Commentary: Respect is pro-life

January 22, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2018 / 03:55 pm (CNA).- Last week, I attended the national March for Life in Washington, D.C. I have attended the march on several occasions before, and it is always a beautiful and encouraging experience.

But unfortunately, I… […]

Mid-air marriage was to avoid further delay, Pope Francis explains

January 22, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Aboard the papal plane, Jan 22, 2018 / 10:16 am (CNA).- Addressing concerns Monday about the pastoral implications of his witnessing a marriage aboard a plane while in flight, the Pope said that he judged the couple to be prepared for the sacrament, and didn’t wish them to delay the regularization of their situation any longer.

“All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow? Tomorrow would possibly have been eight or 10 years from now,” Pope Francis said Jan. 22 while en route from Lima to Rome.

Aura Miguel of Radio Renascenca had asked him about his Jan. 18 witnessing of the marriage of two flight attendents, Paula Podest and Carlos Ciuffardi, while en route from Santiago to Iquique, Chile.

The Pope’s decision had raised questions among commentators and various priests concerning the liceity and even the validity of the marriage. Miguel asked, “From now on, what would you say to the parish priests, to the bishops, whom fiances are going to ask to marry them I don’t know where – on the beach, on boats, on airplanes?”

Pope Francis noted to those on the plane that “One of you told me that I’m crazy for doing these things,” but responded that “the thing was simple:The man was on the first flight. She wasn’t there. I spoke with him; then, I realized that he had become awkward. I spoke of life: of how I thought of life, then the life of the family. It was a nice chat.”

“Then the day afterwards both of them were there, and when we took a photograph, they told me this: ‘we were going to get married in a church, we were married civilly, but the day before’ – you could tell it was a small city – ‘the church was toppled by an earthquake and there was no wedding’. This was 10 years ago; maybe eight – the earthquake was in 2010, so it was eight years ago. And then ‘tomorrow we’ll do it’, and ‘the day after tomorrow’ – and that’s the way life goes. And then the daughter, and another daughter.”

“I interrogated them a bit,” Pope Francis explained. “And the answers were clear.” They had taken marriage preparatory classes. “They were prepared and I judged that they were prepared,” he said.

“They asked me. And sacraments are for people. All of the conditions were clear, and why not do it today and not delay it for tomorrow?”

“This is the answer,” he said. “I judged that they were prepared, that they knew what they were doing, that each of them was prepared before the Lord with the sacrament of penance … that’s how the situation went.”

“But tell the parish priests that the Pope interrogated them well,” he said. “And that they had done the pre-marriage course.”

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Pope Francis: Final verdict on Sodalitium founder likely ‘unfavorable’

January 22, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On board the papal flight from Lima to Rome, Pope Francis said a final Vatican verdict on the founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, accused of serial sexual and psychological abuse, will soon be available, and likely won’t be in the founder’s favor.

Speaking to the 70 some journalists on board his Jan. 21 LATAM flight, the Pope said the case of the founder, Luis Fernando Figari, is currently before the case of appeals in the Apostolic Signatura, and “will be released in less than a month.”

“I am not very informed, but the thing is very unfavorable for the founder,” he said.

Francis spoke during an inflight press conference on his return flight to Rome following a Jan. 15-21 trip to Chile and Peru.

Although the crisis in the Sodalitium did not come up in any of the Pope’s public speeches or audiences in Peru, it has had an enormous impact on the Church in the country since scandals involving Figari became publicly known in 2015.

When asked by a journalist about corruption in the Church, Pope Francis admitted that there are cases, saying “this has always been so. Men and women of the Church have engaged in the game of corruption.”

Regarding the Sodalitium in particular, the Pope noted that the group, a Catholic society of apostolic life, first began to experience scandals when it was discovered out that German Doig, a prominent member of the community who died and whose cause for canonization had been opened, had been leading a double life.

“This is the first chaos of the Sodalitium that I know of,” Francis said, explaining that scandals involving the founder came later with allegations “not only sexual, but of manipulation of the conscience.”

The Sodalitium Christianae Vitae was established by Figari in 1971 in Peru, and was granted pontifical recognition in 1997. Alejandro Bermúdez, executive director of CNA, is a member of the community.

In addition to founding the SCV, a community of men, Figari also founded the Marian Community of Reconciliation and the Servants of the Plan of God, a community of women and an order of women religious. In 2002, he was named a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and served in subsequent consultative roles at the Vatican.  

Figari stepped down as superior general of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae in 2010, after allegations of abuse surfaced in Peru. The current superior general is Alessandro Moroni Llabres.

The community gained attention after the publication of a 2015 book by journalists Paola Ugaz and Pedro Salinas, chronicling years of alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse by members of the SCV.

In May 2016 the Pope named Archbishop Tobin as the pontifical delegate charged with overseeing the community’s handling of the investigation and their process of reform.

In February of 2017, a team of independent investigators commissioned by the Sodalitium reported that “Figari sexually assaulted at least one child, manipulated, sexually abused, or harmed several other young people; and physically or psychologically abused dozens of others.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued a decree the same month forbidding Figari from any contact with the religious community, and banning him from returning to Peru without permission from the current superior of the Sodalitium. Figari was also forbidden to make any public statements.

However, Figari has maintained his innocence, and following the decision of the Vatican’s congregation for religious institutes in 2017, made an appeal to the Apostolic Signatura, which is the Vatican’s supreme court.

In his comments, Francis said the initial trial and investigation were “the trigger for other victims of this person to make civil and ecclesial claims.”

“If the Apostolic Signature decides in favor of the appeal, it will not make sense,” he said, “because many, many serious cases are accumulating.”

Francis said that in addition to sexual and psychological abuse, Cardinal Tobin also found financial irregularities during his investigation that were linked to Figari, prompting him to name an official commissioner to oversee the order alongside Cardinal Tobin as they work to carry out reform.

Shortly before traveling to Peru, on Jan. 10, Francis named Colombian Bishop Noel Antonio Londoño Buitrago C.Ss.R. as papal commissioner for the Sodalitium.

In his role, Londoño, Bishop of Jericó, will oversee the community as they continue a process of reform. He will carry out his work alongside Cardinal Tobin, who will continue to be the group’s liaison with the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and will focus primarily on reforming economic matters.

Pope Francis said the steps he is taking in the Sodalitium case are similar “to that of the Legionaries, which were carried out by Benedict XVI. And in this he was very strong. He didn’t tolerate these things, and I understood from him not to tolerate them.”

“The legal status is [that they are] under a custodian and the apostolic visit continues,” he said.

In 2006, with the approval of the Pope, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith imposed upon Maciel “a retired life of prayer and penance, renouncing any form of public ministry.” Due to his advanced age, Maciel was not the subject of a formal canonical trial.
 
From that point on, Benedict XVI carried out a process of reform for the Legionaries, and in 2010 named then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as papal delegate to serve in a role similar to what Londoño will have for the SVC.

After his appointment, De Paolis formed a commission charged with drafting new constitutions for the Legionaries. He completed his mandate in 2014 when the new constitutions were approved by Pope Francis. The cardinal died in September 2017.

 

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Francis says comments on sexual abuse in Chile were ‘not the best’

January 22, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2018 / 08:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Aboard the papal plane from Lima to Rome Sunday, Pope Francis said that comments made to Chilean journalists Jan. 18 were not intended to cause pain for victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Francis said that he had meant to explain to Chileans that because he has not seen evidence that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros helped to cover up acts of sexual abuse, it would be unjust to condemn him.

The pontiff said that his use of “the word ‘proof’ was not the best in order to draw near to a suffering heart.”

He also explained that he is aware that victims may not have brought forward evidence because it is unavailable, or because they are otherwise ashamed or afraid.

“Barros’ case was studied, it was re-studied, and there is no evidence,” Francis told journalists Jan. 21. “That is what I wanted to say. I have no evidence to condemn him. And if I condemn him without evidence or without moral certainty, I would commit the crime of a bad judge.”

“If a person comes and gives me evidence,” he continued, “I am the first to listen to him. We should be just.”

Barros is accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding to cover up the crimes of his longtime friend, Fr. Fernando Karadima.  Francis has long defended Barros, who claims to be innocent. Barros has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

Karadima, who once led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque, was convicted of sexually abusing minors in a 2011 Vatican trial, and at the age of 84, he was sentenced to a life of prayer and solitude.

During his Jan. 15-18 visit to Chile, Pope Francis met with abuse survivors, but when questioned about Barros by journalists on his last day in the country, he said, “the day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak. There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

The Pope’s comment was met with fierce opposition, as critics said he was insensitive to abuse victims.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and one of nine members of the Pope’s Council of Cardinals, issued a statement Jan. 20 voicing criticism of the Pope’s remarks.

“It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” O’Malley said.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” he said.

Since he was not personally involved in the Chilean cases, O’Malley said he couldn’t speak as to why the Pope chose to use the specific words he did when responding to reporters.

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

“Accompanying the Holy Father at numerous meetings with survivors I have witnessed his pain of knowing the depth and breadth of the wounds inflicted on those who were abused and that the process of recovery can take a lifetime,” O’Malley said, adding that Francis’ many statements insisting on a “zero-tolerance” policy for abuse in the Church “are genuine and they are his commitment.”

During the press conference, the Pope said that he had seen O’Malley’s statement and that he has appreciation for the cardinal: “I thank him for his statement because it was very just.”

“[O’Malley] said all that I did and that I do, that the Church does, and then he spoke of the sorrow of victims” in general, Francis said. “Because many victims feel that they are not able to bring [forward] a document or a testimonial.”

O’Malley is also the head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which just concluded a 3-year mandate in December. The Vatican has not issued any statements on the the commission since its expiration, causing some to speculate on the future of its existence.

However, in the most recent meetings of the Council of Cardinals, O’Malley spoke on the commission’s continued work, explaining that it is in the Pope’s hands to decide whether to reconfirm current members and whom to appoint as new members.

In the presser, Francis said that before the start of his trip, he had received a list of recommendations for new members, which he is now studying.  The Pope did not say whether O’Malley would be reappointed.

 

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Pope in Peru: ‘Be the saints of the 21st century’

January 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On his last day in Peru, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to imitate Jesus, who embraces the poor and suffering, and brings hope.

The Pope urged Peru’s youth to look to their grandparents and elders in order to discover “the DNA that guided their great saints,” telling them “do not lose your roots! And you, grandparents and elders, keep passing on to the new generations the traditions of your people and the wisdom that charts the path to heaven.”

“I urge all of you not to be afraid to be the saints of the 21st century,” he said, telling Peruvians that there is no better way to protect their hope “than to remain united, so that these reasons for hope may grow day by day in your hearts.”

Pope Francis offered Mass at Lima’s Las Palmas Airbase on Jan. 21, his last day in Peru, bringing an end to his Jan. 15-21 tour of South America, which also included a three-day visit to Chile.

In his homily, he acknowledged the difficulties Catholics in Peru face. “Sometimes what happened to Jonah can happen to us. Our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice, can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away,” the Pope said.

Jonah is an Old Testament prophet depicted in a scriptural book of the same name, who attempted to “flee the presence of the Lord” rather than follow a call from God.

Looking around, “Jonah, and we, have plenty of excuses to [flee],” Pope Francis said, noting that while Lima has many people who are well-off, it is also populated by the homeless: “’non-citizens,’ ‘the half-citizens’ or ‘urban remnants’” found on the streets, many of whom are children.

Faced with the desperation of people in extreme poverty, Francis said some Catholics can contract “Jonah syndrome” – which causes them to be indifferent, “deaf” and “cold of heart” to others.

Quoting his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Francis said “the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer.”

A society that is unable to accept the suffering of others and which is “incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through ‘com-passion,’” he said, “is a cruel and inhuman society.”

The Pope noted that in the day’s Gospel reading, Jesus did the opposite of Jonah: rather than fleeing, he entered a city to encounter those who were desperate and suffering, and to bring them hope.

Francis encouraged Peruvians to respond with the attitude of Jesus, who entered Galilee “to sow the seeds of a great hope.”

A seed of hope, he said, had been passed down through the apostles and the great saints of Peru, and is present now “in order to act once more as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference.”

“In the face of [Jesus’] love, one cannot remain indifferent,” he said.
 
“He begins to bring to light many situations that had killed the hope of his people and to awaken a new hope,” and calls new disciples, inviting them to walk at a different pace which allows them to notice “what they had previously overlooked, and he points out new and pressing needs.”

Jesus is involved in the lives of his people and is not afraid to get others involved too, Francis said, adding that he calls us and wants to anoint us so that “we too can go out to anoint others with the oil capable of healing wounded hopes and renewing our way of seeing things.”

The Pope said Jesus also wants to awaken in Catholics a hope which “frees us from empty associations and impersonal analyses,” and encourages faith to enter “like leaven” into every aspect of our daily lives.

God will never tire of going out to meet his children, he said, asking “how will we enkindle hope if prophets are lacking? How will we face the future if unity is lacking? How will Jesus reach all those corners if daring and courageous witnesses are lacking?”

“Today the Lord calls each of you to walk with him in the city, in your city,” he said. “He invites you to become his missionary disciple, so that you can become part of that great whisper that wants to keep echoing in the different corners of our lives: Rejoice, the Lord is with you!”

After Mass, Pope Francis thanked all those who helped organize his visit, including Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the country’s civil authorities and the many volunteers who dedicated their time.

Francis noted that he began his trip by speaking of Peru as a land of hope, which he said comes from the country’s rich biodiversity, its various cultures and traditions, and because of its youth, “who are not the future but the present of Peru.”

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Don’t ‘photoshop’ your heart – be who you are, Pope tells young Peruvians

January 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 11:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis told Peruvian youth that Jesus doesn’t want disciples who have been “photoshopped” to perfection, but like the great saints of the past, God calls people to follow him with trust and enthusiasm, despite their weaknesses.

“When Jesus looks at us, he does not think about how perfect we are, but about all the love we have in our hearts to give in serving others,” the Pope said Jan. 21.

With technology it’s easy to digitally enhance photos to make them look the way we want, but this only works for pictures, he said. “We cannot ‘photoshop’ others, the world, or ourselves. Color filtering and high definition only function well in video; we can never apply them to our friends.”

These pictures might turn out nice, but they are “completely fake,” the Pope said, and assured the youth that their hearts “can’t be ‘photoshopped,’ because that’s where authentic love and genuine happiness have to be found.”

“Jesus does not want you to have a cosmetic heart,” he said. “He loves you as you are, and he has a dream for every one of you. Do not forget, he does not get discouraged with us.”

“Moses, he was not articulate; Abraham, an old man; Jeremiah, very young; Zacchaeus, small of stature; the disciples, who fell asleep when Jesus told them they should pray; Paul, a persecutor of Christians; Peter, who denied him,” and the list could go on, he said. “So what excuse can we offer?”

Jesus, Francis explained, wants youth who are “on the move. He wants to see you achieve your ideals and to be enthusiastic in following his instructions.”

This is a difficult path that can’t be walked alone, but must be one “as a team, where each member offers the best of his or her self,” he said, adding that “Jesus is counting on you” just as he counted on the many Peruvian saints who influenced society, including St. Rose of Lima, St. Turibius, St. Juan Macías and St. Francisco Solano, among others.

“Today (Jesus) asks if, like them, you are ready to follow him,” the Pope said, asking the youths “are you willing to follow him? To be guided by his Spirit in making present his Kingdom of justice and love?”

Pope Francis spoke to youth in Lima’s Plaza de Armas before reciting the Angelus on the last day of his Jan. 15-21 visit to Chile and Peru. Earlier in the day he prayed Terce, also called the prayer of the “Third Hour” in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours, with contemplative sisters.

He also met with the country’s bishops, and after lunch will celebrate Mass at Lima’s “Las Palmas” airbase before returning to Rome.

In his speech to youth, Francis directed them to the example of one of his favorite Peruvian saints, Martin de Porres, who was a the son of a Spanish nobleman and a black slave woman. The saint had wanted to enter the Dominican order, but was initially prevented from becoming a brother due to a law at the time that prevented people of mixed race from joining religious orders.

“Nothing prevented that young man from achieving his dreams, nothing prevented him from spending his life for others, nothing prevented him from loving, and he did so because he had realized that the Lord loved him first,” the Pope said.

Because he was a “mulato,” meaning a person of mixed race, St. Martin had to endure many hardships, but he knew how to do one thing that was the secret to his ultimate happiness: “he knew how to trust.”

“He trusted in the Lord who loved him. Do you know why? Because the Lord had trusted him first; just as he trusts each of you and will never tire of trusting you,” the Pope said.

When we face similar difficulties in our lives, and are tempted to become negative or discouraged, “remember that Jesus is by your side,” Francis said. “Do not give up! Do not lose hope!”

The Pope told the young people to look to the saints for encouragement, but he also urged them ask for help from people they know can give them good advice, and to let these people accompany and guide them as they go forward in life.

“The Lord looks on you with hope,” he said, explaining that God is never discouraged with us, but it is we who get discouraged with ourselves.

Pope Francis closed his speech telling youth to turn to Mary, who will encourage and support them “lest you grow discouraged. And if you get discouraged by anything, do not worry, for she will tell Jesus. Just don’t stop praying, don’t stop asking, don’t stop trusting in her maternal protection.”

 

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