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Mexican cardinal calls for respect for bodies found stored in trailers

September 24, 2018 CNA Daily News 2

Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 25, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA).- The president of the Mexican bishops’ conference has demanded that the dignity of human bodies be respected, after two trailers were found in Mexico’s Jalisco state, containing 157 corpses.

In a statement published Sept. 21, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega responded to the discovery, which he said “has caused outrage in society.”

On Sept. 18, locals in the municipality of Tlajomulco alerted authorities to the presence of a trailer emitting foul odors. The trailer contained corpses reported to be murder victims connected to organized crime, which apparently could not be kept in a morgue due to lack of space.

The former director of the Jalisco Forensic Sciences Institute, Luis Octavio Cotero Bernal, is presumably responsible for the scandal. He was dismissed from his position shortly after the bodies were discovered. There has not yet been an official statement on the discovery of the bodies.

The bodies from the trailer and a second one are now in a warehouse belonging to the Jalisco state prosecutor’s office.

In his statement, Cardinall Robles said that believing in the “resurrection of the dead is to affirm something essential to the Christian faith.”

“Human existence does not come to an end  with the years lived in this world, since Jesus Christ by rising has made us sharers in eternity,” he added.

For this reason, the cardinal emphasized, “the dignity of every individual is not lost even after death, human remains require the respect due to those who in life were persons, made in the ‘image and likeness of God,’ who await, through the merits of Jesus Christ, to be redeemed and saved for eternal life.”

“Death is not the end, the annihilation,  the elimination, much less the extinction of a human person,” the archbishop said.

Burying the dead, he continued, “is a way of expressing faith in the Resurrection, since by so doing it is understood that the person reposes with the firm hope of one day being awakened by the eternal light of Heaven.”

“Besides belonging to a very ancient tradition of burying the dead, we know that it has been considered a corporal work of mercy. Societies of all times and cultures have set aside suitable places for the interment of their deceased, places that express compassion, respect and veneration toward those who shared our same pilgrim journey.”

Robles lamented undignified storage of human corpses, and explained that it “makes evident a process of the lamentable and gradual dehumanization of our society which has been permeating us and makes us deduce that government institutions have been overrun.”

“With the lack of care and attention to the bodies that have not been identified, the discouragement of people hoping to find their loved ones grows,” he wrote.

Robles, who is Archbishop of Guadalajara wrote that “for social, humanitarian, religious and public health reasons, it is urgent to follow the proper procedures to obtain and carefully archive genetic information which could lead in the future to the identification of the remains of those who now remain in anonymity.”

“We call then for the respect due honor due to human beings in whatever their circumstances, from the most vulnerable and defenseless to the most obscure and ignored. Any human breath is a sign of the goodness of the Creator,” he concluded.

Mexican officials are now seeking a long-term solution to the body storage problem presented by the victims of organized crime.

The BBC reported that in 2017 Mexico experienced its most violent year with more that 25,000 murders, according to official figures.

Since 1990 one cardinal, 47 priests, one deacon, four men religious, nine laypersons and one Catholic journalist have been killed in Mexico according to a report by the Catholic Multimedia Center of Mexico.

It is also estimated that since 2000, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico.


This article was originally published CNA’s Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.



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Mexican bishops call for solidarity with flood victims in Sinaloa

September 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Culiacan, Mexico, Sep 21, 2018 / 06:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops’ conference called for solidarity Friday with the thousands of people affected by heavy rains and flooding in Sinaloa state, which has been declared in a state of emergency by the authorities.

“In concern for the state of Sinaloa which is suffering from the damage left by the heavy rains over the last hours by the tropical depression19-E and its downpour September 19 and 20, we express our communion, joining in prayer,” states the Sept. 21 communiqué.

So far 11 out of Sinaloa’s municipios have been affected, as well as several municipalities in neighboring Sonora.

The rains from the tropical depression have caused damage to homes, cars, and farmland, and the evacuation of about 16,000 people.

The bishops’ statement indicated that over 32,000 acres of crops have also been seriously damaged in the Carrizo Valley and El Fuerte.

The bishops noted in their statement that “Sinaloa has always been in solidarity with our country in different contingencies and so we ask you to join, with a merciful gesture, a generous spirit and fraternal charity, the special collection in support of our brothers to aid and accompany them now and in the subsequent phases of rehabilitation and reconstruction.”

“We are entrusting to our Caritas Mexico the mission of receiving and transferring funds in order to respond to this emergency,” the statement says.

“We place our brothers in Sinaloa and Sonora under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” the communiqué concludes.


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


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Masked men brutally attack priest in Nicaragua

September 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Leon, Nicaragua, Sep 18, 2018 / 05:01 pm (ACI Prensa).- A group of masked men entered the home of a priest in the Diocese of León in Nicaragua and savagely beat him in the early hours of Saturday, in a new direct attack against the Church in the country.

According to local media, unidentified men entered the home of Fr.  Abelardo Toval Ayesta, the pastor of Saint John the Baptist of Sutiaba parish in León, and struck him hard in the face and ribs, and even tried to suffocate him on Sept. 15

Fr. Victor Morales, communications director for the Diocese of León, told the media that “three people came in through the courtyard with faces masked, tied up (the priest), beat him badly and left him tied up. The stole several valuables from him.”

Following the incident, the auxiliary bishop of Managua, Silvio José Báez Ortega, strenuously protested the attack.

“I deplore and condemn the brutal aggression inflicted today by masked men on Father Abelardo Toval, the pastor of Sutiava in León. The priest is in danger of losing an eye. My prayers for him, for Bishop Bosco Vivas and for all the clergy of the Diocese of León,” the prelate wrote on Twitter.

The Archdiocese of Managua reported on Facebook that “His Eminence Cardinal Leopoldo José Brenes, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Managua, has been in direct contact with Father Abelardo Toval of the Diocese of León.”

The cardinal expressed to the priest “his closeness and prayer concerning the violent situation he experienced this morning. (The cardinal) asks the faithful to continue to pray for all the priests.”

Amid Nicaragua’s recent crisis, numerous churches have been desecrated and both bishops and priests have been attacked.

Protests against president Daniel Ortega which began April 18 have resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to local human rights groups. The country’s bishops have mediated on-again, off-again peace talks between the government and opposition groups.

Nicaragua’s crisis began after Ortega announced social security and pension reforms. The changes were soon abandoned in the face of widespread, vocal opposition, but protests only intensified after more than 40 protestors were killed by security forces initially.

Anti-government protesters have been attacked by “combined forces” made up of regular police, riot police, paramilitaries, and pro-government vigilantes.

The Nicaraguan government has suggested that protestors are killing their own supporters so as to destabilize Ortega’s administration.

The Church in Nicaragua was quick to acknowledge the protestors’ complaints.

The pension reforms which triggered the unrest were modest, but protests quickly turned to Ortega’s authoritarian bent.

Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church has suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held in 2019, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.


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


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This 87-year-old woman feeds the homeless in Chile every week  

September 17, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Santiago, Chile, Sep 18, 2018 / 12:06 am (ACI Prensa).- Every Wednesday night, 87-year-old Elena Donaire goes out onto the streets of Santiago, Chile, to meet the homeless and attend to their needs.

For 40 years, Donaire has taken part in the “Street Route” of the Hogar de Cristo (Christ’s Home), an organization that includes numerous outreach programs and facilities to help the poor.

Donaire starts her evening by fixing sandwiches, boiling water and organizing the warm clothing that she will give to the people she encounters on the streets. When everything is ready, the volunteers leave in their van.

Donaire is often the first to get out of the van to begin serving. Many of the homeless people on the streets of Santiago know her and greet her by the affectionate title “Dear Mama.” The other volunteers call her by the nickname “Grandma.”

In an interview with the Archdiocese of Santiago’s communications office, Donaire explained that her mission has its origin in her friendship with Saint Alberto Hurtado.

Known in Chile as Padre Hurtado, the Jesuit priest, author and lawyer founded Christ’s Home, a network of homeless shelters that also included trade schools, rehabilitation centers, and other facilities to serve the poor.

He was beatified in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized in 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Before Hurtado died in 1952, Donaire said she had “promised him to continue serving the people just as he did.”

“That’s the biggest reason I have to continue helping – it’s a joy for me,” Donaire said. “I am going out on the street until he calls me from above. I know that if he were alive, he would be here on the street helping along with me, I would like to be at his side.”

Remembering the Jesuit saint, Donaire said that “he didn’t smile a lot, but when it was an occasion for smiling, he was always there with us. He enjoyed sharing with the people, especially the children, he treated them with such love and affection that it still moves me to this day to remember those moments. I have never met a person as good and committed as he was.”

For Donaire, who lives alone in a small house and works selling clothes in a street market, “It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, or cold, there are no excuses for not going out on Wednesdays.”

“I anxiously wait for [the other volunteers] to come and pick me up for the simple reason that I want to be with these people. I like them and they make me happy. I know their stories and they tell me them.”

She acknowledged that she sometimes feels bad that she cannot do more to help the homeless people she encounters on the streets.

“I know I am going home to a house, I’m going to get a good night’s sleep, and I see that these people aren’t going to,” she said.

Still, she stressed the importance of doing what one can to help those in need.

“Help your brothers on the street,” she encouraged. “Many times, it’s enough just to talk with them, to listen to them, to find out how they are doing. I assure you that [they] feel happier just to share their troubles with someone. We all have commitments or things to do, but making an effort doesn’t cost anything.”


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


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Mexican bishops publish ‘plan for building peace’

September 12, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 12, 2018 / 05:52 pm (ACI Prensa).- The Mexican bishops’ conference published Tuesday the “Catholic Church’s Plan for Building Peace,” in an effort to “redouble efforts and united action” against corruption and violence racking the country.

The goal of this plan, the bishops explained Sept. 11, is to “make known and assist in the coordination of all peace building efforts” undertaken by both Catholic and civil society organizations.

The bishops stated that building peace in Mexico will be a “pivotal axis” in their work of pastoral social ministry.

The plan will thus promote continuity in the work of caring for victims, the “workshops for forgiveness and reconciliation” will be reactivated, and strategies will be developed to care for the victims of human trafficking throughout the country.

The plan includes pastoral accompaniment and oversight for the work of the migrant centers and shelters spread throughout Mexico, working with prisoners, the care of orphans, preserving green spaces as common areas, and working with the media to get out messages that foster peace in the country.

The Mexican bishops also emphasized the importance  of “collaboration with the new administration elected in our nation in 2018.”

To that end, the Mexican bishops met Sept. 4 with president-elect Andres Manuel López Obrador and had a “fraternal and proactive” dialogue.

In statement released Sept. 5, the bishops indicated “the main items” covered in their meeting with López.

The first item was the president-elect’s “presentation of the administration’s program” for the country.

The second item discussed at the meeting was “mutual concern for attention to the pressing issues: poverty, migration, violence, corruption, impunity, life and religious liberty for all confessions.”
The possibility of establishing an ongoing open channel for dialogue with the government was also addressed.
Additionally, the apostolic nuncio Archbishop Franco Coppola met with López Sept. 10. Afterwards, foreign minister designate Marcelo Ebrard emphasized that one of the points in common with the incoming administration and the Catholic Church is “the search for peace in Mexico” as well as the effort to reduce inequality in the country.

Ebrard also noted that López “has met or will meet with almost all” the religious communities in Mexico “to invite them to participate in the peace process,” seeking to bring about “a conversation and common reflection on how we can achieve peace in Mexico.”

The next Mexican foreign minister also said regarding the position of the Vatican on the peace forums in Mexico “we are not expecting from the Holy Father more than his message and point of view. The Holy Father gives important messages every day.”

The Mexican bishops’ conference has agreed to participate in these forums intended to lead to a National Reconciliation Pact.

In an Aug. 16 statement, the bishops said proposals coming out of these forums will provide input “to develop public policies that will allow progress in overcoming violence, building peace and national reconciliation.”

The “Catholic Church’s Plan  for Building Peace” comes in the context of the July 1 presidential elections in Mexico. López won with 53 percent of the vote and his National Regeneration Movement party obtained majorities in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies.

López campaigned against corruption and violence, but he or his party have also expressed support for abortion, gay marriage, and assisted suicide.


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Chilean civil court could get access to Vatican documents on Karadima case

September 10, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Santiago, Chile, Sep 10, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Santiago in Chile has requested that the country’s Court of Appeals send an “exhorto” or judicial request, to the Vatican Secretary of State, asking the Vatican to provide all available information about the abuses perpetrated by Fr. Fernando Karadima. The request comes amid litigation following a lawsuit that has accused the archdiocese of covering-up Karadima’s actions.

“This request seeks to obtain all the information that may help determine the facts of the case,”  the archdiocese wrote in a statement.

In Chilean judicial proceedings, an “exhorto” is akin to a subpoena for documents or information.

In 2011, Karadima was declared guilty of sexual abuse by the Vatican, which sentenced him to “a life of prayer and penance, also in reparation of the victims of his abuse.” In addition, the Vatican prohibited him from “the public exercise of any ministerial act, in particular confession or the spiritual direction of all categories of persons.” Controversially, he was not laicized.

In 2015, Juan Carlos Cruz, José Andrés Murillo and James Hamilton, three of Karadima’s victims, filed a lawsuit for “moral damages” against the Archdiocese of Santiago and requested the compensation of 450 million pesos (about $640,000) in addition to a public apology by the Church for the alleged cover-up of abuses.

In March 2017, after an investigation and more than 30 statements given, the Chilean court determined that there was no cover-up by the archdiocese and so dismissed the case.

The plaintiffs appealed the ruling and the lawsuit is now being reviewed by the Court of Appeals.

Archdiocese of Santiago spokesman Nicolas Luco said in a recent statement that “the judicial proceedings have not shown any evidence of cover-up  as the lower court determined and for that reason it’s important to discover any new evidence in this matter.”

On April 28-29, the victims of Karadima met with Pope Francis in the Vatican. Those attending said that “the pope formally asked forgiveness in his own name and in the name of the universal church.”


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



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Dominican Republic pro-life march: ‘Let’s save both lives!’

September 10, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Sep 10, 2018 / 04:51 pm (ACI Prensa).- A pro-life demonstration in the Dominican Republic on Sunday voiced opposition to a bill to reform the Criminal Code that would open the door to abortion in the country.

Abortion is illegal in all instances in the Dominican Republic. However, the National Congress is considering an effort to legalize abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and fetal deformity.

Led by Archbishop Francisco Ozoria Acosta of Santiago, pro-life marchers gathered September 9 in front of the National Congress in the country’s capital. Under the theme “Let’s Save Both Lives,” the demonstration argued against the legalization of abortion, with speakers giving presentations from legal, scientific, and medical perspectives.

While the march was organized by the Catholic Church, large crowds of Evangelical Christians also participated.

The Archdiocese of Santo Domingo explained in a statement that “our obligation is to warn what will happen if abortion on three grounds [of fetal deformity, rape and incest] is approved.”

In other countries where abortion has been legalized on narrow grounds, the archdiocese said, “the culture of death groups demand that unrestricted abortion be approved, maternal mortality does not go down, neither do teen pregnancies.”

After the legalization of abortion, the archdiocese warned, “the rich countries will still be rich and the poor countries will still be poor. Our country would be no exception.”

The legalization of abortion in the Dominican Republic is being heavily promoted by international groups, including Planned Parenthood, Women on Waves, George Soros’ Open Society, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Population Fund.

Other pro-life efforts are also in the works. An annual walk called “A Step for My Family” is planned for November this year. In addition, the CitizenGo international platform has collected more than 7,000 signatures demanding the Dominican Congress “pass without further delay the Criminal Code without the three grounds that seek to legalize abortion.”


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