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Update: To Europe's periphery: Pope to visit Baltic nations in late September

Top Stories - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 11:06am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will travel to the eastern periphery of Europe to honor a faith that withstood a Nazi invasion and five decades of communist dictatorship and now is striving to help people live in freedom as authentic disciples of Christ.

The pope's visit Sept. 22-25 to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia comes in the year the three Baltic nations are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their declarations of independence after World War I. While declared Soviet republics in 1940, the countries were occupied by the Nazis during World War II and then lived under Soviet rule from 1944 to 1990.

St. John Paul II visited the countries in 1993 as they were at the beginning stages of solidifying democracy and living with full religious liberty.

Bishop Philippe Jourdan, the apostolic administrator of Estonia's tiny Catholic community, told Catholic News Service that the motto of the pope's visit to Estonia "is a well-known Estonian song, 'Mu suda arka ules,' which means 'Wake up my heart.' It is more or less what we all -- Catholics, non-Catholics or nonreligious people -- are waiting for: that the pope helps us to find a new hope in our heart and in our society, as was the case in the years immediately after the end of the Soviet time."

"Materialism and secularization are now very strong in Estonian society," he said, "and we need a new start."

On a special website for the visit, Bishop Jourdan wrote that when St. John Paul visited 25 years ago, his message was, "'Do not be afraid!' In those years, the Estonian state was like a sick person who had just woken up from a coma, treading with insecure steps, but with great expectations of peace, of unity with the rest of Europe, of great ideals, perhaps also of material things but with great hope."

A quarter-century later, the independent governments are stable, and the three countries are full members of the European Union, he said. But "while Estonian society has reached a good level of material security, spiritual security is lacking today."

Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, Lithuania, said the 100th anniversary of independence commemorations are "a time of reflection on the gift of freedom, as well as the cost of freedom."

"This gift requires us to work for the common good and for peace," he wrote in the September issue of Europeinfos, the newsletter of the commission of bishops' conferences in E.U. countries and the Jesuit European office. "The 50 years of Soviet occupation require a reflection on the cost of that freedom -- the suffering, deportations, persecutions and sacrificed lives that must never be forgotten."

Pope Francis is expected to repeat advice he often gives: Remember the past and honor it, but also face the present with courage and the future with hope.

In each of the nations, the pope will pay homage to those who died in the struggle for freedom and human dignity. And, in Vilnius Sept. 23, he will pause to pray at a memorial to the Jewish victims of the Nazis. The pope's visit will take place on the 75th anniversary of the Nazi's liquidating the ghetto where they had forced up to 40,000 Jews to live. Almost none of them survived.

The pope is scheduled to place flowers at the foot of the Freedom Monument in Riga, Latvia, Sept. 24. The monument honors those who fought for Latvia's independence from 1918 to 1920. Erected in 1935, Soviet authorities repeatedly announced plans to take it down but relented in the face of public pressure.

The monument "is a symbol of Latvian independence, which has been preserved through all the years of Soviet ideology. It reminds us that true freedom can be preserved even amid external persecution and oppression," Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics of Riga told CNS.

Relations with other Christians and with nonbelievers also are expected to play a big role in the pope's trip. He has an ecumenical prayer service planned Sept. 24 in the Lutheran cathedral in Riga, Latvia, and an ecumenical meeting with young people the next day at a Lutheran church in Tallinn, Estonia.

Estonia is the Baltic nation with the smallest Catholic population and with the largest percentage of people claiming no faith at all, Bishop Jourdan said.

According to Vatican statistics, less than half of 1 percent of Estonia's population is Catholic. Almost 21 percent of Latvians are Catholic and close to 80 percent of Lithuanians belong to the Catholic Church. In all three nations, the Catholic Church's closest ecumenical partners are Lutherans and Orthodox.

With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the three nations also have faced the challenge of emigration, especially in the years following the global economic crisis that began in 2008.

Estonia's population declined, Bishop Jourdan said, "but far less than Latvia's and Lithuania's, and for the past three years there has been a slight increase in the population, in part because of an incipient immigration. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the economic situation in Estonia is better than in Latvia or Lithuania."

Archbishop Stankevics said Latvia has experienced "a significant population drop in recent years, and the impact of emigration is felt in our parishes."

The only way to reverse the process is to create more jobs in an ethical and sustainable way, the archbishop said. In addition, "we need to develop work qualification courses to help people to be skilled in jobs really needed in the local economy."

Archbishop Grusas told CNS Sept. 13 that many Lithuanian emigrants were "looking for change or trying to get away from past hurts," but there is some evidence that people are starting to come back to the country.

Emigration is part of the "whole gamut of social problems" Pope Francis is expected to address, but always in the context of helping people find a hope-filled response, the archbishop said.

Lithuania's Catholics were known for the heroic way they preserved the faith under communism despite harsh repression. The challenges to faith are different today, the archbishop said, not only because of the influence of secularization and materialism, but also because the communists made it so difficult to educate people in the faith.

"Independence changed that -- there is a lot of information available now," the archbishop said, "but the challenge is how to live in freedom and learning what true freedom is, not just doing what we want, but knowing we have obligations and responsibilities, too."

In Latvia, Archbishop Stankevics said, "since the collapse of communism, faith has perhaps lost its traditional devotional forms and has developed more into commitment of personal relationships with God and service in the church."

At the same time, he said, "threats to the faith arise from the present social, economic and cultural challenges."

In a July interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Grusas said he saw "the finger of God" and Pope Francis' own priorities reflected in his choice to visit the Baltics, "the periphery of the European Union."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

Top Stories - Fri, 09/14/2018 - 9:45am

IMAGE: CNS photo/KNA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, Algeria, the country's bishops announced.

Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, will preside over the Mass and beatification rite for the six women and 13 men who gave their lives "for the least, the sick and the men, women and young people of Algeria," said a statement published by the bishops Sept. 13.

The martyrs "are given to us as intercessors and models of Christian life, friendship and fraternity, encounter and dialogue," the bishops said. "May their example help us in our life today."

"From Algeria, their beatification will be an impetus and a call for the church and for the world to build together a world of peace and fraternity," the bishops said.

The 19 martyrs were killed between 1993 and 1996 while Algeria was locked in a 10-year-long armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups; the conflict left tens of thousands of people dead.

Bishop Pierre Claverie and his driver were killed by a remote-controlled bomb left by the bishop's residence, and the seven Trappist monks, who had been kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine, were beheaded by a group of Islamic terrorists trained by the al-Qaida network. The monks' story was treated in the film "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

Top Stories - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 2:17pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Greg Erlandson

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis to discuss the growing sexual abuse crisis in the United States.

"I myself am filled with hope," he said, "but I also realize all these things might take purpose and time."

The cardinal spoke following a noon meeting Sept. 13 at the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was joined in his meeting with the pope by: Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB; and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference.

"The Holy Father is the important figure for us in this," Cardinal DiNardo said. "He sees the problem all over the church and throughout the world."

While the cardinal did not want to discuss the specifics of the private meeting beyond a statement released by the U.S. bishops, he did describe the encounter as "very, very fruitful."

"It was lengthy, and we shared a lot of thoughts and ideas together," the cardinal told Catholic News Service, "so I found the meeting very good from that point of view."

"The pope is well informed," the cardinal said, "and he's also very, very attentive to what has happened to abuse victims in the church in the United States."

It had been a whirlwind week for the cardinal. He arrived in Rome Sept. 12 following a meeting with the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee, which consists of conference officers, regional representatives and the chairs of all the conference committees. Its task was to set the agenda for the November general assembly in Baltimore of all of the country's bishops.

Cardinal DiNardo described the Administrative Committee meeting as "sober."

"I thought there was a good deal of unity of the bishops on where we need to go" and on the fact that "we have to move into action" in terms of addressing the abuse crisis, he said. The cardinal said the bishops must be "united in purpose on solutions."

Cardinal DiNardo originally announced Aug. 16 that he was requesting a meeting with Pope Francis. The request followed the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse cases in six Pennsylvania dioceses and the announcement of credible allegations of child sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington.

In his statement Aug. 16, Cardinal DiNardo said the USCCB Executive Committee had established three goals: "an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints."

When asked about the three priorities after the meeting with the pope, the cardinal said: "I think we can make movement on those things. I think we have to do it step by step."

Since Aug. 1 Cardinal DiNardo has issued five statements responding to various aspects of the sexual abuse crisis and has called for greater transparency and accountability in the church, particularly on the part of the bishops.

When asked what role there could be for Catholic media, he said they "have to tell the truth, and they have to tell the truth in a way that is very balanced." Acknowledging the anger and even "rage" among some commentators, he said the task of Catholic media is "speaking the truth, but never forgetting the role of charity."

When asked where he finds hope during the current wave of scandals and controversy, he said, "Our trust is in the Lord."

"Even the pope today mentioned the cross, that you need to ' be crucified with the Lord -- that's the only way you can deal with this, go through it. You have to listen to other people, and you hope that in that shared vision of mission, of cooperating together, you grow in hope."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Colombian coroner offers free burials to destitute Venezuelan migrants

Top Stories - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 12:20pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Manuel Rueda

By Manuel Rueda

RIOHACHA, Colombia (CNS) -- It's midafternoon and the cemetery known as People Like Us is eerily quiet.

As the corpse of Eduardo Sanchez is removed from a white funeral car and placed in a coffin, his daughter starts to sob and gets close to the coffin to take one last picture of her father. The rest of Sanchez's family watches from afar or turns away in sorrow. The stench and sight of the badly decomposed body are too much to take in.

"He was in a morgue for four weeks," Sanchez's niece, Gisangie Navarro, explains. "But we come from Venezuela, and we did not have enough money to take him anywhere. Now he can finally get a Christian burial."

As hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans migrate across South America to escape hyperinflation and food shortages, some are dying in poverty far from home.

A small cemetery in Colombia's northern La Guajira department has become a haven for the corpses of these dead migrants and is helping their bereaved families to find some peace and comfort as they struggle to get by. The cemetery also has helped a retired coroner find her calling, as she undertakes a task that few aid groups have contemplated.

"God has a purpose for all of us," says Sonia Bermudez, the coroner and founder of People Like Us cemetery. "And my job is to take care of the dead, and make sure that everyone gets a decent burial."

Bermudez says her interest in working with the dead started at age 13, when her father was the security guard in her hometown's public cemetery. In those days, she recalls, bodies that were not claimed by anyone were buried in large pits without coffins and often with no clothes. Sometimes, officials put a bag over the corpses' heads to give the burial a small sense of dignity.

"I thought it was very unfair how these people were buried, in comparison to folks who had families that paid for funerals," Bermudez says. "So eventually I decided to get involved."

At 15, Bermudez was assisting the local coroner in autopsies, and she started to bury unclaimed bodies. Then, after studying forensic sciences in Colombia's capital, she returned home to practice her craft. Eventually, she started the cemetery that has become her life's work.

"There were always bodies in the morgue that no one was claiming," she explains. "So, I started to take them to a plot of land that the municipal government was not using, and I buried them there."

Initially, Bermudez buried mostly homeless people who no one claimed. Then, as violence between guerilla groups and rightwing paramilitaries engulfed her province of La Guajira, she started to bury the corpses of war victims dumped in the desert outside her hometown of Riohacha.

Colombia eventually became less violent, and a 2016 peace deal between the government and the country's main guerilla group helped to further diminish the country's murder rate. But Bermudez's cemetery is as busy as ever.

The forensic scientist, now 56, spends most of her time now burying Venezuelan migrants who have died in poverty in northern Colombia.

Bermudez says so far this year she has already buried 30 Venezuelans, free of charge. After putting the dead in simple coffins purchased by donors, she places them in rectangular cement crypts that bear their names and are decorated with synthetic flowers.

"When these (Venezuelan) families come to me, they are in a very precarious situation," Bermudez says. "Some barely have enough money for their own food, and often they are traveling from other cities and they have nowhere to stay."

Bermudez has had to spend her own money to help bury the large numbers of destitute migrants who have died in Colombia recently, but she says no one else in northern Colombia is providing a similar service.

A separate municipal cemetery, managed by the Catholic Church, charges fees of at least $100 for burial spaces, and coffins start at $200. Those amounts are unaffordable for migrants, who usually make about $5 a day.

"The priests and the funeral homes always need to charge something," Bermudez says. She adds that most people at her modest cemetery are buried without a religious ceremony, "because priests charge for that, too."

Bermudez says she is sure that God is helping her out in her "mission." She recently got construction materials from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, so she built more crypts for her cemetery. The agency also helped her cover the costs of transporting the corpses of dead migrants to her graveyard.

"When I do this, I feel full of peace and tranquility," she says. "I feel that I am helping to fulfill God's will."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

U.S. bishops tell pope abuse scandal 'lacerated' the church

Top Stories - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 11:07am

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The leaders of the U.S. bishops' conference said they shared with Pope Francis how the church in the United States has been "lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse."

"He listened very deeply from the heart," said a statement released after the meeting Sept. 13.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, met the pope at the Vatican along with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the USCCB, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference.

The USCCB statement described the encounter as "a lengthy, fruitful and good exchange," but did not enter into details about what was discussed or whether any concrete measures were taken or promised.

"We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together, identifying the most effective next steps," the statement said.

Cardinal DiNardo originally announced that he was requesting a meeting with Pope Francis last Aug. 16. The request followed the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse cases in six Pennsylvania dioceses and the announcement of credible allegations of child sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington. Two dioceses also had announced allegations of inappropriate contact between Archbishop McCarrick and seminarians, resulting in settlements totaling more than $100,000.

In his Aug. 16 statement, Cardinal DiNardo said that the USCCB Executive Committee had established three goals: "an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints."

The U.S. bishops specifically requested the Vatican to conduct an apostolic visitation into questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. Opening a new process for reporting complaints against bishops and the more effective resolution of such complaints also would require the support and involvement of the Vatican, since only the pope has the authority to discipline or remove bishops.

Following allegations by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano that Pope Benedict XVI had imposed sanctions on Archbishop McCarrick and that those sanctions had been ignored by Pope Francis, Cardinal DiNardo issued another statement Aug. 27 reiterating his call "for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long."

Archbishop Vigano's statement "brings particular focus and urgency to this examination," the cardinal's statement said. "The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

Top Stories - Thu, 09/13/2018 - 6:03am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where the Catholic Church is "elitist and clericalist," Pope Francis told Jesuits in Ireland in August.

"There is something I have understood with great clarity: this drama of abuse, especially when it is widespread and gives great scandal -- think of Chile, here in Ireland or in the United States -- has behind it a church that is elitist and clericalist, an inability to be near to the people of God," the pope told the Jesuits during a meeting Aug. 25 in Dublin.

As is customary when the pope meets Jesuits during a foreign trip, a transcript of his remarks to the 63 Jesuits he met in Ireland was published by the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica after the pope had approved the text; it was released Sept. 13.

Pope Francis met the Jesuits in Dublin immediately after meeting eight people who had survived abuse at the hands of priests or in schools, mother and baby homes or other institutions operated by the church or Catholic religious orders.

"I didn't know that in Ireland there were also cases where unmarried women had their children taken away from them," the pope told the Jesuits, referring to the practice at many homes for unwed mothers. "Hearing this particularly touched my heart," he said.

Pope Francis asked the Jesuits for "special help: help the church in Ireland put an end to this. And what do I mean by put an end to it? I don't mean simply turn the page, but seek out a cure, reparation, all that is necessary to heal the wounds and give life back to so many people."

The root of the problem, he said, is elitism or clericalism. The two attitudes foster "every form of abuse. And sexual abuse is not the first. The first abuse is of power and conscience."

In confronting abuse and the church culture that allows it to fester, Pope Francis told the Jesuits, "Courage! Be courageous!"

"This is a special mission for you: clean this up, change consciences, do not be afraid to call things by their name," he told the group.

One of the Jesuits asked the pope for concrete examples of what they should be doing.

"We have to denounce the cases we know about," the pope responded. "And sexual abuse is the consequence of abuse of power and of conscience as I said before. The abuse of power exists. Who among us does not know an authoritarian bishop? Forever in the church there have been authoritarian bishops and religious superiors. And authoritarianism is clericalism."

Speaking and acting decisively and with authority -- for example, in giving a priest an assignment -- is not the same thing as authoritarianism, he said. "We need to defeat authoritarianism," but rediscover the virtue of obedience when being sent in mission.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Supreme Court petition next step in effort to stop natural gas pipeline

Top Stories - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 3:40pm

By Dennis Sadowski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pennsylvania religious congregation planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether their religious freedom rights are being violated by the construction and pending use of a natural gas pipeline on its land.

The Adorers of the Blood of Christ are rooting their legal argument in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, saying that their "deeply held religious convictions about the sacredness of Earth" would be violated once the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline becomes operational.

An attorney for the sisters in Columbia, Pennsylvania, contends that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit erred in allowing provisions of the Natural Gas Act that govern pipeline construction to supersede the intent of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, known as RFRA.

"We think the 3rd Circuit turned it (RFRA) on its head to apply the Natural Gas Act to RFRA rather than RFRA control the Natural Gas Act," attorney Dwight Yoder told Catholic News Service.

The Adorers announced their decision to petition the high court during a news conference Sept. 7 on their property adjacent to the already-constructed underground pipeline.

In July, a three-judge appeals court panel agreed with a lower court ruling that the congregation had not made their religious objections known during the federal administrative process that led to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approval of the 183-mile pipeline project.

Yoder said that forcing the Adorers to make such arguments during administrative hearings on the project would have placed an unnecessary burden on them under the law.

He said RFRA provides no provision for individuals to "proactively" inform a federal agency or federal employee to comply with the law. To do so "is absurd in our opinion," he said.

Instead, he said, federal agencies are compelled under the law to ensure that RFRA's protections are enforced foremost.

Sister Bernice Klostermann, a member of the congregation who has been involved in challenging the pipeline, told CNS that the order's claims are important in a country in which religious freedom is a cherished value.

"The previous court cases just seemed like there was something not quite right," she said. "As Americans, of course, we have a right to appeal. We want to do what we can to see if we can right this."

The Adorers have long held that allowing construction through their land would run contrary to the congregation's Land Ethic. Adopted in 2005, the document upholds the sacredness of creation, reverences the earth as a "sanctuary where all life is protected" and treasures the earth's beauty and sustenance that must be protected for future generations.

Sister Klostermann said that the pipeline violates the congregation's Land Ethic because leaks of natural gas undoubtedly will occur, polluting the land and air.

"We are really collaborators with God. It's not like creation happened way, way long ago. Creation is a process. God created man and we are right here creating alongside of him. We are co-creators and stewards of the land," she said.

Oklahoma-based Williams Partners, through its subsidiary Transco, has completed pipeline construction. Transco petitioned FERC Aug. 24 to allow it to become operational.

In an Aug. 31 letter to FERC, Yoder called on the agency to stop Transco from operating the pipeline until the Adorers have exhausted their legal appeals.

Yoder also reminded the agency that the 3rd Circuit panel "left open the possibility that the Adorers could pursue a claim for damages arising out of FERC's and Transco's violation of the Adorers' rights under RFRA."

In addition to announcing their Supreme Court petition, the Adorers said at the news conference that they planned to install a solar farm alongside the pipeline. They called the step an act of "resistance" that "would bear witness to clean, sustainable, earth-friendly energy sources."

As part of their plan to stop the pipeline, the Adorers have collaborated with local activists, including the grass-roots Lancaster Against Pipelines. The organization built a symbolic chapel adjacent to the pipeline route where the sisters and local residents have prayed, reflected and discussed actions to block the massive project.

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Love breaks chains of slavery to sin, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 10:12am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only true love for God and neighbor can destroy the chains of greed, lust, anger and envy that enslave humankind, Pope Francis said.

"True love is true freedom: It detaches from possession, rebuilds relationships, it knows how to welcome and value the neighbor, it transforms every struggle into a joyous gift and makes communion possible," the pope said Sept. 12 during his weekly general audience.

Before addressing thousands of men, women and children, the pope made his way around St. Peter's Square and greeted excited pilgrims lined up along the popemobile route.

While making his rounds, the pope abruptly ordered his driver to stop. He made his way to two disabled children and blessed them. The mother of one of the children, overcome with emotion, reverently kissed Pope Francis' hand before he boarded the popemobile.  

Continuing his series of talks on the Ten Commandments, the pope reflected on the Third Commandment, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day."

The commandment to rest on the Sabbath was linked to the memory of Israel's freedom from slavery in Egypt, he said, because slaves "by definition cannot rest."

"There are many types of slavery, both exterior and interior," the pope said. "There are external constraints such as lives sequestered by violence and other types of injustice. There are also interior prisons that are, for example, psychological blocks, complexes, limitations and more."

Recalling the lives of St. Maximilian Kolbe and Cardinal Francois Nguyen Van Thuan, both of whom "turned dark oppressions into places of light," the pope said their example proved that people who are physically or mentally imprisoned "can remain free."

Nevertheless, he also warned that slavery to one's ego can tie men and women down "more than a prison, more than a panic attack and more than any sort of imposition."

The pope explained that the "deadly sins," such as greed, lust, gluttony and sloth can turn people into slaves of their own passions, while others such as anger ruin relationships and envy can sicken a person like a disease.

"Some writers say that envy turns the body and soul yellow, just like when a person who has hepatitis turns yellow," he said. "The souls of envious people are yellow because they can never have the freshness of a healthy soul."

Pope Francis said that through his death and resurrection, Christ overcame "the slavery of our heart with his love and salvation" and guides Christians toward true freedom where every person "can find rest in mercy and freedom in truth."

"True love frees us even in prison, even if we are weak and limited," Pope Francis said. "This is the freedom that we receive from our redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Copyright © 2018 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 to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops' leaders

Top Stories - Wed, 09/12/2018 - 9:48am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops' conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The Vatican made the announcement Sept. 12 after the pope and members of his international Council of Cardinals wrapped up three days of meetings.

After hearing from his council, the pope "decided to convoke a meeting with the presidents of the bishops' conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors," the council said in a written communique.

The members present "extensively reflected together with the Holy Father on the matters of abuse" during their deliberations Sept. 10-12. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also updated those present with the commission's ongoing efforts.

Three of the nine council members were absent for the meetings: Cardinal George Pell, 77, who currently is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, 85, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; and Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October.

The six present for the September meeting were: Cardinals O'Malley, 74; Pietro Parolin, 63, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, 75, of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Oswald Gracias, 73, of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx, 64, of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, 75, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

The papally appointed group of nine cardinal members, the so-called C9, has been tasked with helping advise the pope on the reform of the Vatican's organization and church governance.

The council said in its communique that, concerning work on the reform of the Curia, it finished "rereading the texts already prepared (and) also called attention to the pastoral care of personnel who work there," in the Roman Curia.

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters that a major part of the council's work was making final changes to the draft of the apostolic constitution that would govern the Curia.

The document, provisionally titled "Praedicate Evangelium" ("Preach the Gospel"), is still set for further "stylistic editing" and canonical review, she said.

Pope Francis reviewed for his considerations the finalized draft at their last meeting in June. The draft document emphasizes four points: the Curia is at the service of the pope and the local churches throughout the world; the work of the Curia must have a pastoral character; the new section in the Vatican Secretariat of State would oversee the training, assigning and ministry of Vatican nuncios and diplomats around the world; and the proclamation of the Gospel and a missionary spirit must characterize the activity of the Curia.

Garcia Ovejero reiterated the council's last written statement from Sept. 10 in which the members asked Pope Francis for a reflection on "the work, structure and composition of the council itself, also taking into account the advanced age of some of its members."

The six again "expressed full solidarity with Pope Francis for what has happened in the last few weeks," she said.

In response to questions, she said there was no word yet on the expected release of the "possible and necessary clarifications" the council said were being formulated by the Holy See given the current debate on abuse in the church.

The council will meet again Dec. 10-12.

 

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Anniversary of 9/11 marked with moments of silence, prayer, Masses

Top Stories - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 5:52pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Brendan McDermid, Reuters

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Churchgoers around the United States once again marked the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks with moments of silence, special prayer services and Masses.

In Brooklyn, New York, a Mass for fallen heroes was celebrated at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph Sept. 11.

The Mass followed a procession of firefighters from across the country who first gathered at ground zero in Lower Manhattan, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood. They marched in single file across the Brooklyn Bridge carrying 23 ceremonial flags of the New York City Fire Department. Each flag represented one of 23 firefighters from Battalion 57 in Brooklyn killed in the line of duty at the trade center.

The journey from ground zero to Brooklyn served "to symbolically bring the brothers back home," said organizers. The procession included a ceremonial flag for every New York City firefighter killed that day and an American flag "in remembrance of all who died that day."

Led by fire trucks and motorcycles, the procession went past several firehouses on the way to the co-cathedral.

Official ceremonies took place at the sites in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania where four hijacked planes crashed 17 years ago, claiming the lives of 2,996 people (including the 19 hijackers).

Two planes flew into the World Trade Center in New York, bringing down the twin towers and killing office workers and other staff in the buildings, emergency first responders and people fleeing in the streets.

Another plane crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia, just outside Washington, and a fourth airliner went down in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

President Donald Trump spoke at anniversary ceremonies at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville. Vice President Mike Pence addressed a crowd at the Pentagon.

Attending a meeting of the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 11 in Washington, New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said he and his brother bishops remembered all those who perished and their families at a Mass at the U.S. bishops' conference headquarters.

A week earlier, he said in a statement, he had celebrated Mass at historic St. Peter's Church in downtown New York. The "venerable church," he noted, had "served as a sanctuary, first-aid station, hospice, relief center and even a mortuary" on 9/11 and for many days afterward.

It was there that the body of Father Mychal Judge, the fire department chaplain, among the first to die in the attack, "was reverently placed upon the altar." The Franciscan priest died ministering to victims in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

During Mass at St. Peter's, Cardinal Dolan said, the congregation "prayerfully remembered with sorrow, reverence and love those who had perished that unforgettable day, and their families who still grieve, along with those who have since lost their lives due to illnesses contracted during the rescue and recovery efforts that followed."

The attacks have claimed the lives of a number of people who helped clear the wreckage afterward, as cancer and other conditions caused by toxic smoke have begun to emerge.

Cardinal Dolan recalled that nine years ago he was in New York for his first 9/11 anniversary observance, some months after he was installed as archbishop of New York. He was at St. Peter's then too.

"Never will I forget the wise comment of the pastor at the time, Father Kevin Madigan," Cardinal Dolan said. The priest told him: "9/11 was Good Friday again here in New York; but the story we need to remember is actually 9/12, a real Easter, as this community rose in rescue, relief, support, rallying and rebuilding."

In 2015, during his pastoral trip to the United States, Pope Francis visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan. He said the grief remained "palpable."

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Update: Archbishop Ganswein says abuse crisis is church's 9/11

Top Stories - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 1:57pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Stefano Rellandini, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

ROME (CNS) -- The concern of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI and the promises made by the majority of church leaders were not able to stop the evil of clerical sexual abuse, which has been the 9/11 of the Catholic Church, the retired pope's personal secretary said.

Even if the "catastrophe" of abuse does not fall on one particular date, but rather extends over "so many days and years" and has claimed "countless victims," Archbishop Georg Ganswein said, today, in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, "the Catholic Church is looking -- full of dismay -- at its own 9/11."

Speaking during a book presentation in Rome Sept. 11, Archbishop Ganswein, who is also prefect of the papal household, said, "I don't mean to compare the victims or the number of abuses concerning the Catholic Church with the 2,996 innocent people in all who lost their lives Sept. 11."

"No one, so far, has attacked the church of Christ with airlines full of passengers. St. Peter's Basilica is still standing" as are other symbolic churches in the Western world, he said, according to news reports.

"And yet, the news coming from America that recently informed us about how many souls have been irreparably and mortally wounded by priests of the Catholic Church, gives us a message (that is) even more terrible than if there had been news that all the churches in Pennsylvania had suddenly collapsed together with the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington," he said.

Having mentioned the basilica, the archbishop said he was reminded "as if it were yesterday" of when he accompanied Pope Benedict there April 16, 2008. The pope, who also visited New York on that trip, gave a lengthy speech to the nation's bishops at the shrine.

In the portion of his talk dedicated to the sexual abuse of minors, Pope Benedict "tried poignantly to shake the bishops assembled from all over the United States," the archbishop said.

Quoting from the pope's text, the archbishop recalled how the pope spoke about "the deep shame" caused by the sexual abuse of minors by priests and "the enormous pain that your communities have suffered when clerics have betrayed their priestly obligations and duties by such gravely immoral behavior."

But that talk, Archbishop Ganswein said, was "evidently in vain, as we see today. The cry of the Holy Father did not succeed in holding back the evil nor did the formal assurances and the verbal commitments by a great part of the hierarchy."

Archbishop Ganswein has worked with the retired pope since 1996, first serving on the staff of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and later becoming then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's personal secretary in 2003.

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Satan is attacking bishops; they must fight with prayer, pope says

Top Stories - Tue, 09/11/2018 - 10:29am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bishops must remember, particularly when under attack, that their role is to pray, be humble in knowing God chose them and remain close to the people, Pope Francis said in his morning homily.

In fact, a bishop "does not seek refuge from the powerful, the elite, no. It will be the elite who criticize the bishop," while the people show love toward their bishop and confirm him in his vocation, the pope said Sept. 11.

In these times, Pope Francis said, it seems like the devil, "the great accuser, has been let loose and he's got it in for the bishops. True, there are, we are all sinners, we bishops."

The great accuser "seeks to reveal sins, which people can see, in order to scandalize the people" of God, he said in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The pope reflected on the day's Gospel reading according to St. Luke (6:12-19), which recounts how Jesus went to the mountain to pray before choosing his 12 apostles -- the church's first bishops. But the homily also recognized that bishops named over the past year were in Rome for a series of courses on their ministry.

It was a good moment, he said, to reflect on what Jesus did in that Gospel account -- pray, elect others and minister to the multitude -- and what it teaches today's bishops.

Jesus' praying for his apostles means Jesus is always praying for his bishops, which is a "great consolation for a bishop during terrible moments," he said.

Bishops are also to be men of prayer -- praying for themselves and the people of God, he added.

Since the apostles were chosen by Jesus -- not the disciples themselves -- "the faithful bishop knows that he did not choose," the pope said. "The bishop who loves Jesus is not a climber who moves up with his vocation as if it were a job."

Instead, a bishop opens a humble dialogue with the Lord saying, "You chose me, and I am not much, I am a sinner." Knowing that God did the choosing and watches over his elect, gives a person strength, he said.

And finally, he said, the fact that Jesus goes down from the mountain to teach and heal the people shows that a bishop is "a man who is not afraid to come down to level ground and be close to the people."

The great accuser, the pope said, "roams the world seeking how to blame. The strength of the bishop against the great accuser is prayer -- his own and Jesus', the humility to feel chosen and staying close to the people of God without heading toward an aristocratic life."

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Council of Cardinals expresses 'full solidarity' with pope

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 2:45pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Members of Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals expressed "full solidarity" with him in the midst of questions about his handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal and said the Vatican is planning a response to allegations made against him by a former nuncio.

Only six of the nine cardinals who are members of the council participated in the meeting Sept. 10.

The six "expressed full solidarity with Pope Francis in the face of what has happened in the last few weeks, aware that in the current debate the Holy See is formulating possible and necessary clarifications," according to a statement released after the first day of what was expected to be a three-day meeting.

The September session of the council was the first since news broke in late June about an investigation finding credible sexual abuse allegations against then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, since the release in mid-August of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on how six dioceses handled abuse allegations and since the publication in late August of a document by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the United States, alleging that Pope Francis knew of Cardinal McCarrick's sexual misconduct yet allowed him to continue in active ministry.

Pope Francis formed the Council of Cardinals, often referred to as the C9, shortly after his election in 2013 to advise him on the reform of the Roman Curia and on church governance generally.

The statement Sept. 10 said that council members asked Pope Francis for a reflection on "the work, structure and composition of the council itself, also taking into account the advanced age of some of its members."

The six present for the September meeting were: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

The three who were absent were: 85-year-old Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile, who is facing questioning over his handling of abuse allegations; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo, who turns 79 in early October; and 77-year-old Australian Cardinal George Pell, who currently is on trial in Australia on sex abuse charges.

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Fear leads to silence amid suffering of sick, needy, pope says

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 10:38am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Favio Frustaci, EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Fear often causes people to remain silent in the face of other's suffering and marginalize the sick and those most in need, Pope Francis said.

Instead of being viewed as "an occasion to manifest care and solidarity," the sick and the suffering are often seen as problem, the pope said Sept. 9 during his Sunday Angelus address.

After praying the Angelus prayer with an estimated 15,000 pilgrims in St. Peter's Square, the pope led them in applauding the beatification of Blessed Alphonse Marie Eppinger, a 19th-century nun who founded the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer.

"Let us give thanks to God for this courageous and wise woman who, while suffering in silence and prayer, gave witness to God's love, especially to those who were sick in body and spirit," the pope said.

In his main address, Pope Francis reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recalled Jesus' healing of a deaf man who had a speech impediment.

According to the Gospel, Jesus healed the man as he placed his "finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue" as he looked up to heaven and said, "Ephphatha" ("Be opened").

Pope Francis explained that the Gospel story emphasizes a "two-fold healing" that not only involves restoring the "physical health of the body" but also the "healing of fear" that "drives us to marginalize the sick, to marginalize the suffering, the disabled."

"There are many ways of marginalizing, also with pseudo-compassion or by removing the problem; one remains deaf and dumb in the face of the suffering of people marked by illness, anguish and difficulties," he said.

Jesus' command that the man's ears and tongue "be opened" is also a calling for Christians to be open to "our suffering brothers and sisters in need of help" and to reject selfishness and the closure of one's heart, the pope said.

The heart, he added, is what Jesus came to "liberate, to make us capable of living fully our relationship with God and with others."

Jesus became human so that human beings, "rendered interiorly deaf and dumb by sin, can listen to the voice of God, the voice of love that speaks to the heart and thus learn to speak, in turn, the language of love, translating it into gestures of generosity and self-giving," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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Clear response to abuse crisis is urgently needed, cardinal says

Top Stories - Mon, 09/10/2018 - 10:08am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Responding quickly and appropriately to the problem of abuse must be a priority for the Catholic Church, said Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"Recent events in the church have us all focused on the urgent need for a clear response on the part of the church for the sexual abuse of minors" and vulnerable adults, he told Vatican News Sept. 9.

"Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise," he said.

The cardinal, who is the archbishop of Boston, spoke at the end of the papal commission's plenary assembly in Rome Sept. 7-9. Afterward, Cardinal O'Malley remained in Rome for the meeting Sept. 10-12 of Pope Francis' international Council of Cardinals.

Cardinal O'Malley told Vatican News that in cases of abuse "if the church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now."

The pontifical commission, he explained, is an advisory body set up to make recommendations to the pope and to develop and offer guidelines, best practices and formation to church leaders throughout the world, including bishops' conferences, religious orders and offices in the Roman Curia.

The commission is not an investigative body and does not deal with past abuses or current allegations, but its expert-members try, through education, leadership training and advocacy, to "change the future so that it will not be a repeat of the sad history" the church has experienced, he said.

"There are other dicasteries of the Holy See that have the responsibility for dealing with the cases and dealing with individual circumstances of abuse or negligence on the part of authority, and our commission cannot be held accountable for their activities," he said.

Most allegations of clerical sexual abuse are handled through the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Commission members, however, have spoken with officials at various Vatican offices, including the doctrinal congregation. For those meetings, Cardinal O'Malley said he always brings a survivor with him "to talk to them about the church's mission of safeguarding, and I think those (moments) have been very successful."

Safeguarding training for bishops, priests and religious around the world is meant to help them become "aware of the seriousness" of abuse and negligence, "to be equipped to be able to respond" and to be able "to put the safeguarding of children and the pastoral care of victims as their priority," said the cardinal.

A critical part of building awareness, he said, has been making the voice of survivors be heard directly by leadership. Every year when new bishops attend a course in Rome, the commission also addresses the group.

Cardinal O'Malley said he usually invites former commission member, Marie Collins -- a survivor of Irish clerical sex abuse -- to speak to the new bishops "so that they can hear directly from someone who has experienced this horror in their own life, to explain to the them the consequences and repercussions for the individual, their family and the whole community."

Even though Collins was unable to attend this year, she made "a wonderful video" that the cardinal shared with the approximately 200 bishops appointed in the past year, he said.

Year after year, the cardinal said, "so many bishops have come up to me and told me that Marie Collins' testimony was the most important conference that they had heard during their entire week of conferences for the new bishops." That is why, he said, it is so crucial for the voices of survivors to be heard by leaders if they are ever to understand the importance of responding quickly and appropriately.

The cardinal also mentioned a number of new initiatives and resources the commission has been working on, such as special auditing instruments for bishops' conferences to measure the implementation and compliance of safeguarding policies as well as the idea of setting up "survivor advisory panels" in different countries to advise local bishops and the papal commission.

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Letter confirms Vatican officials knew of McCarrick allegations in 2000

Top Stories - Fri, 09/07/2018 - 3:47pm

By Robert Duncan and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top official from the Vatican Secretariat of State acknowledged allegations made by a New York priest in 2000 concerning Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, according to a letter obtained by Catholic News Service.

Father Boniface Ramsey, pastor of St. Joseph's Church Yorkville in New York City, told CNS Sept. 7 that he received the letter dated Oct. 11, 2006, from then-Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the former Vatican substitute for general affairs, asking for information regarding a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark who studied at Immaculate Conception Seminary and was being vetted for a post at a Vatican office. He made the letter available to CNS.

Then-Archbishop Sandri wrote to Father Ramsey, "I ask with particular reference to the serious matters involving some of the students of the Immaculate Conception Seminary, which in November 2000 you were good enough to bring confidentially to the attention of the then Apostolic Nuncio in the United States, the late Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo."

Father Ramsey had been on the faculty of the seminary from 1986 to 1996 and had sent a letter in 2000 to Archbishop Montalvo informing him of complaints he heard from seminarians studying at the seminary, located in South Orange, New Jersey.

In the letter, Father Ramsey told CNS, "I complained about McCarrick's relationships with seminarians and the whole business with sleeping with seminarians and all of that; the whole business that everyone knows about," Father Ramsey said.

Father Ramsey said he assumed the reason the letter from then-Archbishop Sandri, who is now a cardinal and prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, only mentioned "serious matters involving " seminarians and not McCarrick's behavior was because accusations against the former cardinal were "too sensitive."

"My letter November 22, 2000, was about McCarrick and it wasn't accusing seminarians of anything; it was accusing McCarrick."

While Father Ramsey has said he never received a formal response to the letter he sent in 2000, he told CNS he was certain the letter had been received because of the note he got from then-Archbishop Sandri in 2006 acknowledging the allegations he had raised in 2000.

The 2006 letter not only confirms past remarks made by Father Ramsey, but also elements of a document written by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016.

In an 11-page statement, published Aug. 26, Archbishop Vigano accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of sexual abuse, as well as abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop McCarrick.

Archbishop Vigano stated that the Vatican was informed as early as 2000 -- when he was an official at the Secretariat of State -- of allegations that Archbishop McCarrick "shared his bed with seminarians." Archbishop Vigano said the Vatican heard the allegation from the U.S. nuncios at the time: Archbishop Montalvo, who served from 1998 to 2005 and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who served from 2005 to 2011.

In late June, Cardinal McCarrick, the 88-year-old retired archbishop of Washington, said he would no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York was found credible. The cardinal has said he is innocent.

Since then, several former seminarians have claimed that the cardinal would invite groups of them to a beach house and insist individual members of the group share a bed with him.

 

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New York latest to launch probe of church sex abuse records

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 5:51pm

By Rhina Guidos

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The New York State Office of the Attorney General is the latest to announce that it is launching an investigation of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy, and at least two of the state's eight dioceses confirmed receiving subpoenas seeking access to its records.  

In a Sept. 6 press release, the agency said it was seeking "a civil investigation into how the dioceses and other church entities -- which are nonprofit institutions -- reviewed and potentially covered up allegations of extensive sexual abuse of minors." Several news agencies, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, reported on Sept. 6 that subpoenas had been sent to New York's eight dioceses: Albany, Buffalo, New York, Brooklyn, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre and Syracuse.  

The state's Attorney General, Barbara D. Underwood, also announced a hotline the same day, specifically for those who may have been abused by clergy.  

Joseph Zwilling, director of communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a Sept. 6 email to Catholic News Service that "while we have just received a subpoena, it is not a surprise to us that the Attorney General would look to begin a civil investigation, and she will find the Archdiocese of New York, and the other seven dioceses in the state, ready and eager to work together with her in the investigation."

Zwilling said that since 2002, the archdiocese has shared with the state's previous district attorneys "all information they have sought concerning allegations of sexual abuse of minors and has established excellent working relationships with each of them."

"Not only do we provide any information they seek, they also notify us as well when they learn of an allegation of abuse, so that, even if they cannot bring criminal charges, we might investigate and remove from ministry any cleric who has a credible and substantiated allegation of abuse," he said.

The attorney general's office said it had taken a cue from the state of Pennsylvania and its probe for records that resulted in an Aug. 14 grand jury report detailing claims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy going back 70 years. Though the report identified more than 1,000 sex abuse claims, in Pennsylvania, only two cases resulted in prosecutions because the statute of limitations had expired in the majority of cases.

"The Pennsylvania grand jury report shined a light on incredibly disturbing and depraved acts by Catholic clergy, assisted by a culture of secrecy and cover-ups in the dioceses. Victims in New York deserve to be heard as well -- and we are going to do everything in our power to bring them the justice they deserve," said New York's Underwood.

She added that New York may face a similar scenario to Pennsylvania when it comes to prosecuting any cases since "many cases of abuse may not be prosecutable given New York's statutes of limitations."

The Diocese of Albany in a statement released Sept. 6 said it had contacted the Albany District Attorney's office, inviting its officials "to review our records and look at how sexual abuse cases have been handled historically in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, to what extent survivors were heard and believed, what processes were followed, and what consequences resulted." The letter was addressed to parishioners.

In an email to CNS, Albany's Director of Communications Mary DeTurris Poust confirmed that the diocese had received a subpoena, adding that Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger said "we have to do what is right, even if it is not easy."

"As Bishop Scharfenberger stated in his letter to the people of our diocese, when he made the decision to ask Albany District Attorney David Soares to review our records, we believe that only by shining a light on whatever might be hidden can we bring about true healing for survivors and for our church," she said in the email.

In Buffalo, where the diocese has been dealing with fallout following a series of television news reports that said Bishop Richard J. Malone did not remove two priests from ministry after receiving abuse allegations, George Richert, director of communications, said the office would work with state officials.

"Our diocese will cooperate with any investigation initiated by the New York State Attorney General or District Attorney," he said in an email to CNS.

Under New York law, only district attorneys can refer evidence to grand juries to investigate criminal complaints and recommend prosecution, as long as the potential charges meet the statute of limitations, according to the New York County Lawyers Association website.

A day before New York announced its probe, the Attorney General of Nebraska asked the state's three dioceses for sex abuse records going back 40 years.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Jimmy Carter joins volunteers, faith groups at Habitat for Humanity event

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Carter Habitat for Humanity

By Catherine M. Odell

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CNS) -- Although stormy skies often interrupted the hammering and sent volunteers ducking for tents, a Habitat for Humanity event in Indiana pulled together almost 2,000 volunteers, generous contributions, celebrities and faith groups.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn, both in their 90s, were in Mishawaka helping to build 23 single-family houses during the last week of August. This year's "Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project" was awarded to St. Joseph County in northern Indiana and the Carters' special project was to build a porch for one of the houses.

"We want to help the houses look like they're part of a real neighborhood," said Habitat volunteer Paul Kil, who led a team from St. Therese Little Flower Church in South Bend that was landscaping and laying sod at the Carter site. Kil, who grew up in a family that built its own house, said his own carpentry skills are home-grown, but he's impressed with the training Habitat offers volunteers who come with minimal or no carpentry skills.

At an Aug. 26 opening ceremony for the building project, Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, said he was proud that Notre Dame's student Habitat chapter is one of the largest in the country.

The Carters were longtime friends of the late Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who was Notre Dame's president from 1952 to 1987, Father Jenkins said.

Late-night talk show host and Indianapolis native David Letterman introduced the Carters and joked that while his enthusiasm for Habitat is huge, his building skills are limited. "What I quickly learned is that the only thing I can do is hammer. ... If there's a Hammering Hall of Fame, get me in!"

Letterman has been a Habitat volunteer and patron since he watched the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He wondered what he could do and Habitat became his answer, he said.

Jimmy Carter told the crowd: "Habitat is not a sacrifice for us. We sometimes get too hot or too cold or work overtime. But, we always feel that we've gotten more out of this than we put in."

He also said it brings hope, noting that he was pleased that he and Rosalynn have drawn international attention to the need for affordable housing since they began working with the organization in 1984.

"Because of Habitat for Humanity ... every 50 seconds, a family somewhere in the world is getting a new or improved home," the former U.S. president said.

Benito and Junixha Salazar were among the 23 families working on the homes going up in Mishawaka.

Like all Habitat "partner families," the Salazars were helping to pay for their home through sweat equity -- 250 hours of volunteer work. They are also attending Habitat-mandated partner family classes on budgeting and home maintenance. Habitat's partner families get zero-interest home loans.

Habitat involvement has bolstered their faith, said the Salazars, who will live in their single-story house with 4-year-old Isabelle and 2-year-old Benito Jr.

Benito, a Catholic, became a forklift operator to make more money before Isabelle was born, but that meant leaving a job he loved at La Casa de Amistad, a community center serving immigrants in South Bend. Junixha is a social worker who attends a Seventh-day Adventist church.

Working full time and having small children made it tough to attend weekly classes and get the required service hours done, but recently he saw the payoff, Benito said. His new neighborhood was becoming a loving community even before its families moved in. "I help build my neighbor's garage or put trim on the house. We don't just work on our own houses. We work on everybody's houses."

This Habitat trademark of generosity and community has drawn many volunteers across St. Joseph County.

Jane Pitz, a former religious sister for 32 years, who worked in campus ministry at Notre Dame, could be enjoying a lazy retirement but instead she leads a Habitat Women Build project in St. Joseph County and fundraises for the organization.

A Jimmy Carter quote about the demands of the Gospel and Habitat's mission echoes her own belief and that of many Habitat volunteers.

She said, Carter believes: "If you are a person of faith ... you learn certain basic lessons about truth, justice, love and sharing that shape your life" and through Habitat for Humanity you find a way to "reach out to fellow humans who don't have a decent place in which to live."

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Bishop Murry, 'cancer-free,' details action against abuse in Ohio diocese

Top Stories - Thu, 09/06/2018 - 12:35pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Pete Sheehan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNS) -- On his first day back at work Sept. 4, Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown spoke happily of his return, but he also addressed the somber subject of the sex abuse crisis now in the news.

In April, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and admitted to the Cleveland Clinic, where he received aggressive chemotherapy for a month. After his discharge, he received follow-up treatment and spent time resting and recovering.

Speaking to reporters at St. Columba Cathedral Parish Hall, Bishop Murry said he was "100 percent cancer-free" following a bone marrow scan.

He thanked all those who supported him and provided his medical care.

"My energy level is almost back to normal. I look forward to returning to work and reconnecting with the people of the diocese -- part time for a short time, then later, full time," Bishop Murry said.

The next day, he presided at a weekly prayer service for diocesan staff at St. Columba Cathedral that began after his diagnosis, expressing gratitude to all for their prayers.

"Prayer is powerful. That is what got me through," he said.

The bishop also thanked diocesan leaders and staff for keeping the diocese running smoothly.

While speaking to reporters at the Sept. 4 news conference, he addressed the recent controversies in the clergy sex abuse scandal and calling for greater openness in the church and promising more concrete action from the Youngstown Diocese.

Specifically, he said the diocese would release the names of diocesan priests removed from ministry because of a credible accusation of abuse, and he welcomed county prosecutors in the six-county diocesan area "to review our files on priests who have been credibly accused."

Bishop Murry also noted the Youngstown Diocese's track record in dealing compassionately with victims and acting decisively to remove priests from ministry who face credible accusations.

On the broader church level, he said files relating to Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick should be "opened to a group of competent laypeople, to determine how his predatory behavior went unreported."

"At the same time mechanisms must be developed to report allegations against other bishops so that they can be adequately investigated," he added.

In response to a question about the "testimony" from Archbishop Carlo Vigano, former papal nuncio to the United States, which accused Pope Francis of covering up allegations about Archbishop McCarrick, Bishop Murry said the letter seems to have a tone of "settling scores" and "nothing he said is substantiated."

He also encouraged Pope Francis to more fully explain his position.

Bishop Murry, taking questions about his health, expressed gratitude for all who supported him and said the experience strengthened his faith.

He said he was overwhelmed by the many people "who sent any cards, letters, emails, books, prayer chains, homemade gifts and food," citing one letter from an 18-year-old and another from a 10-year-old girl who sent a picture of herself and her cat and a $5 bill "to help with your medical expenses."

He also quipped that he might start spending more time outside the office because the office seemed to run fine without him.

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Sheehan is the editor of The Catholic Exponent, diocesan newspaper of Youngstown.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

Cardinal Bo slams Myanmar military for brutality in Kachin

Top Stories - Wed, 09/05/2018 - 12:00pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Seng Mai, EPA

By

MANDALAY, Myanmar (CNS) -- Myanmar's military continues to persecute ethnic Kachin, the predominant Christian group in a conflict-torn part of the country, as well as Rohingya Muslims, said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Myanmar.

Speaking Sept. 1 at a peace forum in South Korea, Cardinal Bo said the suffering the Rohingya have endured has captured the world's attention. He described their plight as an "appalling scar on the conscience of my country," ucanews.com reported.

Yet, he continued, other targeted groups are being overlooked as ethnic fighting rages on in northern Myanmar, with thousands of ethnic minorities having been injured, killed and displaced.

"Villages bombed and burned, women raped, churches destroyed, villagers used as human minesweepers and human shields," Cardinal Bo told peace experts at the Catholic University of Korea in Seoul.

The cardinal elaborated on military air strikes in Kachin in February and a major offensive in April that led to more than 7,000 people being displaced.

He said a series of "wars" were being waged in Myanmar against those who espouse religious freedom by forces preaching religious intolerance and hatred.

Cardinal Bo also lamented a several violent conflicts stemming from land ownership disputes and other concerns including human trafficking, environmental degradation, drug abuse by young people, poverty and a lack of protection of basic rights.

"These 'wars' continue even though Myanmar has moved over the past eight years through reforms and made a fragile transition from a military dictatorship to a fragile democracy," he said.

Sporadic fighting has occurred in the Christian stronghold of Kachin state since the country then known as Burma broke free of its colonial shackles in 1948 by gaining independence from British rule. The situation deteriorated in 2011 when some 100,000 people were displaced. Most of the state's 1.7 million Kachins are Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.

Cardinal Bo said the military retains supreme power, especially in its control of three key ministries, while the civilian government has little or no effective control over its activities.

This, combined with rising Buddhist nationalism and militancy, has created a dangerous cocktail of hatred and repression that denies ethnic and religious minorities the "peace and human dignity" they deserve, he said.

Cardinal Bo is known as a staunch campaigner for reconciliation in Myanmar, where peace negotiations with ethnic armed militias are ongoing and the Rohingya refugee crisis still is being settled.

Myanmar is facing harsh criticism over rights abuses in Rakhine state after a United Nations fact-finding mission found the military had committed gross human rights abuses in the state.

Cardinal Bo also talked about establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula amid a recent series of high-profile meetings between the leaders of South Korea, North Korea, the United States and China.

He said the dream of nuclear disarmament and denuclearization on the peninsula was possible and urged continued dialogue.

However, he added, true peace cannot be realized when North Koreans still are being stripped of their human rights and basic freedoms.

The U.N. has described leader Kim Jong Un's repressive policies as crimes against humanity. In North Korea, more than 100,000 people remain incarcerated in prison camps, subjected to the most severe forms of torture, slave labor and abuse, in an environment where religious freedom is completely lacking.

"Peace is born from the concept of human dignity," Cardinal Bo said.

"Every human being, including those who hate us, is made in God's likeness. Hatred is taught through narratives of hatred. We can also teach every human soul to love," he added.

He said that while the respective situations in Myanmar and Korea are not exactly analogous, the principle objectives are similar.

The goal in both regions is "to build a lasting, genuine peace," he said, adding, "human dignity must be defended and injustice and impunity confronted."

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Editors: The original story can be found at www.ucanews.com/news/cardinal-bo-slams-myanmar-military-for-brutality-in-kachin-state/83234.

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Copyright © 2018 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.

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