In abuse cases there should be no recourse to appeals, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 12:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- There should be no opportunity for appealing canonical cases of sexual abuse against minors when allegations have been proven by evidence, Pope Francis said in spontaneous comments Thursday. In off-the-cuff remarks to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) Sept. 21, the Pope said that “if pedophilia, an abuse of minors, is proven it is enough to not receive appeals.” “If there is the evidence, period: it is definitive.” Pope Francis also explained that he would not consider direct appeals for clemency or reconsideration from priests who have been found guilty of allegations of sexual misconduct. “I have never signed one of these,” he said, “and I will never sign it.” The Pope elaborated, saying that the Church must consider that a person that commits abuse “is sick, that they suffer from a disease.” He explained “today he is sorry, we forgive him, and then after two years he falls again.” He also expressed regret for a case in which he chose to impose lenient sanctions against an Italian priest abuser, saying, “I learned in this.” Speaking at the opening of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Francis set aside his prepared remarks, handing them out to be read, explaining that he preferred to talk in a more informal manner. “I know it was not easy to begin this work,” he told commission members. “It was necessary to go against the current, because it is a reality, the conscience of the Church…came a bit late.” Because awareness of the problem came late, “the means to solve the problem have come late,” he continued. “I am aware of this difficulty. But it is the reality, I tell you so: we arrived late.” The practice of moving clergy who were suspected or accused of abuse to a different diocese may have contributed to a slowing of our consciences, he reflected. He said that the Lord has raised “prophetic” men in the Church who have worked to bring this issue to the surface. One such person the Pope pointed to is Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the president of the PCPM, who frequently raised the issue of the problem of abuse to Pope Francis. The Pope said that Cardinal O’Malley spoke to him about the ministry of Jesus to children. “Now what I think is that it should be the way to continue with our work,” Francis said. “I say ‘ours’ because it is not (only) a commission, because it is a commission within the Holy See with the Pope too.” Speaking about the process for how the Holy See handles abuse cases, Pope Francis said that he believes “for the moment” the responsibility for the resolution of abuse cases should continue to reside with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it has since 2001. Some had speculated that the Pope was considering suggestions that the laicization of priests found to have committed abuse be reassigned to the Roman Rota and other tribunals of the Vatican. “But in this moment the problem is real… it is grave that some have not taken notice of the problem,” he said, and for this reason the competency must remain with the CDF until the whole Church becomes aware. There are many cases, at the moment, that do not move forward quickly, the Pope noted, but the newly-appointed secretary and prefect of the CDF, Bishop-designate Giacomo Morandi and Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, are working to add more people to work on the process of abuse cases, he said. The Pope concluded by thanking the commission for their work, saying without them it would not have been possible to carry out the work already done, nor would it be possible to continue their future work within the Curia. “That’s what I wanted to tell you spontaneously,” he said, “then you have the most formal, educated speech there, but I think that this you have the right to know.”   Read more

Pope reiterates Church’s ‘zero tolerance’ on abuse of minors

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 08:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Thursday in a written speech Pope Francis reiterated the Catholic Church’s commitment to the protection of minors from sexual abuse, stating that the Church will continue to take a “zero tolerance” stance against offenders. “Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us,” the Pope’s prepared remarks stated Sept. 21. “That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the most firm measures to all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God.” Pope Francis addressed members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the opening of their plenary assembly. Handing out copies of his prepared statement to those present, he then delivered off-the-cuff remarks. In his prepared speech, the Pope wrote that the Church “irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of ‘zero tolerance’ against sexual abuse of minors.” He explained that the disciplinary measures which have been adopted by particular churches must apply to everyone who works within the institutions of the Church. “However, the primary responsibility is of the bishops, priests and religious, of those who have received the vocation to offer their lives to the service, including the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults,” he continued. The Pope noted how he has personally had the privilege of listening to the stories of victims and survivors of abuse and that in these encounters people have openly shared the effects that sexual abuse has had on their lives and on the lives of their families. “I know that you too have had the blessed occasion to participate in the same meetings,” he said to commission members, “and that they continue to nourish your personal commitment to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate this ruin among us.” Francis said that he wanted to share at that gathering the “profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children.” The sexual abuse scandal is, he continued, “a terrible ruin for the whole of humanity” affecting vulnerable children, young people and adults in every country and society. The whole experience has also been “very painful” for the Church and is something “we are ashamed of,” he said. “But we have also experienced a call, which we are sure comes directly from our Lord Jesus Christ: to embrace the mission of the Gospel for the protection of all vulnerable minors and adults.” Francis spoke to the members of the commission after an address by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the commission, and after presentations by two commission members, Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS, and Mr. Bill Kilgallon, on the projects of the commission’s six working groups from the past three years. Praising the work of the commission over the last three and a half years, the Pope said that they have worked to consistently emphasize the most important principles guiding the Church’s efforts in abuse protection. He also said that he was happy to hear that many churches have taken their advice of holding a Day of Prayer and of dialoguing with victims and survivors. In his address, O’Malley said that the commission considers the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults to be “an integral part of the mission of the Church.” “The Church’s care for victims/survivors of abuse and their families is a primary consideration in this mission. By listening attentively and sharing experiences with them, our Commission has benefitted greatly from all that survivors have offered to us.” Other things the commission has emphasized has been educational and training programs, especially for Church leaders, and assistance for local churches to develop and implement guidelines, he said. Following the audience with Pope Francis, he said the commission will hold their plenary assembly to continue to discuss these projects and prepare recommendations for the Pope for the continued work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Francis said that the Church is called to be “a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered.” The Church is a field hospital, he concluded, one which accompanies each of us on our spiritual journey. “I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance.” Read more

What’s the secret to 70 years of religious life? The Virgin Mary, this nun says

Mexico City, Mexico, Sep 21, 2017 / 06:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Sister Crucita has been a member of the Josephine Sisters in Mexico for 70 years. At nearly 100 years old, she says she is happy with her vocation and would not change her decision to give her life to God. In an interview with CNA, Sister Crucita – whose full religious name is Sister Maria of the Royal Cross – said that the secret of her perseverance has always been her trust in the mercy of God and the support of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “I say to the Blessed Virgin Mary, ‘Take care of me, you already know I’m yours. Deliver me from the snares of the devil.’ The Blessed Virgin has taken great care of me,” she said. Through the Holy Rosary she was able to persevere in face of the temptation to abandon the religious life on many occasions, she said. “One of the strongest temptations was to want to leave the religious life, because there were a lot of difficulties at the hospital where I was. The doctors encouraged me to leave, but I trusted in God and the Blessed Virgin. And here I am, thanks to them,” she said. Sister Crucita was born Nov. 23, 1917 in the El Oro municipality in Mexico State. From a very young age, she had a love for Christ and the Church, thanks to the devotion of her parents who took her to Mass. “I always liked going to Mass. I had an uncle who was a sacristan and I liked to spend time with him. So I was always drawn to the things of the Lord,” she said. She began thinking about a religious vocation after a group of religious sisters came to her home town. She even discerned with a cloistered convent, but was forced to return home after two years, due to an illness.   Sister Crucita was introduced to the Josephine Sisters by a priest. She worked alongside the sisters at a local hospital for a few months, and then entered the novitiate. On Aug. 15, 1947, Sister Crucita made her final vows as a Josephine sister, at 30 years of age. Currently she goes to confession about every two weeks, prays the Holy Rosary three or four times a day, and attends Mass daily. She said her religious vocation was always tied to her profession as a nurse. At the start of the 1950s, Sister Crucita was sent to her congregation’s hospital in Cuba. Later, in 1952, she arrived in Guadalajara and was assigned as a nurse to the Civil Hospital. For many years she was the supervisor of the pediatrics department. “I see how the sick suffer and there are many who offer everything to God, they don’t complain or anything. So then I think, if they who are sick and are always thinking about God, then what can I complain about. Anything on my part is something passing and I offer it to the Lord,” she emphasized. Sister María de la Cruz said that one of her secrets to keep on going has always been to feel welcomed by the mercy of God: “I know that He loves me much more than I love him. I have always thought that He seeks me, he calls me, that he is always with me. If something happens to me, He watches over me.” She encouraged young people to trust “completely in God, in the love that He has for us” because “He helps us and gives us peace.” On Nov. 23, at Our Lady of Bethlehem and Saint Michael the Archangel church, a Mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated for Sister Crucita’s 100th birthday. Sister Beatriz Escamilla, a 44-year-old Josephine sister, said that at nearly 100 years old, Sister Crucita is still very independent. “She begins her routine at 5:00 am, because she moves at a slower pace, and then she comes to the chapel at 7:00 am. She is one of the most punctual sisters, and sometimes she beats us all there. Sometimes she’s the one who opens up the chapel,” Sister Beatriz said.   She also highlighted Sister Crucita’s fervent prayer for “vocations and for those of us still working in the apostolate.” “She has an hour dedicated to prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament to especially ask for these needs,” she said. Whenever things at the hospital get difficult, Sister Beatriz said, she can always count on Sister Crucita for encouragement. “She’s a person you’re drawn to, through the peace she conveys. She offers a lesson in joy, perseverance, dedication and sacrifice,” she concluded.   Read more

Vatican official laments lack of fair trade label for commercial fishing

Vatican City, Sep 21, 2017 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An upcoming world congress by the Catholic organization Apostleship of the Sea will focus on the plight of fishermen, who frequently face exploitation in carrying out their work, according to one Vatican official. He lamented that no ‘Fair Trade’ certification exists for their product. “We have to be educated,” Fr. Bruno Ciceri told CNA Sept. 20. “Frozen food here is cheap, but it’s because people are exploited, because there is forced labor, because there are trafficked people that work aboard these fishing vessels.” Referring to the label given to products from developing countries that adhere to ethical standards of trading, he said, “We talk a lot about ‘Fair Trade.’ I don’t know the day when we will have ‘fair trade’ also in fishing. That will make a difference.” Fr. Ciceri is a member of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. He is also the Vatican delegate for the Apostleship of the Sea, which provides pastoral care for seafarers and their families. He also worked for the Apostleship of the Sea in Taiwan for 13 years. Their next World Congress, which is held every five years, will take place in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Oct. 1-7. Notable attendees will include Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, and Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Taiwan was chosen for the 25th congress largely because the majority of the world’s fishing fleets are concentrated in the island nation; about 36 percent of tuna fishing fleets in the world are Taiwanese. When it comes to the fishing industry Taiwan faces several grave challenges, Fr. Ciceri said. For one, because Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations it is not obliged to follow UN conventions on the fishing trade. In general though, the challenges are the same affecting the whole of the industry, he pointed out, including poor working conditions and wage and labor exploitation, such as what happens between fishermen and brokers. For example, Fr. Ciceri said one situation that is common is when a broker will contract fishermen with a promise of a certain salary. Of this, maybe only 20 percent is given directly to the fisherman and 80 percent will be held by the broker, only to be given over after the fisherman has completed a three year contract. If he leaves before this, he loses everything. So the fishing industry needs to “clean up their act,” he said, but so does the buyer – the big companies that buy the fish to import. One thing the Apostleship of the Sea tries to do, he said, is ensure that big companies are checking their supply lines and guaranteeing that they are not profiting from forced labor or other violations. “Often these companies just make sure that there are all of the hygienic things… but they don’t consider the people,” Fr. Ciceri said. “While for us as the Church, people are important. Fish are important, but people are more important.” Sometimes you will read on cans of tuna that it has been caught without “hurting any turtles or without killing any dolphins,” he said. “Thanks very much, but what about the fishermen?” “But that is not considered. I think there should be a sort of balance on these things. It’s true that we have to worry about the fish and other things, but we have to worry also about the people.” For the average person who wants to do something, he continued, even the awareness of these practices, and why the products may be so cheap, is a good first step. “It’s true that we would always like to save money,” but maybe sometimes we could consider buying the more expensive product that we know pays people justly. Cardinal Turkson sent a message July 9 for “Sea Sunday,” reflecting on these issues, saying that at the congress in October “we will strengthen our network with the objective to increase cooperation between the Apostleship of the Sea of the different nations; we will share resources and best practices to develop specific skills, particularly in the fishing sector.” “Let us ask Mary, Star of the Sea, to sustain our service and dedication to seafarers, fishermen and their families and to protect all the people of the sea until they reach the ‘safe port’ of heaven.” Read more

Bishop Conley: martyred Oklahoma priest showed courage that comes from prayer

Lincoln, Neb., Sep 20, 2017 / 04:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Oklahoma priest martyred in Guatemala will be beatified on Saturday, and his life has much to teach us, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln has said. “To trust God can be risky and even dang… Read more

Mexican bishops join in prayer, grief after second deadly earthquake

Puebla, Mexico, Sep 20, 2017 / 11:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Following Mexico’s second major earthquake in two weeks, bishops in the country called for prayers and solidarity, asking Our Lady of Guadalupe to intercede and comfort the suffering peopl… Read more

US Senate committee advances bill to aid Christians in Iraq

Washington D.C., Sep 20, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that seeks to ensure U.S. aid reaches Christian genocide victims in Iraq. “The vote from this morning is an important step toward pr… Read more

Pope Francis prays for Mexico during this ‘moment of sorrow’

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2017 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to the people of Mexico after they suffered a devastating earthquake Sept. 19, asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe for all those who have died or lost loved ones. “Yesterday a terrible earthquake has devastated Mexico. I saw that there are many Mexicans here today among you. It caused numerous victims and material damages,” the Pope said in Spanish after the General Audience Sept. 20. “In this moment of sorrow I want to express my closeness and prayer to all the beloved Mexican population. Let us all raise our prayers together to God so that he may welcome into his bosom those who have lost their lives, comfort the wounded, their families and all those affected.” He also asked for prayers for all military personnel and others who are helping those affected, and prayed for “our mother,” Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be “close to the beloved Mexican nation.” A 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck southern Mexico City Tuesday destroying dozens of buildings and killing at least 217 people, according to the head of Mexico’s civil protection agency, Luis Felipe Puente. Citizens and rescuers worked through the night to dig people out of the rubble. The death toll is expected to rise as the rescue continues. The powerful quake hit Puebla state just 76 miles south-east of Mexico City, and follows less than two weeks after a magnitude 8.1 quake, the strongest the country has experienced in a century, struck off of the southern coast of Mexico Sept. 8, killing at least 61 people. The Sept. 19 earthquake, with more than 11 aftershocks, hit Mexico City exactly 22 years to the day after an 8.0-magnitude earthquake which killed thousands struck the city in 1985. In his weekly General Audience address, Pope Francis gave an encouraging reflection on hope, saying that this week he intended to address those gathered in St. Peter’s Square as an educator or as a father speaking to a child. He encouraged those present to not give up, or let themselves become bitter, but to trust in God the Creator, who in the Holy Spirit moves all things for good in the end. “Believe it, he is waiting for you,” he emphasized. “Think, where God has sown you, he hopes! He always hopes.” “Do not,” he said, “ever think that the fight you lead down here is completely useless.” All will not end in shipwreck. “God does not disappoint: if he has placed hope in our hearts, he does not want to wear it out with continued frustration.” Everything has been created to eventually bloom in an eternal spring, he continued, even we have been created by God to bloom. But, Francis urged, we cannot sit around waiting, we must act. “If you’re on the ground, get up!” he said. “If boredom paralyzes you, drive it away with good works! If you feel empty or demoralized, ask the Holy Spirit to again fill your nothingness.” “And above all,” he said, “dream! Do not be afraid to dream.” Throughout history, those who have had hope in dreams are the ones who have won great victories, like the end to slavery, or better living conditions, the Pope said, and we should look to these people as examples. We must be responsible for the world and for the life of every person, he said, because injustice done to any man is “an open wound” which dampens even our own dignity. And in this responsibility, Francis continued, we must have “the courage of truth,” even while we remember that we are superior to no one. “If you were the last to believe in the truth, do not shy away from the company of men,” he said. “Even if you live in the silence of a hermitage, bring into your hearts the suffering of every creature. You are a Christian; and in prayer give all back to God.” He also advised against listening to the voices of those who spread hate and division, saying that human beings were created for community, and to live together in peace. Even though living the truth and cultivating ideals takes courage, never stop, be loyal, Francis urged, even if you have to pay “a salty bill.” Your life, from your Baptism, has already been steeped in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, he said. You belong to Jesus, so do not be afraid. “And if one day you get scared, or you think that evil is too big to be challenged, simply think that Jesus lives in you. And it is He who, through you, with his mildness wants to subdue all the enemies of man: sin, hatred, crime, violence; all our enemies,” he said. The Pope continued his counsel, saying that when you make a mistake, as humans do, it’s important not to let it imprison you, but to turn it over to God, remembering that he came to save sinners. And when you make a mistake again, “do not be afraid,” he said. “Get up! Do you know why? Because God is your friend.” “If you are bitter, believe firmly in all the people who still work for good: in their humility there is the seed of a new world. Spend time with people who have kept their heart like that of a child. Learn from wonder, cultivate amazement,” he concluded. “Live, love, dream, believe. And with God’s grace, never despair.” Read more

Korea exhibit at Vatican shares history, peace through art

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An exhibit at the Vatican this month shows the 230-year history of the Catholic Church on the Korean peninsula, highlighting the faith of its martyrs and promoting a message of peace. Fr. Matthias Hur Young-yup , a spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Seoul, told CNA that with the exhibit they want to promote peace and teach people about Korean culture. “As you know there is a nuclear crisis going on in the Korean peninsula, and through this exhibition we wanted to deliver a peace message, especially to our brothers and sisters in the North,” Fr. Hur said. The exhibit, called “Come in cielo cosi in terra” (“On earth as it is in heaven”), is a first-ever collaboration between the Vatican Museums and the Seoul archdiocese. It is also sponsored by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the South Korean embassy to the Holy See. It opened in the Vatican’s Braccio di Carlo Magno museum Sept. 8. The archdiocese also hopes the exhibit will “introduce the unique history and culture of the Korean Catholic Church worldwide, and to take a step forward to fulfill our mission of the evangelization of Asia.” The exhibit is “only a part of the different projects” on which Korea and the Holy See are partnering, Barbara Jatta, director of the Vatican Museums, told CNA. In 2012, the Vatican Museums sent Renaissance pieces by artists such as Michelangelo and Raphael for an exhibit in Seoul. They are also working on several restoration projects within the ethnological museum. But “this is the first time that Koreans expose, in the heart of the Vatican City State, their own history,” she said. She hopes the exhibit will “show how evangelization can bring peace and more evangelization, and (that) even persecution is not an obstacle to that.”   Korean martyrs & other works at the “Come in cielo così in terra” exhibit at the #Vatican showing history of the #Catholic Church in Korea pic.twitter.com/svmIeXagAF — Hannah Brockhaus (@HannahBrockhaus) September 19, 2017   The Catholic faith was originally introduced to Korea through Catholic books brought to the country from Beijing. A group of scholars studied the books, from them developing a belief in the Catholic faith. One scholar was baptized in Beijing in 1784, returning to Korea to baptize others. These scholars formed the first Catholic community in the country. “As the number of believers increased, they discovered that it was not a very good way, to just spread the faith among the lay people,” Fr. Hur explained. “So that is when they decided to ask for a missionary, a priest, to come to Korea for a more formal evangelization of the country.” He said that it is very significant to the members of the Church in Korea that Catholicism in their country was begun by lay people. As they waited for a priest, the faith continued to grow among the lay people, until finally in 1794 they received a missionary priest from Beijing. But even before this, persecution of Christians in Korea had begun. From the beginning of her history, the Church in Korea has been marked with suffering, including a century of religious persecution resulting in the martyrdom of at least 8,000 Catholics. “With the 230 years of history in Korea, we believe especially that we have been through all the persecutions and we didn’t die…but we prospered. Especially that the martyrs have become a good role model for all believers…that is the best fruit that has appeared in the country of Korea,” Fr. Hur said. This exhibit “is not only a very good chance for us to introduce the history of the Korean Catholic Church, but also the culture and the special characteristics of the Korean country itself. I believe that this is a very good introduction for the world to our Korean culture.” The exhibit outlines, chronologically, the history of Catholicism in Korea from its start through the present time. It includes religious books and objects, as well as Korean religious art. There are many beautiful works depicting the Madonna and Child, as well as portraits of the martyrs from throughout their history.   Blessed Feast of the Nativity of Mary! (Our Lady as a Korean Madonna and Child, part of an exhibit on the Korean Church now at the Vatican) pic.twitter.com/Cq4oAVGiAo — Hannah Brockhaus (@HannahBrockhaus) September 8, 2017   Despite persecution, the Catholic population in Korea has continued to grow; in the 1950s they had only 500,000 Catholics (about two percent of the population). As of 2016 there are nearly 6 million (10 percent of the total population). In the 1950s they only had 290 priests. Today they have approximately 5,100. Pope Francis visited Korea in August 2014, his first pastoral visit to an Asian country. While there he beatified 230 martyrs during a Mass in Gwanghwamun, with around 1 million people present. Pope St. John Paul II was the first Pope to visit South Korea when he went to Seoul in May 1984, marking the 200th anniversary of the Church in Korea. During his visit he presided over the canonization of 103 Korean martyrs, the first canonization ever celebrated outside the Vatican. He again visited South Korea in 1989 to participate in the 44th International Eucharistic Congress in Seoul. And in 2001, during an ad limina visit of the Korean bishops at the Vatican, he said that “inter-Korean reconciliation and solidarity and the evangelization of Asia is the mission of the Korean Church.” Fr. Hur said through the exhibit they want people to know that no one on the Korean peninsula wants war, but that peace is what they really want. “That is the message we wanted to share with all the people through this exhibition and we hope that all the people will pray for us and for peace on the Korean peninsula.” Read more