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First-of-its-kind congress leads global conversation on digital sexual child abuse

September 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Sep 30, 2017 / 10:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A global congress to be held in Rome next week will focus on how to protect children in the digital age, bringing together various experts from around the world to develop concrete ways to combat the issue of online child sex abuse.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ told journalists Sept. 29 that this is an issue that is dangerous for “many, many young people in the world today.”

Head of the Center for Child Protection and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Zollner said he has spoken to many parents who do not know what to do about their children’s access to the internet: “Everyone is talking and they do not know what to do.”

With this congress, “we can propose something we believe could be useful.”

But this is just the beginning, he told CNA. “We will start now, but this is again, one step in a very long journey that needs persistence and perseverance and we try to give our contribution to that.”

The world congress, on the topic of “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” is being held in Rome Oct. 3-6. It has been organized by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection (CCP).

The week-long congress will include scientists, academic experts, leaders of civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives from around the world. It will conclude with a papal audience, where participants will present a final document – a declaration on future action – to Pope Francis.

In the congress “we will try to sort out some action points that will then be incorporated in the declaration that will be adopted by the participants of the congress at the end of Thursday’s meetings,” Zollner said.

“Then that will be brought to the Holy Father, so it will be presented to him by a young person. And we hope then, that from those action points, concrete developments will take off.”  

Among the speakers are Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who will give a keynote address on the Holy See and its commitment to combatting sexual abuse online.

Cardinal John Njue, archishop of Nairobi in Kenya, and Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila in the Philippines, will also each present on the issue of safeguarding from the perspectives of Africa and Asia respectively.

Topics of the presentations include data and research, prevention of abuse, pornography, the responsibility of internet providers and the media, and ethical governance.

Because the focus of the congress is children and vulnerable adults, Zollner said that including victim/survivors in the congress would not be possible.

“For the reason precisely to preserve their dignity, which is in the name of our congress, we decided against inviting declared victim/survivors of sexual abuse online,” he explained.

Instead, they have invited to observe the congress 10 university students, around the age of 20-22, who have grown up in the age of the internet.

They will have the opportunity in the plenary and working group sessions to voice “their perceptions, their concerns, and their experiences in dealing with this phenomenon,” he said.  

Another initiative of the congress is a call for scientific papers, which they put out at the conclusion of the week.

“We will invite the scientific world to engage in specific areas of concern in a scientifically valid way,” Zollner said. “We hope that this will create then a sort of avalanche of future processes and projects that can then be presented in two or three years’ time.”



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Take care of those on the peripheries, Pope Francis tells mayors

September 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2017 / 10:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday told mayors that they must go to those on the margins of their communities in order to learn how to best serve the common good, including the needs of the poor, unemployed, and migrants and refugees.

“To you, mayors, let me say, as a brother: You must frequent the peripheries, those urban, those social and those existential,” the Pope said Sept. 30.

To do so is to learn from the best school, he continued, because it teaches us about the real needs of people, shows us injustice, and helps us to build better communities, where everyone is recognized as a person and citizen.

“I think about the situation in which the availability and quality of services is lacking, and new pockets of poverty and marginalization are formed,” he said.

This is where a city becomes divided, he said: on one side of the highway are the secure and well-off and on the other are the poor and unemployed – including families and migrants who have no support.

Pope Francis’ speech was made in an audience with Italian mayors, members of the National Association of Italian Towns (ANCI), in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican Sept. 30.

In the audience he spoke about the specific issue of immigration, saying that he understands that many people are uncomfortable in the face of the massive arrival of migrants and refugees.

This discomfort is understandable, he said, especially when there is innate fear of the “stranger,” and the already-present wounds of economic crisis, lack of community, and inadequate response to emergencies by the government.

Francis said that these challenges can only be overcome through personal encounter, including the mutual exchange of artistic and cultural riches, as well as the knowledge of people’s places and communities of origin.

“I am delighted to hear that many of the local administrations represented here can be among the main advocates of good reception and integration practices, with encouraging results that deserve broad dissemination. I hope that many follow your example,” he said.

It is this way that politics can fulfill the “fundamental task” of helping people to see the future with hope, he noted, saying that it is “hope in tomorrow that brings out the best energies of everyone, of young people first of all.”

If a mayor is close to his or her people, directing everything toward the common good, then things will go well, he continued.

Pope Francis also spoke about the symbol of the city as it is found in Sacred Scripture.  

At the beginning of the Bible we hear the story of the history of Babel, a city “unfinished, destined to remain in the memory of humanity as a symbol of confusion and loss, presumption and division, of that inability to understand that makes any common work impossible,” he said.

The Bible also closes with the vision of a city. But unlike the city of Babel, the new Jerusalem “smells of heaven and tells of a renewed world.”

It is significant, the Pope continued, that the image of the city recurs throughout Sacred Scripture. It teaches us that human society can only stand when rested on the foundation of true solidarity.

Envy, unbridled ambition and a spirit of adversity, on the other hand, condemn us to the violence of chaos. To move away from this we need a politics and economy centered on ethics, “an ethics of responsibility, relationships, community and the environment,” he said.

“I would like to talk to you about a city that puts the public well-being above private interests, not allowing corruption or the privatization of public spaces, where the ‘us’ is ‘reduced to slogans, to rhetorical artifice that masks the interests of few,'” he said.

It is this view that helps people to grow in dignity. “It promotes social justice, therefore labor, services, opportunities,” he said.

“To embrace and serve this city it takes a good and great heart, in which to preserve the passion of the common good,” he encouraged, “because what contributes to the good of everyone also contributes to the good of the individual.”

If we do this, he concluded, “then the city will advance and reflect the heavenly Jerusalem.”

“It will be a sign of God’s goodness and tenderness in man’s time. A mayor must have the virtue of prudence to govern, but also the virtue of courage to move forward and the virtue of tenderness to approach the weakest.”



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Pope Francis re-names Cardinal Burke to Vatican’s highest court

September 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Vatican City, Sep 30, 2017 / 09:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Saturday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Cardinal Raymond Burke as a member of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura – the Holy See’s highest court – which he previously headed for six years.

Burke, 69, is currently patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta, which he was appointed to in 2014 by Pope Francis. An expert in canon law, he served as prefect of the Apostolic Signatura from 2008 to 2014.

Other members added to the tribunal were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, 77, and Cardinal Edoardo Menichelli, also 77. Vallini was prefect of the Apostolic Signatura before Burke, from 2004 to 2008. He then served as Vicar General of Rome until his retirement in May of this year.

It is Menichelli’s first appointment to the Roman Curia. He retired as archbishop of Ancona-Osimo, Italy in July. Other new members to the court include Msgr. Frans Daneels and Msgr. Johannes Willibrordus Maria Hendriks.

Saturday Pope Francis also named Fr. Denis Baudot, a priest of the Archdiocese of Lyon and currently an official of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, judicial vicar of the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Vatican City.

The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura is one of three courts within the Holy See. The others are the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

The Signatura, as it’s called, functions sort of like a Supreme Court and the Apostolic Penitentiary is the court in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See.

The Rota is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage annulment cases are judged.

Burke was born on June 30, 1948 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He was ordained a priest in 1975, serving the Diocese of La Crosse until his appointment as bishop of La Crosse in 1994.

Before becoming prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in 2008, the American cardinal had served as archbishop of St. Louis, Missouri since 2003.
As the chaplain of the Knights of Malta, Burke has clashed with the Holy See over the removal of the Grand Chancellor of the Knights. He is also one of four cardinals who signed the controversial dubia, a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify parts of his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

In an interview Sept. 24 Burke said that he’s been wrongly depicted as the “enemy” of Pope Francis.

Even though he believes that the current division in the Church demands an answer to requests for clarity, he noted that as faithful Catholics, those who have expressed doubt or concern over the confusion surrounding “Amoris Laetitia” love the Pope “with complete obedience to the office of Peter.”



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Puerto Rican bishops offer message of hope after hurricanes

September 29, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sep 29, 2017 / 04:58 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Puerto Rican bishops’ conference issued a message of hope to Puerto Ricans after Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed much of the U.S. territory this summer.

In the letter, published on Sept. 27, the bishops of Puerto Rico said that the destruction “fills us with pain and suffering, especially when we see so many tears, and so much anguish in the faces of our people.”

On Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma passed through northern Puerto Rico, though it did not directly impact the whole island. However, on Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria directly hit the island as a Category 4 storm, leaving at least 16 dead. The hurricanes have left much of the island without water and electricity, and have led to widespread shortages of gasoline and food.

Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, told local media that these storms are “Puerto Rico’s biggest catastrophe…in terms of damage to infrastructure.”

Reuters reported that the storms had left an estimated $30 billion in material losses.

The Puerto Rican bishops praised the faithful for maintaining “…order and respect for neighbors, the law and the property of others.”

They added that the two massive hurricanes show the urgency of the need to address climate change.

“We understand that we cannot act as before and continue like this,” they said.

The bishops noted that the only way for the island to “be reborn” is by clinging to the “love of Christ.”

“From his cross and his pain, our hope is reborn,” they wrote.

The bishops’ conference also recommended that the Puerto Rican people adopt three attitudes: “to rebuild, rediscover, and have a reunion with Jesus.”

The bishops stressed that as people rebuild houses, churches or roads, they also need to repair “the damage that does not allow us to grow as a people and to progress as a nation.”

“Let us overcome the barriers, selfishness and divisions that may exist between us, and unite to rebuild our homeland, which shines with the beautiful, noble and Christian values that live in our hearts, and spring from our identity,” they said.

“Jesus comes to meet us, calms the storm and give us confidence. He invites us to walk towards Him, takes us by the hand and will not let us sink, so that we can say: ‘Everywhere we are pressed, but not crushed.’”

The bishops promised to provide financial aid to the most affected dioceses and offered prayers for the victims of the storm. They also thanked local authorities and rescuers for their work.

“In these days, where basic resources are scarce, especially light and water, let us enter into personal and community prayer with the Lord,” they said, and urged everyone to continue their “gestures of solidarity with those brothers and sisters in need.”

The full press release in Spanish can be found here.


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