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Church must take clerical abuse of women seriously, editor says

Top Stories - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 12:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Susana Vera, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church has been too slow coming to terms with the sexual abuse of women -- particularly women religious -- by priests, said the editor of the Vatican newspaper's women's magazine.

Although scandalous, the delay in recognizing the problem is not surprising for an "ecclesiastical institution with centuries of culture focused on women as dangerous and temptresses," wrote Lucetta Scaraffia, editor of the "Woman-Church-World" supplement to L'Osservatore Romano.

While the Catholic Church has made progress in recognizing the sexual abuse of children as a crime, Scaraffia wrote, when dealing with the abuse of women "the subject is more complex" and goes to the heart of Pope Francis' analysis of the abuse crisis as having much to do with an abuse of power.

Even when the sexual abuse of a woman by a priest is condemned, it often is presented as "sexual transgression freely committed by both parties," she wrote in the magazine's February edition.

If people took seriously Pope Francis' point about abuse and its coverup being the result of clericalism and the abuse of power in the church, Scaraffia said, the sexual abuse of women religious by priests "could finally be recognized for what it is, an act of exploitation."

"The differences in power, the difficulty in reporting it out of fear -- well founded -- of retaliation, not only against herself but also against the order she belongs to, explains the silence that has covered this exploitation for years," she wrote.

Scaraffia pointed to "precise and detailed" reports of clerical abuse of women religious written in the 1990s by senior members of women's orders, particularly Sister Marie McDonald of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa and Medical Missionary Sister Maura O'Donohue.

After some media coverage of the report, she said, "silence fell on their statements and, as is well known, silence gives security to the abusers."

"If we continue to close our eyes to this scandal -- made even more serious by the fact that the abuse of women could lead to procreation and, therefore, is at the origin of the scandal of imposed abortion or of children not recognized by the priests -- the oppression of women in the church will never change," she said.

But, Scaraffia wrote, finally "the veil is being lifted" on the truth of the abuse of women in the church. It must be faced "with necessary tact, but also with the courage Pope Francis asks of us."

 

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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.

English bishop says miracle of U.S. woman could make Newman a saint

Top Stories - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:39am

IMAGE: CNS/Catholic Church of England and Wales

By Carol Glatz

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) -- Catholic bishops have expressed hope that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed John Henry Newman in 2019 after Vatican medics said the inexplicable healing of a U.S. mother was a miracle attributable to his intercession.

The cardinal was beatified in 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham, England, after the miraculous healing of Boston Deacon Jack Sullivan.

Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham said the English and Welsh bishops were informed during their "ad limina" visit to Rome in September that the second miracle needed for the canonization of Blessed Newman had been found.

"I understand that the medical board responsible for assessing a second miracle has now delivered a positive assessment to the congregation," he told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 29 email.

The archbishop said members of the congregation will meet early next year "to consider the medical board's assessment and to make its own recommendation" to Pope Francis, who will make the final decision and possibly set a date for the canonization ceremony.

Archbishop Longley said: "It is wonderful news that the process for canonization is now moving closer toward its conclusion, and I pray that we may witness the canonization of Blessed John Henry Newman within the coming year."

He said the canonization would be a "great joy," especially for the Catholics of Birmingham, the city where Blessed Newman founded his oratory.

"I am sure that Pope Benedict XVI, who came to our city to beatify Cardinal Newman, will be joining us as we continue to pray for Blessed John Henry's canonization in the near future," he said.

The second healing miracle involved a young law graduate from the Archdiocese of Chicago who faced life-threatening complications during her pregnancy but suddenly recovered when she prayed to Blessed Newman to help.

It was reported in the British media in early 2016 that a file on the healing had been passed from the archdiocese to the Vatican.

The news that the second miracle had been approved in Rome was revealed by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth in a weekly newsletter in mid-November.

He told the people of his diocese that developments in the cardinal's cause meant that it "looks now as if Newman might be canonized, all being well, later next year."

In a Nov. 29 telephone interview with CNS, Bishop Egan described the progress of the cause as a "wonderful thing."

He said it would be "great" if it (the canonization) was in October next year because that was the month of Blessed Newman's conversion to the Catholic faith.

"It shows that it is possible to be an Englishman and holy," he said.

"It is an inspiration for anyone from England," he added. "I hope and pray that one day he will be made a doctor of the church, because there is so much in his teaching that is really rich."

Before he became a Catholic in the 19th century, Blessed Newman was an Anglican theologian who founded the Oxford Movement to try to return the Church of England to its Catholic roots.

Despite a life marked by controversy, he was renowned for his exemplary virtue and for his reputation as a brilliant thinker, and Pope Leo XIII rewarded him with a cardinal's red hat.

He died in Birmingham in 1890, and more than 15,000 people lined the streets for his funeral procession.

Scholars believe he was years ahead of his time in his views of the Catholic Church and its teachings.

 

 

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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.

Endure hard times by remembering God's love, his promise, pope says

Top Stories - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a Christian does not mean life will be just a big endless party, Pope Francis said.

There will be good times and bad as well as moments of isolation, anguish or confusion, the pope said in his homily Feb. 1 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Being a Christian, he said, means having encountered Jesus, feeling his love and choosing to believe in his hope and promise.

The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading from the Book of Hebrews, in which the author urges his readers to "not throw away your confidence" and reminds them that perseverance and endurance are needed "to do the will of God and receive what he has promised."

Pope Francis said: "Christian life is not a carnival, it is not a party and nonstop happiness. Christian life has its really beautiful and terrible moments," moments when things seem fine and moments that are bleak and where nothing makes sense.

The day's reading explains what is needed to endure and overcome these difficult moments: memory and hope, the pope said.

One needs to remember those "happy days of encounter with the Lord" and those moments of love, he said, and find consolation in the Lord's promise.

Christian martyrs from today and throughout history possessed this courageous perseverance, he said.

"So many men and women are suffering for the faith, but they remember their first encounter with God, they have hope and they move forward," he said.

This is what is needed in times of persecution and "when the devil attacks us with temptation," he said.

"Always look to the Lord," he said. Persevere with one's own cross, remember God's love and go on with hope, ready to receive what he has promised.

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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.

Endure hard times by remembering God's love, his promise, pope says

Top Stories - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being a Christian does not mean life will be just a big endless party, Pope Francis said.

There will be good times and bad as well as moments of isolation, anguish or confusion, the pope said in his homily Feb. 1 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Being a Christian, he said, means having encountered Jesus, feeling his love and choosing to believe in his hope and promise.

The pope's homily focused on the day's first reading from the Book of Hebrews, in which the author urges his readers to "not throw away your confidence" and reminds them that perseverance and endurance are needed "to do the will of God and receive what he has promised."

Pope Francis said: "Christian life is not a carnival, it is not a party and nonstop happiness. Christian life has its really beautiful and terrible moments," moments when things seem fine and moments that are bleak and where nothing makes sense.

The day's reading explains what is needed to endure and overcome these difficult moments: memory and hope, the pope said.

One needs to remember those "happy days of encounter with the Lord" and those moments of love, he said, and find consolation in the Lord's promise.

Christian martyrs from today and throughout history possessed this courageous perseverance, he said.

"So many men and women are suffering for the faith, but they remember their first encounter with God, they have hope and they move forward," he said.

This is what is needed in times of persecution and "when the devil attacks us with temptation," he said.

"Always look to the Lord," he said. Persevere with one's own cross, remember God's love and go on with hope, ready to receive what he has promised.

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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.

Update: Texas dioceses name clergy with credible allegations of sex abuse

Top Stories - Fri, 02/01/2019 - 8:39am

IMAGE: CNS

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- In a step to restore trust in the Catholic Church, dioceses in Texas released their lists of priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been determined.

The 15 dioceses disclosed Jan. 31 the names of 278 individual clerics who have such credible allegations in Texas. The statewide disclosure removed duplication of clerics who appear on multiple diocesan lists.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, which made public its list in 2007, has continued to update its disclosure on its website. It identifies 15 priests, one permanent deacon and one religious brother.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio repeatedly called the release "the just and right thing to do," and that it is a "move forward in building a healthier community, a healthier society."

The lists were compiled separately by each individual diocese. Many dioceses worked in cooperation with diocesan lay review boards, with some also working with independent consultants.

The release includes the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio archdioceses and the Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria dioceses. The oldest diocese is Galveston-Houston, established in 1847, with San Antonio founded next in 1874. Since 1950 nine additional dioceses have been established, resulting in a total of 15 dioceses. Laredo is the most recent to be established, that being in 2000.

Each diocese worked with the general understanding that a "credible allegation" is one that, after reviewing reasonably available and relevant information, and in consultation with diocesan lay review boards and/or other professionals, the diocese has reason to believe is true.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extended his "deepest regret for the harm that has been done," a sentiment echoed by bishops interviewed by the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

"In multiple incidents over the years, the church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care," Cardinal DiNardo said. "There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person."

While each diocese prepared its list independently, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the goal of releasing the lists on the same day was significant and was done in consideration of all those affected by the abuse including abuse survivors, family members, friends and parishioners.

"When survivors see these names, it hurts them," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

He emphasized how each diocese remains committed to supporting and working with survivors and others affected by clergy abuse through a victim assistance coordinator. The church offers psychological and pastoral services through the coordinators to aid in the healing process, he said.

The archbishop recognized Pope Francis' call for accompaniment, or walking with those within and outside of the church, especially clergy abuse survivors.

"We need to let other voices help us, and that is accompaniment. It needs to be something alive, it is not just a check mark. We need to hear the voices and see how we can better serve the people," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

"Accompaniment doesn't end with listening. We must embrace the recommendations ... and always be open about the relationship with victims and survivors. We must be vigilant and work toward a change in the culture and in the dominant culture," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo agreed, saying it was his "sincere hope" that the list would be "a step forward to healing for those who have suffered in the wake of such actions."

"We humbly pledge to accompany them on that journey to wholeness and pray that God may bring them an awareness of his loving compassion," he said.

There are more than 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, and more than 1,320 parishes in the 15 dioceses.

The list includes religious order and diocesan priests. All dioceses will separately list deacons who have been named in credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor, with some disclosed Jan. 31 and others pledging to do so later this year.

"Our hope is that acknowledging our past and demonstrating our accountability can bring healing and hope to deep wounds," Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria said.

The dioceses used 1950 as the starting point for its lists to be consistent with the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York that surveyed the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons. The study covered the period of 1950 to 2002.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and has its chancery in Houston, joined the 15 dioceses in the release of credibly accused clergy. While it had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor, the ordinariate said in a statement it would publicly disclose names should any credible allegations be received.

Several dioceses are participating in spiritual events to pray and act toward the healing of clergy abuse survivors.

In San Antonio, priests and deacons will lead a special prayer at every Mass in its 139 parishes the weekend of Feb. 2-3 for the "healing of the wounds of sexual abuse." Priests and deacons will renew their commitments to God and the church during the prayer.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso prepared to celebrate a Mass of Atonement Jan. 31 in St. Patrick Cathedral. In Austin, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez earlier called for a Year of Reparation that began All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. As a prelude, every parish in the diocese celebrated a Mass of Reparation Oct. 8.

An archdiocesan-wide praying of the rosary occurred Jan. 31 in Galveston-Houston for healing in the church and victims of clergy abuse. Father Richard McNeillie, director of vocations, led the rosary as it was livestreamed online.

In addition, numerous parishes have held prayer services, town hall meetings and other gatherings throughout Texas and across the nation in an effort to confront the abuse crisis with prayer and action.

The Jan. 31 release comes weeks before Pope Francis convenes a gathering of leaders of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican, which Cardinal DiNardo, as USCCB president, will attend.

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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

 

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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.

Texas dioceses name clergy with credible allegations of sex abuse

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 3:15pm

IMAGE: CNS

By James Ramos

HOUSTON (CNS) -- In a step to restore trust in the Catholic Church, dioceses in Texas released their lists of priests against whom credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been determined.

The 15 dioceses disclosed Jan. 31 the names of 278 individual clerics who have such credible allegations in Texas. The statewide disclosure removed duplication of clerics who appear on multiple diocesan lists and non-clergy, such as religious brothers.

The Diocese of Fort Worth, which made public its list in 2007, has continued to update its disclosure on its website. It identifies 15 priests, one permanent deacon and one religious brother.

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio repeatedly called the release "the just and right thing to do," and that it is a "move forward in building a healthier community, a healthier society."

The lists were compiled separately by each individual diocese. Many dioceses worked in cooperation with diocesan lay review boards, with some also working with independent consultants.

The release includes the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio archdioceses and the Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria dioceses. The oldest diocese is Galveston-Houston, established in 1847, with San Antonio founded next in 1874. Since 1950 nine additional dioceses have been established, resulting in a total of 15 dioceses. Laredo is the most recent to be established, that being in 2000.

Each diocese worked with the general understanding that a "credible allegation" is one that, after reviewing reasonably available and relevant information, and in consultation with diocesan lay review boards and/or other professionals, the diocese has reason to believe is true.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extended his "deepest regret for the harm that has been done," a sentiment echoed by bishops interviewed by the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

"In multiple incidents over the years, the church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care," Cardinal DiNardo said. "There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person."

While each diocese prepared its list independently, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the goal of releasing the lists on the same day was significant and was done in consideration of all those affected by the abuse including abuse survivors, family members, friends and parishioners.

"When survivors see these names, it hurts them," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

He emphasized how each diocese remains committed to supporting and working with survivors and others affected by clergy abuse through a victim assistance coordinator. The church offers psychological and pastoral services through the coordinators to aid in the healing process, he said.

The archbishop recognized Pope Francis' call for accompaniment, or walking with those within and outside of the church, especially clergy abuse survivors.

"We need to let other voices help us, and that is accompaniment. It needs to be something alive, it is not just a check mark. We need to hear the voices and see how we can better serve the people," Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.

"Accompaniment doesn't end with listening. We must embrace the recommendations ... and always be open about the relationship with victims and survivors. We must be vigilant and work toward a change in the culture and in the dominant culture," he said.

Cardinal DiNardo agreed, saying it was his "sincere hope" that the list would be "a step forward to healing for those who have suffered in the wake of such actions."

"We humbly pledge to accompany them on that journey to wholeness and pray that God may bring them an awareness of his loving compassion," he said.

There are more than 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, and more than 1,320 parishes in the 15 dioceses.

The list includes religious order and diocesan priests. All dioceses will separately list deacons who have been named in credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor, with some disclosed Jan. 31 and others pledging to do so later this year.

"Our hope is that acknowledging our past and demonstrating our accountability can bring healing and hope to deep wounds," Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria said.

The dioceses used 1950 as the starting point for its lists to be consistent with the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York that surveyed the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons. The study covered the period of 1950 to 2002.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and has its chancery in Houston, joined the 15 dioceses in the release of credibly accused clergy. While it had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor, the ordinariate said in a statement it would publicly disclose names should any credible allegations be received.

Several dioceses are participating in spiritual events to pray and act toward the healing of clergy abuse survivors.

In San Antonio, priests and deacons will lead a special prayer at every Mass in its 139 parishes the weekend of Feb. 2-3 for the "healing of the wounds of sexual abuse." Priests and deacons will renew their commitments to God and the church during the prayer.

Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso prepared to celebrate a Mass of Atonement Jan. 31 in St. Patrick Cathedral. In Austin, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez earlier called for a Year of Reparation that began All Saints' Day, Nov. 1. As a prelude, every parish in the diocese celebrated a Mass of Reparation Oct. 8.

An archdiocesan-wide praying of the rosary occurred Jan. 31 in Galveston-Houston for healing in the church and victims of clergy abuse. Father Richard McNeillie, director of vocations, led the rosary as it was livestreamed online.

In addition, numerous parishes have held prayer services, town hall meetings and other gatherings throughout Texas and across the nation in an effort to confront the abuse crisis with prayer and action.

The Jan. 31 release comes weeks before Pope Francis convenes a gathering of leaders of the world's bishops' conferences Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president and formerly bishop of San Antonio, will attend the meeting.

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Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

 

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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.

Woman religious in war-torn Syria focuses on rebuilding, healing

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 1:42pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sister Annie Demerjian has seen a lifetime of suffering in Aleppo, Syria, over the past seven years. Now, as conflict is beginning to die down, her ministry is no longer about getting emergency supplies to those in need as buildings collapsed and food, water and electricity were scarce. The current challenge is to help people begin to rebuild their lives.

"We are now living the consequences" of years of civil war, she said.

As the Syrian city finds its way out of the rubble, Sister Annie and three other Sisters of Jesus and Mary are at work, reopening garment factories and helping people find jobs and develop job skills.

"Before, we were living day by day or minute by minute," she said, stressing that she and the other sisters never knew when bombs would fall or who would die next.

"It was a big fear," the 52-year-old sister said in Washington Nov. 27. She was visiting to attend a Nov. 28 prayer service -- sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need-USA -- honoring today's Christian martyrs at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. She planned to speak to the congregation about enormous suffering in the region and the task of rebuilding.

"Every part of my country has a story to tell, a story that reveals wounds that only time and God's mercy can heal," she said, stressing that the current situation primarily involves "recovering from this heavy burden." Many are mourning those who died and those who fled; children, in particular, have witnessed horrific violence or lost limbs due to explosions and face the "long process of healing."

The death toll from this war is staggering. Earlier this year, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 511,000 people had been killed since fighting began in Syria in March 2011.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said 5.6 million Syrians have left the country and 6.6 million are internally displaced since the war began.

Of those who remain, millions need humanitarian assistance and health care. More than 86,000 lost limbs. Sister Annie said children in particular are suffering, especially the 3 million born during the war who only know of violent destruction. More than 20,000 children were killed in the war, and 2.8 million children have been uprooted from their family homes, she added.

When the fighting first began, Sister Annie and four other sisters in Aleppo who were teaching at the time were told by their provincial that they could leave. They chose to stay, saying they had lived there in good times and would stay during bad times.

"For us it's been a very painful experience, but to be present makes a difference for us and our people," she told Catholic News Service.

And now, she said, the focus is on "supporting our people and letting them stand in dignity to start a new life," stressing that the easier part is the physical rebuilding. "Rebuilding the heart and soul" is the bigger challenge.

She also knows that news about the war in Syria has fallen off the radar for many people.

"At the beginning the news was all about Syria; now there is no news about Syria. It seems like it's finished," she said, stressing, "It's not finished, of course."

In prepared remarks for the vespers service, Sister Annie likened the situation in Syria to someone recovering from a serious operation.

"One thing is the actual experience of the surgery; another thing is the long period of time needed to recover. Syria and its people are, we hope and pray, about to enter the recovery period. It will be long and challenging. It will need much help from friends and neighbors; it will need much patience from the people themselves and the determination to rebuild their lives."

She told CNS that she feels more people need to be aware of the current situation in Syria. She compared it to the words of St. Paul when he said: "If one part of the body is suffering, the whole body is suffering."

"We need to be aware," she said. "We can't just turn the channel" and look away.

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

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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.

Catholic groups pledge to make church's voice heard at climate conference

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 11:47am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arnd Wiegmann, Reuters

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- As government delegations from across the globe prepare for a Dec. 2-14 U.N. conference on climate change, Catholic organizations are pledging to make the church's voice heard.

CIDSE, a network of 17 Catholic development agencies from Europe and North America based in Brussels, joined other Catholic aid organizations in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th U.N. Climate Change Conference, which was expected to propose measures for restricting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"Over the past year, there have been fears of a loss of energy -- that ambition and commitment are being deflated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead," said Josianne Gauthier, CIDSE secretary-general. "But we've been called out by the world's most vulnerable countries to make the bold changes needed to restrict global warming -- not by seeking the lowest common denominator, but by joining in courageous actions."

The Canadian Catholic told Catholic News Service Nov. 26 that Catholic campaigners would press the conference to maintain a "comprehensive rights approach to climate change," rather than merely focusing on "technical questions."

Adriana Opromolla, international advocacy officer for Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based federation of 164 Catholic charities, said Catholic groups "want an open, transparent dialogue on the global common good, not just a preoccupation with the interests of certain countries."

"While governments have to comply with global emission reduction goals, actors below government level can also have a major impact with a shared vision for reversing current trends," said Opromolla. "What absolutely cannot happen is that we just continue with business as usual."

"We've seen a growing interest in the Catholic Church as a moral leader and globally recognized authority, so I've no doubt its voice will be listened to," she said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promoting Integral Human Development, will lead a delegation from the Holy See.

In an Oct. 26 statement, church leaders from five continents called for the conference to be a "milestone on the path set out in 2015," by encouraging "urgency, intergenerational justice, human dignity and human rights."

They added that Pope Francis had demanded "rapid and radical changes" in his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for our Common Home." They called on countries with heavy carbon emissions to "take political accountability and meet their climate finance commitments."

The statement said the Catholic Church worldwide was now supporting a "shift toward more sustainable communities and lifestyles," including disinvestment from fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy, and was "rethinking the agriculture sector" to promote agro-ecology.

"We must resist the temptation to look for solutions to our current situation in short-term technological fixes without addressing the root causes and the long-term consequences," said the signers, who included Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, and Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota, Colombia, president of the Latin American bishops' council. Their counterparts from Europe, Africa and Oceania also signed the letter.

The bishops' statement was welcomed as a "strong indication" of global Catholic commitment to climate justice by Tomas Insua, director of the Boston-based Global Catholic Climate Movement, who said he counted on political leaders to "take up the challenge" when "every notch in the global thermometer is a tragedy for the most vulnerable."

Gauthier also welcomed the statement's support for "deep societal change," adding that Catholic experts would work with representatives of other religions at Katowice to "make noise and instill hope" around the shared goals of "justice, dignity and care for creation."

"I think there's a thirst for another kind of discourse now, something less technical and with a more human face. This is where churches and religious communities can offer vital help," she added.

A U.N. website statement said the conference's main objective would be to adopt implementation guidelines for the 1.5-degree limit adopted under a 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

It added that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had recently warned net carbon dioxide emissions must reach zero by 2050 to meet the Paris target, thus reducing "the risks to human well-being, ecosystems and sustainable development."

In a Nov. 22 report, the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization said levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, had reached a new record high, driving increases in sea levels, ocean acidification and more extreme weather, with "no sign of a reversal in the trend."

A separate Nov. 27 emissions report by the U.N. Environment Programme tracked policy commitments by countries to reduce emissions and said these were trailing behind official targets.

 

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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 official: Prohibit 'killer robots' now before they become reality

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:52am

IMAGE: REUTERS

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will have St. Francis of Assisi on his mind when he visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5 and Morocco in late March.

As he told ambassadors to the Holy See early in January, "These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions (Christianity and Islam) in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil" of Egypt.

The anniversary has a special meaning in the United Arab Emirates, which along with Oman and Yemen, are served by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, a church jurisdiction entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscans.

Most of the 65 priests who work in the vicariate and Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar, are Capuchins.

The order's website -- ofmcap.org -- has a special page dedicated to the pope's visit to Abu Dhabi, which begins by noting: "This year marks the 800th anniversary of the visit of St. Francis of Assisi to the sultan of Egypt."

Father Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, issued a long letter about the anniversary in early January, describing how St. Francis traveled to Egypt during the Crusades, arriving at "the camp of the crusading army, among Latin Christians who through years of preaching and the rhetoric of holy war had been taught to scorn Muslims. Those same Muslims had every reason to scorn Francis, assuming that he, like most in the crusader camp, was an enemy and not a bearer of peace."

Yet, Father Perry wrote, "we today celebrate what no one at that moment could have foreseen: that a Spirit-filled man with nothing of his own crossed the battle lines unarmed to request a meeting with the sultan, was received with grace by that sultan, enjoyed an extended period of hospitality with the Muslim leader and emerged from the visit to reflect anew on the mission of the Friars Minor."

In 2019, the minister general said, Franciscans should renew their commitment to walking "together with Muslims and people of all faiths as fellow travelers, as builders of civility, and most fundamentally, as sisters and brothers, children of Abraham, our father in faith."

He called on all the order's members "to celebrate this anniversary as a moment when the light of the Gospel can open one's heart to see the 'imago Dei' (image of God) in a person one regards with fear and distrust, or even worse, in a person one has been urged to hate."

"We live in a time when people of various faiths traffic on the demonization of Muslims and incite others to fear them," Father Perry said.

Beyond just studying and praying about dialogue, he said, "I encourage followers of Francis who lack much personal exposure to Islam to recall the experience of our founder by taking a simple and concrete step: meet a Muslim. Get to know him or her, beyond the pleasantries of a cup of tea and social nicety. Try to learn and appreciate what experience of God animates him or her and allow your Muslim friend to see the love God has poured into your heart through Christ."

Father Perry also recognized that some Franciscans live in lands where they are a minority and find themselves "caught up in political and sectarian strife and may feel the threat of violence." But he urged them to hold firm to St. Francis' conviction that God is patient and follows a timetable no human being could understand.

"Amid the groanings of the world for interreligious understanding," he wrote, "may our humble, patient and merciful God show all of us the deeds and words that are most pleasing to God."

 

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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 looks back 800 years to St. Francis' dialogue with Muslim sultan

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:52am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will have St. Francis of Assisi on his mind when he visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5 and Morocco in late March.

As he told ambassadors to the Holy See early in January, "These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions (Christianity and Islam) in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil" of Egypt.

The anniversary has a special meaning in the United Arab Emirates, which along with Oman and Yemen, are served by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, a church jurisdiction entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscans.

Most of the 65 priests who work in the vicariate and Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar, are Capuchins.

The order's website -- ofmcap.org -- has a special page dedicated to the pope's visit to Abu Dhabi, which begins by noting: "This year marks the 800th anniversary of the visit of St. Francis of Assisi to the sultan of Egypt."

Father Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, issued a long letter about the anniversary in early January, describing how St. Francis traveled to Egypt during the Crusades, arriving at "the camp of the crusading army, among Latin Christians who through years of preaching and the rhetoric of holy war had been taught to scorn Muslims. Those same Muslims had every reason to scorn Francis, assuming that he, like most in the crusader camp, was an enemy and not a bearer of peace."

Yet, Father Perry wrote, "we today celebrate what no one at that moment could have foreseen: that a Spirit-filled man with nothing of his own crossed the battle lines unarmed to request a meeting with the sultan, was received with grace by that sultan, enjoyed an extended period of hospitality with the Muslim leader and emerged from the visit to reflect anew on the mission of the Friars Minor."

In 2019, the minister general said, Franciscans should renew their commitment to walking "together with Muslims and people of all faiths as fellow travelers, as builders of civility, and most fundamentally, as sisters and brothers, children of Abraham, our father in faith."

He called on all the order's members "to celebrate this anniversary as a moment when the light of the Gospel can open one's heart to see the 'imago Dei' (image of God) in a person one regards with fear and distrust, or even worse, in a person one has been urged to hate."

"We live in a time when people of various faiths traffic on the demonization of Muslims and incite others to fear them," Father Perry said.

Beyond just studying and praying about dialogue, he said, "I encourage followers of Francis who lack much personal exposure to Islam to recall the experience of our founder by taking a simple and concrete step: meet a Muslim. Get to know him or her, beyond the pleasantries of a cup of tea and social nicety. Try to learn and appreciate what experience of God animates him or her and allow your Muslim friend to see the love God has poured into your heart through Christ."

Father Perry also recognized that some Franciscans live in lands where they are a minority and find themselves "caught up in political and sectarian strife and may feel the threat of violence." But he urged them to hold firm to St. Francis' conviction that God is patient and follows a timetable no human being could understand.

"Amid the groanings of the world for interreligious understanding," he wrote, "may our humble, patient and merciful God show all of us the deeds and words that are most pleasing to God."

 

- - -

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 looks back 800 years to St. Francis' dialogue with Muslim sultan

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:52am

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis will have St. Francis of Assisi on his mind when he visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5 and Morocco in late March.

As he told ambassadors to the Holy See early in January, "These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions (Christianity and Islam) in this year that marks the 800th anniversary of the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil" of Egypt.

The anniversary has a special meaning in the United Arab Emirates, which along with Oman and Yemen, are served by the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, a church jurisdiction entrusted to the Capuchin Franciscans.

Most of the 65 priests who work in the vicariate and Bishop Paul Hinder, the apostolic vicar, are Capuchins.

The order's website -- ofmcap.org -- has a special page dedicated to the pope's visit to Abu Dhabi, which begins by noting: "This year marks the 800th anniversary of the visit of St. Francis of Assisi to the sultan of Egypt."

Father Michael A. Perry, minister general of the Franciscans, issued a long letter about the anniversary in early January, describing how St. Francis traveled to Egypt during the Crusades, arriving at "the camp of the crusading army, among Latin Christians who through years of preaching and the rhetoric of holy war had been taught to scorn Muslims. Those same Muslims had every reason to scorn Francis, assuming that he, like most in the crusader camp, was an enemy and not a bearer of peace."

Yet, Father Perry wrote, "we today celebrate what no one at that moment could have foreseen: that a Spirit-filled man with nothing of his own crossed the battle lines unarmed to request a meeting with the sultan, was received with grace by that sultan, enjoyed an extended period of hospitality with the Muslim leader and emerged from the visit to reflect anew on the mission of the Friars Minor."

In 2019, the minister general said, Franciscans should renew their commitment to walking "together with Muslims and people of all faiths as fellow travelers, as builders of civility, and most fundamentally, as sisters and brothers, children of Abraham, our father in faith."

He called on all the order's members "to celebrate this anniversary as a moment when the light of the Gospel can open one's heart to see the 'imago Dei' (image of God) in a person one regards with fear and distrust, or even worse, in a person one has been urged to hate."

"We live in a time when people of various faiths traffic on the demonization of Muslims and incite others to fear them," Father Perry said.

Beyond just studying and praying about dialogue, he said, "I encourage followers of Francis who lack much personal exposure to Islam to recall the experience of our founder by taking a simple and concrete step: meet a Muslim. Get to know him or her, beyond the pleasantries of a cup of tea and social nicety. Try to learn and appreciate what experience of God animates him or her and allow your Muslim friend to see the love God has poured into your heart through Christ."

Father Perry also recognized that some Franciscans live in lands where they are a minority and find themselves "caught up in political and sectarian strife and may feel the threat of violence." But he urged them to hold firm to St. Francis' conviction that God is patient and follows a timetable no human being could understand.

"Amid the groanings of the world for interreligious understanding," he wrote, "may our humble, patient and merciful God show all of us the deeds and words that are most pleasing to God."

 

- - -

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.

Everyone's hour will come, so be prepared for Judgment Day, pope says

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 10:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People would be wise to think about Judgment Day and wonder what God will see when he examines their lives, Pope Francis said.

"If the Lord were to call me today, what would I do? What will I say? What harvest will I show him?" the pope asked during Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae Nov. 27.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's reading about the end of the world in the Book of Revelation, in which St. John uses the image of the Lord and angels armed with sharp sickles, reaping the harvest.

With the liturgical year coming to a close and the readings focused on the end of time, the pope said it would be good for people to examine their lives and reflect on how they might be judged when their hour has come.

"We don't like to think about the end," he said. "We always put this thought aside," especially when people are young, "but look how many young people go, how many are called. Nobody's life is guaranteed."

No one is on this earth forever; everyone's life will come to an end, he said, and God will want to see what has been harvested -- "the quality of our life."

This examination of conscience will help people understand what things they must fix in their lives and what things should be continued because they are good, the pope said.

"Yes, there will be an end, but that end will be an encounter, an encounter with the Lord. It's true there will be accounting for what I have done, but it will also be an encounter of mercy, of joy, of happiness," he said.

"Thinking about the end, the end of creation, the end of one's life, this is wisdom, the wise ones do it," he said.

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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.

WikiLeaks releases documents on Knights of Malta controversy

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 9:05am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Internal documents relating to the public crisis that led to the resignation of the grand master of the Knights of Malta in 2017 were released by WikiLeaks.

Among the cache of dossiers, memos and documents released by the organization Jan. 30 were confidential letters signed by Pope Francis and Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, prior to the crisis that engulfed the order in early 2017.

While the leaked dossiers do not reveal much new information, they add some context to the events leading up to the controversial removal of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, the order's grand chancellor, by Fra' Matthew Festing, the former grand master.

Pope Francis established a commission Dec. 22, 2016, to gather the facts and "completely inform" the Holy See about the circumstances leading to von Boeselager's removal as well as to foster dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

After receiving the commission's report, Pope Francis met with Festing Jan. 24, 2017, and accepted his resignation.

The crisis put the Order of Malta into the media spotlight with numerous articles speculating about a rift between conservative and progressive factions within the ancient order.

The grand chancellor's removal by Festing was triggered by an incident involving one of the many charitable projects the Order of Malta is involved in through its humanitarian relief agency, Malteser International.

Von Boeselager was serving as health minister in 2013 when Malteser International worked with several humanitarian agencies on a project in Myanmar aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS. Among other things, the project distributed condoms, something von Boeselager later said "had been initiated at a local level without the knowledge" of Malteser International headquarters.

Von Boeselager said that when he found out, he moved to halt the distribution of condoms and that he never tried to conceal what had happened.

Festing, nevertheless, forcibly removed von Boeselager from his post as grand chancellor in early December 2016 citing "severe problems" during his tenure as grand hospitaller of the Order of Malta and "his subsequent concealment of these problems from the Grand Magistry."

According to the official timeline of events published on the order's website, Festing also stated that the request for von Boeselager's removal was "an explicit 'wish' of the Holy See."

However, among the documents released by WikiLeaks was a Dec. 1, 2016, letter to Cardinal Burke signed by Pope Francis. In the letter, the pope asks the order to ensure that "its initiatives and health care works are not contrary to moral law."

The pope also expressed his hope that any problem of this nature would be resolved, and he said he would be "disappointed if high officers were aware of practices such as the distribution of any type of contraceptives and have not yet intervened to end such things."

"I have no doubts that by following the principle of Paul and 'speaking the truth in love,' the matter can be discussed with these officers and the necessary rectification obtained," the pope said.

While the pope did not ask for von Boeselager's removal, he did urge the order to remove any member involved in "secular and frivolous behavior, such as membership in associations, movements and organizations which are contrary to the Catholic faith or are of a relativist nature."

"In such cases, knights who are members of these associations, movements and organizations should be asked to remove themselves from the order because their behavior is incompatible with Catholic faith and membership in the Order of Malta," the pope said.

An alternative timeline of the events released by WikiLeaks claimed that after von Boeselager's refusal to resign, Festing called for a vote by the order's sovereign council to remove the grand chancellor. However, the vote did not reach the required two-thirds majority to remove him.

The document also alleges that after the vote, Cardinal Burke informed Festing that "one of three things will happen": either the grand chancellor resigns of his own accord, the grand master removes von Boeselager by suspending him from the order for "having broken the promise of obedience" when asked to resign or Cardinal Burke "will recommend to Pope Francis to initiate a visitation of the order."

The Order of Malta declined to comment Jan. 31, saying the documents contain "nothing new."

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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.

WikiLeaks releases documents on Knights of Malta controversy

Top Stories - Thu, 01/31/2019 - 9:05am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Internal documents relating to the public crisis that led to the resignation of the grand master of the Knights of Malta in 2017 were released by WikiLeaks.

Among the cache of dossiers, memos and documents released by the organization Jan. 30 were confidential letters signed by Pope Francis and Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, prior to the crisis that engulfed the order in early 2017.

While the leaked dossiers do not reveal much new information, they add some context to the events leading up to the controversial removal of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, the order's grand chancellor, by Fra' Matthew Festing, the former grand master.

Pope Francis established a commission Dec. 22, 2016, to gather the facts and "completely inform" the Holy See about the circumstances leading to von Boeselager's removal as well as to foster dialogue and a peaceful resolution.

After receiving the commission's report, Pope Francis met with Festing Jan. 24, 2017, and accepted his resignation.

The crisis put the Order of Malta into the media spotlight with numerous articles speculating about a rift between conservative and progressive factions within the ancient order.

The grand chancellor's removal by Festing was triggered by an incident involving one of the many charitable projects the Order of Malta is involved in through its humanitarian relief agency, Malteser International.

Von Boeselager was serving as health minister in 2013 when Malteser International worked with several humanitarian agencies on a project in Myanmar aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS. Among other things, the project distributed condoms, something von Boeselager later said "had been initiated at a local level without the knowledge" of Malteser International headquarters.

Von Boeselager said that when he found out, he moved to halt the distribution of condoms and that he never tried to conceal what had happened.

Festing, nevertheless, forcibly removed von Boeselager from his post as grand chancellor in early December 2016 citing "severe problems" during his tenure as grand hospitaller of the Order of Malta and "his subsequent concealment of these problems from the Grand Magistry."

According to the official timeline of events published on the order's website, Festing also stated that the request for von Boeselager's removal was "an explicit 'wish' of the Holy See."

However, among the documents released by WikiLeaks was a Dec. 1, 2016, letter to Cardinal Burke signed by Pope Francis. In the letter, the pope asks the order to ensure that "its initiatives and health care works are not contrary to moral law."

The pope also expressed his hope that any problem of this nature would be resolved, and he said he would be "disappointed if high officers were aware of practices such as the distribution of any type of contraceptives and have not yet intervened to end such things."

"I have no doubts that by following the principle of Paul and 'speaking the truth in love,' the matter can be discussed with these officers and the necessary rectification obtained," the pope said.

While the pope did not ask for von Boeselager's removal, he did urge the order to remove any member involved in "secular and frivolous behavior, such as membership in associations, movements and organizations which are contrary to the Catholic faith or are of a relativist nature."

"In such cases, knights who are members of these associations, movements and organizations should be asked to remove themselves from the order because their behavior is incompatible with Catholic faith and membership in the Order of Malta," the pope said.

An alternative timeline of the events released by WikiLeaks claimed that after von Boeselager's refusal to resign, Festing called for a vote by the order's sovereign council to remove the grand chancellor. However, the vote did not reach the required two-thirds majority to remove him.

The document also alleges that after the vote, Cardinal Burke informed Festing that "one of three things will happen": either the grand chancellor resigns of his own accord, the grand master removes von Boeselager by suspending him from the order for "having broken the promise of obedience" when asked to resign or Cardinal Burke "will recommend to Pope Francis to initiate a visitation of the order."

The Order of Malta declined to comment Jan. 31, saying the documents contain "nothing new."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

- - -

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.

Update: Pakistan Supreme Court upholds blasphemy acquittal of Asia Bibi

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:35am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA

By

ISLAMABAD (CNS) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court upheld its acquittal of a Pakistani Catholic woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi is now free to leave Pakistan and is expected to join her family in Canada, where they were granted asylum. A Canadian bishop who has worked on arranging for Bibi to live in Canada told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly, that the location of Bibi's daughters and their family friends must remain secret to protect them from Islamic extremists.

AP reported that Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa stood by the court's Oct. 31 verdict, which criticized the conflicting testimony against Bibi.

"You think we give the death sentence to someone on the basis of false evidence?" he said according to media reports. "Such lies were told that one statement doesn't match with another."

Tehreek-e-Labbaik, an extremist group, challenged the Oct. 31 acquittal. Protests erupted after the original acquittal, and the BBC reported that, after the Jan. 29 decision, Pakistan's electronic media were downplaying the story "in a concerted move to forestall public unrest."

The ordeal of Bibi, who worked as a farmhand, began in June 2009 when she was accused of insulting Muhammad, the founder of Islam, after Muslim co-workers objected to her drinking from a common water supply because she is a Christian.

Bibi was rescued from a mob by police, only to be sentenced to death in 2010 for violating Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which makes insulting Muhammad a capital offense.

No one has been executed under the law so far, but Christians who are falsely accused often are lynched or spend many years in prison.

 

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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.

Bishop says Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy will live in Canada

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA

By Michael Swan

TORONTO (CNS) -- Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan, will be welcomed to a small town in Canada, where she will be reunited with her two teenage daughters, along with the family who aided and protected her daughters in Lahore while the mother sat in jail through years of legal appeals.

The location of Bibi's daughters and their family friends must remain secret for now, a Canadian bishop who has worked on bringing Bibi to Canada told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly.

"It's real life and death stuff," said the bishop. "There is a possibility that a militant Islamic group could come after her here."

On Jan. 29, the Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected a final attempt to have Asia Bibi retried on blasphemy charges that stem from a 2009 argument between Bibi and fellow farm workers, who accused her of drinking from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers. Under Pakistani law, insulting the prophet Muhammad is a capital offense.

With news of the Pakistani court's decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Canada has offered asylum to Bibi and her husband, Ashiq Masih, and that the offer has been accepted.

Bibi and Masih's daughters, who are 18 and 19 years old, have been in Canada since just before Christmas, family friend Nadeem Bhatti told The Catholic Register.

Bhatti helped bring Bibi's daughters and the family of six who befriended and helped Bibi's daughters and husband in Lahore to Canada. The Lahore family's close association with Bibi put them in danger after Pakistan's top court initially found no case against Bibi in October.

The church will extend whatever aid it can to Bibi and her family.

"We would host them in a minute," said the bishop. "So far we haven't been asked that."

If Bibi chooses to assume a new identity and establish a life for her family in an undisclosed location, media should give her that opportunity, the bishop said. The bishop asked to remain anonymous so that would-be assassins could not begin looking for Bibi in his diocese.

In the two months after the Pakistani court made its ruling public on Oct. 31, Bibi's daughters and their family friends moved three times to various secret locations in Pakistan, while followers of Khadim Hussain Rizvi searched house-to-house, looking to kill them.

Rizvi's party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, had challenged the October acquittal.

Following the Oct. 31 announcement that Pakistan's Supreme Court had acquitted Bibi, Rizvi announced a fatwa that put a price on the heads of the judges who heard the case, various government ministers and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistani police and security forces arrested up to 3,000 militants in an effort to protect Bibi, Bhatti said. The atmosphere was so charged and so dangerous Bibi's daughters and friends needed immediate sanctuary in December, Bhatti told The Catholic Register.

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Swan is associate editor of The Catholic Register, Toronto.

- - -

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.

Bishop says Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy will live in Canada

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:30am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Punjab Governor House handout via EPA

By Michael Swan

TORONTO (CNS) -- Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan, will be welcomed to a small town in Canada, where she will be reunited with her two teenage daughters, along with the family who aided and protected her daughters in Lahore while the mother sat in jail through years of legal appeals.

The location of Bibi's daughters and their family friends must remain secret for now, a Canadian bishop who has worked on bringing Bibi to Canada told The Catholic Register, Canadian Catholic weekly.

"It's real life and death stuff," said the bishop. "There is a possibility that a militant Islamic group could come after her here."

On Jan. 29, the Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected a final attempt to have Asia Bibi retried on blasphemy charges that stem from a 2009 argument between Bibi and fellow farm workers, who accused her of drinking from the same cup as her Muslim co-workers. Under Pakistani law, insulting the prophet Muhammad is a capital offense.

With news of the Pakistani court's decision, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Canada has offered asylum to Bibi and her husband, Ashiq Masih, and that the offer has been accepted.

Bibi and Masih's daughters, who are 18 and 19 years old, have been in Canada since just before Christmas, family friend Nadeem Bhatti told The Catholic Register.

Bhatti helped bring Bibi's daughters and the family of six who befriended and helped Bibi's daughters and husband in Lahore to Canada. The Lahore family's close association with Bibi put them in danger after Pakistan's top court initially found no case against Bibi in October.

The church will extend whatever aid it can to Bibi and her family.

"We would host them in a minute," said the bishop. "So far we haven't been asked that."

If Bibi chooses to assume a new identity and establish a life for her family in an undisclosed location, media should give her that opportunity, the bishop said. The bishop asked to remain anonymous so that would-be assassins could not begin looking for Bibi in his diocese.

In the two months after the Pakistani court made its ruling public on Oct. 31, Bibi's daughters and their family friends moved three times to various secret locations in Pakistan, while followers of Khadim Hussain Rizvi searched house-to-house, looking to kill them.

Rizvi's party, Tehreek-e-Labbaik, had challenged the October acquittal.

Following the Oct. 31 announcement that Pakistan's Supreme Court had acquitted Bibi, Rizvi announced a fatwa that put a price on the heads of the judges who heard the case, various government ministers and Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistani police and security forces arrested up to 3,000 militants in an effort to protect Bibi, Bhatti said. The atmosphere was so charged and so dangerous Bibi's daughters and friends needed immediate sanctuary in December, Bhatti told The Catholic Register.

- - -

Swan is associate editor of The Catholic Register, Toronto.

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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.

Affirming celibacy, pope explains narrow possibility for married priests

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:17am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Many people were surprised when Pope Francis told reporters flying with him from Panama Jan. 27 that he did not think optional celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church was a good idea.

"Personally, I believe that celibacy is a gift to the church," the pope said. "Second, I'm not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy."

But before that and before really getting into the question, he told reporters, "A phrase St. Paul VI said comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy.'"

"My personal opinion" is that optional celibacy is not the way forward, the pope told reporters. "Am I someone who is closed? Maybe, but I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

However, he did say "there could be some possibility" of ordaining married men in very remote locations where there are Catholic communities that seldom have Mass because there are no priests. But, even for that situation, much study would need to be done.

His caution surprised both those who suspected that Pope Francis would be happy to relax the discipline of celibacy and those who hoped he would.

Both groups expected that some movement on the issue was in the cards when Pope Francis announced he was convoking a special Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon, a region where far-flung Catholic communities often go without the Mass and other sacraments for weeks on end.

A few bishops from the region repeatedly have raised the question of ordaining married "viri probati" -- men of proven virtue -- at synods of bishops as far back as 1971 when the topic was "the ministerial priesthood."

While the proposal has never garnered the support of the majority of bishops at a synod, it keeps featuring in synod discussions.

At the synod on the Eucharist in 2005, for example, one of the propositions submitted to Pope Benedict XVI described the lack of priests as a cause of "acute pain." But it added: "In this context, the synod fathers affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the practice of the Latin church."

"Some participants made reference to 'viri probati,' but in the end, the small-discussion groups evaluated this hypothesis as a road not to follow," the proposition to the pope said. Instead, the bishops called for greater efforts to foster vocations to the priesthood.

The terms "viri probati" and "married priests" do not appear in the preparatory document for the synod on the Amazon, which is scheduled for October. But it does say, "new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life," and it asks bishops to make suggestions "to respond to this need."

Giving a sense that he was thinking aloud about specific circumstances where married men could be ordained priests, Pope Francis told reporters on the late January flight that he had read a book on the subject by Bishop Fritz Lobinger, a 90-year-old German missionary and retired bishop of Aliwal, South Africa.

Bishop Lobinger has written several books and dozens of articles about ordaining elders, including married men, when they arise organically from a Catholic community where Mass is rarely celebrated. In his writings, the bishop insists that the ordained elders should be distinct from, and mentored by, diocesan clergy.

Explaining his thoughts in an article published in U.S. Catholic magazine in March 2010, Bishop Lobinger said, "The two kinds (of priests) would exercise two different roles. The elders would lead the community and administer the sacraments in their own community, while the (diocesan) priests would be the spiritual guides of elders in several self-ministering communities. The priests would thus serve the whole diocese, while the elders would serve only the community where they were ordained."

Pope Francis told reporters he found "interesting" Bishop Lobinger's proposal that diocesan priests and ordained elders would have different roles. Pope Francis described the difference using the traditional "tria munera" or three ministries conferred by ordination: the ministries of teaching, sanctifying and governing. He said in his understanding of Bishop Lobinger's proposal, ordained elders would be charged by the bishop with only the "munera" of sanctifying the people by leading prayer and celebrating the sacraments.

But, in a telephone interview Jan. 30, Bishop Lobinger told Catholic News Service, "I was surprised and shocked that he spoke of the 'tria munera.' I did not use these terms and, secondly, it would seem to strip down the meaning of ordination" conferred on the elders.

But "that was his interpretation," the bishop said. "This is a time of moving into new territory and one must find a way. In the end, it should depend on the local community" and how it organizes its life within the larger church.

Even after explaining how he understood the bishop's thesis, Pope Francis told reporters, "I don't say this must be done because I have not reflected on it, I have not prayed enough (about it), but it's something for theologians to study."

Bishop Lobinger told CNS he is convinced that a good portion of that reflection, prayer and study will be evident at the Amazon synod and that Pope Francis "is really steering the church in that direction."

The bishop has never argued for optional celibacy for all priests. In fact, in his 2003 book "Priests for Tomorrow," he said that if implemented carefully and with clear explanations to the Catholic faithful, the ordination of the elders would increase people's appreciation for diocesan priests who, unlike the elders, give everything to serve the Lord and God's people.

The "totally dedicated priest," he wrote, would be appreciated not as a "dispenser of religious services," but "as the spiritual heart of the body of believers."

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Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

- - -

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.

Affirming celibacy, pope explains narrow possibility for married priests

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:17am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Many people were surprised when Pope Francis told reporters flying with him from Panama Jan. 27 that he did not think optional celibacy for priests in the Latin-rite church was a good idea.

"Personally, I believe that celibacy is a gift to the church," the pope said. "Second, I'm not in agreement with allowing optional celibacy."

But before that and before really getting into the question, he told reporters, "A phrase St. Paul VI said comes to mind: 'I would rather give my life than to change the law on celibacy.'"

"My personal opinion" is that optional celibacy is not the way forward, the pope told reporters. "Am I someone who is closed? Maybe, but I don't feel like I could stand before God with this decision."

However, he did say "there could be some possibility" of ordaining married men in very remote locations where there are Catholic communities that seldom have Mass because there are no priests. But, even for that situation, much study would need to be done.

His caution surprised both those who suspected that Pope Francis would be happy to relax the discipline of celibacy and those who hoped he would.

Both groups expected that some movement on the issue was in the cards when Pope Francis announced he was convoking a special Synod of Bishops to focus on the Amazon, a region where far-flung Catholic communities often go without the Mass and other sacraments for weeks on end.

A few bishops from the region repeatedly have raised the question of ordaining married "viri probati" -- men of proven virtue -- at synods of bishops as far back as 1971 when the topic was "the ministerial priesthood."

While the proposal has never garnered the support of the majority of bishops at a synod, it keeps featuring in synod discussions.

At the synod on the Eucharist in 2005, for example, one of the propositions submitted to Pope Benedict XVI described the lack of priests as a cause of "acute pain." But it added: "In this context, the synod fathers affirmed the importance of the inestimable gift of ecclesiastical celibacy in the practice of the Latin church."

"Some participants made reference to 'viri probati,' but in the end, the small-discussion groups evaluated this hypothesis as a road not to follow," the proposition to the pope said. Instead, the bishops called for greater efforts to foster vocations to the priesthood.

The terms "viri probati" and "married priests" do not appear in the preparatory document for the synod on the Amazon, which is scheduled for October. But it does say, "new ways should be considered for the People of God to have better and more frequent access to the Eucharist, the center of Christian life," and it asks bishops to make suggestions "to respond to this need."

Giving a sense that he was thinking aloud about specific circumstances where married men could be ordained priests, Pope Francis told reporters on the late January flight that he had read a book on the subject by Bishop Fritz Lobinger, a 90-year-old German missionary and retired bishop of Aliwal, South Africa.

Bishop Lobinger has written several books and dozens of articles about ordaining elders, including married men, when they arise organically from a Catholic community where Mass is rarely celebrated. In his writings, the bishop insists that the ordained elders should be distinct from, and mentored by, diocesan clergy.

Explaining his thoughts in an article published in U.S. Catholic magazine in March 2010, Bishop Lobinger said, "The two kinds (of priests) would exercise two different roles. The elders would lead the community and administer the sacraments in their own community, while the (diocesan) priests would be the spiritual guides of elders in several self-ministering communities. The priests would thus serve the whole diocese, while the elders would serve only the community where they were ordained."

Pope Francis told reporters he found "interesting" Bishop Lobinger's proposal that diocesan priests and ordained elders would have different roles. Pope Francis described the difference using the traditional "tria munera" or three ministries conferred by ordination: the ministries of teaching, sanctifying and governing. He said in his understanding of Bishop Lobinger's proposal, ordained elders would be charged by the bishop with only the "munera" of sanctifying the people by leading prayer and celebrating the sacraments.

But, in a telephone interview Jan. 30, Bishop Lobinger told Catholic News Service, "I was surprised and shocked that he spoke of the 'tria munera.' I did not use these terms and, secondly, it would seem to strip down the meaning of ordination" conferred on the elders.

But "that was his interpretation," the bishop said. "This is a time of moving into new territory and one must find a way. In the end, it should depend on the local community" and how it organizes its life within the larger church.

Even after explaining how he understood the bishop's thesis, Pope Francis told reporters, "I don't say this must be done because I have not reflected on it, I have not prayed enough (about it), but it's something for theologians to study."

Bishop Lobinger told CNS he is convinced that a good portion of that reflection, prayer and study will be evident at the Amazon synod and that Pope Francis "is really steering the church in that direction."

The bishop has never argued for optional celibacy for all priests. In fact, in his 2003 book "Priests for Tomorrow," he said that if implemented carefully and with clear explanations to the Catholic faithful, the ordination of the elders would increase people's appreciation for diocesan priests who, unlike the elders, give everything to serve the Lord and God's people.

The "totally dedicated priest," he wrote, would be appreciated not as a "dispenser of religious services," but "as the spiritual heart of the body of believers."

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

- - -

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.

Global encounter of WYD challenges nationalism, walls, pope says

Top Stories - Wed, 01/30/2019 - 9:00am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The joyous harmony of people coming together from so many different nations for World Youth Day stands in sharp contrast to today's "sad" situation of confrontational nationalist feelings, Pope Francis said.

"It is a sign that young Christians are the leaven for peace in the world," he said at his general audience Jan. 30 in the Vatican's Paul VI hall.

The pope dedicated his weekly reflection to his trip to Panama Jan. 23-27 to celebrate World Youth Day.

The hundreds of thousands of young people from five continents who attended the events "formed a great symphony of faces and languages," he said.

"To see all the flags flying together, fluttering in the hands of young people, happy to encounter each other is a prophetic sign, a sign (that goes) against the tide of today's sad tendency toward confrontational nationalist sentiments that erect walls, that close themselves off from universality, from the encounter among peoples," he said.

He praised the enthusiasm and prayerful reverence young people showed at the many events and recalled the dedication he saw on the faces of many who declared themselves open to God's will and ready serve the Lord.

"As long as there are new generations able to say, 'Here I am' to God, the world will have a future," he said.

Another image that struck him during the trip, he said, was seeing so many mothers and fathers proudly holding up their children as he passed by in the popemobile.

They showed off their children "as if to say, 'Here is my pride, here is my future,'" he said.

"How much dignity is in this gesture and how eloquent (given) the demographic winter we are living in Europe," the pope said. "The pride of those families is the children; children are security for the future. A demographic winter without children is hard."

Young people are called to live the Gospel today "because young people are not 'the tomorrow,' not 'in the meantime,' but they are the 'today' of the church and the world," he said.

Pope Francis also urged people to pray the Way of the Cross, saying it is "the school of Christian life" where one learns about a love that is "patient, silent, concrete."

He then said he wanted to share a secret with everyone and pulled out a small box, showing it to the crowd, explaining it was a pocket-sized kit for praying the Way of the Cross.

He said he loved following the Via Crucis "because it is following Jesus with Mary on the way of the cross where he gave his life for us, for our redemption."

"When I have time," he said, he takes the prayer kit out and prays, and he urged others to do the same.

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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.

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