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Cardinal Ezzati leaves Santiago with ‘head held high’

March 25, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Mar 25, 2019 / 04:01 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello, whose resignation as Archbishop of Santiago was accepted Saturday, said he is leaving office “very grateful” and with his “head held high” regarding the way the archdiocese dealt with cases of sexual abuse and cover-up.

Ezzati, 77, has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of several abusive priests. His resignation was accepted March 23.

The current crisis of the Church in Chile is a consequence of the uncovering of a great number of cases of sexual abuse and the abuse of authority and conscience as well as cover-up by members of the clergy.

In that context Ezzati is facing the civil justice system, accused of allegedly covering up sexual abuse by the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of Santiago, Fr. Oscar Muñoz Toledo.

At a press conference Ezzati said that the crisis in the Church in Chile “without a doubt has been the greatest sorrow of this time.”

But he stated that “every complaint has been addressed and consequently we will have to wait for what the justice system will say about this. It’s not enough for them to say that someone has covered up, it has to be proven, and I hold my head high, confident that that will not be shown.”

He also said that the archdiocese has cooperated with the civil justice system, “has had open doors,” and “the prosecutor has requisitioned the documents he has wanted” in the different raids carried out in the context of the investigations.

Regarding the accusations against him, the cardinal explained that “all the complaints that have come to the OPADE (Pastoral Office for Complaints) have been investigated or are being investigated.”

Asked about the petition to dismiss the case requested by his defense lawyer, in the case of the former chancellor,  Ezzati said that he has asked the prosecutor’s office to deliver the necessary documents but “we haven’t gotten them and we still don’t have them.”

“For now I am availing myself of my right to remain silent which Chilean legislation offers me.  I will speak at the appropriate time. My lawyer knows the day and the hour to speak,” he said.

When Ezzati’s resignation was accepted, Pope Francis also appointed Bishop Celestino Aós Braco of Copiapó as apostolic administrator Santiago.

Ezzati thanked Pope Francis for his gesture, “which naturally conforms to a criterion of canon law.”

“The Holy Father Francis, with kindness, fraternity, with a great sense of closeness to the Church of Santiago, has decided to appoint an apostolic administrator. I am happy with the action of the Holy Father,” the cardinal said.

“I have profound respect and love for Bishop Aós. I believe he will carry out a very important task and I ask everyone that in this difficult time, I ask at least all Catholics that they go on and support the new apostolic administrator and the Church of Santiago with their prayers and closeness,” Cardinal Ezzati concluded.

 

 

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

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Catholic priest in Montreal stabbed during Mass

March 22, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Montreal, Canada, Mar 22, 2019 / 09:38 am (CNA).- A Catholic priest in Montreal is in stable condition after being stabbed during Friday morning Mass. One suspect has been taken into custody in connection with the attack.

Fr. Claude Grou, rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory, was celebrating Mass when the attacker ran from the back of the rectory and stabbed him in the chest, CBC News reported. Police were called at 8:40 am, about 10 minutes into Mass.

Adele Plamondon, an attendee at the Mass, told CBC News that the attacker “was very determined in what he wanted to do. He didn’t yell, he didn’t say anything. He just took out his knife.”

The stabbing was captured on video. St. Joseph’s Oratory is the largest church in Canada, and its daily Mass is broadcast live each morning.

The priest’s injuries were not severe, according to authorities. He was taken to a local hospital in an ambulance.

The Diocese on Montreal said on Twitter that Grou’s “health is stable,” adding, “All our prayers are with him.”

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante called the attack “a horrible and inexcusable gesture that has no place in Montreal.”

The Archdiocese of Toronto tweeted, “We offers our prayers for the priest stabbed this morning at @diocesemontreal’s St. Joseph’s Oratory while celebrating Mass.”

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‘We’re in a very different time now’: Montreal officials oust crucifix from City Hall

March 21, 2019 CNA Daily News 3

Montreal, Canada, Mar 21, 2019 / 03:32 pm (CNA).- Montreal’s City Hall doesn’t need Christ, officials have said.

A crucifix that has hung on the wall of Montreal’s City Hall since 1937, reminding city officials to let God guide their decisions, will be taken down for a renovation project, never to be put back, local sources have reported.

City councilor Laurence Lavigne-Lalonde made the announcement at an executive council meeting this week.

“The crucifix was installed during an era that was completely different than the one we live in today,” Lavigne-Lalonde told the council, according to CTV News Montreal.

“We now live in a society that has evolved and is represented by democratic institutions that must be secular, neutral and open to all citizens,” Lavigne-Lalonde added.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante agreed.

“I truly believe and based on all the discussion that has been done in the past, that it doesn’t have to be in city council where it is a secular institution. This is a place where we make decisions and it was originally put there to support decision making,” she said at the meeting. “I think we’re in a very different time now.”

Plante added that the decision is a “recognition of the role of secularism in the institution, and for me, there is a stark distinction between individual and institutional secularism,” she said, according to the CBC.

City officials also said they will be removing another crucifix that is hung in a different room in city hall.

After the decision was announced, the Archdiocese of Montreal issued a statement saying that the crucifix is a symbol of the Christian roots of Canada and doesn’t need to be removed in a religiously pluralistic society.

“As a sign revered by Christians, the crucifix remains a living symbol. It symbolizes openness and respect toward all peoples, including toward other faith communities and religious traditions, which rightfully adhere to their own signs and symbols,” Archbishop Christian Lépine said in his statement. “Nevertheless, nothing forbids us, and our respective beliefs, from being present in the public space in an attitude of respect and openness, since we share the same common humanity,” he added.
 
“When it comes to transmitting spiritual and communal values in a spirit of togetherness and solidarity, the crucifix is laden with meaning, expressing and encapsulating what fortifies the population of Montreal since its foundation, a legacy of which we can be proud.”

Issues of religious freedom and the display of religious symbols have been prominent issues in Canada recently, and Montreal’s decision brought up an ongoing debate about the crucifix that hangs in the legislature building of Quebec. According to the CBC, Premier François Legault of Quebec has previously defended the crucifix’s place in the province’s National Assembly, even while he backed a bill that would have banned the wearing of religious symbols by civil authorities, such as cross necklaces or hijabs. The bill was recently tabled by the legislature.

But after the Montreal decision, he balked: “There are good arguments for and some arguments against, and right now we have a debate. We have to find a compromise,” Legault told CBC. “I accept the decision of the City of Montreal.”

Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette of Quebec, who backed the religious symbols bill, told CTV News that the National Assembly does not have to follow the decision of Montreal to remove their crucifix.

“They can do what they want about that. The National Assembly has always decided to maintain (the crucifix) and that’s the position of the government because it’s a (historical) symbol,” he said.

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Bishops oppose ‘absurd’ amnesty law for El Salvador

March 19, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

San Salvador, El Salvador, Mar 19, 2019 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- A proposal to grant amnesty to those convicted of war crimes committed during the El Salvadoran civil war has drawn friece criticizm from the country’s Catholic bishops.

 

“It would be a spurious law,” said the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador, which represents the bishops of the country’s eight Catholic dioceses, in a statement released March 17.

 

The bishops compared the proposal to the 1993 Amnesty Law, brought in following a United Nations investigation into human rights abuses during the El Salvadoran Civil War.

 

That measure was declared unconstitutional by the country’s Supreme Court in 2016, which ordered the Salvadoran congress to draft a new version of the law by July of 2019.

 

According to the bishops, the new bill would be a “totally unfair law” that would protect criminals instead of their victims.

 

Instead, the bishops called for “a law of true reconciliation,” that would promote a “transitional justice exercise that protects and provides reparation to victims.”

 

Archbishop José Luis Escobar Alas of San Salvador said that the new law “does not make sense,” and is worse than the 1993 version.

 

“It is absurd to issue an amnesty law that seeks to cover all crimes, including crimes against humanity,” said Alas.

 

The 1993 Amnesty Bill notably would have prevented charges being brought against those who orchestrated the assassination of St. Oscar Romero.

 

Romero, who was the Archbishop of San Salvador, was murdered while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980. The day before his murder, he had preached a homily that implored the country’s soldiers to stop committing human rights atrocities.

 

It is believed that he was killed by Salvadoran National Police Detective Óscar Pérez Linares, and that his assassination was ordered by Roberto D’Aubuisson, a politician and death-squad leader. Álvaro Rafael Saravia, who was chief of security for D’Aubuisson and involved in the death squads, was found to be liable for Romero’s death, but has not yet been prosecuted.

 

After the 1993 law was repealed, a warrant was issued for Saravia, and the case was re-opened.

 

Saravia remains in hiding. Linares and D’Aubuisson are now both deceased.

 

During El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, an estimated 75,000 people were killed, and a further 10,000 people vanished. The conflict ended in 1992, following the singing of the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

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Chilean cardinal addresses case of sex abuse in Santiago cathedral

March 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Mar 11, 2019 / 07:34 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati Andrello of Santiago on Thursday denied knowing and giving  money to the complainant in a rape case in the cathedral which took place in 2015.

The Archbishop of Santiago gave an interview to Informe Especial which was broadcast March 7.

In the interview, he discussed a rape complaint against Fr. Rigoberto Tito Rivera Muñoz, who was found guilty in August 2018 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the sexual abuse of adults.

Rivera sexually assaulted Daniel Rojas Alvarez, who was then about 40, in a room of the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015.

Rojas claims he told Cardinal Ezzati of the attack during a confession, and that the archbishop asked him to pray for the abuser, gave him 30,000 pesos ($45), and asked that he not asked him not to share what happened.

In the Informe Especial interview, Ezzati said: “I hear confessions in the cathedral, especially during the time of Holy Week, but I am not aware of having heard his confession, because I don’t know him and still less am I aware of giving him a hug and telling him that a priest would give him some money in my name, that’s not it, this is all very unfortunate, but that’s not the case, I understand that he may feel what he feels, and I have complete esteem and all my affection for him, because of what he has suffered,” he said.

Asked if he ever had contact with Rojas, the cardinal said “no.”

Regarding the processing of the case, Ezzati explained that the complaint was received by the Pastoral Office for Complaints: “It came to the archdiocese a few days later and immediately the archbishop ordered a preliminary investigation.”

“Within a few hours and a few days later that the investigator, Fr. Walker, conducted a preliminary investigation, which he gave to me, I received a phone call in which I was told  that the Holy See had asked the nunciature to review [Rivera’s] situation because of a complaint that had come to them. I don’t know what complaint, so consequently I immediately sent all the documentation where appropriate.”

Regarding the time elapsed between the filing of the complaint and calling in the victim (to testify), Cardinal Ezzati pointed out that “in 2016 the investigation was already done. What also happened is that they were never able to get Daniel’s address. Except toward the end, Daniel gave (us) his e-mail, and he was able to be able contacted there.”

Asked about his responsibility in the abuse scandals within the Church, the cardinal said that “without a doubt one of the tasks that has fallen on me, and very painful, very shameful, very humiliating, is to take in hand the cases that are being reported and have been reported.”

“What I can tell you with a lot of transparency and with a lot of peace, we certainly could have made some mistakes, we’re not infallible, I’m not infallible, but that in all the cases that have been reported to the Archdiocese of Santiago, for which since 2011 I have been responsible, all, all the cases have been investigated, and all cases are investigated, and what people reported before then, and they are in the process of being resolved.”

Concerning the accusations for alleged cover-up of abuse in which at least ten priests are implicated, Cardinal Ezzati said that “the justice system has to determine that. I am very much at peace and  I am willing, and as I have always said, I am at the disposal of the justice system if they want to investigate and they have the complete freedom to do so.”  

Asked about a bill which seeks to take away his Chilean citizenship, Ezzati (a native of Italy) said it “that pains me immensely, foremost because I was granted citizenship by indult and the decree sets out the reasons.”

He said that “the authorities are certainly free to take the path they want” and “personally I think it’s unjust, but I am going to continue to work as archbishop as long as the Holy See asks me to do so.”

“After (they do that), as a priest with no complaints about what I was able to contribute at this time in the history of Chile, whether as an educator or as a pastor, I am going to continue working because what I am interested in is not titles, but was I am interested in is people,” he concluded.

The Archdiocese of Santiago stated last week that it received a complaint of possible abuse of minors by Rivera in August 2011, but that during enquiries into the case “it was not possible to contact the complainant.”

The Pastoral Office for Complaints then received a complaint against Rivera from an adult in March 2015, which permitted the start of a preliminary investigation and the implementation of the precautionary measure of removing the priest from all pastoral responsibilities.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, at the request of the Santiago archdiocese, “gave new instructions to continue the preliminary investigation and to start an administrative penal process” in September 2016.

The preliminary investigation was closed in November 2016, leading to the administrative penal process which concluded with the Decree of Condemnation of Aug. 16, 2018.

The priest was declared “guilty of crimes against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue continued  over time and involving scandal, with adults, as is specified in Canon 1395§1 of the Code of Canon Law,” the archdiocese said.

Rivera was suspended from public ministry for ten years, “only being able to celebrate the Eucharist privately and with the company of a person over 50 years of age.”

He was also prohibited from “meeting with or maintaining contact with young people” and was required not to move anywhere.

Once the ten years are completed, if the priest does not comply with the measures, he risks “being suspended for a greater period of time.”

The archdiocese also noted that these four penalties were “among others.”

It concluded, saying that “besides the canonical sentence which was implemented  in September 2018, an exhaustive review was begun to clarify all the information that was made known publicly.”

Cardinal Ezzati has faced accusations that he was involved in covering up the crimes of other abusive priests, including Fernando Karadima and Oscar Munoz Toledo.

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