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The generals who marched with ‘Warriors’ in Lourdes

May 22, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Lourdes, France, May 22, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Africa, and Lt. Gen Chris Cavoli, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, are two of the highest-ranking members of the American military. And over the weekend, they joined the thousands of military pilgrims who traveled to Lourdes seeking healing and peace.

Harrigian and Cavoli were asked to join the official American delegation to the International Military Pilgrimage, Warriors to Lourdes. Warriors to Lourdes is a program of the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Although the two generals are both Catholic, neither had been to Lourdes previously. Both explained to CNA how their faith impacts their military career, and what the pilgrimage meant to them.

Harrigian has been in his current position for only a few weeks, but joined the Air Force in 1985 and attended the Air Force Academy.

“I wanted to fly airplanes,” he explained, which led to him applying to the Academy.

Harrigian was unfamiliar with the story of Lourdes prior to this trip, but he said his wife taught him about the significance of the site, and thought the pilgrimage would be fruitful for the family, for a multitude of reasons.

“She thought it would be a great opportunity, first to experience it but also to be with some of our warriors here and have an opportunity to interact with them,” said Harrigian.

The size and scope of the pilgrimage came as a surprise to the general, who repeatedly used the word “extraordinary” to describe the event. Approximately 12,000 servicemembers from about 40 countries traveled to Lourdes.

“The first thing I would say is, I didn’t truly understand the breadth of all the nations that participated in this,” he said. “And to have an opportunity to interact with the different nations, the families, the warriors, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one that I’m not sure I truly appreciated as I read about it.”

“But now that I’m here I find it to be an extraordinary experience,” he added. Part of this experience included talking to senior French military officers and members of the Italian military.

“The interaction has been extraordinary,” he said. “It’s been a great opportunity to interact with them on a personal basis and get a sense of what Lourdes means to them as well.”

Harrigian said that he considers his Catholic faith to be an important facet that helps him maintain balance in his life and helps him with his military duties. He told CNA he is “always praying for our troops that are deployed down-range.”

“Reflecting on what your faith brings to you, your background, and having that underpin who you are is very important to any person,” he said. “And for me personally, it really helps in the command role that I have now.”

Cavoli is also visiting Lourdes for the first time. Unlike Harrigian, he was very familiar with the story of Lourdes and had been wanting to visit.

“I’ve been hearing about [Lourdes] my whole life, since I was a kid, so this is a unique opportunity to get to do something I’ve wanted to do so much,” he said.

Cavoli told CNA that he finds his faith to be “intertwined” with his military career, and calls upon his faith to provide the graces needed to carry out the duties of his job.

“Of course, I have my strictly military duties, which are mainly secular in nature, but the moral compass that religion gives me, the moral compass and the ethical fortitude, as well as the emotional strength to deal with what is a pretty hard profession, that helps me a great deal,” he said.

Additionally, Cavoli credits his faith with giving him the wisdom to make the choices in tough decisions, as well as “the strength to carry on when things are hard.”

One of the benefits of the International Military Pilgrimage is that it gives servicemembers a chance to be surrounded by people who have similar experiences and can understand and empathize.

“It gives folks time to be together and to share their thoughts. In this case, in the context of their faith, which adds strength to the discussion.”

Of course, soldiers, sailors, and airmen train and deploy to defend lives and to risk their own in the service of others. But an inherent truth of military service is that it can involve armed conflict and the taking of human life.

Even in pursuit of the noblest cause or in defense against the clearest of evil, killing and death leave marks on the consciences of all those involved. The “moral injuries” of armed conflict can be as real and as in need of healing as physical wounds.

“Moral injury is a serious thing,” Cavoli said, offering that civilians could best help in the healing process by not make assumptions about the experiences of servicemen and women. Listening comes before understanding, he said.

During the pilgrimage, there were major events for all pilgrims, and smaller events for subsets. Both Cavoli and Harrigian said that they considered a shared Mass for English-speaking pilgrims, including servicemen and chaplains from the U.S., the U.K., and Ireland at the Lourdes Grotto, to be a highlight of the journey.

“The Mass at the Grotto was absolutely moving. It was beautiful,” said Cavoli. Afterwards, he joined a group for the Stations of the Cross, something he said added up to a “beautiful, beautiful morning” that was “just perfect.”

Harrigian called the Mass was “a great chance to just reflect upon everything that this experience brings to the entire community of warriors that are here, along with our families.”

And while neither had visited the baths when they spoke to CNA, both were carrying specific intentions with them.

“Personally, internal to our family, I’m always looking for grace and the opportunity to appropriately look over all those that I work with and work for, in the role that I currently have,” Harrigian told CNA. He said he was extremely grateful to the Knights of Columbus for orchestrating Warriors to Lourdes, which he called “an incredible event.”

Cavoli had similar intentions, saying he would be praying for “Peace, my soldiers, [and] my family.” He has appreciated his time in Lourdes, saying it was a place that made him feel “very calm” and fully aware of the presence of God.

“It’s just a wonderful pilgrimage,” he said.


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Wisdom, gratitude, healing, fellowship: A military family’s journey to Lourdes

May 18, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Lourdes, France, May 18, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Every pilgrim to Lourdes has their own motivations and reasons for making the journey. For the Mayors, the International Military Pilgrimage came with an additional grace: a family reunion.

Captain Mark E. Mayor and Captain Matthew N. Mayor are identical twins. Both have served for a decade in the U.S. Army. While the two have been stationed together in the past, they now live a continent apart. Mark is stationed at USAG Wiesbaden, in Germany. Matthew is stationed at Ft. Jackson, SC, but is a student at Northwestern University through the Army Advanced Civil Schooling program.

Last year, Mark and his wife, Malori, were both pilgrims on the Warriors to Lourdes trip. Malori, a registered nurse, volunteered on the medical team, assisted with helping wounded pilgrims, and played the violin at Mass throughout the weekend. This year, all three of the Mayors made the journey to Lourdes.

Mark and Malori told CNA that they are taking a different approach towards this year’s pilgrimage. Last year, they said they both came with a “spiritual agenda,” and were praying for a specific intention. This year, they said they are instead coming to Lourdes with an attitude of gratitude, and will be more relaxed about the experience.

“Coming with an agenda, though, was something that I think was a mistake, last year,” said Mark. This year, he intends to seek wisdom, something that he thinks he and his wife were inadvertently granted last year as well.

During the 2018 pilgrimage, Malori and Mark were praying they would conceive a child. This did not immediately happen, but Malori thinks that she received the gift of courage to break down the stigma and taboo of infertility. She used her blog to share stories about infertility and to inform her readers about holistic, natural, Church-approved methods of tackling fertility.

“I think that’s what we needed, that was our miracle for last year, even though we came with an agenda, God gave us the wisdom to seek out the right resources,” said Mark. “I think that’s the key takeaway with this pilgrimage.”

Malori is now expecting their first child, who is due in January 2020.

“Even before I became pregnant, though, I was kind of reflecting on last year’s experience at Lourdes, and realizing that I need to come here with a different posture, a different attitude; not ‘give me what I want, right now, on my timeline,’ but to just come with gratitude,” she explained.

This gratitude is “not necessarily for infertility–that would be very, very hard to be grateful for that cross itself,” but rather for how she and her husband have grown through this experience together.

Matthew told CNA that he had first learned of the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage through his brother and sister-in-law, and was inspired to apply for this year. He said that he came into Lourdes with an open mind, and that he is seeking healing for both physical and mental wounds.

“My only expectation is to come here with an attitude of gratitude, to be thankful for the blessings that I have in my life right now,” said Matthew. Matthew also explained that he is looking forward to fellowship with members of the military, as the transition from living on a base to living in the civilian world can be jarring and lonely. The chance to interact with others is “a huge deal for me, to have that fellowship” he said.

Both Mark and Matthew have suffered from their time in the military, and both have been diagnosed with having post-traumatic stress. Mark also experienced a traumatic brain injury. They both spoke about the importance of civilian interaction with members of the military after they have returned home, as they both believe this is key to preventing and treating mental illnesses that many troops experience.

When a member of the military returns home, Mark explained, they are “separated from the tribe,” which can trigger depression and other mental wounds. The International Military Pilgrimage is a way for people to “get the tribe back together,” and is a therapeutic experience for the pilgrims. And while the pilgrims are from different nations and from different branches of the military, Mark is comforted by the fact that they are all in Lourdes to worship God.

“We all celebrate one universal Catholic faith,” said Mark. “It’s just something that I find it really humbling.”

Lourdes is famous for its baths, which have produced 70 confirmed miraculous healings, and hundreds of other cures. The Mayors say they have all been deeply touched by their experiences taking a dip in the ice-cold water.

Malori called her trip to the baths “life-changing,” and said that it came with a sense of peace. Matthew agreed, saying it was an “eclectic and powerful experience.”

“My intentions were for continued healing in body, mind, and spirit, and for the grace of continued wisdom to fulfill and refill my well of fortitude,” said Matthew. He said he was grateful and thanked God for being present for him in that moment.  

All agreed that Lourdes is a special place, and that the addition of the pilgrims attending the International Military Pilgrimage only increases the town’s unique sense of holiness.

“Minus all the people coming here with illnesses and wheelchairs, maybe this is a little bit of what like Heaven is,” said Malori. “Everyone’s so peaceful and all these different countries coming together at the military pilgrimage–maybe this is like a taste of that.”


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Archbishop of Paris: Notre-Dame restoration donations still needed

May 16, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Paris, France, May 16, 2019 / 08:00 pm (CNA).- One month after a fire destroyed the roof and spire of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Archbishop of Paris released an update on reconstruction efforts and the donations received thus far.

Of the € 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) publicly pledged in the emotional aftermath of the fire, only € 13.5 million has been collected so far, Archbishop Michel Aupetit of Paris said in a statement published on Wednesday, May 15.

But the reasons for this are “simple, the discussions are just starting to prepare conventions of private law. They will also serve as a framework for expressing the will of these major donors,” Aupetit said.

Some of the major donors who have pledged the most money include French billionaire Francois-Henri Pinault, who pledged 100 million euros, and Bernard Arnault, who pledged 200 million euros, according to an NPR report. The owners of L’Oréal cosmetic company along with the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation pledged 200 million euros.

Of the already-collected € 13.5 million, € 9.5 million was raised from 43,000 French and foreign individuals, including $7,000 of donations from United States donors. The remaining € 4 million came from four donors, according to the archbishop’s report.

Aupetit said that exact amount needed for the restoration is still being evaluated, but “the needs appear considerable.”

“Any given euro will be a euro that will serve to reshape the heart of the cathedral. It will be used to finance an ambitious but necessary” restoration program, he said.

The roof of Notre Dame caught fire before 7 p.m. local time on April 15, 2019. While the blaze brought down the Cathedral’s spire and destroyed the roof, the Eucharist and most of the relics and artwork inside were spared, including a relic from the crown of thorns. The main structure of the Cathedral was also spared from serious damage, including its famous rose windows, bells and bell towers.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has said that he would like the restoration to be completed within 5 years, but experts estimate that it could take much longer.

Franck Riester, the Minister of Culture in France, said Wednesday that the damaged parts of the cathedral must be removed and the structure secured before real restoration efforts can begin, according to Fox News. He added that he knows of another collection that has raised $952.2 million so far for the restoration efforts, and that it is too early to tell the exact amount that will be needed to rebuild the roof.

Aupetit said in his statement that he will celebrate Mass in the cathedral again “as soon as possible,” though he said for safety reasons it would likely be a private Mass.  

In a letter to Macron this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who is visiting Paris this week, offered donations of Canadian softwood lumber and steel for the rebuilding efforts. Trudeau was scheduled to tour the damaged cathedral during his visit this week, The Canadian Press reported.




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On the march with the International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes

May 16, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Lourdes, France, May 16, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Over 12,000 soldiers from over 40 countries are set to arrive in Lourdes, France on Friday as part of the 61st Annual International Military Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage goes throughout the weekend before concluding on Sunday.

The International Military Pilgrimage, known as the PMI [Pèlerinage Militaire International] first began in 1958, the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparition at Lourdes. The theme of this year’s pilgrimage is Cherche la Paix et poursuis-la, “seek peace and pursue it.”

The pilgrimage programme includes Masses in a variety of languages, sporting programs for military members, and a candlelit Marian procession. Pilgrims will also visit the baths near the Lourdes Grotto.

Throughout the weekend, military bands parade through the streets of Lourdes, and the soldiers from different nations are encouraged to interact and get to know one another.

A total of 220 pilgrims, including 51 battle-wounded soldiers and veterans, and 72 “warrior pilgrims,” are part of the U.S. delegation, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services. This is the sixth year the Knights of Columbus has conducted the “Warriors to Lourdes” program.

Fr. Jeff Laible, a chaplain of the U.S. Air Force, has joined the Knights of Columbus pilgrimage for five of those years. This year, he is serving as the group’s spiritual director.

“The pilgrimage really is an opportunity for our wounded warriors to receive healing, and healing really comes in a lot of ways,” Laible said.

The chaplain said the pilgrimage gives him the chance to share in the “experience the peace and the grace of healing that comes here at Lourdes” alongside the servicemen and women.

“It’s a special place for me. Like the warriors who come here, I myself have served on deployment. So I’ve experienced the grace and peace of healing–not only myself personally, but working with our wounded warriors over the course of the past four years, and certainly this year as well.”

Bishop Joseph L. Coffey, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, is also part of this year’s Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage.

Coffey told CNA that while has been to Lourdes twice before, they were quick trips and not an extended pilgrimage. He said he is looking forward to “really, truly living the pilgrim experience here.”

Part of the pilgrim experience includes healing in different ways.

While Lourdes is famous for its numerous miraculous physical cures, Coffey explained to CNA that even more important is the spiritual health of the pilgrims, especially military pilgrims, many of whom have experienced mental or moral wounds during their time in service.

“Of course, some of [the pilgrims] have been injured, wounded, and this is a great place to seek healing–not only physical healing, which is what always people probably think of first, but what’s so much more important is the spiritual healing,” said Coffey.

“Because we all get old and sick and die some day, whereas our souls will live forever. So we want to be making sure that we have any good spiritual healing that we might need.”

The still newly-consecrated Coffey – he was made a bishop in March –  describes himself as a “baby bishop.” Shortly after Coffey’s appointment was announced, Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese of the Military Services, asked him to go to Lourdes in his place. Coffey said he was overjoyed to start his episcopal ministry with such a trip.

“I was absolutely thrilled and honored that he would ask me to do that.”

As a Navy chaplain on active duty for the past 18 and a half years, Coffey told CNA that he had hoped to attend this pilgrimage in past years, but had been unable to do so as he had been stationed overseas. He thinks that the PMI is an opportunity to seek the graces necessary to serve the military flock.

“This is really a wonderful way for me to begin this new period of my life, this new way of serving the Lord as a bishop,” sadi Coffey. “I couldn’t ask for better timing, to be able to come here just as I’m getting started as a bishop, to give me strength and courage to be a good bishop.”


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This chemist will be the first beatified Opus Dei numerary

May 16, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Madrid, Spain, May 16, 2019 / 09:58 am (CNA).- On May 18 in Madrid, Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri, a laywoman, will become the first numerary of Opus Dei to be beatified. A chemist, university teacher, and close associate of St. Josemaría Escrivá, she was known for her strong character, big heart, and cheerfulness.

According to Beatriz Gaytan, a historian who knew Ortiz: “Whenever I think of her, despite the time that has elapsed, what I hear is her laugh. Guadalupe had a permanent smile. She was welcoming, affable, straightforward.”

Opus Dei was made a personal prelature by St. John Paul II in 1982. It was founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá in 1928 and teaches that everyone is called to personal holiness in and through their ordinary lives.

There are various ways of being associated with the prelature. A numerary is someone who makes him or herself fully available to the work of the prelature.

Ortiz was born in Madrid Dec. 12, 1916, whence she was named “Guadalupe.”

She had a reputation for being a bold and courageous child. At age 10, because of her father’s military service, her family moved to Tetouan, North Africa. They returned to Spain six years later and Ortiz completed her high school studies, enrolling in university to study chemistry. She was one of five women in a class of 70.

Known to be a serious, though friendly, student, Ortiz put her studies on hold during the Spanish Civil War, which broke out in 1936. During the war, her father, a colonel in the army, was arrested for treason and condemned to death by shooting by a people’s trial.

Though he was given the opportunity of a pardon, Manuel Ortiz de Landazuri renounced it for the sake of his men, who had all been shot dead. Ortiz was just 20 years old when she, a brother, and her mother said their final goodbyes to Manuel in the hours before his death. She forgave those who condemned and killed her father.

For a period during the war, Ortiz and her mother and brothers moved to another part of Spain. When the civil war ended in 1939, they returned to Madrid, where Ortiz taught in two schools.

It was several years later that Ortiz had a powerful experience of God’s grace while at Mass. When she met a family friend shortly after, she said she wanted to meet a priest. That friend put her in contact with Fr. Josemaría Escrivá, who had founded Opus Dei about 15 years before.

Ortiz met Escrivá Jan. 25, 1944. She later said, “I had the very clear idea that God was speaking to me through that priest.” From that point she felt a calling to serve Christ through her life and work, and several months later, at the age of 27, she became a numerary of Opus Dei.

During the following years, still the beginning of Opus Dei, she managed the administration of Opus Dei student residences in Madrid, continuing to study chemistry in her spare time.

She made friends easily, especially with the university students, who appreciated her humor, patience, and affection.

In 1950, Escrivá asked her to bring Opus Dei to Mexico. While there, she enrolled in a doctoral program in chemical sciences. At the university residences in Mexico, Ortiz and her associates emphasized concern for the poor and service to the Church and society.

Among the initiatives they spearheaded was a mobile medical clinic which went home-to-home in the poorest neighborhoods providing free care and medicine. She also promoted education among poor, indigenous Mexicans.

Six years later she was asked to assist Escrivá in Rome in the central government of Opus Dei, but not long after arriving she began to suffer conditions of a heart condition which meant she had to return to Spain. Despite the symptoms of the condition, including tiredness from walking and climbing stairs, she never complained.

In Madrid she continued her academic work, eventually completing and defending her doctorate in July 1965, at the age of 48.

She was the recipient of the Juan de la Cierva prize for her research work and was a chemistry teacher at an institute and at the Women’s School for Industrial Studies, of which she became deputy head, for 10 years. She also set up the Center of Studies and Research of Domestic Sciences.

Ortiz was known to make frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament to speak with Christ; she was also devoted to friends and students and those with whom she lived.

In 1975, doctors decided to operate on her heart. The operation, at the university clinic in Navarra, was successful, but several days afterward she suffered sudden respiratory failure.

In describing the moments before her death, Ortiz’s brother said, “this was Guadalupe’s great ‘secret:’ to always accept as good whatever happened to her. Around her, in those last hours of mortal anguish, all were lost in admiration: that same unforgettable smile.”

She died on July 16, 1975, the feast of Our Lady Mount Carmel, in Pamplona.

Ortiz will be beatified by Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Congregation for Saints, in Madrid May 18. For those who cannot attend in person, Opus Dei has created a mobile app called “Beatification Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri,” which allows people to learn about her life and beatification in an interactive way.

The Vatican confirmed the miraculous healing, through Ortiz’s intercession, of an elderly Spanish man with a small cancerous tumor next to his eye. This miracle paved the way for her beatification.

A widower, Antonio Jesus Sedano Madrid, 76, contracted basal cell carcinoma in 2002. The cancer diagnosis gave Sedano a lot of anxiety. Before the surgery could take place, he found a prayer card for private devotion to Servant of God Guadalupe Ortiz de Landazuri.

He began to feel a personal and spiritual closeness to her and prayed for her intercession for his healing. His friends and three children began to do the same.

Sedano was particularly nervous before the operation to remove the tumor, and one night made a fervent request to Ortiz to intercede for his total cure, without the need for surgery. The following morning, when he awoke, the tumor was gone, without leaving a mark.

Doctors examined Sedano and could find no natural cause to explain the tumor’s total and sudden healing. He remained cancer free for the rest of his life, living 14 more years until his death in 2014, at the age of 88, from heart disease.



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German bishop supports ‘Church strike’ for women’s ordination

May 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 5

Munich, Germany, May 15, 2019 / 02:15 pm (CNA).- At least one bishop has offered his support for a week-long “Church strike” organized by German Catholic women, during which participants organize their own prayer services rather than attending Mass.

Calling itself “Mary 2.0” the initiative issued an open letter to Pope Francis, which called for the ordination of women, and claimed “men of the Church only tolerate one woman in their midst: Mary.”

“We want to take Mary off her pedestal and into our midst, as a sister facing our direction,” the letter said.

The website features paintings of Mary and other women with their mouths taped over.

The campaign has met with considerable criticism from German Catholics, some of when even launched of a “Maria 1.0” website, which says that the Mother of God “does not require any updates and should not be instrumentalized.”

But several Church representatives have gone public in support of “Mary 2.0.”

The official news portal of the Catholic Church in Germany provided broad coverage of the call for a strike, taking place May 11-18. It also reported that Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabrück supports the campaign.

Bode, who leads the Commission on Women in the German bishops’ conference, told press agency EPD that while he regrets the strikes will not attend Mass, he believes it important to acknowledge the impatience of “many women in the Catholic Church” and their feelings of “deep hurt” for not being adequately appreciated for their contribution.

Bode said that while he does not believe women will be ordained priests in the near future, the Church could soon ordain them as deacons.

Participants in the “Church strike” are refusing to step into a church from the week of May 11 to 18 and will not attend Mass. Instead, services such as a “Liturgy of the Word” are held throughout the week. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, these services have garnered between 18 and 155 registered attendees.

Referencing the abuse crisis as a reason for the urgent need for change, the group’s letter to Pope Francis makes a range of demands, from the abolition of “mandatory celibacy” to an “updating” of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and the ordination of women to “all ministries” – including the orders of deacon, priest and bishop.

In an interview published on the official website of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, vicar general Fr. Alfons Hardt praised the organizers of the campaign as women who are “concerned about the sustainability of their church.”

Hardt said “this is a motivation that I value highly,” even though the campaign might also create division.

Whether women can be ordained to the priesthood is an open question, Hardt asserted, saying, “on the one hand we have a definitive decision by Pope John Paul II on the question of the ordination of women and on the other hand we still do not have a final answer. At least in Germany this question is discussed very openly, especially among theologians. It is clear that there is a need for a global ecclesial consensus for this which currently is not the case.”

Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have all taught that the sacrament of ordination is reserved to men by divine institution, and that, while the role of female “deacons” in the early Church can be studied, such study does not imply that women can be ordained sacramentally.

Despite its demands and – initially – very small numbers, “Mary 2.0” has not only received support from several German prelates but also sustained coverage in Germany, where many Catholics are turning their back on a church in crisis in the wake of the abuse scandals and other controversies, with a recent prognosis predicting the number of Catholics in the country will halve by 2060, and Church attendance in constant decline, hovering at the 10 percent mark on average according to most recent official figure.

In March, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising announced that the church in Germany would embark on a “binding synodal process” to tackle what he described as the three key issues arising from the clerical abuse crisis: priestly celibacy, the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, and a reduction of clerical power.

More recently, another German bishop, Franz-Josef Overbeck of Essen, voiced similar expectations for the “Pan-Amazonian Synod” in October.

Overbeck, who also leads the influential Catholic Latin America relief organization Adveniat, predicted that “nothing will be as it was before” after that synod.

Speaking to journalists on May 2, he said that the role of women in the Church would be reconsidered at the meeting, and so would sexual morality, the role of the priesthood and the overall hierarchical structure of the Church. The synod will take place from October 6 to 27.

This story was originally published by CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.



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‘I was deeply moved and saddened’- How Polish bishops react to documentary on clerical abuse

May 14, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Warsaw, Poland, May 15, 2019 / 12:00 am (CNA).- Catholics bishops in Poland are responding to a new documentary that addresses clerical sexual abuse in the country.

The documentary presents allegations that abusive priests were shifted between parishes, and shows people confronting elderly priests alleged to have abused them as children,

The film, “Tell No One,” was posted to YouTube by filmmaking brothers Tomasz and Marek Sekielski, has nearly 14 million views and counting.

“Today I was deeply moved and saddened when watching Mr. Sekielski’s film, and I would like to thank him for this film,” Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, President of the Polish bishops’ conference, wrote May 13.

“For the most part, the message of the film corresponds to my experience gained during the many conversations I have held with the victims.”

Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno, Delegate for the Protection of Children and Youth of the Polish bishops’ conference, echoed Gadecki’s sentiments.

“The enormous suffering of people who have been hurt triggers pain and shame,” he said.  

“At this moment, I also have before my eyes the drama of the victims whom I have met personally. I thank all those who have the courage to speak about their suffering.”

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in Poland, at a rally Sunday promised harsher punishment for child abusers, floating the idea of 30-year prison sentences in reaction to the film.

Polish law currently provides for a 12-year sentence for abuse of a child under 15.

“On behalf of the entire bishops’ conference, I would like all the victims to accept my sincere apologies; I realize that nothing can compensate them for the harms they have suffered,” Gadecki said.

Gadecki and Polak both referenced their belief that Pope Francis’ recent motu proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi,” is necessary as part of the solution.

The motu proprio, among other provisions, establishes obligatory reporting for clerics and religious, requires that every diocese has a mechanism for reporting abuse, and puts the metropolitan archbishop in charge of investigations of accusations against suffragan bishops.

“I am convinced that this film, too, will result in an even more stringent compliance with the guidelines for the protection of children and young people in the Church, in the implementation by all bishops of prevention principles in each diocese, and in compliance with the Motu proprio that Pope Francis promulgated [May 7],” Gadecki said.