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Salvadoran imprisoned for 1989 killings of 5 Jesuit priests

September 11, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

CNA Staff, Sep 11, 2020 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A former colonel of the Salvadoran military, Inocente Orlando Montano Morales, has been convicted in a Spanish court for is participation in the murder of five Jesuit priests in 1989. Montano has been sentenced to more than 133 years in prison.

The former colonel was El Salvador’s vice-minister for public security during the civil war that divided El Salvador in the 1980s. He was convicted Sept. 11 of planning and ordering the killing of five Jesuit priests, all of whom were Spanish, at the Central American University in San Salvador.

A Salvadoran Jesuit priest, their housekeeper, and her daughter were also killed, but the former colonel was convicted in Spain only of the killings of the five Spanish Jesuits.

Montano maintained his innocence, though witnesses testified that he believed the Jesuits were collaborators of the Marxist guerilla Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, which El Salvador’s military junta fought in a bloody civil war that spanned more than a decade.

The Jesuits in El Salvador were active proponents of peace talks and a negotiation between the government and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. One of the priests killed, Father Ignacio Ellecuria, SJ, was an outspoken critic of El Salvador’s government, according to Reuters.

The killings took place on Nov. 16, 1989, during a battle being waged across the city of San Salvador. Ellecuria served as rector of the Central American University, which was occupied by an elite battalion of the Salvadoran army.

A unit of the Salvadoran Army dragged from their beds the six Jesuits and shot them.

The priests killed were Ellacuría, rector of UCA; Ignacio Martín-Baró; Segundo Montes; Amando López; Joaquín López y López; and Juan Ramón Moreno Pardo. All were Spaniards except for López y López, a Salvadoran.

The priest’s housekeeper Elba Ramos and her 15-year-old daughter Celina were also killed.

The soldiers left a message at the site of the killings meant to implicate the guerillas.

The government was supported by the United States during the twelve year conflict, which killed 75,000 people, and during which 8,000 people disappeared. The United Nations has estimated that 85% of civilians killed during the conflict died at the hands of government forces.

In January, the U.S. Department of State announced that 13 former Salvadoran military members would not be eligible for entry into the U.S. because of their involvement in the killings.

“The United States supports the ongoing accountability, reconciliation, and peace efforts in El Salvador,” Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, said Jan. 29.

“We value our ongoing working relationship with the Salvadoran Armed Forces, but will continue to use all available tools and authorities, as appropriate, to address human rights violations and abuses around the world no matter when they occurred or who perpetrated them.”

“Today’s actions underscore our support for human rights and our commitment to promoting accountability for perpetrators and encouraging reconciliation and a just and lasting peace.”

Pompeo said Jan. 29 that the U.S. “condemns all human rights abuses that took place on both sides of the brutal civil war in El Salvador, including those committed by governmental and non-governmental parties.”

The Atlacatl Battalion, which killed Fr. Ellacuría and his companions, was trained by American advisers.

The State Department said Jan. 29 it had credible information that the 13 former Salvadoran military personnel “were involved in the planning and execution of the extrajudicial killings” of November 1989.

It listed Montano, Juan Rafael Bustillo, Juan Orlando Zepeda, Francisco Elena Fuentes, Guillermo Alfredo Benavides Moreno, Yusshy René Mendoza Vallecillos, José Ricardo Espinoza Guerra, Gonzalo Guevara Cerritos, Carlos Camilo Hernández Barahona, Oscar Mariano Amaya Grimaldi, Antonio Ramiro Avalos Vargas, Angel Pérez Vásquez, and José Alberto Sierra Ascencio, who it said ranged in rank from general to private.

The 13 were designated under the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act 2019, which bars them and their immediately family members from entering the U.S.



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Who was St. Peter Claver?

September 9, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Sep 9, 2020 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- September 9 marks the Feast of St. Peter Claver, a Jesuit priest who ministered to African slaves in Colombia in the 17th century. The U.S. bishops have invited Catholics to observe the day with fasting and pra… […]

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Tabernacle stolen from Canadian Catholic cathedral 

September 8, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 8, 2020 / 03:38 pm (CNA).-  

The Bishop of St. Catharines, Ontario is pleading for thieves to return the consecrated Host after the tabernacle was stolen from the St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral on Tuesday.

Bishop Gerard Bergie of St. Catharines pleaded for the two people who took the tabernacle to return it, along with its contents, in an interview Tuesday afternoon with Canadian station NewsTalk 610 CKTB.

“The tabernacle can be replaced. It’s the contents (…) that is what is so precious to us. That’s what’s irreplaceable,” said Bergie, adding that he hopes that no harm is done to the Blessed Sacrament.

He hopes that the person or persons who took the tabernacle “realize it’s not of any monetary value, and be able to return it to us.”

“No questions asked, if they return it,” he said.

The tabernacle is made of steel, but has two bronze-colored doors, said the bishop. Bergie suspected that perhaps the thieves thought the tabernacle was made of gold, or perhaps had a more nefarious intent with stealing the hosts.

“Who knows what goes through the minds of these people,” he said.

Video footage captured two people, believed to be a man and a woman, breaking into the cathedral at approximately 4:30 a.m. Sept. 8. As it was dark, the footage is “kind of grainy” and it has been difficult to determine a clear image of the suspects, he said.

Many people have taken to loitering near the cathedral in recent months, Bergie explained.

“Even yesterday, the man that’s our caretaker said he noticed two fellas that were staying around all day, outside sleeping and eating,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re involved, it’s hard to tell,” said Bergie. 

Fr. Donald Lizzotti, rector of the cathedral, told CNA that he believed the thieves had previously cased the cathedral to determine how to steal the tabernacle.

“And they came back later and actually pried the cover, which is over the old metal tabernacle,” he said. “They pried that off and put it on the floor. They took brass doors off of that,” and then finally took the entire tabernacle off of the altar.

He told CNA that the police were unable to find fingerprints and they believe the thieves had wiped the scene clean.

Lizzotti said that the diocese had contacted scrap yards in the area and informed them about the theft, and that they know what to look for.

St. Catherine of Alexandria Cathedral was hit by numerous instances of theft and vandalism during its renovations in 2019, including the theft of bronze and copper lampposts almost exactly one year ago.

Lizzotti told CNA that he does not think the theft of the tabernacle is related to the Sept. 10, 2019 theft, as the perpetrator was arrested after attempting to sell the metal to a scrapyard. That theft was what prompted the cathedral to install numerous security cameras inside and outside the building. 

Extra steps have now been taken to ensure there are no more break-ins.

“We’ve now secured the one doorway that they got into,” said Lizzotti. “We’ve actually made it completely secure by putting crossbars across the two doors. So they can’t pry the doors unless they rip the wood completely out.”



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Shrine in memory of aborted children dedicated in Mexico

September 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

Guadalajara, Mexico, Sep 3, 2020 / 04:59 pm (CNA).- The Mexican pro-life association Los Inocentes de María (Mary’s Innocent Ones) dedicated a shrine in Guadalajara last month in memory of aborted children. The shrine, called Rachel’s Grotto, also serves as a place for reconciliation between parents and their deceased babies.

In an August 15 dedication ceremony, the archbishop emeritus of Guadalajara, Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, blessed the shrine and emphasized the importance of promoting “awareness that abortion is a terrible crime that frustrates the destiny of many human beings.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, Brenda del Río, the founder and director of Los Inocentes de María, explained that the idea was inspired by a similar project by a choral group that created a grotto next to the adoration chapel of a monastery in Frauenberg, southern Germany.

The name “Rachel’s Grotto comes from the passage in the Gospel of Matthew where King Herod, seeking to kill the Christ Child, massacres all children two years and younger in Bethlehem: “A cry was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

The main goal of Los Inocentes de María, Del Río said, “is to combat violence against children, both in the womb and in early childhood, newborns and up to two, five, six years old, when lamentably many are murdered,” some are even “thrown into sewers, onto vacant lots.”

So far the association has buried 267 preborn children, newborns and infants.

The shrine is part of a project by the association to make the first cemetery for aborted babies in Latin America.

Del Rio explained that the parents of aborted babies will be able to go to the shrine “to reconcile with their child, to reconcile with God.”

Parents can give their child a name, handwriting it on a small piece of paper to be transcribed on a clear plastic tile placed on the walls next to the shrine.

“These acrylic tiles will be attached to the walls, with all the children’s names,” she said, and “there is a small mailbox for the father or mother to leave a letter for their child.”

For Del Río, the impact of abortion in Mexico extends to the country’s high rate of murders, disappearances, and human trafficking.

“That is contempt for human life. The more abortion is promoted, the more the human person, human life, is despised,” she said.

“If we Catholics do nothing in the face of such a terrible evil, a genocide, then who will speak? Will the stones speak if we keep silent?” she asked.

Del Río explained that the Inocentes de María project goes into marginalized and crime-ridden areas, looking for pregnant women and new mothers. They offer workshops for these women in local Catholic churches, teaching them about human dignity and development in the womb.

“We’re sure, men and women alike – because we also have men here with us helping out – that we’re saving lives with these workshops. Telling them, ‘Your baby is not your enemy, it’s not your problem,’ is to restore a whole life,” the association director said.

For Del Río, if babies from a young age receive from their mothers “the message that they are valuable, precious, a work of God, unique and unrepeatable,” then in Mexico “we will have less violence, because a child who is hurting, we tell the moms, is a child who will end up on the streets and in prison.”

At Los Inocentes de María, she said, they tell the parents who have had an abortion and are seeking reconciliation with God and their children, that “you are going to meet your children the moment you die, radiant, beautiful, splendid, that they are going to come to welcome you at the gates of Heaven.”


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



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Archbishop Paglia: Catholic politicians can not protect or promote abortion

August 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Aug 31, 2020 / 11:00 am (CNA).- The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life said Saturday that Catholic politicians should not promote legal protections of any kind for abortion, and called Catholics to promote the Gospel of Life.

“The Church is very clear in this regard. It is a response from the Catechism. It is a great mistake to promote legislation on abortion and euthanasia,” Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said Aug. 29, during a meeting organized by CELAM, the Latin American organization of bishops.

The archbishop offered a presentation on Pope St. John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical Evangelium vitae, or “The Gospel of Life.”

Catholic politicians “must stop promoting laws against the life” of the unborn, Paglia said during his remarks. “There is no doubt about it.”

The archbishop said that political leaders should try to improve “bad and sinful legislation” and added that “politicians, both Christians and other politicians, have to hear the validity of supporting and aiding the lives of all, and especially of the most fragile.”

Of that obligation, Paglia, said, “there is no doubt.”

Asked about the possibility of censuring politicians who support abortion legislation, Paglia said such figures “are certainly in error,” adding that while “we are interested in the condemnation of sin” the Church’s focus must be “salvation of the sinner.”

“We are interested in the clarity of condemning the error but we must do everything to convert the one who errs, to help save him,” Paglia added.

“The Church has a great responsibility so that its members, first of all, convert to the Gospel of life, to the beauty of life. It is important that we avoid the dirty work of death and carry out the beautiful work of life,” he said.

The archbishop’s comments came amid considerable debate in several Latin American countries over the prospect of legally protecting abortion. They also came amid fierce debate over abortion in the context of the U.S. presidential election.

A Boston priest apologized last week after he said he believes in a “women’s right to choose,” while he endorsed pro-choice presidential candidate Joe Biden. Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley said in response to the endorsement that Catholics have a right to expect priests will teach the Church’s opposition to abortion clearly and unequivocally.

Portland, Maine’s Bishop Robert Deeley said in a homily this weekend that “our decision as to how we vote should be grounded in our care for each other, and particularly for those who are most needy. Our civil society does not have a religious creed. We treasure our religious freedom, and our ability to worship and live our faith as we feel called, but we also believe that we are not stopped from allowing our faith to inform our vote.”

“Respect for the dignity of each human person is the core of Catholic social and moral teaching. The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred, from conception to natural death, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society,” the bishop said.

“We focus on the common good, not our own personal interests. We ask, how can we make the world a better place, not how can I improve my own personal situation?”

While Deeley focused on the principles of voting for Catholics, some prominent Catholics have endorsed particular candidates in recent weeks.

Sr. Dede Byrne, a surgeon and retired army colonel, spoke at the Republican National Convention, where she called President Donald Trump “the most pro-life president this nation has ever had,” in an endorsement of the president.

Also last week, two priests and two religious sisters were among several hundred religious leaders who signed the Faith 2020 endorsement of Biden’s campaign. One of those priests was Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, head of Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles gang rehabilitation initiative. Another signatory, retired Washington priest Fr. Peter Daly, is a columnist at the National Catholic Reporter, as is signatory Sr. Christine Schenk, a National Catholic Reporter board member.

Canon law prohibits priests and members of religious orders from endorsing political candidates without the permission of their ecclesiastical superiors.

In his remarks Saturday, Archbishop Paglia spoke also about “gender ideology,” which he called a “cultural setback.”

Catholics must “tell the promoters of this doctrine that they are going backwards, that they are going even against the evolution of Darwin. There are millions of years in which evolution shapes man and woman in different ways. Diversity and richness, that’s the theme. Unfortunately today, a secular culture cannot sustain the force of diversity.”

Paglia also highlighted the importance of rediscovering “the alliance of man and woman,” as well as their “diversity that permeates and generates life” in marriage and the family.

The archbishop called Catholics to “reflect on the contents of our faith and transmit it to the school, university, economy, politics, art, literature,” and other aspects of culture.

“The Church is much more expert than the others in humanity. We have the gift of the Spirit to offer wise reflections beyond those of others. The problem is waking up from the dream and abandoning the interiority that makes us play defense. Today we need to be able to show the height, the depth and the beauty of the Christian mystery,” Paglia added.

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, contributed to this report.


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Canadian appeal court to hear case of hospice refusing to offer euthanasia

August 28, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Aug 28, 2020 / 12:01 pm (CNA).- The British Columbia Court of Appeal has agreed to hear a case of a hospice trying to preserve its historical opposition to participation in the provision of euthanasia.

The Delta Hospice Society is due to lose $1.5 million in funding from the Fraser Health Authority, a public health care authority in British Columbia, and its permission to operate as a hospice, in February 2021.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide were legalized federally in Canada in June 2016. As of April 2019, at least 6,749 Canadians had died of euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The hospice’s case regards its efforts to hold a meeting and vote on proposed changes to its constitution and bylaws that would define its Christian identity and exclude the provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled in June that the hospice had acted wrongly in its attempts to define its Christian identity and to exclude euthanasia, because it had not been indiscriminately approving new applications for membership during 2020.

The hospice’s actions were challenged by three of its members, Sharon Farrish, Christopher Pettypiece, and James Levin.

The Delta Hospice Society has appealed the June decision.

The hospice was founded in 1991 as a community organization. The legalization of euthanasia in Canada led to governance problems for the Delta Hospice Society, according to Madam Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick, the judge who wrote the June decision.

Farrish became executive director of the Delta Hospice Society in June 2019, when the society had about 160 members. In that year “which I take as principally arising from Ms. Farrish’s leadership, there was an increasing view that [Medical Assistance in Dying] should be offered by the Society,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

During the course of 2019, membership in the hospice society swelled; it was about 400 at the beginning of October, and 620 by the end of November.

“The clear inference is that the MAiD issue caused substantial interest in the community, and motivated people to get involved in the Society so that they could express their views at the [Annual General Meeting] as members of the Society,” according to Fitzpatrick.

At a general meeting in November 2019 “there were sweeping changes” to the hospice’s board; Pettypiece was among a group of directors who were elected but then resigned or were terminated.

According to Fitzpatrick, the new board opposed provision of euthanasia at the hospice’s facilities, and Farrish was terminated as executive director.

Delta Hospice Society has been opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

CNA reported in November 2018 that the hospice maintained physician assisted suicide was “incompatible” with hospice palliative care, and that it was being pressured to provide it was incompatible with its mission.

And in January, CNA described Delta Hospice Society as “not affiliated with a religion, but … opposed to euthanasia as a matter of principle.”

Angelina Ireland, president of the board of the hospice society, told CNA in February that the hospice has “worked really hard to have the people to trust us that when they come to hospice they will not be killed. We will take care of them, they will take care of their families. And now basically the government has said that any hospice that does not provide euthanasia, it’s not allowed to exist.”

Since then, the board of Delta Hospice Society has worked to preserve its character as an organization that allows for natural death.

Ireland sent a letter to members of the society in May saying it was “obvious that we must return to our roots and fully affirm our Christian identity,” and urging the acceptance of a new constitution and bylaws. Her letter also served as a notice of a June 15 meeting that was to effect these changes.

The proposed new constitution of the hospice society would call it “a Christian community” meant “to provide compassionate care and support for persons in the last stages of living, so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible, until their natural death.”

The existing constitution, last updated in 2017, says the society exists “to provide compassionate care and support for persons in the last stages of living, so that they may live as fully and comfortably as possible.”

Ireland interprets the existing constitution “as excluding the provision of MAiD by the Society,” Fitzpatrick wrote, adding: “However, it is clear enough that this interpretation is not shared by all members, including the petitioners.”

The members who challenged the changes in court sought to have the meeting cancelled or postponed, and argued that “the Board has improperly denied memberships to certain persons.”

Sine November 2019, according to Farrish and her fellow petitioners, the board has granted membership to applicants who oppose euthanasia, and denied the applications of those in favor of the practice, with the intent of preventing the acceptance of euthanasia by the Delta Hospice Society.

Ireland has confirmed that 310 applications were rejected.

The membership of the society was about 600 in March, and was 1,400 by mid-April, according to Fitzpatrick.

According to Farrish and her fellow petitioners, anyone who applied for membership and contributed the membership fee was accepted, until 2020.

Under British Columbia’s Societies Act, the directors of societies do not have discretion to deny membership on any self-determined basis unless criteria for membership are set out in the society’s bylaws.

Fitzpatrick wrote that “It is clear enough from Ms. Ireland’s affidavit alone that the Board has sought to screen membership, allowing only those that could be determined to uphold the Constitution as she and others on the Board interpret it. However, what the Board has also effectively done is deny membership to people who, in the past, would have been granted membership. The Board has done so with the express intention of preventing those who would have become ‘new’ members from voting on what is to be a very important decision in the direction of the Society.”

She rejected the Delta Hospice Society’s argument that its board has full discretion to determine membership, and found that the board “has not been acting in good faith in terms of admitting members on a proper basis.”

The hospice society has appealed Fitzpatrick’s ruling.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal held a hearing on the case Aug. 17 that was adjourned.

Ireland said that the appeal is a welcome chance “to argue on constitutional grounds why it’s wrong for the courts to force us to let a hostile group take over the Society, change its foundational purposes, and seize the assets built up for over 30 years.”

She has said that Fitzpatrick’s ruling that the rejected applications must be accepted “gave carte blanche to organized groups to perform hostile takeovers of private societies that hold minority views.”

She added that “it would mean thousands of societies can now be taken over by any organized group of a few hundred people. That is not how a free society is supposed to work.”

She has said there is a “public and coordinated campaign to infiltrate the Delta Hospice Society and overwhelm the existing membership with those who do not share our constitution. Their whole purpose was to reverse our policy on euthanasia.”

Pettypiece, Levin, and Farrish are, in fact, associated with and can be contacted through the ‘Take Back Delta Hospice Movement’, the goal of which “is to engage concerned citizens to become members of the Society” so as to vote in a new board.

Take Back Delta Hospice believes the current board’s efforts not to participate in euthanasia “are both inconsistent with the Society’s moral responsibility to serve the entire community without discrimination and incompatible with the founding principles of the Society upon which its brand, its assets and its goodwill have been built since 1991.”

The board argues that Fitzpatrick’s ruling erred in ordering open acceptance of membership applications, and that she treated the hospice society not as a private association, but as a public institution. If the Societies Act requires such an order, it violates rights of association and freedom of conscience, they argue.

Pettypiece said earlier this month that Delta Hospice “should be available to all that require hospice care, regardless of their end-of-life choices. We are committed to ensuring a membership that reflects the wishes of the entire community.”

Euthanasia is readily available at Delta Hospital, which is located a one-minute drive from the Delta Hospice Society’s Irene Thomas Hospice. Delta is part of the Vancouver metropolitan area.

In British Columbia, the death certificate of those who are euthanized or commit assisted suicide list Medical Assistance in Dying as the immediate cause of death, with antecedent causes giving rise to the euthanization or assisted suicide listed subsequently.

The carrying out of the euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada have led to questions over the imprecision of the country’s requirements, from family of patients, disability advocates, pro-life groups, and bioethicists.

Eligibility is restricted to mentally competent Canadian adults who have a serious, irreversible illness, disease, or disability. While to be eligible a patient does not have to have a fatal condition, they must meet a criterion variously expressed as they “can expect to die in the near future”, that natural death is “reasonably foreseeable” in the “not too distant” future, or that they are “declining towards death”.