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In Japan, Church finds 16 cases of child sex abuse

April 3, 2020 CNA Daily News 2

CNA Staff, Apr 3, 2020 / 11:39 am (CNA).- A Japanese news agency reported Thursday that an investigation by the country’s bishops’ conference has found 16 cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics, which occurred from the 1950s to 2010s.

The findings have not yet been made public, but sources familiar with the matter spoke with Kyodo News April 2.

Acts of abuse occurred in rectories, church buildings, and foster homes.

The Japanese bishops announced the inquiry a year ago, and committees were established in each of the 16 dioceses to receive claims and consultations about abuse.

In 2002 an internal survey made inquiries with the leading priest in each diocese. This resulted in two reported cases of sex abuse.

A 2012 survey aimed to be a reference point in a manual for internal use. It did not aim to investigate facts or to resolve sex abuse. Five sex abuse cases were reported then.

A 2004 survey on sexual harassment found 17 cases of “coercive physical contacts,” mostly by priests. The victims included minors. That survey had 110 respondents.

In February 2019 Pope Francis held a meeting with bishops from around the world on the sexual abuse of minors.

“Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case,” he said in his 2018 Christmas greetings to the Roman curia.

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Philippines parish cancels planned “online general absolution”

April 2, 2020 CNA Daily News 3

CNA Staff, Apr 2, 2020 / 01:05 pm (CNA).- A parish in the Philippines has canceled an “online general absolution.” Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish in Quezon City, Philippines had advertised the event would be available by livestream, and was set to take place on April 3. 

On Thursday, the parish issued a retraction and an apology. 

“Fr. Nelson wants to correct himself. General absolution cannot be given via online,” said a statement issued by the parish. 

“The penitent must be physically present— meaning, the priest who absolves and the penitent who receives the absolution must be in the same place,” the statement clarified. 

According to the Vatican’s Apostolic Penitentiary, which has authority over the sacrament of confession and matters falling under the sacramental seal, general absolution without prior individual confession may only be imparted where the imminent danger of death occurs, when there is not enough time to listen to the confessions of individual penitents, or there is a serious need. 

Amid the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and many dioceses worldwide suspending Masses and confessions, the Vatican has clarified that if a general absolution is done, it must be approved by the bishop, and it must be done in person. 

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, clarified on March 19 that priests giving general absolution in particular cases must explain the conditions of general absolution, and also must be physically present to those receiving it, at least to the point of penitents being able to hear the priest’s voice.

Father Pius Pietrzyk, OP, chair of pastoral studies at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, told CNA Thursday that the sacraments must be an encounter between the priest and the person receiving the sacrament.

In the same way that a penitent could not confess their sins to a priest over the telephone— which would remove the person-to-person encounter of the sacrament— offering general absolution online removes the unity between the priest and the penitents, and therefore is not valid, he said. 

“This kind of virtual presentation of the sacrament is not what the Church understands a sacrament to be,” he said. 

“They need to understand that what they are doing is not a sacrament.”

In addition, the law is abundantly clear, he said, that if general absolution is given, the bishop must give the parameters. Parishes must get permission from the bishop to offer general absolution, he said. 

A parish employee at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish was unable to confirm whether the cancelation of the planned online general absolution was the result of an intervention on the part of the bishop. 

Another Philippines parish, Our Lady of Sorrows in the Diocese of Tarlac is, as of press time, going ahead with a livestreamed general absolution for its viewers “with the explicit permission of the Bishop of Tarlac.” 

The Diocese of Tarlac and Bishop Enrique Macaraeg did not reply to CNA’s request for comment by press time. 

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, reportedly led an online general absolution on Monday. 

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Indian bishop condemns ‘shocking’ disinfectant spray of migrant workers

March 31, 2020 CNA Daily News 1

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- A bishop in India has condemned the spraying of migrant workers and their children with disinfectant, after a video posted to Twitter showed public health authorities doing exactly that.

The video was posted to Twitter Sunday. The Times of India reported that families at a bus stand in the northern Indian city of Bareilly were told to sit on the ground, and were then sprayed with a bleaching agent mixed with water.

In the video, parents and their children sat on the streets of Bareilly and are showered with a chemical solution of chlorine mixed with water. Men in hazmat suits can be heard telling the migrants to close their eyes and mouths.

Bishop Ignatius D’Souza of Bareilly said spraying migrant workers with disinfectant was inhumane.

“This is inhuman, because these people are poor and marginalized and desperate our migrants labourers and their families. Their dignity cannot be violated in this inhuman and shocking manner,” the bishop said, according to Asia News.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed the country on lockdown as cases of COVID-19 in India have reached 1,251. The lockdown has closed down borders and forced migrant workers in India’s largest cities to return home to their villages.

Ashok Gautam, an officer in charge of COVID-19 operations in northern India, told CNN that as many as 5,000 people have been similarly disinfected before being allowed to return home.

“We sprayed them here as part of the disinfection drive, we don’t want them to be carriers for the virus and it could be hanging on their clothes, now all borders have been sealed so this won’t happen again,” he said.

Other government officials said the disinfectant was really meant for the buses and that the incident was a mistake. Lav Agarwal, an official of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said Monday that workers involved in the incidents have been reprimanded.

“This is an overzealous action done by some employees at the field level, either out of ignorance or fear,” he said, according to CNN.

D’Souza emphasized the difficulties facing vulnerable people returning to their home villages, noting that the Church in Bareilly has been distributing food packets to those who arrive. He said they have delivered these packages to displaced people located at bus and train stations.

The bishop added that wealthy and well-known people with with COVID-19 have been treated differently than poor people in India, according to Asia News. He said everyone needs to be treated with human dignity.

“Each person has to be treated with human dignity, the celebrities who tested positive in India (who travelled to Lucknow), received best treatment, our poor people do not deserve this indignity, it’s an affront against the dignity of the human person.”

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How CRS is helping refugees amid coronavirus

March 27, 2020 CNA Daily News 0

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mar 27, 2020 / 04:11 pm (CNA).- There are nearly 700,000 refugees living in close quarters in the world’s largest refugee settlements in Bangladesh, making them vulnerable as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads. 

Caroline Brennan, Catholc Relief Services’ emergency communications director, told CNA that in areas where CRS is serving refugees, such as in Bangladesh, they are adapting their programs as quickly as possible so they are still relevant and safe during the pandemic.

“In this case, when we’re looking at a virus like the coronavirus…there is such a heightened vulnerability in these settlements, where you have very large populations in extremely congested environments, and where multi-generational family members are living in really tight quarters,” Bennan said.

Many countries have adopted stay-at-home orders and strict social distancing measures in response to the virus. For the Rohingya refugee population in Bangladesh, Brennan said, and in many other areas where refugees are, it can be almost impossible for people to distance themselves from others in this way.

There may be up to ten people living in a small space with nowhere else to go, she said, which means access to safe space is a problem, as well as access to the means for refugees to keep clean.

In addition, Bangladeshi authorities fear that the coming cyclone season will cause sewage to overflow into flimsy shelters and possibly spread the coronavirus, the New York Times reported this week.

Brennan said CRS, along with local partners, has been providing hygiene and sanitation supplies to the camps, as well as training and materials for local health institutions.

One of the biggest priorities, Brennan said, is simply communicating information about how to protect oneself from the virus, but doing so in the camps in a safe way.

“Obviously, we don’t want to bring people together in large groups,” she said.

“And often times, that’s how you conduct programming— bringing people together for a training or bringing children together in a classroom.”

CRS has had to adapt to using large posters, printed in several languages, to get the word out rather than gathering people in groups to convey information about how to keep themselves safe from the virus, Brennan said. 

Food in the refugee camps is often distributed in large groups, too, she said. CRS has adapted by doing more food distributions, but with smaller numbers of people, spread further apart, and with handwashing stations provided to lessen the chance of infection.

In some areas, refugees have regarded humanitarian workers with suspicion as possible carriers of the disease. Brennan said she is grateful that CRS has been present in many refugee areas for a while, which helps to build trust and allows CRS to communicate more effectively.

“We can convey information which can be received with credibility, and that’s crucial,” she said.

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