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Pope makes surprise visit to school named after book-loving child

May 25, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2018 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his most recent “mercy Friday” outing, Pope Francis visited a school recently named after a little girl who passed away, but who left her mark on the institute when a international library was created in her honor.

Established in the 1950s, the school – originally named the Comprehensive Institute of Via Rocca Camastra – is a state school that expanded to four other locations in the 1970s, and just this year received permission to be renamed as the Comprehensive Institute of Elisa Scala.

Elisa Scala is the name of a little girl who attended the school, but who died in 2015 at the age of 11 from a form of fulminant leukemia. After her death, Scala’s parents launched a project in the school aimed at sharing Elisa’s passion for books and libraries.

With their help, a small space called “Elisa’s Library” was established, and a project called “Give a Book for Elisa” was launched in order to fill the space with books.

Donations came in the thousands. Some 20,000 books in different languages from all over Italy, Europe and even Australia now line the shelves of the library, which is included on the list of public libraries in Rome.

According to a Vatican communique on the pope’s surprise May 25 visit to the school, Francis arrived around 4 p.m. local time and was greeted by Scala’s parents, Giorgio and Maria, as well as the director of the school, Claudia Gentili, and hundreds of children who attend the institute.

Pope Francis gave Scala’s parents several books to put in the library, all of which were dedicated to Elisa.

The children then sang for the pope, and he greeted the dean, staff, parents and students present before heading back to the Vatican.

Pope Francis’ visit to the school is a continuation of his “Mercy Friday” custom, which he began in 2016 during the Jubilee of Mercy.

Originally planned once per month for the duration of the jubilee, the pope has continued the tradition after the end of the jubilee as a means of practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. He has met with refugees, children, women freed from sex trafficking, and the terminally ill, among others.



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Your vote is the unborn child’s voice, pro-lifers say in Irish abortion debate

May 23, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, May 23, 2018 / 11:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of Ireland’s abortion referendum on Friday, pro-life and pro-abortion rights debaters have squared off in a country where voters will be asked to remove constitutional protections for the unborn, known as the Eighth Amendment.

“What the government has proposed is an extreme law, stripping every right in the constitution for the unborn… taking away the right to life for the right to kill,” said Maria Steen, a speaker with the Iona Institute. “What the government is asking us to do is to become judge and jury over the lives of babies in the womb.”

The May 23 debate on Ireland TV3’s The Pat Kenney Show comes ahead of a May 25 referendum on whether to repeal the pro-life language in the Republic of Ireland’s constitution, which recognizes the equal right to life of mother and unborn child. The language dates back to a 1983 referendum passed with the support of 67 percent of Irish voters.

In the four-person debate, Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty of the Fine Gael party claimed that abortion opponents failed to provide abortion alternatives and “haven’t been willing to look or support anything in 35 years.”

Doherty, who describes herself as “pro-life” despite her support for the repeal, charged that keeping the amendment means ignoring women in crisis, reported the Irish news site

A “yes” vote would remove the constitution’s pro-life language, while a “no” vote would preserve it.

In a March 2018 case that some have compared to the Irish Roe v. Wade, the country’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that unborn children have no other rights except those guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment.

If the repeal vote is successful, Irish lawmakers are expected to propose legislation allowing unlimited abortion up to three months into pregnancy, and up to six months into pregnancy in cases where there might be risk to a mother’s physical or mental health.

About 3,000 Irish women travel to the U.K. for abortions each year. The procedure is largely illegal in Northern Ireland as well.

At one point in the TV3 debate, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen rejected the claim that there is evidence that mental health is valid grounds for abortion. He also cited a woman who was considering traveling to the U.K. for abortion, but then reconsidered.

“This woman told me ‘the time it took me to arrange an abortion in England is the time it took for me to change my mind’,” he said.

Doherty contended that the 72-hour waiting period in the draft legislation provides a period for women to reconsider an abortion.

Another debater, Colm O’Gorman of Amnesty Ireland, said “the Eighth Amendment has not stopped abortion. It has stopped some abortions, but it has forced others to continue pregnancies.”

Steen summed up her argument against repeal: “Women who need their health looked after deserve better than an abortion. We think this is a step too far. We all think taking the rights of all unborn children is fundamentally unjust.”

A Tuesday night debate on the show RTÉ Prime Time was a two-person debate between Minister for Health Simon Harris of the Fine Gael party and Sinn Féin Member of Parliament Peadar Tóibín.

“Wanted, unwanted. There are not two classes of people–we are all one. The child is the weakest individual. She has no voice.” Tóibín said, according to

Harris charged that opponents of the referendum sought to force rape victims to carry their pregnancies to term.

For his part, Tóibín cited his experience working with rape victims in County Meath.

“Meath will have legalized abortion in Meath before it has a rape crisis center,” he said.

Tóibín charged that repeal would allow a general practitioner with only six months of psychiatric training to decide whether a woman may have abortion on mental health grounds. He charged that repeal would mean abortion on demand.

The repeal effort is backed by Ireland’s major political parties.

Overseas involvement has also been a matter of controversy.

Financier and philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and its pro-abortion rights grantees Amnesty Ireland, Abortion Rights Campaign Ireland, and the Irish Family Planning Association have run afoul of Irish political finance rules barring foreign funding of political campaigns.

Ireland is part of the foundations’ broader strategy against pro-life Catholic countries, according to a document reportedly hacked from the foundations and posted to the site

“With one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, a win there could impact other strongly Catholic countries in Europe, such as Poland, and provide much needed proof that change is possible, even in highly conservative places,” said the foundations’ proposed 2016-2019 strategy for its Women’s Rights Program.

The internet giant Facebook has banned foreign-backed ads related to the Irish referendum, including small ad purchases from Irish-American pro-life advocates. Google has banned both foreign and domestic ads.

The latter move was seen as a blow to the Irish pro-life cause. The Save the 8th campaign’s strategy relied on intensifying its internet ad campaign in its final weeks, Pat Leahy, politics editor of the Irish Times, said in a May 10 analysis.

The Irish Times suggested that companies have become afraid that if voters reject the referendum, they will face blame and further scrutiny for allegedly influencing elections.


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125,000 additional Irish register to vote on abortion referendum

May 21, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, May 21, 2018 / 02:00 pm (CNA).- In advance of an upcoming Irish referendum on abortion legal, more than 100,000 people in the country have registered to vote.

Up to 125,000 Irish citizens have registered to vote between February and early May, and will be able vote in the Eighth Amendment referendum, according to The Irish Mirror.

The surge in voter registration has been reported by the National Youth Council of Ireland, a coalition of Irish youth organizations. James Doorley, NYCI deputy director, said many of the newly-registered voters are young adults.

On May 25, voters will consider a referendum that would repeal the Irish Constitution’s eighth amendment, which prohibits abortion. Under current law, the practice of abortion in Ireland is illegal, unless the mother’s health is deemed to be endangered. Pro-life Irish citizens are encouraging a “no” vote on the referendum.

The eighth amendment was passed in Ireland in 1983, with upwards of 67 percent voter-approval. It reads, in part: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”

If the referendum is passed, pregnancies could be legally terminated in Ireland in the first 12 weeks.

Last year, a Sunday Times poll reported that 37% of 18- to 34-year-olds supported allowing abortion with no restrictions, compared to 31% of 35- to 54-year-olds.

Polling in February showed growing opposition to increasing abortion access in the country. A Sunday Times “Behavior and Attitudes” poll showed that support for abortions beyond three-months gestation fell from 51 percent to 43 percent, while opposition to changing the country’s abortion laws rose from 27 percent to 35 percent.

As the vote is only days away, Ireland’s clergy and church leaders have asked the world for prayers. Father Marius O’Reilly appealed to Christians on YouTube on May 10.

“I’m making an appeal to you today – please come to our assistance. Pray the rosary for Ireland. Please have Masses offered for Ireland,” he said.

O’Reilly pointed out that other countries have legalized abortion through legislation or court decisions, but “Ireland would be the first country in the world where the people would legalize abortion.”

“We can’t allow that to happen. And so I’m making an appeal to you today – please come to our assistance. Pray the rosary for Ireland. Please have Masses offered for Ireland,” he said.


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St John XXIII’s body to go on pilgrimage in his native land

May 19, 2018 CNA Daily News 1

Bergamo, Italy, May 19, 2018 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The mortal remains of St. John XXIII will spend more than two weeks away from the Vatican on a “peregrination” to the northern Italian towns where he grew up and served as a priest, the Diocese of Bergamo stated.

Exposed for veneration at an altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, the saint’s body will return to his home diocese May 24-June 10 marking the 55th anniversary of his death and the publication of his encyclical on establishing universal peace, Pacem in terris.

The trip was announced last year after Pope Francis approved a request by the Bergamo diocese. It will includes stops at various places in the diocese, where St. John XXIII served as a priest for more than 20 years, and in the town of Sotto il Monte, where he was born.

The theme of the visit, “We start from the land where I was born and then continue up to heaven,” was modified from a quotation of St. John XXIII where he referenced a line from the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis: “Dimitte omnia et invenies omnia – Leave everything and you will find everything.”  

The schedule for the pilgrimage of “Good Pope John,” will begin May 24, when the reliquary containing his body will arrive at the city center in Bergamo.

Following, the body will be transferred to a local prison, recalling the time he visited a prison in Rome and said: “I put my eyes in your eyes, I put my heart next to your heart,” stated a press release from the Diocese of Bergamo.

The reliquary will then be moved to a local seminary dedicated to the saint. At 9:00 p.m. that day the relics will be solemnly welcomed in the Bergamo cathedral.

It will remain at the cathedral through May 27, when it will be brought to a new hospital, also dedicated to the saint, to recall his historic visit to the sick of the Bambino Gesu hospital in Rome.

From there the body will be brought to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Cornabusa, to whom St. John XXIII was especially devoted. In 1908, when he was a young priest, he was present for the coronation of the Marian image. He later also presided over the 50th anniversary Mass of the coronation in 1958, just months before he was elected pope.

The body will then stop at the Franciscan monastery at Baccanello. In the evening a candlelit procession will accompany the body from the church of Carvico, where the saint was confirmed, to Sotto il Monte, where he was born. The relics will remain in the church of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peace for veneration until June 10.

St. John XXIII was born Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli in Sotto il Monte Nov. 25, 1881, as the fourth of 13 children. He was ordained a priest of the Bergamo diocese in 1904, at the age of 22, serving there until he was selected for the Vatican’s diplomatic corps and consecrated a bishop in 1925.

In 1953 he was made a cardinal and appointed Patriarch of Venice. He was elected Bishop of Rome Oct. 28, 1958. He is most remembered for his 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris and for calling the Second Vatican Council.

He was beatified in 2000 and canonized April 17, 2014. While two miracles are typically required for a non-martyr saint to be canonized, in the case of John XXIII, Pope Francis waived the rule and allowed him to be canonized with just one miracle formally acknowledged by the Vatican.


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Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia dies at age 88

May 18, 2018 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 18, 2018 / 11:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos, a Colombian and a former head of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei and of the Congregation for Clergy, died in Rome early Friday morning at the age of 88.

Castrillón, who served as the pontifical commission’s president from 2000 until his retirement in 2009 at the age of 80, was instrumental in the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio which acknowledged the right of all priests of the Roman Rite to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962.

Pope Francis sent his condolences for Castrillón’s death in a telegram May 18, noting the late cardinal’s “generous service to the Church.”

Imploring the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the pope prayed that the cardinal would be welcomed into joy and eternal peace with the Lord; he also sent his “apostolic blessing to those who share the sorrow of the loss of such a worthy servant of the Gospel.”

Archbishop Oscar Urbina Ortega of Villavicencio, president of the Colombian bishops’ conference, prayed that the Risen Christ would “welcome into the eternal kingdom him who generously served as Pastor of the people of God.”

Born in Medellin July 4, 1929, Castrillón studied at seminaries in Colombia and at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, receiving a doctorate in canon law. He also studied religious sociology, political economics, and business ethics.

He was ordained a priest  of the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Osos Oct. 26, 1952, at the age of 23. From 1954-1971 he served at two rural parishes in the diocese and was an official of its curia.

He was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of Pereira in 1971, and succeeded as ordinary in 1976. He remained there until his appointment as Archbishop of Bucaramanga in 1992, where he continued to serve until 1996.

It is said that during his time as bishop in Colombia he would sometimes walk around the streets at night to feed abandoned children and is reported to have entered the home of drug lord Pablo Escobar while disguised as a milkman to demand that Escobar confess his sins.

He incurred disapproval, however, after admitting that he had accepted money from Escobar’s cartel, which most Colombian bishops had refused. He defended the action, saying the money was used for charitable purposes, keeping it from being spend on illegal activities.

He also said at a meeting of the bishops of Latin America in 1984 that he had warned the cartel members that giving money “would not save their souls.”

From 1983-1991 he served as secretary general of the bishops’ conference of Latin America.

At a January 1968 meeting in Lima, Castrillón was among several bishops who denounced liberation theology in Latin America.

In 1996 he was called to work at the Vatican as pro-prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, and two years after was made a cardinal and prefect of the congregation. He remained head of the congregation until 2006.

Castrillón also served as president of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei from 2000 until his 2009 retirement. The commission is responsible for institutes and communities which use as their proper Rite the extraordinary form of the Roman rite (the Roman Missal of 1962). It is also responsible for discussion with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a priestly fraternity which is in an irregular situation and whose priests do not legitimately exercise their ministry.

While he was president of Ecclesia Dei, he oversaw the regularization of a traditionalist priestly society in Brazil, which became the Apostolic Administration of St. John Vianney, and of the Transalpine Redemporists (the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer). It was also during his tenure that the excommunications of the SSPX bishops who were illicitly consecrated in 1988 were remitted.

In 2003, Castrillón celebrated the first Pontifical Mass in a Major Basilica since the liturgical reform which followed the Second Vatican Council, at St Mary Major.

He was criticized in 2010 for a letter he had written in 2001, as prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, in which he congratulated a French bishop for not reporting a priest to the authorities for sexual abuse of a minor.

Bishop Pierre Pican, who had received a suspended three-month jail sentence for his failure to report the abuse, had admitted in court that he had kept the priest in parish work even though he had privately admitted to committing acts of abuse.

In the letter, the cardinal wrote that Pican “acted well,” and that he was pleased that a fellow bishop “preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest.”

Castrillón went on to say that he believed relations between a bishop and his priests were more than professional but had “very special links of spiritual paternity,” which therefore did not oblige bishops to testify against their priests.

Castrillón’s funeral Mass will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica May 19. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, will be the principal celebrant. As customary for the funerals of cardinals, Pope Francis will preside over the final commendation.