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New Zealand bishops reaffirm commitment to government abuse inquiry

October 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Wellington, New Zealand, Oct 19, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of New Zealand have countered reports that say they are backing away from an upcoming government inquiry into sexual abuse cases in state and religious institutions in the country.

“Listening to individuals who have been harmed is critical in ensuring the Church’s response will be thorough, effective and compassionate, and forms part of our experience for developing safeguarding for today and into the future,” the bishops said in a statement published on their website.

They wrote responding to reports that they had backed away from a royal commission inquiry, which will examine historical cases of sexual abuse at institutions of care in New Zealand between the years 1950-1999.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the royal commission of inquiry into sex abuse cases in January 2018, the highest form of long-term investigation available in the country.

While the original terms of the inquiry included youth detention centers, psychiatric hospitals and orphanages, as well as any government care services contracted out to private institutions, the Catholic bishops of New Zealand published a letter in March 2018 calling for an expansion of the inquiry’s terms to include Catholic care institutions.
 
In that letter, the bishops said they would be “active contributors and learners within the Royal Commission of Inquiry.”   

“We assure you once again of our support and our desire to learn from this national undertaking which we are confident will contribute positively to the strengthening and safeguarding of our whānau, communities and society,” they wrote.

In their recent statement, the bishops referenced their March letter and reiterated their support of the inquiry.

“The Bishops and representation from Catholic Religious orders wrote to Prime Minister Ardern, Minister Martin, and Sir Anand Satyanand in March this year. That letter explicitly sought the broadening of the draft Terms of Reference to include Church institutions and was made publicly available and reported in the media,” the bishops said.

The statement comes amid pressure from two New Zealand men who are publicly calling for the release of Church files on Father Cornelius O’Brien, an Irish priest who moved to New Zealand in 1963 and served at least seven parishes until 1976, at which point he was accused of indecency against a 10 year-old and returned to the UK. He is reportedly believed to have sexually abused multiple children during his time in New Zealand. O’Brien died 6 years ago, his priestly faculties having never been removed.

The New Zealand Royal Commission inquiry is expected to take several years and is similar to the recently-concluded five-year Royal Commission inquiry in Australia, which examined sex abuse in Australian schools, churches, and sports clubs, and set up a government program to financially compensate victims.

The bishops of Australia said in August that while they have accepted hundreds of specific recommendations from the final report, they reject the recommendation that priests violate the seal of confession in cases of sexual abuse disclosed during confession.

 

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Questions arise about Vatican official mentioned in Vigano report

October 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 11:52 am (CNA).- An Italian magazine has raised new questions about a Vatican official mentioned in the August “testimony” of Archbishop Carlo Vigano. The report from L’Espresso, an Italian newsweekly, could be seen to provide support for at least one claim made in Vigano’s controversial testimony.

L’Espresso, an Italian newsweekly, reported Oct. 12 that Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, 58, who began serving Oct. 15 as “sostituto” of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, might have been dismissed from a seminary where he studied because he was thought by seminary administrators to have a homosexual orientation.

As ‘sostituto’, the archbishop is tasked with overseeing much of the day-to-day business of the Vatican’s Curial offices.

The magazine published a February 1985 letter from Archbishop Domingo Perez, then Archbishop of Maracaibo, the archdiocese in which Parra was later ordained. The letter was written to the rector of the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, at which Parra did the first part of his seminary studies before being dismissed.

In the letter, Perez said that he had received negative reports about Parra from the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, and acknowledged that Parra had been dismissed from studies there. Perez said that he had subsequently sent the student to another seminary in Caracas, and had received positive reports about him there.

However, Perez wrote that he had received an anonymous letter alleging that Parra had been expelled from his first seminary because he had a homosexual orientation and was, he wrote “a sexually sick person.”

Perez asked the seminary rector to make inquiries into those allegations. L’Espresso did not report any additional communications between the archbishop and the seminary rector. Parra was ordained six months after Perez sent his letter him.

Parra is among the bishops mentioned in Vigano’s Aug. 25 “testimony” regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. In that document, Vigano claimed that while he oversaw personnel for Vatican diplomatic offices, he had received “worrisome information” about Parra, who worked at that time in the Vatican diplomatic corps.

Vigano did not specify what “worrisome information” he had received, but the questions raised about Parra’s seminary formation could seem to fit with the tenor of Vigano’s testimony.

The archbishop’s testimony made claims about the sexuality of other Vatican officials, while arguing that “the virtue of chastity must be recovered in the clergy and in seminaries. Corruption in the misuse of the Church’s resources and of the offerings of the faithful must be fought against. The seriousness of homosexual behavior must be denounced. The homosexual networks present in the Church must be eradicated.”

The credibility of Vigano’s claims has come under fire lately, as some Vatican officials have denounced his testimony as an attack on Pope Francis.

Nevertheless, an Oct. 7 letter from Cardinal Marc Oullet, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops, corroborated Vigano’s central claim, that McCarrick had been directed by the Vatican to withdraw from public life because of reports about his alleged sexually abusive behavior toward priests and seminarians.

On the other hand, Oullet’s letter refuted the notion that the measures against McCarrick were formal “canonical sanctions,” a claim initially made by Vigano that seems to mostly have been disproven.

A September report from Catholic News Service corroborated Vigano’s claim that the Vatican had received at least some reports about McCarrick as early as 2000.

CNA independently confirmed another Vigano claim, that McCarrick had been ordered by a Vatican official to move out of the Washington, DC seminary where he had been living after his retirement.

On Oct. 18, L’Espresso added to its report, noting that Parra had a longtime close relationship with Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, the coordinator of the pope’s C9 Council of Cardinals. Vigano had also noted their friendship.

The magazine also claimed that the archbishop had developed a friendship with Bishop Juan Jose Pineda, former auxiliary bishop of Maradiaga’s Archdiocese of Tegucigalpa, who in recent months had been accused of sexual misconduct involving seminarians and other adult men.

L’Espresso reported Oct. 18 that the Vatican declined to respond to its questions about Parra.

 

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Pope Francis & South Korean president pray for peace

October 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2018 / 09:45 am (CNA).- South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in met with Pope Francis today after praying for peace on the Korean peninsula in St. Peter’s Basilica. The visit marked the 55th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Seoul and the Vatican.

 

“I come to you as president of South Korea, but also as a Catholic. My baptismal name is Matthew,” Moon said as he greeted Pope Francis in the Vatican Apostolic Palace Oct. 18.

 

The Korean president and the pope discussed their common commitment to fostering initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, according to the Holy See Press Office.

 

After the papal meeting, Moon met with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for the Relations with States, and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

 

The evening before the visit, Moon also participated in a “Mass for Peace” on the Korean peninsula celebrated by Cardinal Parolin in St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

“Peace is built with the choices of every day, with a serious commitment to the service of justice and solidarity, with the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person, and especially through the care of the weakest,” Cardinal Parolin said in his homily.

 

The chief Vatican diplomat prayed that “even in the Korean Peninsula, after so many years of tensions and division, the word peace can finally resound fully.”

 

President Moon said after the Mass that their prayers in St. Peter’s will “resound as echoes of hope in the hearts of the people of the two Koreas as well as the people of the whole world who desire peace.”

 

“Just as your holiness prayed before the U.S.-North Korea summit, we are paving a desirable way toward assuring a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula and the world,” Moon said.

 

The pope and the Korean president exchanged gifts, including a medallion of olive branches as a message of peace and a Korean image of the Virgin Mary.

 

When Pope Francis saw Moon’s gift of a sculpture of the face of Jesus by a Korean artist, he remarked that he could see the suffering of the Korean people in Christ’s crown of thorns.

 

Last month, Moon traveled to Pyongyang for the third inter-Korean summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. The leaders of the two Koreas pledged to make a joint bid for the 2023 Summer Olympics.

 

During their meeting, Kim Jung Un asked the South Korean leader to extended an invitation to Pope Francis for a papal visit to North Korea. Kim told Moon that he would “greatly welcome” the pope in Pyongyang, according to South Korea’s presidential office.

 

A South Korean bishop attending the 2018 Synod of Bishops said last week that a papal visit to Pyongyang would be “a giant step forward for peace on the Korean peninsula,” but cautioned that there must be “some sort of religious freedom” before such a visit takes place.

 

North Korea has consistently been ranked the worst country for persecution of Christians by Open Doors. Christians within the atheist state have faced arrest, re-education in labor camps, or, in some cases, execution for their faith.

A United Nations investigation in 2014 produced a 372-page report that documented crimes against humanity, including execution, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, forced abortions, and knowingly causing prolonged starvation.

The U.S. State Department estimates that there are currently an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 people in North Korea’s six political prison camps.

 

“Only those who have experienced the inscrutable mystery of the apparent absence of God in the face of suffering, oppression and hatred can fully understand what it means to hear the word peace resound again,” Cardinal Parolin said at the Mass for the Korean peninsula.

 

“I and all my people hold dearly the pope’s message that ‘dialogue is the only solution in every conflict.’ [We] will solemnly walk toward democracy, lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and an inclusive nation,” Moon wrote in an article published by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano Oct. 17.

 

President Moon expressed hope that “exchange between the Vatican and North Korea will further increase.”

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Get real: What young religious hope to hear from the youth synod

October 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Denver, Colo., Oct 18, 2018 / 04:00 am (CNA).- Tonia Borsellino knows she’s a part of the “one percent” in the U.S. It doesn’t bother her. In fact, she seems proud.

She’s actually Sister Tonia Borsellino. And as a newly-veiled, 23 year-old novice with the Mercederian Sisters, she is among the one percent of religious sisters in the United States under the age of 40.

While her life, and the lives other young religious, may look different from those of their lay counterparts, Borsellino and other young religious say they are looking for similar things from the bishops participating in the Vatican’s synod of bishops on young people, taking part in Rome this month.

CNA spoke with several young consecrated religious sisters and brothers about their hopes for the synod.

Chief among their concerns is authenticity – they want leaders who are honest and holy; they want their bishops to be unafraid to speak the full truth of the Gospel to young people, even when it’s hard.

Brother Lawrence Johnson, 29, is a friar with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Bronx, New York.

Johnson, who participated in a pre-synod meeting in Rome with other young people, told CNA that authenticity was one of the key concerns of the delegates at that meeting. The words “authentic” or “authenticity” appear seven times in the 14-page document from that meeting.

“We talked at the pre-synod meeting about the power of testimony and personal witness as something that really resonates with young people, and so I think to see Church leaders…give their own testimony to the power of their encounter with Christ is something youth need to hear,” he said.

It’s particularly important at this specific time in the Church, he said – the months just after the so-called  “summer of hell”, when sexual abuse scandals continued to break throughout the Church in the United States and other countries throughout the world.

Young people need an answer from their leaders as to why they are still Catholic even in difficult times, Johnson said, “because even religious and priests can have a temptation to discouragement.”

“So I think we need to talk about what’s happened, to speak credibly and authentically, but at the same time with joy and fervor…centered on the center of our faith, on the reality of God’s love manifested in Jesus Christ.”

Sister Benedicta Turner of the Daughters of St. Paul is another young sister – “yes, we exist!” – who hopes that the synod fathers recognize young people’s desire for clarity and truth, even when it is difficult.

“It is a generation that strongly values clarity and authenticity, perhaps to a fault. Slick, expensive presentations go ignored while raw, sincere testimony is held with reverence,” she said.

Turner said that Church leaders need to return to an authentic presentation of the totality of the Gospel, and to challenge rather than compromise with the current culture.

“I think we need leaders who are willing to answer the hard questions young people are asking, who are more inclined to engage the culture than to make excuses for it, and who are willing to admit mistakes and failure with honesty and humility,” she said.

“We need leaders who are unafraid to give us the Gospel in its most intense, undiluted form; the Gospel for which the martyrs offered their lives and whose beauty has inspired countless works of art over the centuries,” she added.

Only this kind of engagement with the Gospel and the hearts of young people will be effective in calling them out of complacency and into relationship with Christ, she said.

Br. Neil Conlisk, a 30 year-old Carmelite brother, told CNA that he feared the synod’s bishops would not listen to young people’s desire for authenticity and truth and that they would continue on with “business as usual” and talk past young people.  

“No one wants a worldly Church,” he said. “I fear that the Synod Fathers will try to change the Church in the name of the youth, but this ‘change-the-church’ fever is a symptom of the illness that has caused the long decline, and we simply cannot afford to destroy the Church any more.”

“We are hearing, from many bishops, moralistic therapeutic deism, but we want the fullness of the faith within the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” he added.

In addition to speaking the truth, Johnson said that what he hopes arises from the synod is a greater recognition throughout the Church of the need to live lives of holiness, so that young people have examples to follow in the Christian life.

“Young people need to see examples of holiness so that they know that Christianity is true, it’s beautiful and its attainable,” he said.

When young people need to see that there are Christians who “weren’t born perfect, but there are people who admit their weaknesses and rely on the Lord’s strength and are able to lead lives of holiness,” whether that person is a bishop or a priest or a lay member of the Church, he said.

This need for examples of Christian holiness is not new, Borsellino told CNA, but it is a constant need throughout the history of the Church.

“Young people need radical, authentic witnesses of the Gospel in this world that are willing to speak to their hearts,” she said. “It has always been and will always be a need. Jesus knew that well when he formed those intimate relationships with his disciples.”  

Vocational discernment is another point of focus for the youth synod. As young people who have discerned at least the first few steps of a religious vocation, many of the young religious CNA spoke to said they hoped the synod bishops would emphasize the importance of a relationship with Jesus through prayer and the sacraments as key to discernment.

“Discernment is about listening to God’s voice and one cannot do that without having a relationship with Jesus,” said Sr. Kathryne of the Holy Trinity, a 26-year old with the Mercederian Sisters. “Then once that relationship is established, it cannot remain stagnant.”

Johnson said he was surprised by the strong desire for increased access to the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration expressed by the delegates at the pre-synod meeting – something that has been echoed in synod’s working document.

“When it comes to questions of discernment and being disposed to discern God’s will, I think focusing on silence and being in the presence of Christ (particularly) in the Eucharist” are important, he said.

Another desire of young people expressed in the pre-synod document was for more formation in the faith. Borsellino said she was surprised by how many basic things about the faith she did not know until she began religious life, and emphasized the need for ongoing formation even after young people are confirmed.

“…it is important for the Church to educate the faithful because the desire will then grow in them to continue pursuing that truth,” she said.

“Especially ministering to young people, post-confirmation, when the sense of ‘obligation’ to continue practicing the faith is lost if there is not an understanding of the faith or deep love for Christ in their hearts.”

Overall, Borsellino said she is encouraged that the bishops are trying to listen to the young people of the Church, and encouraged Catholics not to be too discouraged by the growing number of young people who are religiously unaffiliated.

“I think the messages from the youth synod so far are proof of a desire that young people have for Truth, who is Jesus Christ,” she said. “There might not be many young people filling the pews right away but souls are being transformed. Look at the attendance at World Youth Days or FOCUS conferences,” she said.

“Young people might just go for fun at first, but then something clicks because we encounter Christ’s real presence in our lives.”

She added that parishes and the whole Church community need to support each other in the journey to sainthood.

“We must all, young and old, pray for each other!” 

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