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Rome conference to tackle safeguarding children online

May 31, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 31, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An international congress in Rome this autumn will bring together experts to focus on the problem of online sexual abuse of minors and how to better safeguard children on the internet.

The Oct. 3-6 meeting is hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection and will conclude in an audience with Pope Francis during which he will be presented a “Declaration on Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

According to a May 31 statement, there are 3.2 billion internet users worldwide, children making up over one quarter of these – about 800 million users. These children and adolescents “are vulnerable to entirely new forms of harm and abuse such as trolling, cyberbullying, sextortion, and grooming for sexual exploitation.”

The international congress “will focus on the latest scientific research and technical understanding in this field, bringing together global experts and decision makers to discuss the risks and challenges of the digital age and its impact on the dignity of children.”

The invitation-only meeting intends to bring in more than 140 academic experts, leaders in business and civil society, high-level politicians, and religious representatives recognized around the globe.

The four days will include keynotes, plenary sessions, workshops, and a discussion forum focusing on the fields of cyber protection, cyber education, and cyber responsibility.

Afterward, the conference will issue a “Call for Papers” with the hope to stimulate innovative research and solutions to the problem of child protection online.

The congress is organized in partnership with WePROTECT Global Alliance, a movement dedicated to changing the handling of online child sexual exploitation around the world, and Telefono Azzurro, a non-profit whose purpose is the protection of minors from abuse and violence.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, president of the CCP and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said in a statement that “the congress provides an outstanding opportunity to exchange knowledge and good practice on risks and prevention as children navigate this new digital world.”

Ernesto Caffo, the scientific coordinator of the congress, added that they “are proud to bring
together many of the world’s leading scholars and researchers in the field of child

Their goal for the conference being to “substantially expand the body of knowledge on these complex issues and generate true global dialogue.”

UK Minister for Internet Safety and Security Joanna Shields said that while our increasingly connected society greatly empowers children, it “also exposes them to risks that compromise their safety and wellbeing.”

“To address these escalating global threats we need a broad coalition of government, faith leaders, academia and industry, all committed to protecting the dignity of children in this digital age.”

The congress follows a day-long seminar held March 23 on the prevention of child abuse, hosted by the CCP and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

The seminar narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church’s role.


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In historic move, Irish nuns to give up three Dublin hospitals

May 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, May 30, 2017 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Ireland’s Sisters of Charity will end their management of three Dublin hospitals, the sisters have announced, saying they will hand over control to a group that will not follow Catholic medical ethics.

“Although the Sisters of Charity no longer have any direct involvement in the provision of healthcare services we remain dedicated to preserving the legacy of Mary Aikenhead, whose mission in life was to heal and care for the sick and poor,” Sister Mary Christian, Congregational Leader of the Religious Sisters of Charity, said Monday.

“We believe that the future continued success of St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group can best be ensured by our transferring ownership of the group to a newly formed company with charitable status to be called ‘St. Vincent’s.’ The Religious Sisters of Charity will have no involvement in this new company.”

The decision to transfer control of the three Dublin hospitals had been under consideration for more than two years, James Menton, chairman of the healthcare group, told the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ.

Menton said the developments “reflect the wonderful legacy to Irish healthcare of the Sisters of Charity.”

“The sisters have always held the highest ambitions for the provision of world class healthcare services in Ireland and have successfully achieved and sustained this,” he said.

“They also see the need for the proposed development of the new National Maternity Hospital integrated within the Elm Park campus and want to do everything possible to ensure this vital facility for mothers and babies is developed as quickly as possible.”

The health care group’s origins date back to 1834, when Mary Aikenhead, the founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity, established St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Until this year, the St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group included three hospitals. Two sisters who were on the board of the healthcare group’s board will resign and the congregation will give up the right to appoint board directors.

The long-considered move to give up the three hospitals follows recent controversy over a reported proposal that the sisters be given ownership of a $335 million taxpayer-funded National Maternity Hospital because the congregation owned the land on which it would be built, the campus of St. Vincent’s University Hospital.

The controversy prompted the Irish Minister for Health Simon Harris to say in April that there must be “no question of religious interference” in the new hospital.

The National Maternity Hospital’s board had said the new facility would be run independently and would provide procedures like sterilization, in-vitro fertilization, and some abortions.

The sisters have now said they will not own or help manage the new hospital.

The controversy over the new hospital often included claims from critics that Catholic ethics were not good medical practice.

The sisters’ statement appeared to echo these claims, saying the governing documents of the new health care group so that the Religious Sisters of Charity Health Service Philosophy and Ethical Code would no longer be authoritative.

Rather, it will be “amended and replaced to reflect compliance with national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics and the laws of the Republic of Ireland,” the statement said.

Some observers predicted further ethical problems if Ireland were to instate permissive abortion laws, a possible outcome of current heavy lobbying from pro-abortion advocates.

Fiona Crowley, Amnesty International’s research and legal manager, responded to the hospital decision. She said her organization had been concerned “at the proposed involvement in women’s health services of a religious congregation whose ethos is inherently antithetical to women’s sexual and reproductive rights.” Crowley said the group hopes that the government will ensure the new group and the new facility “will be free of any religious ideology prejudicial to women’s health.”

Crowley linked the move to the push to overturn the Republic of Ireland’s strongly pro-life Eighth Amendment.  

Amnesty’s Irish affiliate is a part of that effort, in part with funding by international groups like the Open Society Foundations. The foundations see Ireland as a possible model to advance permissive abortion laws in Catholic countries.

The Sisters of Charity have committed to paying millions in financial redress to compensate abuse victims who lived the residential institutions they and 18 other religious congregations managed on behalf of the government in previous decades.


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In Rome, Catholic Charismatic Renewal to celebrate 50 years

May 30, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 30, 2017 / 02:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Some 30,000 followers of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal will be in Rome this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the movement with meetings and Mass, culminating in a prayer vigil led by Pope Francis in the Circus Maximus.

The May 31 – June 4 jubilee is being organized by the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services and the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships.

The celebrations are capped on each end by events with Pope Francis, starting with the Wednesday General Audience and ending with Mass in St. Peter’s Square for Pentecost.

On the vigil of Pentecost the Pope will address participants during an ecumenical prayer vigil.

Organizers told journalists Tuesday that they expect participants to hail from some 220 countries around the world. Of these, around 300 are evangelical or Pentecostal leaders.

There will also be 600 priests and 50 bishops present.

The program includes meetings, symposia and workshops in locations across Rome, including testimony by some of the witness of the early years of the charismatic renewal.

Other smaller events throughout will include Eucharistic adoration, concerts, conferences, and street evangelization. Mass on Friday will be said by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

Salvatore Martinez, president of Italy’s Catholic charismatic association, told journalists May 30 that the Golden Jubilee is a sign of communion, unity, and charity.

“The Pope urges us to be protagonists of history, and to make these charisms a dynamism of love for men of our time,” he said. “Spiritual ecumenism will be the culminating moment, the heart of this spiritual celebration.”

This spiritual ecumenism will not included discussion of doctrine, according of Michelle Moran, president of ICCRS.

Gilberto Gomes Barbosa, head of the Catholic Fraternity, said the work must be about “spiritual communion,” not indoctrination.

Pope Francis met with members of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at Roman gatherings in 2014 and 2015.

Speaking June 1, 2014, the Pope voiced hope that both evangelical and Catholic charismatic groups, would share the same office as a sign of ecumenism.

His attendance for two consecutive years at the Catholic charismatic movement’s Renewal with the Spirit convocation and his planned participation during this year’s Golden Jubilee celebration show his attention to charismatic movements as a means to foster an ecumenical path and dialogue.



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In Iraq, necessity makes priests become engineers

May 27, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 27, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Priests in Iraq are helping reconstruct around 13,000 homes in the Plain of Nineveh which have been damaged or destroyed by ISIS so that Christians will have a place to come back to.

To accomplish this, the Pontifical Foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has created a Commission for the Reconstruction of Nineveh.  

Besides celebrating Mass, the priests also serve as surveyors and obtain electric service and materials for the reconstruction of homes. The first work is being done in places that ISIS occupied for a short time and where there is not a lot of material damage.

One of the members of this project is Fr. Georges Jahola, a Syrian Catholic priest from Qaraqosh.

The priest told ACN that “here in Iraq if the Church doesn’t do these things, who’s going to do them? We have the capacity to act and do the talking, and also the contacts.”
The reconstruction of the Plain of Nineveh includes five Chaldean Christian villages: Badnaya, Karamlesh, Telleskof, Bakofa and Telkef, located in the eastern part.

Fr. Salar Boudagh, another member of this initiative, said that $7,000 is needed to renovate a lightly damaged home. To restore a burned home costs $25,000 and to reconstruct a totally destroyed home runs $65,000.

“We have begun the reconstruction of Telleskof and Bakofa, because there damage to the homes is not too serious, as opposed to what is happening in Badnaya where 80 percent of the homes are destroyed,” the priest said.

“Before the arrival of the Islamic State 1,450 families lived in Telleskof, 110 in Bakofa, 950 in Badnaya, another 700 in Telkef and 875 in Karamlesh,” said Fr. Boudagh, who is also the Vicar General of the Chaldean Diocese of Alqosh.

“For these families, the first condition to return to their villages is security.”

The priest emphasized that “our area, the eastern part of the Nineveh Plain, is controlled by a Christian security force, the Zeravani, who are guaranteeing us 100 percent security. It’s an official militia which is paid by Kurdistan.”

In Qaraqosh, 6,327 houses  of Syrian Catholics and 400 homes of Syrian Orthodox Christians must be rebuilt.

Fr. Jahola explained that after the liberation of Qaraqosh from the control of the jihadists, an operation which took place in November and December of 2016, 6,000 houses in the city were photographed. These were divided into sectors and classified according to the level of damage.

“There are very damaged or totally destroyed homes that would would need to be rebuilt from the ground up, burned homes or hit by a missile that can be restored, and finally, there are homes partially damaged the we can renovate with little means,” he said.   

“When we began we had a team of 20 volunteer engineers; now we have 40 and some 2,000 workers ready to begin work. We’re optimists, since electric service is slowly being restored throughout the city,” Fr. Jahola said.


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Why this cardinal has high hopes for Pope Francis’ Colombia visit

May 25, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2017 / 04:51 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis is headed to Colombia this summer, and one of the nation’s leading bishops believes the visit will be a chance for progress for many countries in the region.

Cardinal Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota said the Pope’s message will be relevant for all Latin American countries. The visit is “truly going to help all of us create stronger bonds between the different countries and also to be able to work toward common solutions,” he said.

“I think the Holy Father is aware that Colombia has a certain emblematic character in Latin America, because perhaps it is the best sample of the problems we suffer from on the continent,” said the cardinal, who is also president of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM).

He was speaking to reporters after the CELAM president met with ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

The cardinal discussed a few details of Pope Francis’ Sept. 6-11 trip to Colombia, saying the Pope is aware of the problems facing Colombia and Latin America.

Cardinal Salazar named poverty as a problem. He also noted the “cancer of corruption”, which Pope Francis has described as “a cancer that has metastasized everywhere, that has infiltrated all areas of society.”

Violence is another scourge on the continent, the cardinal said, calling the papal visit “a balm of hope and consolation.”

“The Holy Father is going to give us courage, make us realize that if we really want to resolve our problems in depth, we have to start with a change of heart,” he said.

Cardinal Salazar told CNA that Colombians “are preparing ourselves well” to receive the Pope.

“Not only because for the people the Pope’s visit is extremely important, but also because we are doing everything possible to prepare ourselves spiritually,” he added.

“There is going to be a very strong evangelization effort on all levels,” he said. “Meetings, forums, catechesis, and preaching are being prepared so the people will be truly prepared, so the Pope’s message falls on good ground and, therefore, produces fruit. We are doing all this and we are very hopeful.”

He also explained some points on the program for the trip.

“The Mass to be celebrated in Bogota will have a special emphasis on respect for, care for and the promotion of life,” Cardinal Salazar said. “There will also be special priority for the disabled, the sick and the elderly to attend.”

“In Villavicencio,” he continued, “the emphasis will be ecological: the whole Amazon region’s problems, and (the need for) respect for the Earth, but also respect for indigenous cultures, ethnic minorities.”

He also discussed the peace process with FARC rebels and other guerrillas, acknowledging that “the situation is not easy, but despite the difficulties there have been, it’s going gradually moving forward.”

“I hope that what we have achieved so far not only won’t be destroyed, but that we can move forward to the point of achieving complete peace,” he said. “There is genuine hope. We’re sure that despite the difficulties, peace will prevail.”

He recognized concern that Colombia is polarized on the “very complex issue” isssue.

“The political polarization that we are experiencing which every day seems to be getting stronger,  deeper, more difficult. We hope the Pope works those miracles that politically are not easy to do,” said Cardinal Salazar.


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To meet God we need silence, Cardinal Sarah says

May 25, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, May 25, 2017 / 12:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a presentation for his new book on Wednesday, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that not only does the Church need silence, but the act of being in silence and of listening to God is efficient, in its own way.

“We have seen we must talk, we must do something, we must act; but silence is an act of adoration, it is an act of goodness, so it’s not about doing something that is efficient,” said Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

“Silence is (itself) very, very efficient. It gives you the opportunity to see yourself, to listen to yourself, to listen to God.”

Cardinal Sarah said that he wrote The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise because “we need silence, not only regarding the liturgy, but even to read a book, to listen to music.”

“To have rest, you need silence,” he continued, “and silence helps one to see inside oneself.”

People are in a very “awkward” situation, he said. “We never have silence in our lives, from the beginning to the last hours of the day. We listen to rumors, news, radio, the telephone. We need silence, anyway, to meet God and to have a very human life. Man needs to be silent.”

Cardinal Sarah spoke to EWTN May 24 after a presentation on the German edition of his book, given at the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima near Piazza Navona in Rome.

The German edition is unique because it has an afterword written by Benedict XVI, marking one of the rare occasions he has spoken publicly or published any sort of document since his 2013 resignation.

This came about after Benedict read the book, Cardinal Sarah said, when he approached the cardinal to say he would like to write an afterword for the German edition. Silence “is a fountain for my spiritual life,” Cardinal Sarah recalled him saying.

“I think that Pope Benedict is very interested in liturgy. And liturgy needs silence,” he said, explaining that Benedict told him the book had moved his heart deeply. “I said: ‘I’m very honored, Holy Father, please do it.’ It was his own initiative.”

During his presentation, Cardinal Sarah said that “when creation knows how to place itself in silence, God makes his voice heard.”

If we want to combat the modern problem and confusion in the world and in the Church, the solution, he told EWTN, is that “we must pray.”

In addition to prayer, we should uphold the doctrines of the Church and the family, as well as be faithful to the doctrines, he said.

“God will give us the right way to walk, you know: [that] confusion is not a good way to live. If we see clearly the way, then we can walk with security. So I think we must hold firmly to doctrine, and pray.”

He went on to say that is hopeful about the future of the liturgy in the Church, however, because many young priests do believe in and understand the importance of silence, which gives him confidence that there could be change in the future.

In his presentation the cardinal was careful to point out that finding and making silence in our lives and liturgy wasn’t the end in itself, but “a necessary condition” for the true destination, which is communion with God.

The voice of God, he said, is “Jesus Christ, the Word, and it is precisely the mystery of the Incarnation to shed light on the divine-human relationship. And it is in this light that he illuminates also the sense of the liturgy.”

“It is the irruption of divine in the human being,” he explained. “A bundle of light that comes down to us and brightens all our darkness.”

And silence is what creates the environment which makes it possible to “welcome the incarnation.”

Closing, the cardinal said that silence is “the inner climate, the inner attitude, the inner disposition that allows all this and makes the Word of the Church fruitful.”

“To a Church that is likely to become impoverished because it can close itself in parameters of purely human judgement, I humbly allow myself to point the way of silence, so that every believer, but also every celebrating community, opens to God’s initiative and accepts all grace which comes from Him.”

Edward Pentin and Paul Badde contributed to this report.