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Father of Alfie Evans meets with pope, pleads for asylum in Italy

April 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Apr 18, 2018 / 05:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A private meeting took place early Wednesday morning between Pope Francis and Tom Evans, the father of two-year-old Alfie Evans, who is currently at the center of a legal battle to keep him alive.

Tom Evans said that in the April 18 meeting, which took place at the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he asked the pope for asylum in Italy for his family so that Alfie can be moved to the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome to receive treatment.

Two-year-old Alfie Evans suffers from an unidentified degenerative neurological condition and has been under continuous hospitalization since December 2016.

In February, the court ruled that Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where Evans is receiving care, could legally stop treatment for Alfie against his parent’s wishes, arguing that continuing treatment is not in his best interest, and that his life support should be switched off.

Despite the desire of Alfie’s parents, Kate James and Tom Evans, to take their son to Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome, several judges have ruled in the hospital’s favor.

“Alfie is doing really well, he’s fighting very hard and we believe that he can still wake up and that he’s got a lot of potential,” Evans told journalists April 18. He said that in their meeting, Pope Francis gave him a lot of sympathy and encouragement, telling him he has “strength like God.”

The pope’s positivity gave him hope, Evans continued, noting that the meeting was “very confident, very calm. I was really nervous, but I just spoke the truth, spoke from my heart.”

Evans stated that he will return to Liverpool tonight to be with his son and Kate, but they are hopeful that when and if Alfie is permitted to come to Italy, the doctors will be able to diagnose and treat him.

“Just because he has a brain disability that no one knows of doesn’t mean that we have to take that life away from him. As I’ve always said, Alfie is a child of God and he’ll remain a child of God and he’ll go when [God] says he’ll go.”

In his statement to Pope Francis, Evans said that Alfie “is sick but not dying and does not deserve to die. He is not terminally ill nor diagnosed. We have been trying our best to find out his condition, to treat or manage it.”

“We see life and potential in our son and we want to bring him here to Italy, to the Bambino Gesù, where we know he is safe and he will not be euthanized,” the statement continues.

“When Alfie shows me and his mum any sign of suffering or dying, we will enjoy every last moment with him, but Alfie has not yet shown us he is ready to go, so we continue to fight just as he shows us to.”

At the end of the general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis asked for a moment of silent prayer for Alfie, saying that he would like to “reiterate and strongly confirm that the only master of life, from the beginning to the natural end, is God!”

“And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life,” he stated.

Despite their parent’s wishes, High Court judge, Justice Anthony Hayden, ruled in February that the hospital can remove Alfie’s life support.

A later appeal to the European Court of Human Rights failed, and the parent’s appeal earlier this week to have Alfie taken to Italy for treatment was also dismissed by the UK’s Court of Appeal.

Alfie’s case has drawn international attention, and protesters gathered outside his hospital last week to peacefully oppose judges’ decision to end life support.

Evans and James recently launched a new legal challenge, asking the Court of Appeal judges to continue life support and treatment for Alfie. The court officials posted their hearing for Monday, saying that a court judge has decided that Alfie could continue treatment, pending the hearing.

On Sunday Pope Francis made an appeal for prayer for Alfie Evans, and others, “who live, at times for a long period, in a serious state of illness, medically assisted for their basic needs.”

Francis also recently tweeted about Alfie, saying it was his “sincere hope that everything necessary may be done in order to continue compassionately accompanying little Alfie Evans, and that the deep suffering of his parents may be heard.”


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Australian nun briefly detained in Philippines for political activism

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Manila, Philippines, Apr 17, 2018 / 07:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian nun was arrested and briefly detained earlier this week in the Philippines as the government cracks down on foreign human rights activists in the country.

Sister Patricia Fox was arrested April 16 by immigration authorities at her convent, where she serves as the Philippine superior of the international Catholic congregation Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. She has been working primarily with the rural poor in the country for the past 27 years.

Fox was held for 22 hours by authorities before being released, after “no probable cause” was found for her arrest and she was proven to be a legally documented alien with a missionary visa, according to UCA News. There is still a pending further investigation of her activities to determine whether she should be deported.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ news outlet (CBCP News) reported that they were told Fox was arrested for being an “undesirable alien” for participating in regional farmer protests.

The Philippines’ Intelligence services (NICA) have also charged Fox with participating in anti-government rallies. The organization claims it has a photo of the nun with a clenched fist holding a sign that says “Stop Killing Farmers”, according to Newsweek.

Immigration law in the Philippines stipulates that participating in rallies and political activities is a violation of the right to stay in the country.

Jobert Pahilga, Fox’s lawyer, denied these claims in a statement and said that she “has done nothing wrong or illegal that would warrant her arrest, detention and possible deportation.”

He said that his client was traveling to Tagum City to gather data on human rights violations against farmers in the area.

Fox said that she has stood in solidarity with the rural poor during rallies, but not as a political action.

“I would call it religious because we are called to stand beside the poor,” she told CBCP News. “I haven’t joined partisan political rallies but I have been active in human rights issues.”

Several human rights and Church leaders have denounced the arrest of the nun, including Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Pabillo told UCA news that Fox’s arrest was a “form of persecution and harassment” and that the nun “is too old to run from the government or from whatever allegations they are accusing her of.”

“This is political,” Pabillo added. “The government is trying to intimidate individuals and groups who are in pursuit of social justice for the oppressed and the poor.”

Fox is among several foreign human rights activists who have been arrested or barred from re-entering the Philippines in a recent crackdown on foreigners by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

“There’s no martial law yet but they are already going after people who oppose them,” Pabillo told CBCP News.

Fox will remain in the Philippines for the forthcoming investigation.


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Documentary highlights life of religious sister who died in Ecuador earthquake

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Guayaquil, Ecuador, Apr 17, 2018 / 06:40 pm (ACI Prensa).- A new documentary film entitled “All or Nothing” tells the story of Sister Clare Crockett, a religious sister who died in the earthquake that took place in 2016 in Ecuador.

The film which is available in Spanish, English and Italian, is “the true story of a sister who gave everything to God, holding nothing back,” her community says.

April 16 marked the second anniversary of the earthquake that struck Manabí Province in Ecuador, in which 262 people died and more than 2,500 were injured.

Sister Clare Crockett of the Siervas del Hogar de la Madre (Sisters of the Home of the Mother) was killed when the community’s building in Playa Prieta, Ecuador, collapsed in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

Four aspirants and one resident youth also died in the quake.

The Siervas del Hogar de la Madre have now released the film “All or Nothing: Sister Clare Crockett,” which tells the story of the 33-year-old religious sister, who had been a rising actress when she left her career to pursue God’s calling.

This documentary film shows more than 15 years of Sister Clare’s life – a life which the sisters say “goes straight to our hearts as a call, to ask ourselves what are we ourselves giving or not giving to God.”

Originally from Ireland, Sister Clare wanted to be an actress. By age 18, she lived a life of partying and alcohol.

One day, a friend asked if she wanted to go on a free trip to Spain. The trip turned out to be a 10-day pilgrimage.

“I tried to get out of it, but my name was already on the ticket, so I had to go. I now see that it was Our Lady’s way of bringing me back home, back to her and her Son,” she said, according to EWTN. “I was not a very happy camper. Nevertheless, it was on that pilgrimage that Our Lord gave me the grace to see how He had died for me on the Cross. After I had received that grace, I knew that I had to change.”

“I knew that I had to leave everything and follow Him. I knew with great clarity that He was asking me to trust in Him, to put my life in His hands and to have faith,” she said. “It never ceases to amaze me how Our Lord works in the souls, how He can totally transform one’s life and capture one’s heart.”
Sister Clare went on to become the voice of Lucy on the long-running EWTN children’s television series “Hi Lucy.”

The distribution of the documentary film “All or Nothing” is free and is scheduled to be shown in Ireland, Canada, the United States, England, Italy, Singapore, the Philippines, Colombia, Spain, Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Latvia, Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Viewers interested in scheduling a screening can visit



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Film shows Salesians’ work to rescue girls from prostitution in Sierra Leone

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Freetown, Sierra Leone, Apr 17, 2018 / 04:23 pm (ACI Prensa).- In Sierra Leone, Salesian missionaries are working to extract girls working as prostitutes from their lifestyle, providing them with shelter and helping them to be reunited with family members or placed in adoptive homes.

In 2016, Salesian missionaries working in Freetown realized there was a large number of girls who were selling their bodies to get food.

“The youngest was 9 years old, and the oldest 17. Then the idea came up of creating a shelter as an alternative environment for them to help them get out of prostitution. They sell their bodies to earn $1.80 to $2.50 a day to pay for school because a lot of them go to school just like any other child,” Fr. Jorge Mario Crisafulli explained.

The Salesian priest is the director of their Don Bosco Fambul Center for the Protection of Minors. He recently visited several European cities to present “Love,” a short Spanish language documentary which shows the suffering of girls forced to prostitute themselves and who are rescued from the streets.

The priest has spent 23 years in Africa, and has been in Sierra Leone for three years.

“We have nine programs to help boys and girls living in difficult or emergency situations. Programs for those who have been abused, for Ebola orphans, and even a telephone hotline to take calls from children in a crisis. We are also present in the main prison in Freetown.” The Salesians also have “a bus used to reach out to children who live on the street and prostitute themselves,” he told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister agency during his brief visit to Rome.

Thanks to their tireless work they have already succeeded in getting 146 girls out of prostitution, although “to just save one, all the effort would be worth it.”

There are many orphans in Sierra Leone, owing to the country’s 1991-2002 civil war as well as a 2014 Ebola outbreak, and many have turned to prostitution as a way to support themselves.

Fr. Crisafulli said that  they have already reached out to more than 900 girls who live in this type of slavery.

“I always tell all the the social workers and the Salesians that they mustn’t forget that we are a Salesian community, that we are the Church and we are living out  the Salesian charism, which is to help the most vulnerable … Sierra Leone is a country that has suffered a lot, and our mission goes beyond what an NGO does; we are convinced that we are a religious community, doing a mission confided by the Holy Spirit to Don Bosco,” he said.

“I also tell the girls to not think they are trash or bad, as many people tell them, but that they are children of God. We absorb the pain, we travel the streets, and give that pain over to Jesus.”

“The love that we offer is that of transforming the pain of the cross into redemption,” he said.

That is what is shown in “Love,” a short documentary that tells the story of Aminata, one of those underage girls who succeeded in getting out of prostitution and has turned her life around.

The documentary seeks to make that reality known and to show how reintegration into society  is possible for these minors.  

“You don’t need prostitute yourself to eat, you don’t need to prostitute yourself to get an education, what you need to do is to look for a merciful hand which has no other interest than to do good and help,” Fr. Crisafulli emphasized.

“The social workers do a great job of listening,” he said, “so the girls are able to tell what they have gone through on the streets and why they are prostituting themselves and that is already liberating.”

“Then you have to heal the profound traumas that each one of them has. But it is also a spiritual work. Many of them have told me, ‘God had forgotten me’ or ‘God doesn’t love me.’ Our work also consists in telling them that that’s not true, that God still loves them,”  Fr. Crisafulli said.

It is important “to invite them to dream and find something to motivate them to get out of prostitution: going back to school, finishing high school, having a small business, or returning to their families,” he explained.

“It’s true these are not all success stories, because six of them have gone back to the streets, but we don’t throw in the towel. Our intention is never to give up, until we see them out of prostitution.”


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Cardinal Pell’s lawyer argues no grounds for trial as hearing ends

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Melbourne, Australia, Apr 17, 2018 / 02:47 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Cardinal George Pell’s pre-trial hearing closes, his lawyer told an Australian court Tuesday that the charges being brought against the cardinal is based on false accusations.

“The allegations are a product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may or may not have, or just pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country,” Robert Richter, head of Pell’s defense team, said April 17, according to Reuters.

Richter added that the most serious of the alleged offences could not possibly have occurred, telling the court that the charges brought against Pell, who has been “the face” of the Catholic Church in Australia, “ought to be regarded as impossible and ought to be discharged without batting an eyelid.”

Pell’s attorney additionally cast a shadow over the credibility of some of the complainants, highlighting their inconsistencies with dates, saying that the alleged instances of abuse are “not to be believed,” because they remain “improbable, if not impossible.”

Richter told the court that Pell, who is prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, should not be committed to trial because the evidence did not hold “sufficient weight to support a conviction,” and that a trial would “be a waste of public time, effort and money.”

Prosecutor Mark Gibson said Richter’s statements were speculation, remarking that the defense’s arguments do not “fundamentally impact on the reliability of the complainants’ evidence.” He also suggested that Richter’s claims about complainants seeking revenge on the Church were “nothing more than a theory.”

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said that Richter may have taken some arguments “too far,” saying that she believes “issues of credibility and reliability are issues for a jury.”

Pell was not present during the hearing’s final day at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Wallington will determine May 1 whether Pell will be sent to trial.

Pell has been involved in ongoing court proceedings since June 2017, when he was charged with alleged historical sexual abuse crimes in his home state of Victoria dating back to the 1970s. He has maintained his innocence and will plead not guilty if his case proceeds to trial.

“I am innocent of these charges, they are false,” Pell told journalists in June 2017.
During the hearing, the Melbourne Magistrates Court heard testimony from 50 witnesses. During this time, Richter launched a counter-attack against the Victorian Police, who opened a special operation in 2013 to investigate Pell. Richter called it “an operation looking for a crime because no crime has been reported.”

Pell, 76, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Ballarat in 1966. He heads the Secretariat for the Economy and is one of the nine cardinals advising Pope Francis, but has been on leave from his duties since last summer.


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The Church needs prophets of truth and hope, Pope Francis says

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Apr 17, 2018 / 10:11 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his homily Tuesday, Pope Francis said the Church needs men and women who are capable not only of bearing prophetic witness to the truth, like the early martyrs, but who are also examples of hope.

In looking to Christ’s words and actions in scripture, on one hand he “corrected with strong words: ‘perverse and adulterous generations,’” yet on the other hand he wept for the people of Jerusalem when they rejected God’s ways, the pope said April 17.

Likewise, a true prophet is not a “prophet of misfortunes,” speaking only of things that need to be corrected, but he is also “a man of hope; he corrects when needed and opens wide the doors looking to the horizon of hope.”

A prophet, he said, “restores the roots, restores one’s belonging to the people of God in order to go forward.”

Pope Francis spoke during his Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, focusing on the day’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which recounts the stoning of Stephen, the Church’s first martyr.

When Stephan was speaking to the scribes, their hearts were closed and they didn’t want to listen to what he had to say, so they became infuriated and began to attack him, Francis said, noting that many of the prophets who preceded Christ were treated in the same way.

“When the prophet arrives to the truth and touches the heart, either the heart opens or the heart becomes more like stone and anger, persecution, are unleashed. This is how the life of a prophet ends.”

Truth, the pope observed, is often uncomfortable and hard to accept. Because of this, the prophets were always persecuted when speaking the truth.

“But what for me is the test that a prophet undergoes when he tells the truth strongly? It’s when this prophet is capable of not only speaking, but crying for the people who have abandoned the truth [Jesus gave strong rebukes, but he also wept]. This is the test. A true prophet is the one who is capable of crying for his people and also saying things strongly when he has to. [A prophet] is not timid, he is always like this: direct,” but full of hope.

Francis then noted how Stephen was killed in the presence of Saul, who would later become St. Paul.

Quoting a phrase from Tertullian, Francis said, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians.”

The Church, he said, “needs prophets…it needs all of us to be prophets.” But prophets are different than critics, he said, explaining that a critic is a person who does not approve of anything or anyone, and “this is not a prophet,” this is another thing.

“The prophet is someone who prays, who looks to God, who looks to his people, who feels pain when the people go astray, who cries,” the pope said, praying that “the Church never lacks this prophecy of service, to always go forward.”


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How a Catholic congressman agreed to be part of a pope documentary

April 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Apr 17, 2018 / 02:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) is not shy about his Catholic faith. He holds a master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville, and has spoken openly about his beliefs.

Recently, he was featured on CNN’s new miniseries, Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History. Fortenberry spoke to CNA about his experience with filming, and his thoughts on balancing his faith with being a public figure.

The congressman first became involved with the project about six months ago, when CNN producers reached out to him about the show. He said he had “a little hesitancy” initially, but after meeting with the network, he agreed to contribute to the series.

“I was impressed by their outline of the topics under consideration and how they wanted to look at the papacy through a historical lens, as well as the intersection of both papal power and temporal power,” Fortenbery told CNA.

On the show, Fortenberry said he wanted to present both an accurate portrayal of Catholics as well as faithful commentary to the issues that were discussed. He told CNA that he tried to focus on how the world is a “duality of sorts,” and that Catholics today have to balance living out their faith as well as living in the secular world.

“Spirituality is not left for Sunday, and Monday is other things. As Catholics, as Christians, we operate in two realms all at once, both the spiritual and temporal,” he said.

Shows like this being broadcast on secular networks are important, said Fortenberry. He believes that “the world is screaming for deeper meaning,” and that the only way this meaning can be found is through “authentic dialogue” with people who may not believe the same things.

“Even if it’s in secular media, as long as the media’s attention is reasonable,” explained Fortenberry. “I think we absolutely have to participate in these types of media presentations.”

Reflecting on the papacy, Fortenberry believes the institution is regarded as an “immovable, unchangeable force for good” in the middle of an ever-changing world.

“In fact that’s one of the things I reflected on in the show, that we’re living in a context of upheaval and change, and it’s bewildering to most people, particularly the older generation, who see everything around them that gave them stability and lessened vulnerability crumbling.”

The papal visits to the United States of Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis in 2015 resulted in an “outpouring of joy and love,” which the congressman believes is a reflection of the respect for the stability of the office.

“In an age of real anxiety, and ever-shifting change, the permanency of the papacy gives people something to cling to that is higher, and everlasting. And it has deep meaning for people even of non-Christian traditions, even people who are just authentically striving for good through goodwill.”

Fortenberry said that in the end, he believes CNN was “very faithful” to the comments he provided, and “integrated them holistically” into the larger theme of the historic aspects of the papacy.

“I’m glad I did the show, I was impressed by the sincerity of the producers,” he said.