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Child pornography charges increasing in Japan

March 26, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Tokyo, Japan, Mar 27, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Japan’s National Police Agency has reported that investigations for the possession and distribution of child pornography reached record levels in 2017, the result of a large database of porn… […]

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Australian court hears further testimony in Cardinal Pell abuse hearing

March 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 24, 2018 / 04:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- New accusations were brought forward and others were dropped this week, during a pre-trial hearing in an Australian court regarding abuse allegedly committed by Cardinal George Pell.

The committal hearing for the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy took place at the Melbourne Magistrate Court, and will allow magistrate Belina Wallington to determine whether there is enough evidence for a jury trial.

The total number of charges brought against Pell are not public, although some of the charges previously brought against Pell date as far back as 1961. In January, a key charge against Pell was dropped after the complainant died of leukemia.

Pell, 76, is being represented by four lawyers and intends to plead not guilty if his case goes to trial. He has said that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Last summer, Pope Francis granted Pell a leave of absence from his duties as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while the claims are investigated. Pell is also a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers.

Prosecutors said March 23 that some charges against Pell will be dropped because a witness is unable to testify because they are “medically unfit to give evidence.”

The court also heard this week from family members of people against whom Pell allegedly acted inappropriately at a public swimming pool, a showering area, a movie theater, and a church. Other witnesses denied having ever seen Pell acting inappropriately.

The Vatican has refrained from stating a judgement or opinion on the Pell case, pending the outcome of the investigations by the Australian court.

The cardinal’s hearing, which began March 5, is scheduled to conclude March 29.


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Alleged abuse victims testify against Cardinal Pell at Australian court hearing

March 15, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Melbourne, Australia, Mar 15, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Alleged victims of abuse of Cardinal George Pell gave testimonies this week during a hearing in an Australian court which will determine if he will face a trial.

The committal hearing for the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy took place at the Melbourne Magistrate Court, and will allow prosecutors to determine whether there is enough evidence for a jury trial. The hearing began last week and is expected to take about a month to complete.

This week, the hearing was closed to media and the public while alleged victims gave testimony to the court through a video link. The courtroom reopened to the public Wednesday afternoon.

The total number of charges brought against Pell are not public, although some of the charges previously brought against Pell date as far back as 1961. In January, a key charge against Pell was dropped after the complainant died of leukemia.

Pell, 76, is being represented by four lawyers and intends to plead not guilty if his case goes to trial. He has said that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Last summer, Pope Francis granted Pell a leave of absence from his duties as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy while the claims are investigated. Pell is also a member of the Pope’s council of nine cardinal advisers.

On Thursday, a father of one of the alleged victims, both of whom cannot be identified for legal reasons, said he found out his son had been abused by Pell from his other son. The alleged victim was so traumatized by the event that he would not talk about it, the father noted.

“He would not talk about it. He was just abused,” he said, according to court reporters. “That’s all he told me.”

Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, questioned the father as to why he did not mention Cardinal Pell by name in the initial police reports about the incident, and accused him of making up the accusation.

The father of the alleged victim called the accusation an “insult” and said he had not made it up. In the initial police report, the father stated that his son had been abused by “multiple priests.”

Other accusations brought against Pell included those from Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of clerical abuse. According to the Associated Press, a volunteer from the group testified against Pell based on statements made from the mother of an alleged victim to the group.

The Vatican has refrained from stating a judgement or opinion on the Pell case, pending the outcome of the investigations by the Australian court.

The hearing for Cardinal Pell is ongoing and will resume next week.


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How one nun’s lifelong service changed Australia’s Tiwi community

March 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Tiwi Islands, Mar 14, 2018 / 12:10 am (CNA).- For Sr. Anne Gardiner, a 62-year-long mission serving Australia’s remote Tiwi indigenous population began with one simple instruction: “Love them.”

“Love them means to be non-judgmental, accept them as people, don’t place yourself above them – I made all those mistakes, but it kept on coming through: love them. Love them in their poverty, love them in their beauty, love them in their cultural ways, love them.”

In an interview with CNA, Gardiner said this mandate of love was the advice given to her by Bishop Francis Xavier Gsill M.S.C. when she was asked to move to Bathurst Island of Australia’s Tiwi islands in 1953 at the age of 22.  

As a relatively new member of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Gardiner decided to go to Bishop Gsill, who founded the Catholic mission on the island in 1911, for advice on her new assignment. When she asked him what she should do, he simply answered, “Love them.”

“And that’s what I’ve tried to do all through my life, is to love them,” she said. “It was the best advice ever.”

Now 86, Gardiner was asked to be the guest speaker at the Australian Embassy to the Holy See’s celebration of International Women’s Day, which takes place annually on March 8.

Last year Gardiner was given the “Senior Australian of 2017 Award” for her years of service to the nation’s remote Tiwi indigenous community. Her testimony was so inspiring that a number of different organizations pitched in to help fly her to the women’s day event in Rome.

For Gardiner, this longstanding service was carried out in a variety of roles aimed not only at serving the Tiwi people, but helping them to adapt to the rapid changes in the western society around them.

A primary role she held for several years was principal of the island’s Catholic school – a role that included hard-learned lessons in what it meant to relate to the people she served and, as she said, to “take on the smell of the sheep,” rather than placing herself above them.

In her speech, Gardiner said the biggest lesson she learned was simply how to listen, which meant getting to know and accept the Tiwi ways and working with their cultural traditions rather than speaking as someone from the outside and expecting them to completely adapt to western models.

“The biggest gift you can bring to indigenous people is to listen to what they are saying,” she told CNA, explaining that by listening, one is able “to communicate back with them so that you know you are really understanding what they are saying.”

When Gardiner first arrived on the island, she joined three other sisters from the order, three religious brothers, one priest and one lay missionary who were living there at the time. These, she said, were the only white people the Tiwi had really ever seen and encountered.

Though most of the Tiwi people are bicultural and are able to engage with the larger Australian population, they still maintain strong roots in their own heritage, particularly when it comes to leadership and the family structures.

A number of years after arriving, the sisters launched a bilingual school and Gardiner was made principal. She was put in charge of a leadership team that was tasked with helping her run the school.

In her speech, Gardiner said this was her first experience of managing in a cross-cultural context, and it took her years to realize that she could not simply make the school another version of a Western school.

For example, the Tiwi understanding of leadership is drastically different from Western standards. While Gardiner was used to the idea that “the buck stops” with the person at the top, this notion is foreign to the Tiwi people, who have a structure that entails more shared leadership in which problem-solving and decision-making are done in groups arranged based on kinship lines.

Gardiner said she fully realized this only when the Tiwi teacher whom she invited to take over as the next principal refused the job, on the grounds that she believed doing so would be cocky.

After hearing this, Gardiner, who had already been serving on the island for 30 years, said she realized “how little I understood of their cultural life.”

It was then that she took a step back and really began to listen to the women, and once she did, they began to express fears and reservations they previously had not voiced.

“If we are serious in working in cross-culturally with others,” she said, then “we must be prepared to listen to what they are really telling us…we need to know how to work with their culture, not against it.”

In the end, after re-thinking her strategy, Gardiner said the solution they eventually reached for the school leadership was a group structure made up of four women in charge of different aspects of the school, each with unique realms of authority. She also helped the develop skills in management, finances, and the use of computers.

When the time came to expand a small photo exhibit into a full on museum on the Tiwi culture and way of life, Gardiner made sure to listen to the women whom she asked to run the project. Ultimately, the women were successful at running the museum because “they did it their way,” she said.

Currently, Gardiner is the only sister left working at the mission on Bathurst Island, with one priest who offers the sacraments.

A beloved figure in the community, she still teaches religious education classes and drives around town on an electric scooter with a banner that says “share a prayer.” Being well known throughout the island, Gardiner said people will either stop her with a request or she will approach them and ask for prayer requests, “and in that way let them know I care about them.”

In her comments to CNA, the sister said that while her work might seem invisible and insignificant to the rest of the world, the accomplishments of the people are truly spectacular.

Gardiner also noted how, as with many other mission territories, it is the Tiwi women who form the backbone of Church life on the island.

“If we look back over the years, it is religious and laywomen who have worked in these outback places that have nurtured and kept the faith together. When they didn’t have a priest it was the women who were there,” she said.

Speaking of women’s role in the Church at large, Gardiner said she sees the potential they can offer, but stressed that “we’ve got to realize that we can’t make our own rules,” such as pushing for women’s priestly ordination.

She urged both women and men in the Church to be involved in its ministries, saying that Pope Francis “asked us to get out there and get the smell of the sheep, to work with the people and hand over to the people as much as we can of what we’ve been doing.”



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In China, government-appointed bishops support Xi, Vatican-China deal

March 13, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Beijing, China, Mar 13, 2018 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Government-backed bishops have spoken out publicly in support of the Vatican-China deal in a Chinese media interview at the Chinese Communist Party’s annual meetings this week.

Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan is a member of the National People’s Congress, the Chinese government’s legislative body which voted to eliminate presidential term limits March 11.

Bishop Fang said Catholics should support President Xi Jinping “because we, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs,” in a Chinese media interview at the congressional meeting.

Fang, who was ordained a bishop in Beijing in 2000 without Vatican approval and then legitimized by the Holy See two years later, is also reported to have expressed confidence that the Vatican and the Chinese government could reach an agreement on the appointment of bishops to promote the development of the Church in China, according to the The Union of Catholic Asian News.

Two currently excommunicated bishops also spoke favorably of a deal between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops to the Chinese press.

Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin of Leshan, who was excommunicated by the Holy See due to his unapproved episcopal appointment, spoke to the press as an official delegate at the government’s Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference saying that diplomatic ties between China and the Vatican would have a good impact on China’s international influence and and would allow the Church to conduct its work more normally on the mainland, reported UCA News.

“There are no obstacles [to a China-Vatican deal] if everyone just thinks of the benefit of the church for the sake of peace,” said Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu of Mindong, another excommunicated bishop, in an interview with China’s Sing Tao Daily on March 10.

It would be rare for anyone giving a press interview at the Chinese government’s annual two weeks of meetings to say anything critical of the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. Out of the 2,964 delegates in the National People’s Congress, only two people voted against giving Xi lifelong rule.

The vote confirming Xi’s consolidation of power has been highlighly censored across China. After the removal of term limits was proposed, the words “I disagree,” “emperor,” and even “Winnie the Pooh” were censored on China’s social media networks. (A meme comparing Xi to a drawing of Winnie the Pooh dressed as a king had gained popularity online in China.)

Beijing broke off diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951 and later established the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in 1957 to  regulate Catholics living in China.

It is estimated that there are about 12 million Catholics currently living in China, half within official state churches in the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the rest in the “underground Church.” Tensions between these two groups controversial episcopal appointments as the Chinese government appointed bishops without approval from the Holy See and vice versa.

“There are many communities here, in face, that don’t distinguish between above or under the ground with regard to where you most often associate yourself,” a source working with Catholics in China told CNA.

“Persecution can hit regardless of what side you belong to and all are united in the same general desire to draw closer to God … This was evident when the entire church came together a couple years ago in and around the Wenzhou region when crosses were being torn down, statues bricked up and churches bulldozed,” continued the source who expressed that there is a growing sense of unity between the two groups of Catholics in China on the ground due to persecution.

Since Xi took power in 2013, crosses have been removed from an estimated 1,500 churches, both Catholic and Protestant, as a part of an effort to “Sinicize” Christianity. New restrictions were put in place by the Chinese government Feb. 1 making it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to enter a church building.

A potential deal between the Vatican and Xi’s regime might result in Pope Francis recognizing seven bishops in China currently ordained without Holy See approval, while providing the Holy Father with a means to provide input on future appointments.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Vatican-appointed Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin of Mindong was asked by the Vatican delegation negotiating with China to step down so that Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu, quoted earlier in this article, could take his place. Guo, who has been previously detained by Chinese authorities, said that he would be loyal to Rome’s final decision.


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Vatican’s Korea diplomat to help bridge the gap between North and South

March 9, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Seoul, South Korea, Mar 9, 2018 / 04:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican’s recent diplomatic appointment to South Korea gained added significance as President Donald Trump announced that he will meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un for nuclear negotiations within the next two months.

Pope Francis’ appointed Monsignor Alfred Xuereb to serve as the Apostolic Nuncio to Korea beginning March 19.

“As the pope continually shows his concern for the reconciliation of the two Koreas and [prays for] peace on the Korean Peninsula, the new nuncio will play an active role in bridging the gap between the two Koreas and working for peace in the region,” said the Acting Apostolic Nuncio to Korea, Monsignor Marco Sprizzi, according to UCA news.

Monsignor Xuereb, who previously served as a private secretary to both Pope Francis and Benedict XVI, will be consecrated a bishop as he takes up his first diplomatic posting for the Vatican.

Although he lacks the diplomatic experience of his predecessors in the Korean nunciature, the Maltese cleric is reported to be close to Pope Francis.

“Monsignor Xuereb is one of the closest allies of Pope Francis and reads the pope’s thinking very well,” continued Monsignor Sprizzi.

Trump announced March 8 that he had accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to negotiate the North’s nuclear weapons program. Trump will be the first sitting U.S. president to meet face to face with a North Korean leader.

Trump followed up yesterday’s announcement with calls to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the prospect of dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea and to confirm a shared commitment to maintaining sanctions until tangible steps toward denuclearization are taken, according to the White House.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in helped to facilitate the upcoming meeting between the U.S. and North Korea. Moon sent his National Security Advisor Chung Eui-yong to Pyongyang on Monday and then quickly on to Washington to convey the North Korean leader’s invitation to Trump.

Moon is a practicing Catholic who has pledged himself to peaceful dialogue on the Korean peninsula. Shortly after taking office in Seoul, Moon commissioned a Korean envoy to meet with Pope Francis in Rome last May to advocate for Vatican support for Korean reconciliation.

Catholic bishops in South Korea have long advocated for a peaceful solution on the Korean peninsula. In response to North Korea’s nuclear provocations, the bishops appealed for peace talks in an official statement in Aug. 2017.

“The ultimate and genuine peace on the Korean Peninsula can never be achieved by nuclear armament. Therefore we urge the authorities of North and South Korea to open dialogue for peace and to cooperate with the surrounding countries of Korea in search of a stable system to guarantee peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The Korean bishops continued, “we encourage the faithful Catholics in Korea to implore the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to bring peace on the Korean Peninsula … We desperately ask our brothers and sisters in the world for their care, prayers, discernment, and cooperation to resolve this crisis on the Korean Peninsula peacefully.”