary contact whatsoever with minors”.

On May 1, 2018, he entered a “not guilty” plea in Melbourne’s Magistrates’ Court and was ordered to stand trial. The charges brought against Cardinal Pell resulted in two trials dubbed the “cathedral trial” and “the swimmers trial”.

In the first case, Cardinal Pell was accused of indecent acts and sexual assault of two choir boys in the sacristy of Melbourne’s Cathedral after noon Mass sometime at the end of 1996 and again at the beginning of 1997.

The charges in the second case were indecent assault of two boys who accused Cardinal Pell of touching them while in a swimming pool in the late 1970s.

Deliberations by the jury regarding the “cathedral trial” which had begun in August 2018 resulted in a hung jury because jurors were unable to reach either a unanimous or a majority verdict. A retrial began in November with a new jury which came to the conclusion in December that Cardinal Pell was guilty based on evidence presented in court.

Due to a suppression order meant to protect the Cardinal’s right to a fair trial regarding the “swimmers trial”, which had not yet been tried in court, the verdict was not announced until February 2019. At the same time, it was made public that the second trial that had been set for April would not go forward due to the lack of admissible evidence.

In a December 12, 2018 briefing, Holy See Press Office Director, at the time Greg Burke, explained that at the end of October Pope Francis had brought closure to Cardinal Pell’s participation in the Council of Cardinals due to “advanced age”.

Subsequently, at the end of February 2019, Holy See Press Office “ad interim” director, Alessandro Gisotti, confirmed that Cardinal Pell’s five-year appointment that had begun in February 2014 as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy had ended, thus bringing his service in the Vatican to an end.

Cardinal Pell’s sentencing took place in March 2019. Immediately after receiving a six-year prison sentence – of which he must serve at least three years and eight months – Cardinal Pell appealed the verdict. He was then taken to prison where he began to carry out the sentence. The Cardinal’s appeal took place over two days at the beginning of June.

The post Cardinal Pell Loses Appeal to Victoria Supreme Court appeared first on ZENIT - English.

FEATURE: ‘Here & Now, Like Mary Did, We Can Say Yes to God’s Plan for Our Lives,’ Archbishop Stankevics Encourages Latvians at Miraculous Marian Shrine

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 9:22 PM

Latvia’s most beloved Marian Shrine has brought together tens of thousands of faithful and the whole nation, not only Catholics, partook.

In the Sanctuary of Aglona, as always on the Feast of the Assumption, along with the President of Latvian Bishops, Janis Stulpins, Archbishop Metropolitan of Riga, Zbignevs Stankevics, and all Latvian bishops, the Latvian President, Speaker of Parliament and Prime Minister were present. The Speaker and Prime Minister read the Prayer of the Faithful.

ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent, Deborah Castellano Lubov, was on the Papal Flight for Pope Francis’ September 2018 Apostolic Visit to the Baltic Nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. To understand the importance of the trip, she interviewed Archbishop Stankevics, and during those days, she also was present at the Holy Father’s Mass in Latvia’s most famous shrine of Aglona.

Speaking about the religious make up of the Baltic Nation, Archbishop Stankevics had told ZENIT that “we Catholics are about a quarter or a fifth of the population, next to Lutherans, 30%, Orthodox, under 20%, and other smaller denominations.”

“The collaboration is very good,” he said, noting: “It is the reason why in the preamble of the Latvian Constitution, Christian values, alongside universal national and human values, are mentioned as the foundation of Latvia. The Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. There is a law that forbids immoral propaganda in schools.”

In September 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the Aglona Shrine, and last September, Pope Francis celebrated Mass there.

Aglona is famous in particular, for the Basilica of the Assumption of Mary, which attracts pilgrims from Latvia and not only, especially on the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary.

Having long been an object of veneration, the historic icon of the Aglona Mother of God, which dates back to the 17th Century, is considered miraculous.

The content of the Metropolitan of Riga on the Feast of the Assumption “was very rooted in the Latvian reality,” he told ZENIT, noting “it was an analysis of the processes of the last 30 years in the light of the Word and of the Social Doctrine of the Church.” The Archbishop received many words of gratitude from the various components present and from those watching.

He also observed that the Prime Minister is a Lutheran, and contributed “strong” prayer at the event.

“The Via Crucis of the local bishop, on Aug. 14, at 10 pm, was also in the presence of the President and the Speaker of Parliament,” he also conveyed to ZENIT, “was strong – without politically correctness, on the theme of the family and the defense of life and human dignity.”

Everything was broadcast on the nation’s primary, number one, television channel.

In his homily, Archbishop Stankevics encourages Latvians to “entrust to God all your hopes, dreams and heart desires.” He expressed his belief that the journey taken to arrive at the sanctuary and their common prayer, “will help us open ourselves to the wisdom, peace, and power that comes from above, makes us better, inspires us, and touches the deepest strings of the soul.”

After explaining many of the concrete issues facing Latvians, the Archbishop argues: “The power of Christ’s death and Resurrection is capable of transforming our lives, transforming Latvia.”

The Virgin Mary, the Latvian prelate underscored, was the one who opened up to the presence of God in her life. After talking to the angel and deciding to say “yes” to God’s plan in her life, Mary took the child of Jesus into her body by the Holy Spirit, he reminded.

“Here and now,” he exhorted, “we can say to God ‘yes’ to His plan for our lives.”

“In baptism, we are “grafted” on the true vine, Jesus Christ, and united with Him, the seed of divine life is sown in us. With our new ‘yes,’” the archbishop said, “we will allow this seed to develop and grow.

Noting it “will transform us,” he stressed it will also give us the power to transform the world around us, including the sphere of economic, political and social life. “Mary got up and went hurriedly to the mountains.”

“Following this worship, we too will rise and challenge our lives in the mountains, transforming the reality around us according to the Word of God we hear today,” he said, praying: “I hope that after this special day, we would feel the mysterious power we receive in this place.”

Here are links to both events:



Here is the full homily of Archbishop Stankevics, provided to ZENIT’s Deborah Lubov, for which, she provides a ‘working’ translation from Latvian:


“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (Corinthians 15:22)

Dear pilgrims and guests!

I sincerely greet all of you who have come from all corners of Latvia here on the sacred square of the Aglona Shrine to entrust to God all your hopes, dreams and heart desires. I believe that the path taken and the common prayer will help us open ourselves to the wisdom, peace, and power that comes from above, makes us better, inspires us, and touches the deepest strings of the soul.

The Virgin Mary plays an indispensable role in God’s plan. Newly read texts help us understand the past 30 years since the beginning of the Awakening. Many of us were standing on the Baltic Way, the anniversary of which will be remembered on August 23. Since then, life has moved on, full of new events and surprises. Of course, we want to understand the meaning of these events, and here the social doctrine of the Church is helping. It answers the question: What exactly can I do to improve the quality of my life and that of my fellow human beings?

We just heard that “a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, and the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars in her head. And she gave birth to a son, a man who shall rule over all nations” (Rev. 11-12). Today we thank God for the sun-clothed woman who has given birth to Jesus Christ, and we have just heard, “As all die in Adam, so shall all be made alive again in Christ” (1 Cor. 15). Death came into the world as a result of Adam’s sin. Jesus went through the gates of death in solidarity with every man who died. But as the power of God dwelt in him, his body was built from the dead, and transformed.

The doctrine of Christ, which embodies a paradoxical and unimaginable message to human logic, has attracted people’s attention for two thousand years. Why is this happening? People are looking for answers to life’s important questions. So what are the issues that affect Latvian society as a whole?

The first of these is: almost 30 years have passed since we regained our independence, there is a lot of talk about achievements, but why so many people have no real satisfaction with what has been achieved? On the contrary, we face bitterness, frustration and sharp criticism on a daily basis. It is irrelevant whether, in the eyes of others, Latvia is a success story. It is important how people who live in Latvia feel! The main task of the public administration and its officials is to care for the people who make it up. To do this qualitatively, one has to understand the regularities of societal and economic development, and to adopt the laws that are right for them, and to further improve the loopholes in these laws. Moreover, it is extremely important to be able to anticipate the consequences of the decisions made, also in the long term. We need to understand how these decisions and the actions that they follow will affect everyone and their lives. These are the conditions for people to be satisfied with their country and want to live in it. However, the facts show that people are still leaving Latvia and the population is constantly decreasing. Demographic trends cannot be ignored, as a nation without people is unthinkable.

Why do people leave Latvia and those who stay away avoid long-term goals and serious business?

People are frightened by the uncertainty of the future. There are several reasons for this:

1) Alienation of state institute and society, frequent change of conditions affecting the living conditions of the population, including business and employment.

People crave for certainty and predictability, for stability. In recent years, we have had so much change that it has created concern and fear for our future. For example, at the beginning of this year, many thousands of us were horrified to learn that they owed the State Personal Income Tax (PIT).

Another example is the reform of schools and health care facilities, official reason is population decline. This reform is the result of a policy of depopulation of the area and is being implemented ruthlessly, ignoring population protests and exacerbating future demographic challenges. Much is now being written and discussed about administrative-territorial reform. If reform officials cannot explain why we should do it, then people do not understand it and they do not cooperate. In the end, the desired result is not achieved.

Another example of this estrangement is the event described in mass media, where the Tax and Customs Police, managed by the SRS, searched five Roman Catholic congregations and seized 36 thousand EUR, of the money found there.  I hope that the real cause of this event is the lack of information and understanding of the Church. It is important to understand that we are on the same boat, and that the values ​​of both are respect, the rule of law, honesty in finances and responsibility to society. In the case of diverging understandings on some issues, it is important to communicate and resolve the issues through dialogue rather than positions of power.

2) Long-term view, evaluation of the consequences of the decisions made is very important in public policy.

Recently, the media reported that there is a shortage of bridge builders in Latvia, but there are huge numbers of bridges which urgently needs reparation. Discussions about the need for a higher education institution for police training have resumed, but the existing one has been removed as unnecessary. Millions are currently being planned for the reconstruction of former railway lines, which were destroyed despite evidence that railway is the cheapest and most environmentally friendly mode of transport. In these cases, has the desire for short-term gain prevailed over a broader and longer-term view?

Frequent changes in the law are often explained by the unintended consequences of past changes that seek to eliminate them with subsequent changes.

3) Injustice, unequal attitude and contradiction between words and deeds.

People are angry, offended and saddened by the injustice they face on a daily basis. In a state governed by the rule of law, power structures stand guard over the law and the rights of the citizen, defending the individual. When power structures, under cover of the letter of the law, are used to advance particular – ideological, political or business interests – people feel intimidated. Once the law is instrumentalized, it no longer serves to defend the individual and he begins to feel like he is in a police state.

The injustice is the shifting of the cost of eliminating the effects of economic hardship and crisis onto the shoulders of the most deprived people, mainly through social and infrastructure funding to overcome the crisis. Not only has it hindered business, it has also driven speculative and high-risk finance, which exacerbates inequalities. However, tax reform, which was intended to close the gap between the rich and the poor, does not appear to have achieved its goal.

These are the issues that employ many people in Latvia. What does the teaching of Christ say about this?

In his address at Riga Castle, Pope Francis reminded us of the importance of being able to look upward, opening to the call for higher horizons. Without it, the restoration of our nation is impossible. Here we are grateful to everyone working on this challenge to help our community develop this spiritual upward look – organizers of pilgrimages and pilgrims, parishes and their clergy, government and local government here for their contributions and support.

We must not forget that economic activity and material progress must serve man and society. In God’s plan, the economy is merely a means of the general growth of the individual and of society, and of raising the quality of human life. Wealth exists to be shared. Material benefits are always for everyone; however, any unlawful accumulation thereof is immoral because it is in stark contrast to the universal assignment of the Creator to all good (cf. N 328). Evil is an excessive attachment to riches.

The economy cannot be separated from its ethical dimension. Economic growth achieved at the expense of individuals or social groups, pushing them into the poverty and exclusion is unacceptable. As wealth grows, it is also important to grow in the virtue of solidarity. If economic activity is conducted in accordance with ethical standards, it becomes a mutual service in the production of goods and services necessary for the development of each person. (332-333)

These are the Church’s basic guidelines for economic life. For more details, see the recently released Compendium on Church Social Teaching. What is the main prerequisite for the implementation of these guidelines in our lives? Farewell to His disciples, Jesus promised, “I am with you daily to the end of the world.” Those who open up to His mysterious presence are transformed, gaining a new view of things, including the economy, and a different degree of freedom in relationship to money and property appears. The power of Christ’s death and Resurrection is capable of transforming our lives, transforming Latvia. Pope Francis at the Riga Dome reminded us: “If the music of the Gospel ceases to sound in our homes, our public squares, our workplaces, our political and financial life, then we will no longer hear the strains that challenge us to defend the dignity of every man and woman, whatever his or her origin. We will become caught up in what is “mine”, neglecting what is “ours”: our common home.”

The Virgin Mary, whom we especially mention today, was the one who opened up to the presence of God in her life. After talking to the angel and deciding to say “yes” to God’s plan in her life, Mary conceived the child of Jesus into her body through the Holy Spirit. She then “got up and went hurriedly to a city” (Lk 1:39) to serve her relative at a difficult time in her life. Here and now we can say to God yes to His plan for our lives. In baptism, we are “grafted” on the true vine, Jesus Christ, and united with Him, the seed of divine life is sown in us. With our new “yes” we will allow this seed to develop and grow. It will transform us and give us the power to transform the world around us, including the sphere of economic, political and social life. “Mary got up and went hurriedly to the mountains.” After this worship, we too will rise and go to face the mountains of challenges of our lives, transforming the reality around us according to the Word of God we hear today. I hope that after this special day, we would feel the mysterious power we receive in this place.

When the reign of God comes into our lives, we discover that our country, Latvia, is not an abstract entity, but real, alive and concrete people, and concepts such as solidarity, common good, benefit to all, subsidiarity and participation cease to be abstractions, but become understandable and filled with specific content. And in a society that respects these principles, the quality of life of each of its members can increase.

The meaning of the trials of the past thirty years helps us understand the meaning of Pope John Paul II: “All human suffering, every pain, and weakness, hold the promise of salvation and joy. “Brethren, now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Col 1:24). This applies to all suffering caused by evil. It is about the immense social and political evils that shake and plague the modern world … It is only to awaken in us the love which means giving ourselves by serving unselfishly and selflessly those who suffer. The love that comes from the heart of Christ gives hope for the future of the world. ”

Finally, I would like to quote Pope Francis to Latvia: “The centenary reminds us of the importance of continuing to focus on Latvia’s freedom and independence, which is certainly a gift, but at the same time a task that involves everyone. Working for Freedom means engaging in the full and inclusive development of people and society … That spiritual capacity to see more deeply, as expressed in small and daily gestures of solidarity, compassion and mutual assistance, has sustained you and in turn has given you the creativity needed to generate new social dynamic.”


[Full Text provided to ZENIT’s Deborah Lubov, by Archbishop Stankevics]

The post FEATURE: ‘Here & Now, Like Mary Did, We Can Say Yes to God’s Plan for Our Lives,’ Archbishop Stankevics Encourages Latvians at Miraculous Marian Shrine appeared first on ZENIT - English.