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Response to church abuse crisis looms large at bishops' spring meeting

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 7:25pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Carol Zimmermann

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- At the start of the June 11-13 spring assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore, it was clear the bishops had a task at hand: to respond to the sexual abuse crisis in the church.

Several speakers addressing the group discussed the challenge ahead and the need for the bishops to be both transparent and reliant upon lay leadership. The bishops also examined their plans to vote on procedures and policies in response to the abuse crisis, including some they had put aside during their fall general assembly in November at the Vatican's request.

The delay was addressed from the meeting's onset June 11 in a message from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican's nuncio to the United States.

He noted that there were "some expressions of 'dissent'" by some U.S. bishops at the previous assembly about postponing votes on items related to the reemergent clergy sexual abuse crisis, but he also stressed that "unity prevails over conflict."

"Working together provides us with the opportunity to speak and to listen," said the message from Archbishop Pierre, read by Msgr. Walter Erbi, charge d'affaires at the Vatican's nunciature in Washington. Archbishop Pierre was at the Vatican for a nuncio meeting.

He said that despite the desire among U.S. bishops in November to act quickly to address new crises on clergy sex abuse, the postponement of the votes on the issue allowed the U.S. church to participate more fully at the Vatican's February summit on the protection of minors.

"One of the reasons the Holy Father asked for a delay was that the whole church needed to walk together, to work in a synodal way," Archbishop Pierre said, "with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to make the path forward clearer."

Moving forward was certainly a theme of the day, echoed by National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo, who called for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

Both the National Review Board and the National Advisory Council pressed the bishops to encourage Vatican officials to release documents regarding the investigation of misconduct by Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal who was laicized earlier this year. The allegations against him were made public nearly a year ago on June 20, 2018.

The bishops were reminded June 11 of the agenda items related to the church crisis on which they will vote June 13.

The big item for discussion and vote is a plan to implement the document "Vos Estis Lux Mundi" ("You are the light of the world") issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable.

The "motu proprio" was one of the measures that came out of the Vatican's February Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse attended by the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences.

While many of the directives of the document regarding clergy already have been implemented in the United States with its 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," the action items before the bishops concern allegations of abuse or negligence on the part of bishops. Bishops were not explicitly included in the charter because authority over the bishops and their discipline rests with the pope himself.

The bishops will also vote on a document titled "Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments" in which the bishops promise to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the charter, including a zero-tolerance policy for abuse, and that any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to themselves as well.

Another related item is the "protocol regarding available nonpenal restrictions on bishops," which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a now-retired bishop resigned or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act."

The bishops also discussed the upcoming election, the crisis at the border and the issue of young adults leaving the church.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, urged fellow bishops to raise their voice in favor of "more humane policies" for immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S. In addition, Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, spoke about an upcoming presentation at the fall meeting on how to respond to the growing number of young people leaving the church.

In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, the U.S. bishops' quadrennial document that provides guidance to voters on Catholic social teaching won't change, but it will be supplemented by a brief letter and four 90-second videos that reflect the teaching of Pope Francis, the bishops were told.

The bishops also are voting on other issues not related to the abuse crisis at the spring assembly. They are to decide whether to approve a revised national directory on formation and ministry for permanent deacons, if they should update texts for the ordination of clergy, and revise a passage to the U.S. Catechism for Adults about the death penalty.

A small group of no more than 10 protesters stood in largely silent protest June 11 outside the hotel where the meeting was taking place. One of the group's demands was that the bishops report abuse claims first to law enforcement.

"We don't think the church can police themselves," said Becky Ianni, director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests for the Washington area.

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Contributing to this report were Dennis Sadowski and Mark Pattison.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Cesareo repeats call for greater lay involvement as church tackles abuse

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 2:37pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Dennis Sadowski

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo offered the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore a series of recommendations that he said will strengthen the church's response to the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.

The recommendations made June 11 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' spring general assembly in Baltimore included a call for a greater role for laity in investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.

Cesareo also said National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church's response to clergy abuse allegations.

Strong measures are necessary to show that while progress has been made since the charter's adoption in 2002, the bishops would demonstrate that they are serious in their response to clergy abuse in response to the mistrust and serious questions laypeople still harbor.

"My hope is that they will seriously consider the recommendations we made on the four action items come to recognize that the proposals that we've made are only going to strengthen their response," Cesareo told Catholic News Service after his address.

"It's not meant to undermine their authority but in reality strengthen their position in dealing with the questions around this issue as opposed to a challenge to their authority or position. That's not the intent. The intent is how can we together work on this issue to put you, as the leaders, in the best possible position to effectively and definitively deal with this," he said.

Cesareo stressed to the bishops the need to carry out what Pope Benedict XVI described as the laity's co-responsibility to help build the church.

He told CNS that co-responsibility means "together we can have a role to play for the well-being of the church."

Cesareo also admitted that he has used strong and firm language in delivering the review board's recommendations "to show the urgency of the situation and that we can't just keep pushing this down the road."

In his address to the assembly, Cesareo called on the bishops to improve the audit of dioceses to ensure their compliance with the charter so that it is "more thorough and independent." He said the audit is a means for the bishops to establish their credibility with laypeople.

A working group, composed of three members of the bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and three lay members of the National Review Board, has been discussing a framework for improving the audit, he said. The focus has been on allowing the outside contractor that is hired by the USCCB to conduct the audit to be more independent and flexible in its work, he said.

Cesareo recommended that changes in the audit process occur as soon as possible so they can be implemented in the next audit cycle beginning in 2021.

"A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses' existing methods to protect and heal," Cesareo said. "Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar currently is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated."

Cesareo also recommended that the charter "should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability."

While such a revision has been suggested to the bishops in the past, Cesareo said the time has come for a proposal to be addressed. Among the changes he recommended include the reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse of minors to diocesan review boards; the need for review boards to meet annually to assist with diocesan policy reviews; consideration of continual supervision and monitoring of offenders who have not been laicized; and the start of parish audits.

"Despite ongoing challenges, positive momentum has been evident in the church since the initial approval of the charter and the audit," Cesareo added. "Any delay in revising the charter or implementing an enhanced audit would not only put children at risk, but could signal a step backward in the church's efforts."

The review board chairman cited Pope Francis "motu proprio" regarding the bishops' plan to adopt new standards to govern their own accountability on handling abuse claims.

The document, titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), is a new universal law from the pope to safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. It governs complaints against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. The U.S. bishops will vote on directives for implementing this church law later during the spring assembly.

Cesareo said the article 13 of the document allows that the bishops of a province may include qualified persons, including laity, to be part of the investigation of a bishop who has had a claim filed against him.

"The NRB urges that this must be the case in the United States through the establishment of an ad hoc lay commission, either on the national or local level," he said.

He said such lay involvement would "restore the trust of the faithful in the bishops and even in the Holy See's own processes for holding bishops' accountable."

The pope's new juridical instrument calls for a "public, stable and easily accessible" reporting system for allegations; clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families; timeliness and thoroughness of investigations; whistleblower protection for those making allegations; and the use of "proven experts from among the laity"; and the oversight of the metropolitan (archbishop) for such investigations in his province. The U.S. Catholic Church has 32 metropolitans.

However, Cesareo said that the metropolitan archbishop "should not be the sole gatekeeper of allegations that come forward" because it could lead to "mishandling of an allegation."

"You have a great opportunity," he said, "to lead by example and help show dioceses and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church's well-being."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Proposed protocol outlines restrictions on bishops facing claim of abuse

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 12:58pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If a credible accusation of sexual misconduct has been reported against a retired bishop, his successor may act to limit the retired bishop's scope of ministry, including the celebration of the sacraments and the right to be buried in the diocesan cathedral, according to a proposed document presented to the bishops the first day of their June 11-13 spring general assembly in Baltimore.

The "Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops" was scheduled to be voted on when the bishops met last November. However, the Vatican requested they delay a vote until after the Vatican held a February meeting for presidents of bishops' conferences worldwide to discuss the abuse crisis.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Administrative Committee had decided last September that the development of a such a protocol would be helpful, said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. With the delay of any possible vote on the document last fall, bishops had more time to offer suggestions on the document.

"The authority to impose penalties on bishops who have committed offensive acts by commission or omission rests solely with the supreme pontiff," Bishop Deeley reminded his fellow bishops. But there are "existing instruments in canon law that are available to a diocesan bishop for imposing limitations."

The proposed document uses "bishop emeritus" to refer for any bishop who has retired for age or for a "grave cause," or who was removed from office by the pope.

"The diocesan bishop will inform the bishop emeritus that public notice will be given of the situation and of any measures accepted by or applied to the bishop emeritus," the proposed document says. "Prior to issuing such pubic notice, the diocesan bishops will inform the apostolic nuncio of his communications with the bishop emeritus, and will confer with the apostolic nuncio on the measures to be imposed."

Those restrictions can include "a statement to the effect that the bishop emeritus does not represent the diocese in any fashion or act on its behalf, and he is not to make public statements about alleged offenses, since these could result in further harm to victims or be detrimental to the faithful."

A diocesan bishop may forbid a retired bishop to preach, which is any clergyman's canonical right. "The diocesan bishop concerned may also request that the Apostolic See extend this prohibition more broadly or deny the exercise of the right entirely," the proposed document says.

Diocesan bishops also may strip a retired bishop of the right to confer the sacrament of confirmation or to hear confessions. "The bishop emeritus can be denied the delegation necessary to witness marriages," it adds. "The diocesan bishop may request of the bishop emeritus, in writing, that he refrain from the public celebration of other sacraments or rites of the church."

While the U.S bishops, in their "Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops," state that retired bishops have the right to sustenance and retirement benefits, "the diocesan bishop may adjust the benefits given to a bishop emeritus who falls under this protocol," the proposed document said. "For instance, the diocesan bishop may decide that no funding for travel or secretarial assistance needs to be provided."

As for the possibility of burial in the diocesan cathedral, "the diocesan bishop will prudently decide based on local circumstances whether the bishop emeritus will be buried in the cathedral church of if other arrangements should be made."

Much in the proposed protocol is dependent on the retired bishop agreeing to the requests and directives of his successor. Should he refuse, though, it adds, "the diocesan bishop can take measures within his competence, and strongly request further and swift intervention from the Apostolic See regarding matters outside his competence."

The proposed protocol is scheduled to be voted on June 13, with bishops able to submit amendments until the end of their June 12 session. To be approved, the document requires a yes vote by two-thirds of all members of the USCCB.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican bank reports decreased profits in 2018

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 11:11am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Institute for the Works of Religion, often referred to as the Vatican bank, made a profit of 17.5 million euros (about US$19.8 million) in 2018, just over half the profit reported in the previous year, according to its annual report.

The bank, which had made a profit of 31.9 million euros in 2017, said the decrease was due "to the strong turbulence of the markets throughout the year and the persistence of interest rates which are still very low."

The institute held assets worth 5 billion euros (US$5.6 billion) at year's end, which included deposits and investments from close to 15,000 clients -- mostly Catholic religious orders around the world, Vatican offices and employees, and Catholic clergy.

In a statement released by the Vatican June 11, the institute said it continued to provide financial services to the Catholic Church present in the whole world and Vatican City State.

According to the report, the bank's assets are worth 637 million euros (US$721 million), placing its tier 1 capital ratio -- which measures the bank's financial strength -- at 86.4 percent compared to 68.3 percent in 2017. The increased ratio, the bank said, "is a testament of its elevated solvency and its low-risk profile."

Additionally, the bank refined its screening process for financial investments to ensure that it is "consistent with Catholic ethics by selecting only companies that carry out activities that are in accordance with the social doctrine of the church."

The Vatican bank, the statement said, continues "to make investments aimed at fostering development in poorer countries while respecting choices that are consistent with establishing a sustainable future for future generations."

The IOR, which is the Italian acronym for the Institute for the Works of Religion, said that it also "contributed to the implementation of numerous charitable and social activities, both through donations of a financial nature and through reduced-rate or gratuitous leases for the use of its own real estate to entities for social purposes."

Before the report's release, the 2018 financial statements were audited by the firm Deloitte & Touche and were reviewed by the Commission of Cardinals overseeing the institute's work, the press release said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Christians are called to serve, not use others, pope says

Tue, 06/11/2019 - 11:03am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians who use others, rather than serve others, greatly harm the church, Pope Francis said.

Christ's instructions to his disciples to "cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and drive out demons" are the path to "a life of service" that all Christians are called to follow, the pope said June 11 in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Christian life is for service," the pope said. "It is very sad to see Christians who, at the start of their conversion or their awareness of being Christians, serve, are open to serving, serve the people of God and then end up using the people of God. This does so much harm, so much harm to the people of God. The vocation is to 'serve,' not to 'use.'"

In his homily, the pope said that while Christ's instruction to give freely what has been given freely is for everyone, it is meant especially "for us shepherds of the church."

Members of the clergy who "do business with the grace of God," the pope warned, cause a lot damage to others and especially to themselves and their own spiritual lives when they attempt "to bribe the Lord."

"This relationship of gratuitousness with God is what will help us have it with others, both in our Christian witness and in Christian service and in the pastoral life of those who are shepherds of the people of God," he said.

Reflecting on the day's Gospel reading, in which Jesus entrusts the apostles with the mission of proclaiming that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand" and to do so "without cost," the pope said that salvation "cannot be purchased; it is given freely."

The only thing God asks for, he added, is "that our heart be opened."

"When we say, 'Our Father' and pray, we open our hearts so that this gratuitousness may come. There is no relationship with God outside of gratuitousness," the pope said.

Christians who fast, do penance or a novena to obtain "something spiritual or a grace" must be aware that the purpose of self-denial or prayer "is not to pay for the grace, to acquire the grace" but a means "to widen your heart so that grace may come," he said.

"Grace is free," Pope Francis said. "May our life of holiness be this widening of the heart so that God's gratuitousness -- the graces of God that are there and that he wants to give freely -- may reach our hearts."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Former NBA referee makes spiritual call to be permanent deacon

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 2:48pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Philadelphia

By Lou Baldwin

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) -- If 30 years ago anyone told Steve Javie he would become a permanent deacon, he probably would have said, "No way."

Sure, he came from a solid Catholic family with Mass every Sunday, confession every two weeks need it or not, and his uncle Msgr. Anthony Jaworowski was one of the most respected priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, but all of that was ancient history as far as Javie was concerned.

Sports was really in his blood. His dad, Stan Javie, was an NFL football referee who worked four Super Bowls. Steve played baseball, football and basketball at La Salle College High School, outside of Philadelphia, and at Philadelphia's Temple University he continued with baseball, which was his first love.

After getting his degree in business administration, Javie signed on as a pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles' farm system, but his dreams of baseball stardom were cut short after one year because of an arm injury.

In college, he'd done some refereeing and umpiring to pick up a little money, which he then considered making his career. He first worked as baseball umpire but ultimately switched to basketball, which from an officiating standpoint has more action.

After five years officiating in the Continental Basketball Association, Javie was hired by the NBA in 1986, and he remained there for the rest of his 20-plus-year career. Now, although he is retired, he provides commentary on NBA officiating during telecasts of games on ESPN.

His job required a lot of travel and that was how he met his wife, Mary-ellen Kennedy, who worked at Philadelphia International Airport.

After one date, he suggested they go to Sunday Mass and brunch and on their way to the restaurant, he told Mary-ellen he didn't get much out of the service.

She looked at him and asked, "What did you put into it?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"There's a lot things you could do," she said. "Have you anyone you could pray for while you're sitting there?"

That got him thinking and it got him going back to Mass on a regular basis. The couple married in less than a year.

Javie went through a rough patch in 1999 when he was one of 15 referees to be accused of tax evasion, in his case over the value of frequent-flyer miles. His worries about that got him going to Mass every day and even though he was the only one to be acquitted on all charges, the daily Mass habit stuck.

For more than 10 years, he and his wife have belonged to St. Andrew Parish in Newtown, where Steve belongs to a "small" men's faith-sharing group with about 50-60 men in it, and he loves it.

When he retired from the NBA in 2011, he said he was looking for a way to give more time serving the Lord. "It was the Holy Spirit -- the word 'deacon' just popped into my head," he told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He went to his pastor, Msgr. Michael Picard, who advised him to go for it.

On June 8, Javie joined six other men who were ordained as deacons for the Philadelphia Archdiocese at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He is looking forward to ministry, especially to men, telling them, "it's OK to go make money, but you also have to go to church and love Jesus."

One other thing. People associate basketball referees with that whistle they like to blow. Now-Deacon Javie still carries his whistle every day, mostly in memory a dear friend who did the same thing.

And because parish meetings can get pretty contentious at times, he might even need to use it.

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Baldwin writes for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Gender ideology is opposed to faith, reason, Vatican office says

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 11:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholic schools must help parents teach young people that biological sex and gender are naturally fixed at birth and part of God's plan for creation, said the Congregation for Catholic Education.

In a document published June 10, the congregation said the Catholic Church and those proposing a looser definition of gender can find common ground in "a laudable desire to combat all expressions of unjust discrimination," in educating children to respect all people "in their peculiarity and difference," in respecting the "equal dignity of men and women" and in promoting respect for "the values of femininity."

And while great care must be taken to respect and provide care for persons who "live situations of sexual indeterminacy," those who teach in the name of the Catholic Church must help young people understand that being created male and masculine or female and feminine is part of God's plan for them.

The document, "Male and Female He Created Them: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education," was signed by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the education congregation, and Archbishop Angelo Zani, congregation secretary.

The document recognized a distinction between "the ideology of gender," which it said tries to present its theories as "absolute and unquestionable," and the whole field of scientific research on gender, which attempts to understand the ways sexual difference is lived out in different cultures.

While claiming to promote individual freedom and respect for the rights of each person, the document said, those who see gender as a personal choice or discovery unconnected to biological sex are, in fact, promoting a vision of the human person that is "opposed to faith and right reason."

"The Christian vision of anthropology sees sexuality as a fundamental component of one's personhood," the document said. "It is one of its modes of being, of manifesting itself, communicating with others, and of feeling, expressing and living human love."

The document insisted that modern gender ideology and the idea that one chooses or discovers his or her gender go against nature by arguing that "the only thing that matters in personal relationships is the affection between the individuals involved, irrespective of sexual difference or procreation, which would be seen as irrelevant in the formation of families."

The theories, it said, deny "the reciprocity and complementarity of male-female relations" as well as "the procreative end of sexuality."

"This has led to calls for public recognition of the right to choose one's gender, and of a plurality of new types of unions, in direct contradiction of the model of marriage as being between one man and one woman, which is portrayed as a vestige of patriarchal societies," it said.

When the "physiological complementarity of male-female sexual difference" is removed, it said, procreation is no longer a natural process. Instead, recourse must be taken to in vitro fertilization or surrogacy with the risk of "the reduction of the baby to an object in the hands of science and technology."

The education congregation insisted that "Catholic educators need to be sufficiently prepared regarding the intricacies of the various questions that gender theory brings up and be fully informed about both current and proposed legislation in their respective jurisdictions, aided by persons who are qualified in this area, in a way that is balanced and dialogue-orientated."

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Holy Spirit 'brings order to our frenzy,' pope says

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 10:33am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a world of conflict and division and a culture of insult, people need to live filled with the Holy Spirit, who is the only one capable of bringing harmony and unity to diversity, Pope Francis said.

"Those who live by the Spirit ... bring peace where there is discord, concord where there is conflict," he said during a Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Square.

"Those who are spiritual repay evil with good. They respond to arrogance with meekness, to malice with goodness, to shouting with silence, to gossip with prayer, to defeatism" with a smile, he said during his homily at the Mass June 9.

"In today's world, lack of harmony has led to stark divisions. There are those who have too much and those who have nothing, those who want to live to be 100 years old and those who cannot even be born," and there are those who, the more they use social media, the less social they become, he said.

"We need the Spirit of unity to regenerate us as church, as God's people and as a human family," he said.

"There is always a temptation to build 'nests,' to cling to our little group, to the things and people we like, to resist all contamination. It is only a small step from a nest to a sect: How many times do we define our identity in opposition to someone or something," the pope said.

It has become "fashionable" to hurl "adjectives" and insults at people in what has become "a culture of adjectives," which forgets the person or thing beneath the surface and responds to differing opinions with insults, he said.

"Later we realize that this is harmful, to those insulted but also to those who insult. Repaying evil for evil, passing from victims to aggressors, is no way to go through life," he added.

With today's "frenzied pace of life," he said, people are pulled in too many directions, running the risk of "nervous exhaustion" and reacting badly to everything.

"We then look for the quick fix, popping one pill after another to keep going, one thrill after another to feel alive."

"But more than anything else, we need the Spirit: He brings order to our frenzy. The Spirit is peace in the midst of restlessness, confidence in the midst of discouragement, joy in sadness, youth in aging, courage in the hour of trial. Amid the stormy currents of life, he lowers the anchor of hope," he said.

The Holy Spirit doesn't make life easier, nor does he sweep every problem or hardship away. He makes Jesus live in those hearts that open up to him, "raising us up from within," and makes people realize "that we are beloved children" of a tender, loving God.

"Filled with his peace, our hearts are like a deep sea, which remains peaceful, even when its surface is swept by waves. It is a harmony so profound that it can even turn persecutions into blessings," the pope said.

The Holy Spirit is a "specialist in creating diversity, richness" while also bringing harmony and unity to this diversity; "Only he can do these two things."

On June 8, the vigil of Pentecost, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with the faithful of the Diocese of Rome.

He asked that people open their hearts and listen to the cries of others.

"To be able to hear the cry of the city of Rome, we too need the Lord to take us by the hand and make us 'descend,' come down from our positions" or pedestals and be with the people to hear their cry for salvation -- a cry the Lord hears, "but we usually don't."

"It is not about explaining things" in an academic and intellectual or political and ideological manner, he added, saying it upset him "when I see a church that believes it is faithful to the Lord by renewing itself when it seeks purely functional paths, paths that do not come from the Spirit of God."

A church that cannot "come down" from above and have its eyes, ears and heart open among the people is not being guided by the Holy Spirit, he said.

The Spirit turns things upside down, not to make people start over from the very beginning, but to take up a new path, a new way of seeing, hearing and living, he said.

People are asked to look for God's plan and serve him by serving others, he said.

 

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Bishops urged to pass 'effective' policies on accountability, transparency

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 1:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the bishops gather in Baltimore starting June 11, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, said he's "hopeful we will have some progress made in moving the football" on the church's response to the abuse crisis by approving several proposals to hold the bishops accountable.

"I think the recent new norms from Holy Father will make it more possible, but I am waiting to see and I will be fully involved in the debate," he told Catholic News Service June 7.

The centerpiece of the bishops' agenda will be four action items dealing with the investigation of abuse claims against bishops themselves or accusations they have been negligent in handling or covering up cases of wayward priests and other church workers.

These proposals were before the bishops at the fall general assembly last November, but the Vatican requested they delay action on them until after the Vatican held a February meeting for presidents of bishops' conferences worldwide to discuss the abuse crisis.

The norms Bishop McKnight referenced are contained in Pope Francis' "motu proprio," released May 9 and in effect as of June 1. The document, titled "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), is a new universal law from the pope to safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. It governs complaints against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons. The U.S. bishops will vote on directives for implementing this church law.

The full texts of the pope's "motu proprio" and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," as well as the new reforms to be discussed in Baltimore, are available on a new website the USCCB launched June 7: www.usccbprevention.org.

The pope's new juridical instrument calls for a "public, stable and easily accessible" reporting system for allegations; clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families; timeliness and thoroughness of investigations; whistleblower protection for those making allegations; and the use of "proven experts from among the laity"; and the oversight of the metropolitan (archbishop) for such investigations in his province. The U.S. Catholic Church has 32 metropolitans.

Under each archdiocese are dioceses, also called suffragan sees, for which a metropolitan is responsible.

"For me the critical element in the effort to respond to the crisis is the necessity of lay involvement," Bishop McKnight told CNS. "I am grateful the document allows for the metropolitan to use lay experts."

Just as dioceses have a lay board to assess allegations against priests and other church workers, the same lay-led review is needed for bishops for two reasons, Bishop McKnight said. "First, for transparency to build credibility in the process so people know it is not just miters and collars but mothers and fathers (looking at these allegations) as well."

"Second, as a bishop myself, if there was ever a false allegation made against me, I would want an independent lay assessment of the investigation to build credibility (in the finding) that the claim is not credible."

Two other prelates interviewed by CNS ahead of the bishops' spring assembly, Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Arizona, and Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland, Oregon, also strongly emphasized the need for lay involvement in reviewing claims against bishops.

"I cannot imagine there not being a majority of lay involvement," Bishop Weisenburger said June 7. "The current model of diocesan review boards owes a substantial part of their success to the fact that they are lay-led and lay-driven. That fact is not lost on any bishop."

In the Tucson Diocese, "we have had tremendous success in working with our Diocesan Review Board," he noted.

"I feel certain that my brother bishops will strive to create regional lists of experts that are composed in majority of lay experts in the fields of law, law enforcement, psychology, education, canon law and social work," Bishop Weisenburger added.

Said Archbishop Sample: "Clearly the cry for more lay involvement is not just among laity but priests and bishops (too). ... For my part, I will do everything I can -- and I am just one bishop among many -- to ensure that there will be an adequate role for the laity to be involved in these investigations within these church processes. The 'motu proprio' certainly opens the door (to this)."

"Quite honestly I hope this is one of the areas we can strengthen. ... I hope we will be able to enshrine within our own (structures) an active and significant role for the laity," he said.

Going into the assembly, "my hopes and expectations are optimistic," the archbishop added, "I wouldn't say super-high but I'm very optimistic the bishops will be able to complete next week what we tried to begin at our November meeting in light of the new 'motu proprio,' (which is) further guidance on what we should be doing to take responsibility for this crisis in the church and respond to it."

"I hope that there will be some good modifications and amendments to the documents" he said, to strengthen them especially with regard to "transparency and accountability, the two words that resonate most with me right now going into this meeting."

The bishops must have effective protocols that enable them to hold each accountable, which is "really what Christ asks of us as shepherds of the church," Archbishop Sample said. "We also need accountability before the people of God."

As for the proposal for metropolitan oversight, the archbishop said that as metropolitan himself, he takes this charge "extremely seriously."

"I think the Holy Father's intention in the 'motu proprio' he issued is that the church use her own structures which are already in place to really address these issues in a significant way, and the role of the metropolitan archbishops is a grave responsibility," he said.

Since the November meeting, when the metropolitan "option" surfaced, "I've given it a lot of reflection and I'm overwhelmed a little bit to receive this responsibility ... and I pledge that I will do everything I can do to ensure there is full accountability in my realm of influence," Archbishop Sample said.

"To the eyes of some it looks like the bishops are investigating themselves again and that this is what has gotten us into this mess in the first place," he remarked.

However, it is important for people "to know and understand" that "using the church's own structures is what the Holy Father intends," he explained, and the church's way of dealing with allegations -- "within the church law and structures" -- is carried out "without any prejudice" to civil authorities doing their own investigation.

"Both of these tracks have to run parallel, because in the end the church still has to deal with the status" of its own members, he said. "We need our own structure to deal with them" but this does not "hamper" what civil authorities must do on these abuse cases.

Bishop Weisenburger called the metropolitan option "an excellent model."

"On the one hand it's true to our history, who we are as a hierarchic church," he said. "On the other hand, it's a somewhat new adaptation which I think will allow general principles of investigation to be applied in a healthy local manner. The time limits related to the various steps are especially helpful as it prevents a critical investigation from being delayed."

When he looks at his region, whose metropolitan is the archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he said: "I trust that we have a wealth of experts who could come together and undertake an investigation in a timely and professional manner. I think something good for the church is unfolding before us."

Last fall, when the Vatican asked the bishops' to postpone voting on these critical abuse protocols, many felt the church was just stalling on the need to address issues of the hierarchy's accountability, but Bishop Weisenburger feels "the November delay proved beneficial."

"There was tremendous pressure for the bishops to create an immediate response to the situation -- I felt that pressure myself -- but in retrospect I'm not sure we make the best decisions when we move that fast," he told CNS. "I think the Vatican summit helped clarify some of the critical issues. I now think it's time for the U.S. bishops to come to a consensus on a procedure that can be undertaken easily when a report needs to be made about an allegation against a bishop."

Bishop McKnight told CNS the laity in his diocese have given him "a consistent message" about the abuse scandal in listening sessions he has held, both this spring in preparation for his "ad limina" report to Rome and last fall ahead of the bishops' November meeting: That message is to "get it all out now," rather than this piecemeal approach to revelations about abuse, past or present.

One of his big questions about the McCarrick scandal, he said, is why haven't members of the hierarchy "who were knowledgeable and complicit in his promotion" just come forward on their own and take responsibility?

"This does not require an investigation or special adjustment of canon law," Bishop McKnight said. "I understand and feel the frustration of the laity."

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Follow Asher on Twitter: @jlasher

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Bishops take another try at addressing abuse, accountability among their own

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 2:24pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Greg Erlandson

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When the bishops gather in Baltimore June 11-14, their meeting will be anything but pro forma.

Instead, they will have some major decisions to make that may determine how quickly they are able to rebuild trust with their fellow Catholics following a series of recent exposes, allegations and scandals regarding bishops themselves.

"This is going to be a working meeting," said one observer, implying the likelihood of vigorous discussion and debate as the bishops seek to approve a series of proposals dealing with the investigation of abuse or cover-up of abuse by bishops.

The attention of the bishops and the dozens of news media who will be following the proceedings will be focused on four action items.

The most important of these, and perhaps the one most likely to be debated, concerns the directives for the implementation of the recent "motu proprio," or church law, issued by Pope Francis and governing complaints directed against clergy or church leaders regarding the sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons.

The "motu proprio," known by its Latin title "Vos estis lux mundi" ("You are the light of the world"), grew out of the extraordinary gathering of the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 in Rome. The "motu proprio" modified existing church law to bolster laws regarding clergy sexual abuse, including protection for whistleblowers and condemnation of any sort of cover-ups of such abuse.

While many of the directives of the "motu proprio" regarding clergy have already been implemented in the United States with its 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," the action items before the bishops concern allegations of abuse or negligence on the part of bishops. Bishops were not explicitly included in the charter because authority over the bishops and their discipline rests with the pope himself.

The new laws promulgated by Pope Francis, however, calls for a "public, stable and easily accessible" reporting system for such allegations, the use of "proven experts from among the laity" to investigate such allegations, and the oversight of the metropolitan (another term for archbishop) to direct such investigations in his province.

At the November meeting of the U.S. bishops, reforms regarding the investigation of bishops were discussed but not voted on at the request of the Vatican. One subject of debate and discussion at that meeting concerned some sort of "special commission" that would be an independent means to receive and investigate allegations made against bishops.

The "motu proprio" issued by Pope Francis last month makes clear, however, that the primary responsibility for any such investigation lies with the metropolitan archbishop for the province, who in turn reports his findings to the pope. In the case of a metropolitan being accused, the responsibility falls to the senior bishop in that province.

An example of this most recently was Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori's investigation of allegations of sexual and financial improprieties made against Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. Archbishop Lori was the responsible metropolitan who in turn brought in a team of five experts to conduct a five-month-long investigation, ultimately affirming that the allegations were credible and passing along the results of the investigation to the Vatican.

This investigation was begun prior to the issuance of the "motu proprio," but it was in some ways a textbook case of how such an investigation is to be handled.

However, a subsequent report by The Washington Post, which received copies of the final report, an earlier draft of the report and other documentation by an unnamed source, also points out the limitations of the metropolitan option. According to the documents received by the Post, the final report edited out the names of prelates who had received financial gifts from Bishop Bransfield, including Archbishop Lori.

After the Post story, a spokesman for Archbishop Lori said his thought was that identifying the individuals who received the gifts was a "distraction."

In hindsight, his spokesman explained, the archbishop can see how not sharing this information could be seen as protecting those whose judgment could have been compromised by such gifts. Archbishop Lori subsequently forwarded the names to the Holy See.

While the "motu proprio" directs a metropolitan who has a conflict of interest to recuse himself, the incident has raised long-standing concerns about "bishops investigating bishops."

The challenge for the U.S. bishops next week will be to find a way to convince themselves and their people that there are enough safeguards in the document to ensure that justice will be done in a relatively open and transparent manner.

In the case of Archbishop Lori, who already instituted many of the reforms to be discussed in his archdiocese last January, he established a third-party reporting system in which allegations against any bishop in his archdiocese are first reviewed by two retired judges. They in turn determine whether the allegations appear to warrant further investigation and whether civil as well as church authorities should be notified.

How to implement safeguards on a national level that will apply to all 32 metropolitans, that will conform to the intentions of the pope's "motu proprio" and that will provide some sort of assurance that the bishops are serious about policing their own is the challenge they will face in Baltimore.

In addition to the directive for implementation of the "motu proprio", the bishops also will vote on a document entitled "Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments." The document acknowledges the outrage of Catholics over reported failings by bishops. The bishops promise to hold themselves accountable to the commitments of the Charter, which affirms a zero-tolerance policy, and that any codes of conduct in their respective dioceses regarding clergy apply to themselves as well.

It also promises an "independent, third-party entity" through which reports of sexual misconduct with a child or an adult by any cleric, including a bishop, can be reported.

A third, and relatively uncontroversial, proposal to be voted on is a "protocol regarding available non-penal restrictions on bishops." This outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a now-retired bishop resigned or is removed "due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act."

At the November meeting when this protocol was first discussed, at least two bishops -- Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Bishop Steven R. Biegler of Cheyenne, Wyoming -- spoke of challenges they faced regarding the status of their predecessors. The protocol outlines a series of options allowing the current bishop to restrict the activities of the retired bishop. The current bishop will also make any reports required to law enforcement.

The most striking element of the protocol is that the president of the bishops' conference would now have the authority to ban a bishop who was retired due to misconduct or negligence from attending any plenary assembly or serve on any body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops also will discuss a fourth proposal, which will define what an independent third-party reporting system will look like, how it will function in terms of notifying the metropolitan, and who will maintain it.

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Follow Erlandson on Twitter: @GregErlandson

 

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Toronto Raptors' player took a shot at priesthood training

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 4:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory Shamus-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When Pascal Siakam was in his young teens attending a minor seminary in Cameroon -- and mostly playing soccer in his free time -- he likely never imagined he'd be playing in the NBA Finals.

Studying for the priesthood, it turned out, was more of his father's idea, and not a personal calling for the now-25-year-old forward for the Toronto Raptors, who are playing in their first Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

The 6-foot-9 player, drafted by the Raptors in 2016, also is a possible candidate for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. He made just one 3-point shot in his first season; he now averages one 3-point shot made per game.

During his late teens, Siakam joined his friends for two summers at a basketball camp run by Cameroon player Luc Mbah a Moute, an NBA player who most recently played for the Los Angeles Clippers. Through the camp, Siakam was picked to attend Basketball Without Borders - an outreach program run by the NBA and FIBA, the International Basketball Federation -- in Johannesburg, where he was discovered.

After graduating from the minor seminary, Siakam pursued a personal calling, attending a Texas prep school for a year and then New Mexico State University before joining the NBA.

In 2017, ESPN writer Jackie MacMullan went to Cameroon to visit Siakam's hometown of Douala and St. Andrews Seminary in Bafia for a feature story.

She interviewed the seminary's director, Msgr. Armel Collins Ndjama, who said through an interpreter that he knew early on that Pascal's father had a vision "and Pascal was not sharing it."

"I knew we would probably not be able to train him to be a priest, but I still hoped we could teach him to be a man," the priest added.

Siakam similarly agreed that he did not think he had a vocation to the priesthood, but he also didn't want to go against his father. "There isn't a better man I've known in my life," he told ESPN about his dad, who died before Siakam's first college game after complications following a car accident.

Two months after the interview, the seminary director was found dead in his office and then one month after that, the local bishop, Bishop Jean-Marie Benoit Bala of Bafia, also was found dead, the remains of his body pulled from a river June 2, 2017.

A Catholic News Service report about the apparent murders said a local priest had told the online Camernews agency that the bishop had appeared "very preoccupied and full of suffering" a few weeks before his death and was "totally devastated" by the unexplained death of the seminary director.

Catholic communities in Cameroon had been under increasing attacks by cross-border insurgents from the Nigeria-based Boko Haram insurgents, which allied itself with Islamic State in March 2015. The insurgents also had killed hundreds of police, army troops and civilians in Cameroon's Extreme North province.

At the time of the ESPN interview, Msgr. Ndjama said he was not surprised by the success of his former student, who was wrapping up his rookie season in the NBA.

"When Pascal put his mind to it, he was capable of most anything,'' he said.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

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Cardinal Pell returns to prison to await ruling on appeal

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 10:52am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By

MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) -- Cardinal George Pell was taken back to prison June 6 at the end of a two-day hearing on his appeal of his conviction on five counts of child sexual abuse.

A three-judge panel from the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria said it would announce its judgment at a later date, giving no indication of when that would be.

Legal counsel for Cardinal Pell, who will celebrate his 78th birthday June 8 and is a former key adviser to Pope Francis, argued before the judges that: The conviction was "unreasonable" given the evidence presented at trial; the defense should have been able to show an animated video demonstrating how the cardinal could not have been where the victim said he was; and that the cardinal should have been allowed to stand before the jury and enter his plea of not guilty.

Cardinal Pell attended the two-day hearing June 5-6 wearing his clerical collar, which he had not worn at his sentencing hearing in March. Then, he received a six-and-a-half-year sentence after being found guilty in a December 2018 trial of sexually assaulting two choirboys at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

The cardinal took notes during the livestreamed hearing and looked relaxed, reporters in the courtroom noted. Cameras were trained only on the bench during the hearing.

Cardinal Pell was accompanied in the courtroom by his close friend, Chris Meaney, business manager for the Archdiocese of Sydney, his niece and several others.

On the first day of the hearing, Pell's attorney, Bret Walker, argued that there were 13 reasons why it was improbable that Cardinal Pell, then archbishop of Melbourne, had assaulted the boys after presiding over Sunday Mass in the cathedral; a few weeks later he assaulted one of the boys a second time, according to court testimony.

On the second day, prosecuting attorney Christopher Boyce appeared to struggle with questions from three justices presiding over the hearing. But in its written submission the prosecution said: "When looking at the whole of the evidence, the integrity of the jury's verdicts is unimpeachable.

"The jury were entitled to accept the complainant as a reliable and credible witness," the submission stated. "He was skillfully cross-examined for two days by a very experienced member of senior counsel. The complainant's allegations were not improbable when all of the evidence is carefully considered."

The jury that convicted Cardinal Pell in December was the second to hear the case. The first trial ended in September without a verdict because of a hung jury. The cardinal's plea of not guilty, video-recorded at the first trial, was played for the jury at the second trail.

At the appeals hearing, the prosecution argued that the surviving victim's testimony was credible and that the decision of the jury should be respected.

In addition to the arguments presented at the appeals hearing, the three-judge panel can review the trial transcripts and video.

Whatever the panel decides, both the prosecution and the defense can appeal their ruling to the High Court of Australia.

Pell was being incarcerated in Melbourne Assessment Prison, where he has been held since his March sentencing in solitary confinement because of the nature of his crimes and his high profile in Australia. If his appeal fails, he is expected to be transferred to another prison.

The Vatican is conducting its own investigation of the cardinal.

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Contributing to this report was Michael Sainsbury in Melbourne and Cindy Wooden in Rome.

 

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Non-news nuggets: Papal news conferences yield little tidbits, too

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' inflight news conferences are arguably less newsy than when his pontificate began, mostly because he has been insisting the past few years that most of the questions refer to the trip that is concluding.

But, looking back over the news conferences just this year, there are tidbits that reveal things about Pope Francis. They did not make the "news," but they are included in the transcripts, which the Vatican posts online.

For instance, not even touching the debate about citizenship based on place of birth vs. parentage, Pope Francis told reporters traveling back from Romania with him June 2 that as the child and grandchild of Italian immigrants, he qualified for an Italian passport.

"My brothers and sisters all had citizenship," the pope said. "I didn't want to have it because at the time they acquired it I was a bishop and I thought, 'No, the bishop must be of the country,' so I didn't want to get it, which is why I don't have it."

Italian journalists frequently ask the pope questions related to Italian politics, and while he said, "my blood is Italian," he also repeated what he often tells them, "I don't understand Italian politics."

Pope Francis had told reporters at the beginning of his pontificate in 2013 that he did not expect to travel much. But, a little over six years into his papal ministry, he has made 30 trips outside of Italy.

And just in the first six months of 2019, he has made five trips, traveling 22,891 miles (according to the Vatican) and spending 13 days, 17 hours and five minutes on travels abroad.

Journalists try on every trip to ask questions about neuralgic issues in the life of the church or church-state relations. But beginning with the news conference Dec. 2, 2017, at the end of his trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, Pope Francis has been increasingly insistent that most of the questions focus on the trip.

"I would like some more (questions) about the trip because otherwise it would seem as if it hadn't been very interesting, wouldn't it?" he asked reporters flying back to Rome with him from Bangladesh.

Accepting only trip-related questions is no guarantee that the pope can avoid tough questions. For instance, the trip after Myanmar and Bangladesh was to Chile and Peru in January 2018. All of the questions during the news conference were related to the trip and fully half of the queries were about the clerical sex abuse scandal.

When the questions are not trip related, sometimes Pope Francis responds, but other times he'll do a general call for "any other questions about the trip?" first.

Or, he'll do his own summary of trip highlights, while reporters take notes and nervously tap their feet waiting for him to get to their questions.

The flights back to Rome are almost always in the evening after a very long day or days for both Pope Francis and the reporters. On flights longer than four or five hours, the pope will spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes taking questions. But on the shorter flights, he is with the media for about 30 minutes and may take only four or five questions.

In every pontificate, as time goes on, the popes start repeating themselves and Pope Francis is no different: on gossip, on bridges instead of walls, on the importance of relations between young people and their grandparents, on dialogue as an outstretched hand.

He makes those points in talking to reporters and in speeches and homilies.

A fair percentage of the formal speeches he makes are at least based on drafts written by staff members. Sometimes he sets the drafts aside, sometimes he adds to them and sometimes he reworks them completely.

But a good hint that someone else was involved in the speech's preparation is a direct quote from the pope himself, complete with the name of the document and paragraph number or the occasion of the speech and the date.

However, the pope remembers what he has said, especially in major speeches.

So, when asked on the flight back from Romania June 2 about European unity, the pope basically referred the questioner to three in-depth speeches he had given on the subject in the past.

But he prefaced his remarks by saying, "Forgive me for citing myself; I do it without vanity only for its usefulness."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

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In recalling soldiers' D-Day sacrifice, archbishop prays for world peace

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 5:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters

By Elizabeth Bachmann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In remembering the estimated 4,400 Allied troops who died storming the beaches of Normandy, France, 75 years ago on D-Day, Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said that "Jesus Christ reminds us there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."

"At this time, in particular, we express deep gratitude for those who laid down their lives on D-Day," he said in a statement June 4.

Archbishop Broglio planned to travel again to France for the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion to commemorate and give thanks for the lives lost on the beaches of Normandy, in Europe and in the Pacific. The German casualties on D-Day were between 4,000 and 9,000.

"We ask God that their sacrifice not be in vain," Archbishop Broglio said. "We beg him to transform our power to turn war into a force for peace, to transform our weapons into plowshares, to give us the ability to negotiate, to talk and to listen."

In 2015, he journeyed to Normandy to commemorate the sad day and to help dedicate a monument on Utah Beach depicting three American GIs emerging from a Higgins boat. The Higgins boat was designed by Andrew Jackson Higgins to facilitate easy landing on beaches and in marshes, and was used extensively in the D-Day operations.

The archbishop remembered the boat's designers, those who "labored with vision to accomplish a goal, the liberation of peoples, their brothers and sisters in human society."

While in Normandy, Broglio also attended a commemoration for fallen Danish troops and celebrated Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi, during which he prayed for world peace.

At that time, he said he "was struck by the number of French men and women who came up to me and said: 'We will never forget what your countrymen did here.'"

Archbishop Broglio reminded the nation, too, to remember the sacrifices of American servicemen, as well as those of every soldier and civilian who lost life or loved ones.

For this year's commemoration, Archbishop Broglio prayed that Catholics and all Americans will "remain vigilant against the forces of evil in our troubled world, and to pour our energies into building lasting peace and justice among nations."

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Thousands join Hong Kong vigil commemorating Tiananmen massacre

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 11:23am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyrone Siu, Reuters

By

HONG KONG (CNS) -- Tens of thousands of people commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre at a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park.

The gathering June 4 attracted 180,000 people, according to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organizer of the event. It was largest gathering of people in Hong Kong since the 2014 sit-in street protests known as the Umbrella Revolution, ucanews.com reported.

However, police said, 37,000 people attended the vigil.

As a special administrative region, Hong Kong is the only place in China were the massacre can be commemorated.

People filled the park plus neighboring roads to remember the bloody crackdown against the pro-democracy student-led movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square June 4, 1989.

The number of people killed has been estimated to be in the hundreds or thousands. British files declassified in 2017 said a Chinese official told the United Kingdom ambassador to China at the time that at least 10,000 people had been killed.

Prior to the candlelight vigil, more than 1,000 Catholics joined a prayer service at the park during which Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong reflected on the importance of why such terrible events should be commemorated.

"I found that the Beijing students 30 years ago showed us the beauty of humanity in their lives. They believed there is light in the darkness, hope in the hopeless. They believed nonviolence will overcome violence," Bishop Ha said.

The bishop also reminded the faithful that Hong Kong is at a critical moment regarding a controversial extradition law amendment.

Another speaker at the prayer service, Jacky Liu, who was born in 1989, said he was enlightened about the massacre 10 years ago when he was a university student.

"When I watched a video about June 4, I was moved by those people in Beijing who rescued the victims. It was just like how Christ shows his mercy," said Liu, a former Catholic student movement leader.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, and 10 priests blessed those attending the prayer service.

"We can follow the footsteps of the Beijing students and become witnesses, prophets," Cardinal Zen said before the blessing.

For Gabriel Miu, 16, it was the second time he had joined the June 4 prayer service and candlelight vigil.

"I join these events because the Chinese Communist Party has to take responsibility for the massacre," Miu said. "Also, we have been facing CCP oppression in Hong Kong in recent years. By attending, I am opposing this."

Lina Chan, secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Diocese, believed many people joined the event because of concern about Hong Kong's political situation, especially in relation to the extradition law amendment.

"The extradition law amendment makes us worry that the 'one country, two systems' will collapse," Chan told ucanews.com.

The Hong Kong government has proposed an amendment to the extradition ordinance that would allow the government to send fugitives to China and Taiwan to be tried on a case-by-case basis. If it is passed, any fugitive from the law who sets foot in Hong Kong could be tried and imprisoned on the mainland if a request is made and Hong Kong consents.

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/large-hong-kong-turnout-for-tiananmen-massacre-commemorations/85350.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Vatican names Filipino boy who died at 17 Servant of God

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 12:32pm

IMAGE: CNS/Tyler Orsburn

By

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) -- A Filipino teenager who died could be on his way to sainthood after the Vatican declared him a Servant of God, the first step in the process toward sainthood.

The Congregation for Saints' Causes gave the Diocese of Cubao, Philippines, the green light to look into the life of Darwin Ramos who died in 2012 at the age 17.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the congregation's prefect, made the declaration in March, but it was only made public in Manila May 31, ucanews.com reported.

"The Vatican has given us the go signal to go deeper into his life, how he lived his faith and how he gave witness to Jesus to whom he was very close," Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said.

The bishop said the Vatican declaration reminded Catholics that "we are invited to give witness to our faith in concrete ways."

The prelate started the process for the beatification of Ramos at the request of the Friends of Darwin Ramos Association.

The process for sainthood starts with the examination of a candidate's life. A person can only be beatified upon verification of a miracle attributed to his or her intercession. Other steps toward sainthood are declarations of Venerable, followed by beatification and finally canonization.

Ramos' friends have praised his devotion to his faith even as he battled Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease characterized by muscle weakness.

"Darwin is an example of holiness. Being a street child, afflicted with myopathy, he is closely united with Christ in his suffering and joy," Bishop Ongtioco said.

Ramos was born in 1994 in the slums of Pasay City on the outskirts of Manila. At the age of 12, he volunteered to help street children through the foundation "Tulay ng Kabataan" or Bridge of Children.

After he discovered his faith, he was baptized and confirmed and received his first Communion in 2007.

Even as his physical condition deteriorated, Ramos became an inspiration to the staff and children at a center operated by the foundation.

Bishop Ongtioco said Ramos developed a "deep personal relationship with Christ," taking time every day to pray and entrust himself to God.

In 2012, Ramos' condition worsened, but even in the hospital, he maintained his friendly attitude and thanked everyone for helping him.

He died at the Philippine Children's Medical Center in Quezon City Sept. 23, 2012.

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/vatican-names-filipino-boy-servant-of-god/85336.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Laity not playing 'gotcha' with bishops on abuse, review board chair says

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 12:22pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The path to rebuilding the U.S. church's credibility as it emerges from the lingering clergy sexual abuse scandal rests in embracing the role of laypeople as important collaborators, said the chairman of the National Review Board.

Francesco Cesareo told Catholic News Service June 3 that laypeople want transparency and openness from the bishops and the sooner the prelates put aside their guardedness about welcoming laity as partners, the sooner the U.S. church will heal.

"I think the problem is that they perceive that it's this 'gotcha' mentality that (the laity) are after. What we're really trying to do is find what's wrong," Cesareo said.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to develop a series of policies in early June as they hone their response to clergy abuse. They will consider and vote on several proposals at their spring general assembly June 11-14 in Baltimore.

The new policies are expected to be refinements of proposals they originally had hoped to adopt at their fall general assembly in November. They put them aside at the request of the Vatican hours before they convened.

Vatican officials sought the delay, citing Pope Francis' desire first to meet with the heads of bishops' conferences from around the world in February to discuss the church's response to the crisis.

The proposals then included the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops; instruction to the U.S. bishops' canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were moved or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults; and initiating the development of a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

Cesareo said he hoped that during the intervening months, the U.S. bishops have developed "concrete action items" that will signal how serious they are in addressing clergy abuse and ensuring accountability and transparency.

"I'm hoping that they will be bold enough to include in a very meaningful way laypeople in whatever they will be deciding," he said. "My biggest concern is that it's going to end up being bishops overseeing bishops and if that's the case it's going to be very difficult for the laity to feel any sense of confidence that anything has truly changed."

The proposals being developed recently circulated among members of the all-lay National Review Board and, Cesareo said, each member individually offered comments and observations. While declining to discuss the specifics of the proposals because they were confidential, Cesareo said he offered wide-ranging and "hopefully constructive" responses.

Cesareo has long pushed the bishops to welcome lay involvement in the process of rebuilding church credibility. As review board chairman, he has been frank with the bishops in conversations about the steps he sees as necessary for the church to right itself.

In recent addresses to the bishops, Cesareo has focused on the need to overcome complacency in some dioceses in adhering to the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." He is on the agenda to address the spring general assembly and is expected to again focus in part on complacency.

Cesareo also cited "recurring concerns that speak to the issue of complacency" in a letter that was included in the recently released 2018 annual report that detailed diocesan compliance with the charter.

Specifically he noted: failure by dioceses to publish abuse reporting procedures in all the languages in which Mass is celebrated; poor recordkeeping of background checks; failure to train or do background checks of clergy, employees or volunteers who work with children; a high percentage of children not being trained, especially those in religious education programs; and lack of a formal monitoring plan for priests who have been removed from ministry.

"While not widespread, the fact that in some dioceses these recurring problems are still evident points to lack of diligence that puts children's safety at risk," he wrote to the bishops.

In his interview with CNS, Cesareo credited "a few bishops" for stepping up and showing "leadership and courage" as they worked to address the fallout from the resurgence of the abuse crisis during the last year.

"They have been more transparent and open to accountability," he said while not naming who he had in mind. "We have to hope that the entire episcopal body embraces that kind of courage."

Still, much work remains, he said, pointing to the recent release of extracts from correspondence of Msgr. Anthony J. Figueiredo, secretary to former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, who faced restrictions from Pope Benedict XVI on public ministry that were not formal sanctions and were not strictly enforced.

Cesareo called for the U.S. bishops to release the information diocesan files hold on abusive priests and others once and for all.

"How many times is it going to be this slow removal of the Band-Aid that only makes the wound worse?" he asked. "If they can just confront that and say, 'We're going to be open and honest and accountable.' We can't wait for another major crisis again."

Cesareo also cautioned the bishops about defending the limits of their response and implementation of policies because of restrictions imposed by canon law.

"Obviously at the end of the day, it's the Holy See and pope who can discipline (a bishop), I understand that," Cesareo told CNS. "But using canon law as the reason something can't be done, the bishops are letting themselves really use canon law as a wall."

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

 

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'Conquer bitterness with sacrificial love,' bishop tells Virginians

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 3:46pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Deborah Cox, The Catholic Virginian

By Brian T. Olszewski

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (CNS) -- Bishop Barry C. Knestout of Richmond celebrated Masses at St. Gregory the Great and St. John the Apostle churches in Virginia Beach June 2, two days after 12 people were killed in the city's Municipal Center.

One victim, Kate Nixon, was a member of St. Gregory the Great; another, Mary Lou Gayle, was a member of St. John the Apostle.

"After tragedy and sudden loss, we often have many unanswered, and even unanswerable questions," the bishop said during his homily. "This leads to anxiety and maybe even depression or despair. How can one move forward with so much loss?"

He noted that the ordination of five priests for the diocese the previous day and the feast of the Ascension that Sunday were to be occasions of joy and thanksgiving, but "there seems little for us to celebrate."

"All we can feel is a sadness in our hearts, and for those for whom the loss is closer, and its sting, so much greater," Bishop Knestout said. "There is the mixture of emotion: grief, anger, anxiety or maybe even, understandably, bitterness and rage at the injustice of it."

He continued, "How could such horrific things keep happening? And why did it happen this way -- why do the young and innocent so senselessly and shockingly have their lives taken from them? What could the feast of the Ascension possibly provide for us in these circumstances?"

Drawing upon the readings for the feast of the Ascension, Bishop Knestout noted that during their "time of uncertainty, confusion and loss," the apostles kept their feet "firmly on the ground" and "their eyes fixed on the prize of heaven." That, he said, allowed them to persevere, despite bitterness, anger and despair.

Bishop Knestout said the killings on May 31 "require us to assess our values and hopes."

"Where do we stand now, where do we place our trust and where do we long to be?" he said.

The bishop said that, like the apostles, the faithful need to keep their feet on the ground, while keeping "their eyes fixed on heaven and the glory that awaits." He added that all should "seek to live a life of charity."

"To me this is the best way to confront situations of tragic loss and evil violence," he said. "Don't let it conquer us in bitterness and anger, but conquer it with self-giving, sacrificial love."

Bishop Knestout concluded by reiterating the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians from that day's second reading (1:18-19): "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might: which he worked in Christ."

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Olszewski is editor of The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.

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Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope says he's strengthened, encouraged by talks with Benedict XVI

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 3:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM ROMANIA (CNS) -- Pope Francis said that he continues to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI, 92, who is like a grandfather who continues to encourage him and give him strength.

"I take his hand and let him speak. He speaks little, at his own pace, but with the same profoundness as always. Benedict's problem are his knees, not his mind. He has a great lucidity," the pope told journalists June 2 on his return flight from Romania. The pope spent about 35 minutes with reporters on the short flight, answering five questions.

When asked about his relationship with this predecessor, the pope said his conversations with Pope Benedict make him stronger and he compared the knowledge he receives from his predecessor as the sap "from the roots that help me to go forward.

"When I hear him speak, I become strong," he explained. "I feel this tradition of the church. The tradition of the church is not a museum. No, tradition is like the roots that give you the sap in order to grow. You won't become the root; you will grow and bear fruit and the seed will be root for others."

Recalling a quote by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler, the pope said that tradition "is the guarantee of the future and not the custodian of ashes."

"The tradition of the church is always in motion," he said. "The nostalgia of the 'integralists' is to return to the ashes," but that is not Catholic tradition; tradition is "the roots that guarantee the tree grows, blossoms and bears fruit."

Referring to his remarks in Romania about unity and fraternity, the pope was asked about growing divisions within the European Union.

Unity on the continent is a task for every European country, he said. "If Europe does not guard well against future challenges, Europe will wither away," he warned. While cultural differences must be respected, Europeans must not give in "to pessimism or ideologies."

Pope Francis also was asked about an event in the Romanian Orthodox Cathedral in Bucharest June 1 and how it appeared that many people at the gathering did not join in reciting the Lord's Prayer.

Where there is tension or conflict, the pope said, Christians must have "a relationship with an outstretched hand."

"We must go forward together," he said, "always keeping in mind that ecumenism isn't about arriving at the end of the game. Ecumenism means walking together, praying together, an ecumenism of prayer."

Christians also share "an ecumenism of blood, an ecumenism of witness and what I call 'an ecumenism of the poor' -- working together to help the sick, those who are on the margins."

Pope Francis said that that Chapter 25 of St. Matthew's Gospel -- where Jesus says those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and prisoners do the same for him -- "is a good ecumenical program."

"It is possible! It is possible to walk together in unity, fraternity, hand outstretched, thinking well of each other, not speaking ill of others," he said. Every church has those opposed to Christian unity, who call others "schismatics."

"We all have defects but if we walk together, we leave the defects aside," the pope said. "Let the old bachelors criticize."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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Update: Freedom, mercy are lasting legacy of martyred bishops, pope says

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 10:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

BLAJ, Romania (CNS) -- The memory and witness of Romania's martyred bishops are a reminder that Christians are called to stand firm against ideologies that seek to stifle and suppress their cultural and religious traditions, Pope Francis said.

On the last leg of his visit to Romania, the pope June 2 celebrated a Divine Liturgy during which seven Eastern-rite Catholic bishops, who died during a fierce anti-religious campaign waged by the communist regime in Romania, were beatified.

"These pastors, martyrs for the faith, re-appropriated and handed down to the Romanian people a precious legacy that we can sum up in two words: freedom and mercy," the pope said.

According to the Vatican, an estimated 60,000 people filled Blaj's Liberty Field, while some 20,000 people followed the liturgy on big screens set up in various squares around the city.

For Eastern Catholics in Romania, the field -- located on the grounds of Blaj's Greek Catholic Theological Seminary -- is both a symbol of national pride and sorrow.

It was in Liberty Field where, during the 100th anniversary of the Romanian nationalist revolution that communist authorities formerly dissolved the Eastern-rite Romanian Catholic Church.

One of the newly beatified bishops, Bishop Ioan Suciu, the apostolic administrator of Fagaras and Alba Iulia, refused to appear at the event, which was perceived by his flock as a sign that they were called to remain steadfast in their faith and follow the path of persecution and martyrdom.

Thirty years after the fall of communism, the sun shined brightly and solemn hymns echoed over the field that was once the site of the Eastern Catholic Church's darkest
period.

Men, women and children, many dressed in traditional outfits, held up images of the seven martyred bishops who gave their lives defending their faith: Bishop Suciu; Auxiliary Bishop Vasile Aftenie of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Valeriu Traian Frentiu of Oradea Mare; Auxiliary Bishop Tit Liviu Chinezu of Fagaras and Alba Iulia; Bishop Ioan Balan of Lugoj; Bishop Alexandru Rusu of Maramures and Bishop Iuliu Hossu of Gherla, who had been named a cardinal by St. Paul VI "in pectore" or in his heart, withholding publication of his name until 1973.

In his homily, the pope remembered the sufferings of Eastern-rite Catholics who were forced to "endure a way of thinking and acting that showed contempt for others and led to the expulsion and killing of the defenseless and the silencing of dissenting voices."

The martyred bishops left a "spiritual patrimony" for future generations demonstrated by their "exemplary faith and love for their people," the pope said. Their faith, he added, was matched only by their willingness to suffer martyrdom "without showing hatred toward their persecutors and indeed responding to them with great meekness."

"The mercy they showed to their tormentors is a prophetic message, for it invites everyone today to conquer anger and resentment by love and forgiveness, and to live the Christian faith with consistency and courage," the pope said.

However, Pope Francis warned that even today there are new ideologies that "attempt to assert themselves and to uproot our peoples from their richest cultural and religious traditions."

"Forms of ideological colonization that devalue the person, life, marriage and the family, and above all, with alienating proposals as atheistic as those of the past, harm our young people and children, leaving them without roots from which they can grow."

Like the newly beatified bishops, he added, Catholics are called to bring the light of the Gospel to others and resist those ideologies rising in the world.

"May you be witnesses of freedom and mercy, allowing fraternity and dialogue to prevail over divisions, and fostering the fraternity of blood that arose in the period of suffering, when Christians, historically divided, drew closer and more united to one another," the pope said.

On his final stop before departing for Rome, Pope Francis visited members of the Roma community living in the neighborhood of Barbu Lautaru. According to the Vatican, a newly erected church and pastoral center were built to assist the Roma community to fully integrated within the social fabric of the city of Blaj.

"In the church of Christ, there is room for everyone," the pope told members of the community, "otherwise it would not be the church of Christ."

The pope told the Roma community that his heart was heavy due to "the many experiences of discrimination, segregation and mistreatment experienced by your communities," inflicted upon them, including by members of the Catholic Church.

He asked forgiveness to them "for those times in history when we have discriminated, mistreated or looked askance at you" instead of defending them in their "uniqueness."

Waiting for the pope Razaila Vasile Dorin, a 16-year-old, told reporters, "We are proud he is coming here in our community -- a person like the pope! I don't know what to say. It's a great honor."

Asked about discrimination, Dorin, speaking English, said, "In every country there is racism. When we go out everyone looks, 'Look, look, a Roma, a Gypsy.'" But, he said, the Roma are "proud to be Gypsies."

"Whenever anyone is left behind, the human family cannot move forward. Deep down, we are not Christians, and not even good human beings, unless we are able to see the person before his or her actions, before our own judgments and prejudices," the pope said.

According to the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, a 2011 census estimated that there are more than 620,000 Roma people in Romania. However, the figure may not reflect the actual numbers because many do not declare their ethnicity out of fear of discrimination.

Despite the trials they have endured, the pope encouraged them to not go down the path of vengeance and instead to choose the "way of Jesus" which brings peace and can heal the wounds of injustice.

"May we not let ourselves be dragged along by the hurts we nurse within us; let there be no room for anger. For one evil never corrects another evil, no vendetta ever satisfies an injustice, no resentment is ever good for the heart and no rejection will ever bring us closer to others," he said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

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