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Guam archbishop denies allegations of rape, sexual abuse

January 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Hagatna, Guam, Jan 18, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An embattled archbishop in Guam has denied an allegation that he raped his nephew nearly 20 years ago, when his accuser was a teen.

Mark Apuron, nephew of Guam’s Archbishop Anthony Apuron, filed a lawsuit Jan. 10, claiming that his uncle raped him in a Church bathroom in 1989 or 1990. This is the fifth lawsuit to accuse the archbishop of sexual abuse of minors during his time as a pastor and bishop.
 
“God is my witness: I deny all allegations of sexual abuse made against me, including this last one,” wrote Archbishop Apuron in a Jan. 18 statement, according to Guam Pacific Daily News.

“All of these allegations have been mentored and promoted by the same source and this one seems particularly timed to influence the verdict of the Vatican trial conducted by the Holy See, as a last resort out of fear that I may be exonerated,” he continued.

In addition to this claim, Apuron faces four other accusations from former altar boys, who charged the archbishop with abuse in the 1970s when he served as a parish priest in Agat. The first allegations against the archbishop were made public in May 2016.  Mark’s attorney, David Lujan, said that his client was too ashamed and embarrassed to tell his family about the alleged abuse until recently.

Pope Francis relieved Apuron of his pastoral and administrative authority in 2016 and he was replaced by Coadjutor Archbishop Michael Byrnes, formerly of Detroit. In October of that year, Apuron’s canonical trial at the Vatican began, which could dismiss him from the clerical state. Cardinal Raymond Burke, a canon lawyer, was appointed by Pope Francis as the trial’s presiding judge.

Byrnes has told reporters that the Vatican reached a decision in the case in October 2017, though no information regarding the trial’s outcome has been released.  

Byrnes, who is empowered by the Vatican to oversee the Archdiocese of Agana but has not yet formally succeeded Apuron, has since implemented new child protection policies in the archdiocese, including a safe environment program that Byrnes said will “help to instigate a change of culture in our Archdiocese.”

Byrnes adopted in February 2017 the US bishops’ conference’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its essential norms on dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clerics.

Apuron, who is currently recovering from a surgery, wrote that he hopes the truth will come out and that he will continue to pray for his accusers.

“As the Church in Guam is being destroyed by people who have only their power agenda at heart, may God have mercy on us all and save His Church from the powers of darkness,” Apuron wrote. “I pray that the truth may prevail; I pray for my accusers: fill them with what they desire; as for me, when I awake, I will be satisfied with Your face, oh Lord (Ps. 17,15)”.

The Archdiocese of Agaña is currently a defendant in 96 sexual abuse lawsuits, involving Apuron, 13 priests, a Catholic schoolteacher, a Catholic school janitor, and a Boy Scout leader. Most of the lawsuits were filed after 2016, when Guam’s territorial legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits involving child sexual abuse.

 

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Arkansas bishop skips pro-life march over death penalty concerns

January 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Little Rock, Ark., Jan 18, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock has said he will not attend the local March for Life because its keynote speaker opposed Catholic appeals for clemency for prisoners on death row.
 
The march’s keynote speaker Attorney General Leslie Rutledge “has good anti-abortion credentials but otherwise is decidedly not an appropriate pro-life speaker,” said Bishop Taylor’s Jan. 17 letter, addressed to the people of the diocese. The bishop charged that Rutledge “worked tirelessly to secure the execution of four criminals who posed no further threat to society.”
 
“You will recall that the Diocese of Little Rock was very vocal in appealing for clemency for these four men, but we were opposed at every turn by Attorney General Rutledge,” the bishop continued. “For this reason, I asked Arkansas Right to Life to choose a more appropriate keynote speaker, indicating that I could not participate in what was supposed to be a pro-life event otherwise. But Arkansas Right to Life has refused to do so.”
 
Bishop Taylor encouraged Catholics to attend one two Masses for Life to be held Jan. 21 at the Little Rock Cathedral.
 
Catholic bishops have always taken part in the march and have led prayers, though the event is organized by Arkansas Right to Life. Bishop Andrew J. McDonald of Little Rock, who retired in 2000 and passed away in 2014, supported the establishment of the local March for Life 40 years ago, the diocesan newspaper Arkansas Catholic reports.
 
Arkansas Right to Life sent CNA a Jan. 17 statement saying the march would go on as planned.
 
“Arkansas Right to Life is a single-issue organization dedicated to seeking protection for the lives of innocent unborn children,” it said, voicing hope that everyone who shares its views will “support and attend the march, regardless of their views on other issues in which Arkansas Right to Life does not take a stand.”
 
Bishop Taylor’s letter said he looked forward to seeing as many people possible at the cathedral “as we pray for an end to abortion in this country and that all human life may be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death.”
 
He said the Church teaches “a consistent ethic of life in which human life and human dignity must be protected from the first moment of conception to natural death and every stage in between.”
 
“This means, among other things, that all lives have inherent God-given dignity. Even people who have been sentenced to death possess this dignity, which is why capital punishment must be abolished,” he said.
 
At Little Rock’s 2017 Mass for Life, Taylor wrote that “it is important for us to remember on this right to life weekend that the right to life is a seamless garment encompassing all of life, from the first moment of conception to natural death, and that any violation of human life and human dignity is contrary to our faith and must be actively opposed.”

In 2013, he testified against the death penalty before Arkansas Senate Judiciary Committee, saying “no one will be fully secure until we reject everything that threatens human life or degrades human dignity. Jesus’ teaching about the sanctity of life is a seamless garment.”

The term “seamless garment” was popularized by the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, who advocated that abortion be treated as one issue among others which threaten the dignity of human life, including the treatment of immigrants and the elderly, the death penalty and nuclear proliferation.
 
Bernadin’s view has sometimes been criticized for appearing to diverge from the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II, who said in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that “among all the crimes which can be committed against life, procured abortion has characteristics making it particularly serious and deplorable.”
 
The state of Arkansas had initially planned to execute eight inmates before the end of April 2017. Three of the prisoners received stays of execution from the Arkansas Supreme Court, while one received a preliminary injunction from federal district court, the Death Penalty Information Center says.
 
In a March 1, 2017 letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Bishop Taylor had asked the governor to commute eight death sentences to life without parole.
 
“Though guilty of heinous crimes, these men nevertheless retain the God-given dignity of any human life, which must be respected and defended from conception to natural death,” the bishop said.

 

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Indigenous Peruvian seminarian eager to see Pope Francis

January 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Lima, Peru, Jan 18, 2018 / 03:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Demetrio Sanchez, a 20-year-old indigenous Peruvian seminarian, is eager to see Pope Francis when he visits Puerto Maldonado on Thursday.

Sanchez is studying to become a priest serving Peru’s outlying indigenous communities.

“I want to be a priest. That’s why I came here to Puerto Maldonado to have an experience of how the priestly vocation is lived out, and to see if I could go on to be a priest, since right now there are no priests [in my village]. That’s why I want to become  a priest,” Sanchez told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency.  

Since he began his formation “my life has changed a lot,”  Sanchez added.

It takes Sanchez three days by river and roads to travel from his community of Tangoshiaria to Saint John Marie Vianney Seminary, where he studies.

“It certainly is a long journey, but of course when he was invited to come to the seminary he came with high hopes,” said Fr.  Carlos Alberto Castillo Flores, the seminary’s rector.

Sanchez is motivated by the witness of the life of Bishop David Martinez, the Apostolic Vicar of Puerto Maldonado, “who had worked in his area, where Demetrio is from,” Castillo said.

“Perhaps motivated by his example and seeing the need for priests–there are no priests now in his community–he felt inspired to come here to the seminary and hopes to become a priest, God willing, in the future,” he said.

Sanchez told ACI Prensa that priests “come to preach the Word of God  or evangelize, teach that we are all children of God, as Christians.” In addition, they support the needy and show “how to live in the family,” he added

Sanchez studies at a minor seminary, where students study philosophy before beginning theology at a major seminary.  The minor seminary is “basically to instill in them the desire to embrace priestly life,” Castillo explained.  

Sanchez does not hide his enthusiasm for the Pope’s visit to Puerto Maldonado on Jan. 19.

“I really want to see the pope,” he said, since “a pope is a holy father, a messenger who seeks Christian unity, he’s a teacher. That’s why I want to see a pope, who is the head of the Church.”

Castillo has praised Sanchez’ pastoral initiative. When he was on on vacation “he held a Liturgy of the Word, there in his community (…) and he came back here with great enthusiasm saying: ‘Father, I called together my community. My community participated in Liturgy of the Word.’ This was in his own dialect, Ashaninka-Matsigenka, and he’s very motivated.”

Pope Francis is visiting Peru from Jan. 18-21. Thursday he will travel to the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado, where Sanchez studies.

There are about 332,000 indigenous Peruvians living in the country’s Amazon region, of which 29,000 are within the Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Maldonado.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

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On Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, a ten-year-old girl dares to dream again

January 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Mosul, Iraq, Jan 18, 2018 / 02:24 pm (Aid to the Church in Need).- Ten-year old Helda Khalid Jacob Hindi, a fifth-grader, is not at a loss for words. She is passionate about her life, her future, and that of her loved ones. Helda and her family—mom, dad and a younger brother—recently moved back to Qaraqosh on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains after spending three years in exile in Kurdistan.

She remembers vividly the night of Aug. 6, 2014, when ISIS overran her town and Christian families had to flee overnight.

She says: “Alarm bells rang out in our streets – we had to escape the living hell of violence and terrorism. I went along, crying, with no hope of ever returning to my town, my school; with no hope of ever seeing my friends again. We had no idea how long we would be displaced from our beloved city. The days passed and we lived in torment and tragedy until we got used to it.”

Eventually a new school was built for displaced children and Helda and her family began a new life. She remembers: “I was sad, clinging to hope of returning to my old school; but I made new friends. And today, by God’s grace, we have returned to our town and I am back in my old school among my old friends.”

Life in exile has been hard, perhaps particularly for a proud girl like Helda, who says: “we felt humiliated when we were receiving humanitarian aid, because we didn’t think that the day would come when we would become like beggars, oppressed people, with no power or strength.”

“We had only God and we never stopped believing in his power and his mercy for all those hurting in Iraq and around the world. Whenever we approach him in prayer and faith, we feel joy and confidence without end. My family, friends and relatives never felt that God was far away from us. As far as I can see into the past, God has been with me always. God is with me everywhere and I make sure to always keep nearby some pictures of Jesus Christ and a Bible.”

Helda proclaims she has her own ideas about her country. She explains: “Sometimes I want to stay in Iraq because it is my home, my beloved country. Sometimes I want to leave, especially when I see photographs and videos of terrorism striking innocent civilians. My heart cannot bear those horrifying scenes, but when I feel scared, I ask God to save me.”

“Frankly I’m not really sure about my future here in Iraq. I would want to go abroad with my family if we have to continue suffering war and persecution; how long it will take for us to finally be safe and secure? My message to the West is to do as much as possible to support Christians in Iraq because they are close to extinction. Help us. Have compassion, and you will be rewarded by the one who is in heaven.”

“Stop oppressing poor people. We want stability and peace. Let’s work together and pray together for peace and love – for all of us.”

Helda insists: “I have a beautiful dream in life. My hobbies are painting, music, singing, and I like acting a lot, but my ambition is – with the help of God – to become a dentist, to serve my community and my country, wherever I may end up living.”

She adds, however: “I do not know where to start because things are still so unsettled. What will be next for us? It’s so hard to tell right now…”

 

 

Ragheb Elias Karash writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)

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