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Laos’ first cardinal focused on evangelization, dialogue

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Pakse, Laos, Jun 29, 2017 / 03:45 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When selecting new cardinals, Pope Francis has often sought to go to the “peripheries” of the Church, which is particularly notable in his elevation of Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun of Paksé.

Cardinal Ling’s local Church is an apostolic vicariate in Laos, a communist country of southeast Asia where Catholics make up only about one percent of the population. He is the first cardinal to hail from the nation.

The newly-minted cardinal’s resume includes a number of issues of keen interest for Francis, including evangelization, pastoral aid for the faithful where the Church is persecuted, a use of dialogue in diplomatic relations, and a concern for the environment.

Born in Laos in 1944, Cardinal Ling attend a seminary of the Voluntas Dei Institute (associated with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate) in Canada, and was ordained a priest of the Vicariate Apostolic of Vientiane in 1972, three years before the communist takeover of the country.

He was appointed vicar apostolic of Paksé in 2000, and consecrated a bishop the following year. He was elevated to the cardinalate June 28.

Cardinal Ling’s ministry in the majority-Buddhist country has been greatly varied as he has responded to the unique challenges facing the Church and the people there. Catholics number just over a mere 45,000 in the country of 7 million, and are served by only 33 priests.

“We are in the minority as Catholics, but we understand each other always; whether you are a cardinal or not, you are the same, you have to be simple and really with the people,” he told CNA.

Given such a small Catholic population, Cardinal Ling, 73, has long placed importance on catechesis and evangelization. Many married missionaries, as well as the country’s seminarians, go into villages to minister to the Catholic flock there. He is also described as placing an emphasis on integrating Christianity into the local culture in order to promote harmony with the religious majority of the country.

The communist takeover in 1975 posed a great challenge for the Church in Laos, which, anticipating persecution, stopped or scaled back many of its public liturgies and catechetical programs. Foreign missionaries were expelled. However, a surprisingly tolerant government has since allowed for the re-growth of the Church. However, the Church still faces challenges from the powers that be.

“The Church is treated very poorly in Laos – probably the worst in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) save for Brunei,” a “well-place[d] diplomat source” told UCA News in May.

Cardinal Ling is noted for having good relationships with government authorities. Despite challenges, the cardinal holds out hope for the future of his flock. While Laos is one of the few countries lacking full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, progress has been made in the recent past, and the presence of a Laotian in the College of Cardinals will offer a prime opportunity for continued building of these relationships.

Fr. Raphael Tran Xuan Nhan of Vietnam, who has worked in Laos since 2005, described Bishop Ling to UCA News as a “kind, friendly, wise and open-minded man” who is “interested in evangelization work and welcomes all foreign missionaries to his country.” He describes the cardinal’s diplomatic approach as “dialogue rather than confrontation.”

The beatification of 17 martyrs from the region, killed by communist forces in the second half of the twentieth century, was yet another sign of warming Church-state relations, as well as providing a sense of renewal for local Catholics.

The new cardinal has also spoken out of concern for the environment, responding to fast-paced deforestation in the region.

“Now we are starting to destroy ourselves,” he said, as reported by UCA News. “It’s not from climate change itself but [it is] coming from human beings and humans doing something very wrong to destroy the earth.”

The elevation of Ling to the College of Cardinals represents a peripheral perspective from a long-time pastor with broad experience in many of the challenges facing the Church today.

Alexey Gotovskiy contributed to this report.


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New Mexico bishop takes charge in fighting sex abuse, healing wounds

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Gallup, N.M., Jun 29, 2017 / 02:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico added three names earlier this year to its list of workers against whom there are credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, as part of the diocesan commitment to transparency and youth protection.

The local Church is also holding healing services in many of its parishes across New Mexico and Arizona, in which Bishop James Wall listens to and prays with any who wish to do so, as they seek healing from sexual abuse.

The three new names on the list of credibly accused are Brother Mark Schornack, OFM, who served at parishes in the Gallup diocese between 1952 and 1984, and who is now deceased; Fr. Ephraim Beltramea, OFM, who served at St. Francis parish in Gallup from 1970 to 1973; and Fr. Diego Mazon, OFM, who served in parishes of the diocese between 1977 and 2003.

Emails sent by CNA to representatives of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Province of the Order of Friars Minor inquiring about Fr. Beltramea and Fr. Mazon were not acknowledged.

Bishop Wall spoke to CNA recently about the Diocese of Gallup’s efforts at child protection, the need to find healing, and the central role that transparency plays in the life of the Church.

“We use transparency so much as a buzzword,” he reflected. “I think transparency’s important because all things must be brought into the light; things shouldn’t remain in the darkness.”

“In the past I think we’ve learned from some our mistakes, and some of that had to do with shielding those who committed abuses, or sometimes maybe turning a blind eye, or allowing people to remain in ministry – and I don’t think that’s a good practice, because that doesn’t really protect young people, vulnerable adults. It doesn’t allow for them to have a safe place to encounter the living Christ.”

Transparency means “showing our policies, our procedures, what we’re doing,” he said, so that “everything is brought into the light, so there’s nothing that’s hidden.”

April’s inclusion of three new names brings the list of those who have worked in the Gallup diocese who have been deemed by the diocese to have credible accusations of sexual abuse of a minor against them to a total of 34.

Most of them (21) were diocesan priests. Another 11 were priests or brothers of religious communities, including the Order of Friars Minor, the Claretians, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, and the Crosier Fathers. There was also one seminarian and one lay CCD teacher.

Some two-thirds of the credibly accused (22) are deceased.

Bishop Wall explained that when the diocese receives an allegation of sex abuse of a minor, it undertakes an investigation, or has an outside investigator look into it. The investigator brings its findings to a review board, which makes recommendations to the diocese.

“Through that process, if we discover that the allegation is credible, then we will post that name on the diocesan website, as well as let the parishes where this person has served know.”

He added that the investigation is done because “we always have to make sure that we’re protecting everyone’s rights involved in this, being sensitive to everyone: the person bringing the accusation forward, as well as the accused,” noting that “the legal system is innocent until proven guilty.”

If the credibly accused person is a cleric, “immediately their faculties are withdrawn and they’re informed that they are not to function or present themselves as a cleric in the Church.”

The bishop added that their case can be sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where they can be assessed various penalties, such as dismissal from the clerical state.

When the credibly accused person is a member of a religious community, “the expectation is that (their community) take the lead,” Bishop Wall explained, though the diocese does work closely with the religious community throughout the process.

The Gallup diocese’s list of credibly accused was first made in December 2014, and its recent update reflects the fact that “sometimes we don’t have enough information on a particular case; we might not have enough information to investigate it, and then deem it credible.”

“If at a later date more information does come to us, so that we are able to investigate it, and then we are able to deem it credible, then we immediately put it on our list of credibly accused,” the bishop said. “So it all has to deal with the information that we have.”

The diocese’s list reflects any local Church workers who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, whether while they were in ministry in Gallup or in another diocese. It also shows when and where they ministered within the diocese, whether or not the alleged abuse was carried out at those times and places.

Those who have been credibly accused were in ministry between the 1930s and the 2010s. There was a sharp rise of those in ministry in the 1950s, with a peak in the 1960s. Many of the credibly accused were also in ministry in the 1970s and ’80s. The numbers fell in the 1990s and 2000s.

There was a sole case since Bishop Wall was named Bishop of Gallup in 2009: Fr. Timothy Conlon, a member of the Crosier Fathers. He served in two Arizona parishes from 2011 to 2013 before the diocese was informed by his religious community of an allegation of sexual abuse against him.

The bishop said the Church is now “really in the forefront of making sure that we provide a safe environment for our young people, and vulnerable adults as well,” with its screening of potential ministers leadings its efforts.

He cited the use of psychological screening and testing, and the fact that “our interview process is much, much more extensive than it was” in past times. Moreover, the Gallup diocese trains its volunteers, employees, students and clerics in child safety, and has a mandatory background check.

“We try to put in as many safety procedures as possible,” he said.

Reflecting on the spike of credibly accused clerics in the 1950s and ’60s, Bishop Wall said that while there were a number of contributing factors, he believes that chief among them was the sexual revolution and “the groundwork [which] was already being laid prior to that.”

“But then again, these were bad people who did bad things to people; and these people should never have been placed in the positions to violate the trust, to violate these young people.”

In response to the crisis of sexual abuse, the Diocese of Gallup has also held healing services in parishes across its territory, in which Bishop Wall listens to and prays with survivors of sexual abuse, regardless of who their abuser was.

“It provides an opportunity not only to come together to pray, to pray for healing, but also gives an opportunity for anyone, and I stress that – anyone – who is a survivor of sexual abuse to meet with me,” the bishop explained.

“So we could have someone who is a survivor of sexual abuse by a worker of the Church, or someone who’s a survivor of sexual abuse not by a worker of the Church, it could be family or friends, whatever the case might be … that’s what the Church is about, it’s what our ministry is about: offering the healing of Christ, so we provide that opportunity as well.”

Communities across the diocese have responded differently to the healing services, which began in November 2016.

In some places, Bishop Wall said, there is “a pretty good sized group that comes, and people who will want to meet with me individually afterwards; some people will bring family members in with them, they feel a little more comfortable, and some people just come to pray – you don’t have to be a survivor of sexual abuse to come and pray.”

Healing services are scheduled at different communities in the diocese through March 2018.

While acknowledging that “it is difficult,” Bishop Wall also affirmed that “I think it’s necessary, and it’s a good thing, to allow people to come and sit and talk, and kind of, really unload their burden. Especially for someone who was abused by a worker of the Church, I think it’s important for the bishop, who’s the shepherd of the diocese, to sit with the person, to talk with the person, pray with them, apologize. I think that’s one of the most important things were able to do in this.”

“These healing services, difficult though they are, provide a great opportunity for survivors of sexual abuse, whether at the hands of workers of the Church or someone else … to come before the Lord and find healing in the Lord,” the bishop concluded.

Survivors of sexual abuse are also afforded an opportunity “to pray, too, and also I think to realize they’re not alone, because I think many times if someone is a survivor of sexual abuse, sometimes they feel like they’re alone. And I think coming together with others, and the Church welcoming and inviting them to come together, it lets them feel that they’re not alone, they’re not isolated, there are people that are there for them, the Church is there for them.”



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Peter and Paul are the columns on whom the Church rests, Pope recalls

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 12:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Saints Peter and Paul are pillars of the Church and a reminder that God is with us always, Pope Francis said Thursday in St. Peter’s Square.

“The Fathers of the Church liked to compare the holy apostles Peter and Paul to two columns, on which the visible building of the Church rests. Both sealed with their own blood their testimony to Christ of preaching and service to the nascent Christian community,” he stated during his June 29 Angelus address on the saints’ feast.

He reflected on St. Peter’s deliverance from prison by an angel “so that he could complete his evangelizing mission, first in the Holy Land and then in Rome, putting all his energy at the service of the Christian community.”

St. Paul similarly experienced hostility to his mission, the Pope said, from both civil authorities and his fellow Jews, “from which he was freed by the Lord.”

“These two ‘deliverances’, of Peter and of Paul, reveal the common path of the two apostles, who were mandated by Jesus to announced the Gospel in difficult and in certain cases hostile circumstances.”

They both, through “their personal and ecclesial stories, demonstrate and say to us, today, that the Lord is always at our side, walking with us, never abandoning us,” said Pope Francis.

“Especially at the moment of trial, God touches our hand, comes to our aid, and frees us from the threats of our nemeses. But let us recall that our true nemesis is sin, and the Evil One who drives us to it.”

He said that “when we reconcile with God, especially in the sacrament of Penance, we receive the grace of pardon, we are freed from the chains of evil, and are lightened from the burden of our errors. Thus can we continue our journey of as joyous announcers and witnesses to the Gospel, demonstrating that we ourselves first received mercy.”

Pope Francis concluded his address by praying for Rome, the city of the martyrdom of both Saints Peter and Paul.

“May the goodness and the grace of the Lord sustain all the Roman people, for they live in fraternity and concord, resplendent in the Christian faith, witnessed to with intrepid love by the holy apostles Peter and Paul.”


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New US archbishops look forward to serving God in their local Churches

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Newly-appointed metropolitan archbishops from around the world received the traditional woolen vestment called a pallium during a special Mass with Pope Francis on Thursday.

For the three new metropolitan archbishops of American sees, the experience was a reminder of their mission as shepherds of their local Churches, called to follow God and lead others to him.

The Mass, celebrated on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, was significant for Archbishop Paul Etienne of Anchorage, who told CNA June 29 he was “very mindful of the accompanying presence of these great saints.”

He is inspired by their great love for Christ and the Church, he said, and by the courage with which they went out into the world after encountering the Risen Lord.

“I just ask for as much of that same grace in my life and in ministry, that I can joyfully serve the Lord and present him to the world in a fashion that will be received.”

Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis told CNA he knows he has a lot to learn and get to know in his new role, but he’s looking forward to serving God and serving the people of God as the shepherd of the local Church.

After the Mass, each archbishop has an opportunity to greet the Pope. For Archbishop Thompson, this was his first personal encounter with Francis. Though the meeting was brief, Pope Francis “had a glow, had a great smile on his face,” he said.

“It really made me think about the joy of the Gospel and talking about having the joy of bringing people to Christ. Even though there’s also an awesome responsibility that I feel in this appointment, I just sense that the smile on his face was to do with joy.”

“Don’t let it overwhelm you. Trust in the Holy Spirit. Trust that God gives you the grace to fulfill this mission. And I’m banking on that, because I’m the least worthy of anybody here,” he said.

Archbishop Etienne said that it was “a great privilege and a great honor” to receive the pallium from Pope Francis.

He was grateful for the Pope’s homily, which reminded him that they aren’t in this for themselves, but that they are “servants of the Lord.”

“Our life is to be giving a confession, our own witness to Christ, and we should not be surprised when the trials and the persecutions come our way; and the best way to get through it is to pray,” he said, recalling the Pope’s words. “So those are all three pretty good points that he made.”

For Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, this was his second time receiving the pallium, the first being when he was appointed Archbishop of Indianapolis in 2012.

“It’s always a very moving moment to be with the Holy Father, to feel the connection with bishops from around the world and to deepen what it means to be a bishop,” he told CNA.

He explained that out of all the vestments he has to wear, his favorite is the pallium, which is a stole made from white wool and adorned with six black silk crosses. The wearing of the pallium by the Pope and metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.

One significant thing about the pallium, Cardinal Tobin said, is the symbolism found in how it is worn: around the shoulders.

It shows “the obligation of the bishop to look for the one who’s lost, and carry that one back on his shoulders. So that’s why when I put it on my shoulders, I remember that,” he said.

It is traditional for the Pope to bestow the stole on new archbishops June 29 each year. The rite is a sign of communion with the See of Peter. It also serves as a symbol of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese as well as the other dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.

However, as a sign of “synodality” with local Churches, Pope Francis decided in 2015 that new metropolitan archbishops will officially be imposed with the pallium in their home diocese, rather than the Vatican.

So while the new archbishops still journey to Rome to receive the pallium during the liturgy with the Pope, the official imposition ceremony is in their home diocese, allowing more faithful and bishops in dioceses under the archbishop’s jurisdiction to attend the event.

Archbishop Thompson, whose installation as Archbishop of Indianapolis will be held July 28, has the unique privilege of being imposed with the pallium at the same Mass as his installation, which he said will be “a great symbol.”

Archbishop Etienne was installed as Archbishop of Anchorage on Nov. 9, 2016, so he’s had a few months to begin settling in. “The people in Alaska count winters, so I’ve been in Anchorage one winter now,” he laughed.

Though the weather is cold, the people there are warm, he said, noting that they have all been grateful he accepted the appointment, since it isn’t easy to live in Alaska.

“It’s a very diverse Church,” he explained, but the people have been wonderful, “helping me to understand their ways and to embrace that new territory and all the people that are a part of it.”

Both Archbishop Etienne and Archbishop Thompson said that learning about their new appointments came as quite a surprise.

“It’s a shock anytime you get one of those phone calls,” Archbishop Etienne said.

Moving to Anchorage was not something he expected, but “after a prayerful night, it became clear that if this is where Mother Church has asked me to go and where the Lord is leading, I promised him years ago I would follow. So Alaska’s my home now.”

Archbishop Thompson, who only received his appointment June 3, said the last few weeks have been “a whirlwind,” especially having to plan so quickly for a trip to Rome.

When he received the phone call, he had just returned home from saying an ordination Mass for new priests in his diocese, Evansville. In his homily that day, he said he had preached about missionary discipleship and how one cannot be comfortable or complacent in an assignment, but must be prepared to go out to the people, since it’s the Lord who calls us and sends us.

“So when I got this phone call, I got off the phone and thought, ‘Who was I preaching to this morning?'”

In Newark, Cardinal Tobin said there are so many people his work can be “daunting” at times, though it’s also “wonderful.”

“I would say it certainly gets me on my knees, to pray for wisdom and light, and to pray for the people and all their needs,” he said.

During his time, Cardinal Tobin has come out strongly about the issue of immigration in the U.S., in May issuing a call for Catholic and political leaders to work in defense of immigrants.

“I think it’s a very delicate moment in our history,” he said, both for the many immigrants in the U.S. and for the American soul in general. “Because I think that there are so many things that brutalize the American soul, beginning with abortion, proposals for euthanasia,” he said.

“The rounding up of immigrants, and the completely callous nature toward their suffering, I think, is just another thing that deadens our hearts. I think as spiritual leaders we have to be concerned about it.” 


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Pope: To be a disciple, Jesus must be the center of your life

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Pope Francis said that we can’t just know about our faith, but we must live our faith, with Jesus as the center of our hearts and lives.

“The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives,” the Pope said June 29.

“Today he looks straight at us and asks, ‘Who am I for you?’ As if to say: ‘Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?’

Jesus is asking us today the same questions he asked to his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?” Francis continued. In the end, only Peter answers that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

“Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles. May we too pass from Jesus’ first question to his second, so as to be ‘his own’ not merely in words, but in our actions and our very lives,” he said.

This is the “crucial question,” he continued, especially for pastors. “It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome. During the ceremony, he blessed the pallia to be bestowed on the 32 new metropolitan archbishops who were present, all appointed throughout the previous year.

The pallium is a white wool vestment, adorned with six black silk crosses. Dating back to at least the fifth century, the wearing of the pallium by the Pope and metropolitan archbishops symbolizes authority as well as unity with the Holy See.

The title of “metropolitan bishop” refers to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis, namely, the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or regional capital.

Traditionally the Pope bestows the stole to the new archbishops June 29 each year. The rite is a sign of communion with the See of Peter. It also serves as a symbol of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese as well as the other particular dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.

However, as a sign of “synodality” with local Churches, Pope Francis decided in 2015 that new metropolitan archbishops will officially be imposed with the pallium in their home diocese, rather than the Vatican.

So while the new archbishops still journey to Rome to receive the pallium during the liturgy with the Pope, the official imposition ceremony is in their home diocese, allowing more faithful and bishops in dioceses under the archbishop’s jurisdiction to attend the event.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on three words from the liturgy that he said are “essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution and prayer.”

For confession, the Pope spoke of the confession of faith, which means “to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.”

We should ask ourselves, he said, if we are “parlor Christians,” who only love to sit and chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or “apostles on the go,” people “who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts.”

We can’t be half-hearted, he urged, but must be on fire with love for Christ, not looking for the easy way out, but daily risking ourselves to put out “into the deep.”

“Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end.”

But doing so isn’t easy, and that’s when we come to the second word, he explained, because following the way of Christ, also means facing the cross and persecution.

Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, as well as the early Christian community as a whole. Even today, he continued, a great number of Christians are persecuted.

The Pope emphasized the words of the Apostle Paul, who said “to live was Christ, Christ crucified, who gave his life for him.”

“Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either,” Francis stated.

The Christian is called to “tolerate evil,” but tolerating evil doesn’t mean simply having patience and resignation, he explained, it means imitating Christ, accepting the cross with confidence, carrying the burden for Christ’s sake and for the sake of others – all the while knowing that we are not alone.

“Tolerating evil,” he continued, “means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world.”

This is why St. Paul writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The essence of this “good fight,” the Pope emphasized, was living “for Jesus and for others,” giving your all. There is only one thing that Paul kept in his life, and that is his faith.

“Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth.”

Lastly, Pope Francis said that the life of an apostle must be a life of constant prayer.

“Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties.”

When St. Peter was in prison, it tell us in the Acts of the Apostles that “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.”

“A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care,” he said.

Francis concluded by praying that the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, may “obtain for us a heart like theirs.”

Hearts that are wearied because they are constantly asking, knocking, interceding, weighed down by the many needs of people and situations that need to be handed over to God, but also at peace, because the Holy Spirit brings consolation and strength through prayer, he said.

“How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!”

“The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial.”

Just as the Lord accompanied the journey of the Apostles, “he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals,” he said.

“He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders.”


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Cardinal Pell to take leave while facing abuse charges in Australia

June 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Jun 29, 2017 / 01:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After Australian police announced that they have charged him on multiple counts of sexual abuse, Cardinal George Pell has maintained his innocence, saying he will take leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican to clear his name.

In comments to journalists during a June 29 news briefing at the Holy See Press Office, Cardinal Pell said that with the permission of Pope Francis, he will be taking “leave” from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order “to clear my name.”

“I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I’m innocent of these charges, they are false,” he said, adding that “the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.”

Throughout the two years he has been fighting the accusations, there have been various media leaks and “relentless character assassination,” he said, insisting he has been “consistent and clear in my total rejection of these allegations.”

Pell said that he has regularly kept Pope Francis informed of the process. In the past week, the two have spoken on “many occasions” about “my need to take leave to clear my name,” he said, voicing his gratitude to the Pope “for giving me this leave to return to Australia.”

The cardinal said he has already spoken with his lawyers and doctors about how and when he will return to Australia to face the charges.

“News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me the opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work,” he said.

Cardinal Pell’s statement came after the police of Victoria, Australia announced that they are charging him on multiple counts of historical sexual abuse.

The charging of Cardinal Pell, who in 2013 was tapped to oversee the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and is a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, makes him the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.

He was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. Pell was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996.

In February 2016, he testified for the third time before Australia’s Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing the cardinal of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint.

Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome.

Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny.

In a June 29 communiqué released after Cardinal Pell made his statement to journalists, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Holy See learned with “regret” about the charges filed for “decades-old actions” that have been attributed to the cardinal.

“Having become aware of the charges, Card. Pell, acting in full respect for civil laws, has decided to return to his country to face the charges against him, recognizing the importance of his participation to ensure that the process is carried out fairly, and to foster the search for truth,” the communiqué read.

Echoing Pell’s own statement, Burke affirmed that Pope Francis has granted the cardinal an absence from his duties “so he can defend himself,” and that in his absence, the Secretariat for the Economy will continue to carry out its work.

The secretaries in the department will remain at their posts to carry forward the dicastery’s work “donec aliter provideatur,” meaning “until otherwise provided.”

Pope Francis, Burke said, “has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years of work in the Roman Curia,” and is grateful for his collaboration and “energetic dedication to the reforms in the economic and administrative sector, as well as his active participation in the Council of Cardinals (C9).”

On behalf of the Holy See, Burke voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which “will have to decide the merits of the questions raised.”

However, at the same time, he said “it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors” and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission.

Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures “both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse.”

Burke closed noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges, and as such would be absent from the day’s today’s Mass for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, to be celebrated by Pope Francis and attended by all new metropolitan archbishops appointed during the previous year.


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St John XXIII’s relics will visit his home diocese in 2018

June 28, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Bergamo, Italy, Jun 29, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Diocese of Bergamo announced yesterday that next year the body of St. John XXIII will return to the city, his native diocese, for a visit expected to last about two weeks.

In a June 27 statement the diocese announced that Pope Francis had approved the request of Bishop Francesco Beschi of Bergamo for the body of St. John XXIII to “return to Bergamo.”

Currently exposed for veneration inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body will likely return to his home diocese around June 3, 2018, to mark the 55th anniversary of his 1963 death.

St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte, a village of Italy’s Bergamo province, Nov. 25, 1881, as the fourth of 13 children. He was ordained a priest of the Bergamo diocese in 1904, at the age of 22, serving there until he was selected for the Vatican’s diplomatic corps and consecrated a bishop in 1925.

In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed Patriarch of Venice, and he was elected Bishop of Rome Oct. 28, 1958.

Known commonly as “Good Pope John,” he is most remembered for his 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris and for his calling of the Second Vatican Council.

He was beatified in 2000, and was canonized April 17, 2014. While two miracles are typically required for a non-martyr saint to be canonized, in the case of Bl. John XXIII, Pope Francis waived the rule and allowed him to be canonized with just one miracle formally approved by the Vatican.

The urn containing his body is expected to stop Bergamo and the Pope’s small, native town of Sotto il Monte for roughly two weeks. However, the details are still being discussed with the Holy See, and will be announced by the diocese when the decisions are finalized.
In comments coinciding with the announcement of St. John XXIII’s return to Bergamo, Bishop Beschi offered his thanks to Pope Francis “for this gesture of paternal love toward our diocese.”

“To think that Saint Pope John XXIII will return to his land makes me remember what he said just a few months after his election as Pope, in an audience with a group from Bergamo,” the bishop said, quoting John XXIII’s wish that the pilgrims “always advance in goodness, in virtue, in generosity, so that the people of Bergamo be always worthy of Bergamo.”

The presence of the saint’s relics will challenge both society and the local Church, he said, noting that while the late Pope studied outside of Bergamo, he learned the most essential things during his time growing up in the area.

It is from these roots that St. John XXIII learned “to look at the positive aspects more than the negative, and to consider, in relationships with others, what unites more than what divides,” he said.

Calling the saint a “schoolyard” where one is taught to look at life and the future “with optimism and to consider people with esteem and confidence,” Bishop Beschi urged the people of Bergamo to return to their roots in order to “renew that same sap of grace that unites us to him.”