Vatican City, Nov 21, 2015 / 09:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has formally indicted five people for the recent leak and dissemination of private financial documents, including two former members of a Holy See commission and two journalists. A Nov. 21 communique from the Vatican announced that the five would stand trial for the “unlawful disclosure of confidential information and documents.” Those being charged are Spanish Msgr. Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda, Italian PR woman Francesca Chaouqui, Nicola Maio (Vallejo’s secretary), and journalists Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi. On Nov. 10 the Vatican announced it would be investigating Nuzzi and Fittipaldi for publishing the documents. At the same time the Vatican made known that others who, due to their position, could be complicit in having acquired the documents in question, were also being investigated. Though no names were given, it now appears Maio was the one to whom the Vatican was referring.  Msgr. Vallejo and Chaouqui were arrested in relation to the leaks Nov. 2, and were believed to have passed the documents onto Nuzzi and Fittipaldi for publication. Chaouqui was released soon after the arrest in exchange for her cooperation in the impending investigation. Both she and Msgr. Vallejo are former members of the Commission for Reference on the Organization of the Economic Administrative Structure of the Holy See (COSEA). The commission was established by the Pope July 18, 2013, as part of his plan to reform the Vatican’s finances. It was dissolved after completing its mandate. According to the Vatican communique, the trial will begin Nov. 24 at 10:30 a.m. in the Vatican tribunal, the day before Pope Francis leaves for Africa. The communique stated that Msgr. Vallejo, Chaouqui and Maio worked together in forming “an organized criminal association” with the intention of “disclosing information and documents concerning the fundamental interests of the Holy See and the (Vatican City) State.” Nuzzi and Fittipaldi are being charged with illegally procuring and subsequently releasing the private information and documents. Specifically, they are accused of “urging and exerting pressure,” particularly on Msgr. Vallejo, to obtain the private documents and then publish books on the content, which were released earlier this month. The leaking of documents was officially criminalized by the Vatican in 2013, when Nuzzi published a book containing confidential information given to him by Pope Benedict XVI’s butler in what came to be known as the “Vatileaks” scandal. All five will face criminal charges for violating Law IX of the Vatican City State, established July 13, 2013, and holds that stealing confidential documents is a crime punishable with time in prison and hefty fines. Read more

Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 21, 2015 / 05:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Uniting with other major faith groups at an interreligious ‘March for Peace,’ Thai Catholics on Thursday offered prayers for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. “The world is tired of hatred and hungers for peace,” Monsignor Vissanu Thanya-Anan told CNA. “This peace march, a symbol of solidarity with prayers for the victims, is also a chance to show that all religions can live and work harmoniously together and work for the good of the society and country as good citizens,” he said. Msgr. Vissanu serves as deputy secretary-general for the Thai bishops’ conference. He formerly worked as undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. On Nov. 19, he joined Bishop Joseph Chusak Sirisut of Nakhon Ratchasima in leading the Catholic delegation priests, religious and a group of school children at the peace march in front of the French embassy. The march was held to offer prayer and solidarity following the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks throughout the city of Paris, France. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which left 129 dead and more than 300 injured. Thailand’s five major religious groups were all represented at the event. Members of the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities each offered prayers from their own faith tradition and signed a book of condolences. Bishop Chusak, who is the head of the Thai Catholic bishops’ office for interreligious dialogue, led the Catholic portion of the prayer service.   Muslim leaders at the march voiced their pain and anguish at the news of terrorist attacks and rejected the idea that their religion condones violence. The religious leaders also presented French ambassador Gilles Garachon with a joint statement that read, “We join in prayer for the dead, the injured, and the families affected by this tragedy.  May the Merciful Almighty grant the victims eternal rest and offer consolation and hope to the injured and their families.” “Our march for peace today is a symbol of the unity of the five major religious traditions in Thailand. Together we implore the Almighty above to inspire and strengthen us for the building of peace.”   “Violence resolves nothing, and we vigorously condemn every act of violence perpetrated in the name of religion,” they continued. “We invite all to join hands with us to build a sustainable peace through justice, solidarity, and non-discrimination with regard to nationality, religion, caste and color.” Msgr. Vissanu stressed that the Catholic Church is very close to the victims of suffering, persecution and calamity. Pointing to the Holy Father’s continued appeals for peace, he said, “We are inspired and take heed of the teachings of Pope Francis…to seek paths for resolving conflicts and to work for building peace and dialogue.” He also emphasized that his a joint responsibility, saying, “We need the cooperation and goodwill of every responsible citizen to uphold the fundamental rights and dignity of every human person.” The monsignor recalled the Bangkok bombing in August that killed 20 people and injured 125. “The world stood united in solidarity and prayer with Thailand,” he reflected, “and now it is also our reciprocal duty to pray for others…during this difficult moment of grief.”   Read more

New Haven, Conn., Nov 20, 2015 / 12:47 pm (CNA).- Christians fleeing violence in the Middle East are sometimes avoiding refugee camps because they fear genocide even within the camps, some observers are warning.   “It is increasingly cle… Read more

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2015 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his message to Germany’s bishops on Friday, Pope Francis noted a grave lack of participation in the sacraments among Catholics there, and encouraged the bishops to overcome resignation, and to focus on Confession during the Jubilee of Mercy. After thanking the bishops, who are in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visit, for the Church in Germany’s commitment to social and charitable works, the Pope noted that there is “a sharp drop in participation at Sunday Mass, as well as in the sacramental life.” “Whereas in the 1960s the faithful almost everywhere attended Mass every Sunday, today it is often less than 10 percent,” he observed Nov. 20 at the Vatican. “The Sacraments are always approached less often. The Sacrament of Penance is often missing. Fewer and fewer Catholics receive the Sacrament of Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage. The number of vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life has significantly diminished.” “Given these facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.” Faced with this situation, Pope Francis advised that “first you must overcome paralysing resignation. Certainly it is not possible to rebuild from the relics of the ‘good old days’ in the past. We can, however, be inspired the by life of the first Christians.” He pointed to Priscilla and Aquila, companions of St. Paul, whom he said “witnessed with convincing words, but above all with their life, that the truth based on Christ’s love for His Church, is truly worthy of faith.” Their example “can make us reflect, considering the tendency towards a growing institutionalisation. New structures are always being inaugurated, for which in the end there is a lack of faithful. It is a sort of new Pelagianism, which leads us to place our trust in administrative structures, in perfect organisations.” “Excessive centralisation, instead of helping, can complicate the life of the Church and her missionary dynamic,” he observed. “The Church is not a closed system that always revolves around the same questions and inquiries. The Church is living, and she presents herself to men in their own situations; she is able to unsettle, is able to enliven. She has a face that is supple, a body that moves, grows, and experiences feeling: she is the body of Jesus Christ.” Pope Francis said that the imperative now is “pastoral conversion”, or making sure that Church structures are missionary. He noted that as we try to do this, “conditions in society are not entirely favorable. There prevails a certain worldliness. This worldliness deforms the soul, suffocates the consciousness of reality: a worldly person lives in an artificial world, which he himself made.” Such people are “difficult to reach,” he observed. Thus the first response must be prayer, the Pope said, and then “we must remain among the people with the ardour of those who were the first to welcome the Gospel. “In this context of the new evangelisation, it is indispensable for the bishop to diligently perform his function as a teacher of the faith – of the faith transmitted and experienced in the living communion of the universal Church – in the many fields of his pastoral ministry,” Pope Francis reminded the bishops. He said that as “loving fathers”, bishops are to accompany theology faculties to help professors “rediscover the great ecclesial importance of their mission.” “Fidelity to the Church and to the Magisterium does not contradict academic freedom, but requires a humble attitude of service to the gifts of God,” he reminded them. “The sentire cum Ecclesia must characterise in particular those who educate and form the new generations.” He added that the presence of theological faculties at state universities can promote dialogue with society, noting in particular the Catholic University of Eichstätt, which is run by an ecclesial trust but is largely state-funded. Pope Francis then turned to the parish community, “in which we experience and largely live the faith,” saying “the sacramental life must be one of the bishop’s fundamental concerns.” “I would like to emphasize only two points: Confession and the Eucharist. The imminent Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy offers the opportunity to rediscover the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession is the place where the gift of God’s forgiveness and mercy is given. In Confession, there begins the transformation of each Christian and the reform of the Church,” he stated. “I trust that you will give greater attention to this sacrament, which is so important for spiritual renewal, in diocesan and parochial pastoral planning during the Holy Year, as well as afterwards.” The Pope added, “it is also necessary always to emphasise the close relationship between the Eucharist and the priesthood. Pastoral plans that do not attribute adequate importance to priests in their ministry of governing, teaching and sanctifying with regard to the structure and the sacramental life of the Church, experience teaches us, are destined to fail.” “The precious collaboration of the lay faithful, especially in those places where vocations are missing, cannot become a surrogate for the ministerial priesthood, or give it the semblance of being simply ‘optional’. If there is no priest, there is no Eucharist. And the pastoral vocation begins with the ardent desire in the hearts of the faithful to have priests.” Francis then said that “a task of the bishops that is never sufficiently appreciated is commitment to life. The Church must never tire of being an advocate for life and must not take steps back in her announcement that human life is to be protected unconditionally from the moment of conception until natural death.” “Here we must never make compromises, as otherwise we too become accomplices to the unfortunately widespread throwaway culture. How great are the wounds which our society suffers through the  rejection and the ‘throwing away’ of the weakest and most defenceless – unborn life, as well as the elderly and the infirm! All of us in the end will suffer the painful consequences.” Pope Francis also referred to Europe’s refugee crisis, saying that “In the spirit of Christ, we must continue to meet the challenge of the great number of people in need,” but “at the same time, we support all humanitarian initiatives to ensure that the living conditions in the countries of origin become more bearable.” He concluded by telling Germany’s bishops that “I hope your meetings with the Roman Curia in these days can illuminate the path of your particular Churches in the coming years, helping you to rediscover ever more our great spiritual and pastoral patrimony.” “Please continue to pray for me, that with the help of God I can carry out my Petrine ministry. Equally, I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as all the Blessed and Saints of your nation.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2015 / 09:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis today met with Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, discussing both the good relations between Ukraine and the Vatican, as well as their shared concerns over the current conflict wit… Read more

Sao Paulo, Brazil, Nov 20, 2015 / 06:17 am (CNA).- A young Brazilian boy whose solemn reenactment of the Mass drew hordes of online traffic has passed away after nearly two years of battling an aggressive form of cancer. Rafael Freitas, age 4, loved to pretend to celebrate Mass. He said he wanted to be Pope someday. On Nov. 14, he passed away, according to his family. In a Facebook post reflecting on his life, his father Randersson cited the Psalms: “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Last year, a video of Rafael pretending to celebrate Mass went viral, receiving hundreds of thousands of views. The boy, then 3 years old, was receiving treatment at a children’s cancer hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Randersson said that the boy would invite all the patients at the hospital to the common area to attend his “Mass.” According to the diocese of Barretos, Rafael was in his home town of Conceição das Pedras a time between treatments. “There, after seeing his family and spending a few weeks at home, he had to be hospitalized in a neighboring city,” where he passed away shortly after 8:00 pm Saturday, the diocese said.   His parents said that he developed a devotion to the Mass from an early age.   “When he started walking just after he turned one year old, Rafael started imitating the priest every time we went to Mass. When the priest raised up the chalice, he would raise up his little cup in the pew,” Randersson told CNA several months ago. In early 2014, doctors told Rafael’s parents that the little boy was suffering from a stage 4 form of childhood cancer that affects the nervous system and the bones.   Rafael received chemotherapy in March 2014 at Children’s Hospital in the city of Barretos, but doctors said there was no hope he would recover. Once at the hospital chapel where Rafael attends Mass with his parents, the boy asked the chaplain for a peculiar gift: a paten, the small golden plate used at Mass to hold the Host. The priest gave him one and also gave him a small tunic and stole made just to fit him.   “The priest thought Rafael’s request was so beautiful that he gave him a whole set of unused liturgical objects. The day he received them he must have celebrated 300 hundred Masses,” his father joked. “He was still ‘celebrating’ Mass at 11 o’clock that night.” His father said it was “the best gift” his son could have received. “We (his mother and I) are extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and we strive to attend Mass every day,” Randersson said. The burial for Rafael took place Nov. 15 at Conceição das Pedras. After saying goodbye to their son, Rafael’s parents decided to donate their little boy’s belonging to children’s institutions. They hope that this can be one more way for their young son to touch the lives of others. Earlier this year, Randersson told CNA that “every day when Rafael is asleep we pray for him and consecrate his life to God, we ask that he can fulfill the mission that Jesus has for him. And as his name Rafael means God’s medicine, we pray that that he can cure people from the absence of God.”   Read more

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2015 / 03:30 am (CNA).- At their annual fall meeting in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops voted to issue a new introductory note and make limited revisions to their quadrennial statement on political responsibility. But while the v… Read more

Rome, Italy, Nov 19, 2015 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Peter’s Basilica tops the list of potential targets for terrorist attacks in Rome and Milan, the U.S. Embassy in Rome said Wednesday, in the wake of Islamic State militants’ Nov. 13… Read more

Rome, Italy, Nov 19, 2015 / 04:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Peter’s Basilica tops the list of potential targets for terrorist attacks in Rome and Milan, the U.S. Embassy in Rome said Wednesday, in the wake of Islamic State militants’ Nov. 13… Read more

Baltimore, Md., Nov 19, 2015 / 03:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The case of the Little Sisters of the Poor before the Supreme Court may determine if the United States will continue to have a diverse public square, said the head of the U.S. bishops’ religious liberty committee. The case is about “the tyranny of uniformity,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore told CNA. The Little Sisters of the Poor have challenged the HHS contraception mandate on the grounds that it violates their freedom to live out their religious beliefs in public. Archbishop Lori said the administration is effectively telling the sisters, “you must play by our rules,” he explained; but the Church is “different, and we still have our place in the public square.” “We would like to run our health insurance programs in a way that conforms as well to our moral teaching,” he explained. In 2012, the Obama administration mandated under its health care law that all employers provide coverage in employee health plans for contraceptives, sterilizations, and drugs that can cause abortions. They later offered what it called an accommodation for some religiously-affiliated groups and non-profits that objected to the mandate on grounds that it forced them to act against their consciences. In the revised rules, the parties would notify the government of their religious objection, who in turn would direct their insurers to provide the mandated coverage. Critics charged that the cost for the drugs and procedures would still be passed on to the employers, and many of the objecting parties, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Archdiocese of Washington, said they were still being forced to act against their conscience under the offered accommodation. The Little Sisters of the Poor challenged the mandate in court but lost their case at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in July. The ruling determined that the government’s accommodation did not put a substantial burden on their free exercise of religion. The sisters filed for and received a temporary injunction against the law and appealed their case to the Supreme Court, which agreed Nov. 6 to hear the case along with the other challenges to the mandate. The injunction will expire if the Supreme Court rules against the sisters. Archbishop Lori insisted the Little Sisters should be exempt from the mandate because of their religious work. “When you go to see the sisters, as I do – I’m very good friends with the Little Sisters of the Poor –  and you spend any time at all in their home, you know it’s a work of religion,” he said. “You know it’s motivated by faith. And so it’s hard to understand why a ministry such as that would not be completely exempt from anything that compromises their faith in any way.” Archbishop Lori spoke with CNA on the second day of the annual fall general assembly of the U.S. bishops’ conference in Baltimore. During the first two days of the session the bishops adopted a formal statement on pornography, approved an amended version of their 2007 voting guide “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” and elected six committee chairs. In his Nov. 16 address to the bishops on religious liberty, Archbishop Lori warned that current threats to the beliefs of religious institutions, such as the HHS mandate, could dismantle the diverse public square that is so necessary to a free society. If religious organizations such as schools and hospitals must close their doors rather than comply with a law that forces them to act against their religious beliefs, he explained, the public square will become less diverse and pluralistic. “We are not isolated individuals, but members of communities,” he said, adding that such communities as schools, families, and charities should all have the freedom to practice their beliefs in public. “The struggle for religious freedom is not only a struggle for the survival of our institutions, important as that is, but indeed it is a struggle for a public square that welcomes a plurality of visions and communities,” he told the bishops.   “We are standing for the space that civil society needs” in order to flourish, he continued. “Pope Francis has called attention to the need for a healthy pluralism. This is a vision that is attractive. Who really wants a secularized public square stripped of all differences?” Pope Francis spoke very clearly about this when he was in the U.S., Archbishop Lori continued. “I think the Pope gave us [U.S. bishops] great support when he was here,” he told CNA of the Pope’s September visit to the U.S. “He put it [religious freedom] in the context of serving the poor and the needy and the vulnerable, and so have the U.S. bishops done as well.” Pope Francis even made a short, unscheduled stop at the Little Sisters of the Poor home in D.C. as a sign of support for them in their mandate case, the archbishop pointed out. That detail was first revealed in the Sept. 23 evening press conference by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi. In Philadelphia that weekend, Pope Francis had warned of “the challenge of modern tyranny which imposes what he called a ‘false uniformity’,” Archbishop Lori continued. In his address to the general assembly, the archbishop also announced developments for next year’s “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two week-long campaign of prayer, education, and action for religious freedom from June 21-July 4. “Witness to Freedom” will be theme of the 2016 fortnight, an opportunity to “remember those witnesses past and present throughout the Church … who testify to the meaning of freedom of conscience and of obedience to the truth,” he explained. First-class relics and possessions of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher will make a U.S. tour in 2016, he noted. All this will be an opportunity for Catholics “to pray for the modern-day martyrs for faith.”Photo credit: Read more

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