Rome, Italy, Nov 15, 2015 / 11:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis paid a visit to Rome’s Lutheran community, where he took questions and told attendees that what we will ultimately be judged on is how we cared for the poor and less fortunate. “What will the Lord ask us on that day? Did you go to Mass? Have you prepared a good catechesis?” the Pope said Nov. 15. While these things are important, the deeper questions will be “on the poor. Because poverty is the center of the Gospel. He, being rich, was made poor in order to enrich us with his poverty.” Jesus didn’t consider it a privilege to be God, but instead “humbled himself unto death, death on a cross. It’s the choice of service,” Francis said. It’s the choice we will be faced with when we meet Jesus face to face: “did you use your life for yourself or to serve? To defend yourself from others with walls, or to welcome with love? This will be the final decision of Jesus.” Pope Francis traveled to the Lutheran Evangelical parish Christuskirche Sunday afternoon, where he met with leaders and other members of the community, and participated in their liturgy. After answering three questions from members of the community in different states in life, the Pope gave a brief homily on the day’s Gospel, taken from Matthew Chapter 13, in which Jesus speaks of how the end times will be.    In his homily, Francis noted how Jesus had to make choices, from calling the first disciples, to the sick whom he cured. People listened to Jesus because “he spoke as one who had authority, not like the doctors of the law, who strutted around” flaunting their knowledge, he said. Jesus gained followers because he was authentic, and made his choices with love, as well as his corrections, the Pope continued. “He always guided and accompanied.” An example the Pope gave was how Jesus walked with the disciples from Emmaus, who were leaving Jerusalem. In an act of “visible tenderness,” Jesus accompanied them and when the time was right revealed himself, giving them back their hope. Francis concluded his homily saying that the day’s passage has a lot to show us about Jesus, and asked the congregation where they, as Catholics and Lutherans, stand. “What side are we on?” he asked, saying that all of us, as Lutherans and Catholics, have a choice to make: “the choice of service as he taught us being the servant of the Lord.” Jesus “also serves for unity, which helps us to walk together,” he said, noting how the two congregations had just prayed together, and in many situations “loved together” by working to care for the poor and the needy. He closed by praying for the grace of “reconciled diversity… (to be like) God who came to us to serve and not to be served.” Before his homily, Pope Francis took questions from a child in the community, a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic man, and a woman who works in a project that helps refugees from North Africa. When asked by 8-year-old Julius what his favorite thing about being Pope is, Francis said that “honestly, being a priest, being a shepherd.” “I don’t like the bureaucratic work, I don’t like interviews, protocol, but I have to do it. But what I like most is being a pastor,” he said, adding that his favorite part of being a pastor is working with children. He also said he likes to serve, and that he feels good when he visits prisoners and the sick, and is able to speak “with people who are a little desperate or sad.” “To be Pope is to be a bishop, to be a priest, to be a shepherd. If a Pope isn’t a bishop, a priest and a shepherd, he will be very important, very intelligent and very influential in society…but I think that in his heart he’s not happy.” When asked by Anke de Bernardinis, a Lutheran woman married to a Roman Catholic man, how she and her husband can be united in communion, Pope Francis said that the answer is “not easy.” While someone with more background in theology might be able to give a better answer, Francis said that as Christians we all have the same baptism, and that going to each other’s services is a way to participate in the Lord’s Supper together. “You are a witness of a profound journey, because it’s a conjugal journey, the journey of a family, of human love, of shared faith,” he said, noting that praying together helps keep their common baptism alive. Francis said he would “never dare to give permission” on anything regarding communion, because “it’s not my competence,” but again stressed that we all share “one baptism, one Lord, one faith.” The last question was posed by Gertude Witmer, the community’s treasurer who helps out with a project supporting 80 young mothers and children from North Africa. She asked what Christians can do in order to eliminate walls and resentment toward refugees.   In his reply, the Pope noted how from the first pages of Genesis man was already building walls that separated him from God. “There is a fantasy behind human walls, the fantasy of becoming like God,” he said, adding that this is also the case behind the destruction of the Tower of Babel. “The Tower of Babel is exactly the attitude of the men and woman who build walls, because to build walls is to say ‘we are powerful, and you are outside,’” he said. “Walls always exclude, they prefer power, in this case the power of money.” Francis said that the wall can be considered “the monument of exclusion,” and questioned attendees on how often “the riches” of vanity and pride have become a wall for them, separating them from the Lord. He said the remedy for building walls is found in one word: “service.” Jesus gives us the example of what this service looks like when he washes the feet of his disciples and serves those most in need, he said. The human ego always wants to defend itself and its own power, Francis observed, but noted that in doing so, “it distances itself from the source of wealth.” “In the end, walls are like a suicide, they make you closed. It’s a terrible thing to see a closed heart, and today we see it,” the Pope said. In a final remark he noted how Mother Theresa’s effort to help the poor die in dignity has been criticized as not making a difference, but was rather a small drop in a vast ocean. However, “after this drop the ocean is not the same,” the Pope said, adding that “with service, the walls always fall on their own, but our egoism, our desire for power always tries to make them.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2015 / 05:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis again expressed shock and sorrow for Friday’s terror attacks in Paris, condemning the acts as an “affront to human dignity,” and encouraging attendees to find hope in Jesus. “I wish to express my deep sorrow for the terrorist attacks which on Friday evening covered France in blood,” the Pope said in his Nov. 15 Angelus address. “Such barbarity leaves us shocked and makes us wonder how the human heart can conceive and carry out such horrible events, which have shaken not only France but the entire world.” Speaking to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said that when faced with such “intolerable” acts of violence, one “cannot but condemn the disgraceful affront to human dignity.” Francis assured his closeness to French president Francois Hollande, as well as to the families of the dead and wounded, entrusting them to the mercy of God. “I wish to forcefully reaffirm that the path of violence and hate can never solve the problems of humanity!” he said, adding that “to use the name of God to justify this path is blasphemy.” He prayed that Mary would protect and watch over France, Europe and the entire world, and paused for a moment of silence before leading pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary. The Pope’s comments come in wake of the worst terrorist attack Europe has seen since the Madrid train bombings of 2004, when Islamic extremists killed 191 people. On Nov. 13 eight Islamic terrorists carried out a violent siege across Paris, targeting bars, restaurants, a concert hall and a football stadium in the heart of the city. It was the deadliest attack on French soil since WWII, killing at least 129 people and leaving 352 injured, 99 of whom remain in critical condition, Reuters news reports. Eyewitnesses reported hearing the terrorists cry out “Allahu Akbar!” – Arabic for “God is Great!” as the violence unraveled. In his reflections on the day’s Gospel, Pope Francis focused on Jesus’ description of the end times in the day’s Gospel, taken from Mark Chapter 13. Among the apocalyptic signs Jesus mentions are wars, famines and cosmic catastrophes, such as the darkening of the sun and the moon. However, the Pope emphasized that these elements “are not the essential part of the message.” The heart of Jesus’ message, Francis said, “is himself; the mystery of his person and of his death and resurrection, and his return to the end of time.” Our ultimate goal is to encounter the Risen Lord, he said, explaining that “we aren’t waiting for a time or a place, but we’re going toward a person: Jesus.” Because of this, our main concern shouldn’t be how or when the signs will occur, but rather to be ready, and focused on how we should live and act today, he said. He turned to the parable Jesus tells his disciples of the fig tree that sprouts and grows leaves when the summer is near. What the image shows us, he said, is that “the prospect of the end doesn’t distract us from present life, but makes us look to our days with a perspective of hope.” “That virtue is so hard to live: hope. It’s the smallest of the virtues, but it’s the strongest,” he said, adding that our hope is found in a concrete person: “the face of the Risen Lord.” Jesus’ victory at the end times will be the triumph of his Cross, Francis said. It is the proof that self-sacrifice done out of love for another is “the only victorious power” and the only stable point in the midst of the tragedies and turmoil of the world. In addition to being the final destination of our earthly pilgrimage, Jesus is also a constant presence in our lives, he said, explaining that Jesus references the future as a means of inspiring his disciples to live the present better. “(Jesus) stands against false prophets, against the visionaries who perceive that the end of the world is near, and against fatalism,” the Pope said, explaining that in every age the Lord seeks to rescue his disciples from “curiosity, dates, projections, horoscopes,” and to help them focus on the present. In off-the-cuff remarks, Pope Francis asked how many of those gathered read daily horoscopes. He told them not to answer aloud, but to respond “internally.” For those who read it, Francis told them instead to turn to Jesus, “who is with you,” adding that “It’s better. It will be better for you.” The Pope closed by stressing the importance of being vigilant, and warned against the extremes of either impatience or “drowsiness,” as well as the temptations to either look too far into the future or remain too attached to the present, without thinking about our final destination. “Even to this day there is no shortage of natural and moral disasters, nor of adversity and hardships of every kind,” he said, and reminded attendees that the Lord is the “only guiding light that refreshes our steps.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2015 / 04:01 am (CNA).- Those who haven’t made it to the world famous Vatican Museums needn’t worry – the Church’s treasures will now come to them through a new DVD series aimed at sharing the small country’s rich patrimony with the world. “The idea was to do a series of six DVDs that can help those who have seen the Museums as well as those who will never go to understand the patrimony that we have,” Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano told CNA. Msgr. Vigano is the current head of the Vatican Television Center, and earlier this year was named prefect of the Vatican’s new Communications department, which is still under structural development. An initiative of CTV, the series is titled “Discovering the Vatican Museums,” and is guided by Italian paleontologist Alberto Angela.   Other agencies also collaborated in the project, including Italy’s national public broadcasting company Rai Com and the Editorial Team of the Italian magazine L’Espresso. The new series on the Vatican Museums follows a similar project done with the same team last year, titled “Discovering the Vatican.” While last year’s series covered everything in the Vatican from St. Peter’s Basilica to the Vatican Gardens and the Vatican’s Post Office, the new series covers the museums exclusively. DVDs for the new series will go on sale one at a time each week, beginning Saturday, Nov. 14, at the individual price of 9.90 euros. They are divided according to the different artistic periods represented in the museums, each covering everything from the Renaissance to contemporary art. With the arrangement set up like this, anyone who purchases the set “can decide to do six visits to the Museums, preparing themselves six times,” Msgr. Vigano said. He said the new series offers viewers a unique journey “through the extraordinary treasures of the Vatican Museums,” which then become a way to understand their value. The works, he said, are able to move people with their beauty, “which reveals exactly the experience of God.” The filming team also had the opportunity to visit the museums at night, giving viewers an after-hours look at the Vatican’s vast collection of art and artifacts. Special features can be activated in the DVDs, such as images filmed with wide-angle lenses, as well as the option for viewers to see the museums from their point of view as a man or woman walking through. “This gives a very important, very beautiful impact,” Msgr. Vigano said, adding that some parts were done with “interesting optics” and small details “that enrich the narration.” “I think it will be a very educative series…it brings to humanity the fact of understanding how art is an expressive form of humanity to recount the deepest happenings of the human heart and of the experience of God.” Alberto Angela, the host of the new series, told CNA that the Vatican Museums “aren’t just a collection of beautiful works,” but are a fundamental means of understanding humanity’s sense of beauty over the previous 100 generations. “There were the artistic protagonists, but also lesser people who in the past 250-300 years sought to give their testimony on what was beauty was, what makes you dream. It could be Michelangelo’s Pieta, it could be the face of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.” He said that Italians are fortunate to be born and raised in a culture that is surrounded by the past. The Vatican Museums are unique in this sense because they don’t fall into “the cliché of the gladiator in the colosseum” or the ruins of Pompeii, but rather help visitors to see “the daily life of 2,000 years ago.” And this, Angela said, “makes you realize that your way of thinking arrived directly from them.” Read more

Washington D.C., Nov 14, 2015 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- Leading Catholic bishops met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday and had a discussed a number of issues including religious liberty, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirmed… Read more

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2015 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Friday referred to the enduring relevance of two thinkers who have had a profound impact on his own thought: Romano Guardini, an early 20th century theologian, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a 19th century novelist. “I am convinced that Guardini is a thinker who has much to say to the people of our time, and not only to Christians,” the Pope said Nov. 13 at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. He was addressing the Romano Guardini Foundation, which he said is “bringing Guardini’s thought into conversation with the spheres of politics, culture and science of today.” Guardini was a priest who was among the leaders of the Liturgical Movement, and influenced the Second Vatican Council and both St. John Paul II and, particularly, Benedict XVI. He is also a major influence on Pope Francis, who quoted him five times in his encyclical Laudato si’, and once each in Lumen fidei and Evangelii gaudium. Francis has also quoted him in speeches and interviews. Pope Francis has similarly referred to Dostoyevsky in Lumen fidei, speeches, and multiple interviews. During Friday’s speech, he began by referencing Guardini’s own book The Religious World of Dostoyevsky. He recalled that in the work, Guardini discussed an episode in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov  evidencing mercy, in which a woman goes for spiritual guidance to the monk Elder Zosima. The Pope said that the priest “shows a way out” to the woman who is in despair: “Her life has meaning, because God will receive her at the moment of repentance.” Pope Francis quoted the words of Elder Zosima to the woman: “Do not fear. Never fear, and do not be sad, so long as your remorse does not dry up, God forgives everything. There is no sin on the whole Earth that God will not forgive if you show true remorse. Man is unable to commit a sin that is too great for God’s unending love.” The Pope commented, “In confession the woman is transformed and receives new hope.” “The simplest people understand what this is about,” he continued. “They perceive the greatness that shines in [Zosima’s] wisdom and the strength of his love. They understand what holiness means, that is, an existence lived in faith, able to see that God is close to man, that he holds their life in his hands.” He then quoted Guardini’s work on Dostoyevsky, saying, “by accepting with simplicity existence in the hand of God, personal will transforms into divine will and in this way, without the creature ceasing to be only a creature and God truly God, their living unity is brought about.” This, Pope Francis, said, “is the profound vision of Guardini,” suggesting it is the foundation of his first work of metaphysics. “For Guardini, this ‘living unity’ with God consists in the concrete relationship of persons with the world and with others around them. The individual feels a part of the fabric of a people, that is, in an ‘original union of men who by type, nation, and historical evolution in life and destinies are a unique whole’,” he said, quoting from the author’s The Meaning of the Church. Guardini, Pope Francis stated, meant “a people” not in an individualistic sense inherited from the Enlightenment and a narrowed rationalism, but rather a “compendium of what in man is genuine, profound and substantial,” leading to the finding of God’s will not in isolation but in a community. “Perhaps we can apply Guardini’s reflections to our own time, seeking to uncover the hand of God in current events,” he concluded. “In this way we will perhaps be able to recognise that God, in his wisdom, sent us, in rich Europe, the hungry to be fed, the thirsty to slake their thirst, the stranger to be welcomed, and the naked to be clothed. History then shows this: if we are a people, we will certainly welcome these as our brothers; if we are merely a group of individuals, we will be tempted only to save our own skins, but we will have no continuity.” The Romano Guardini Foundation is attending a conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University celebrating the 130th anniversary of the birth of their namesake. Pope Francis ended his address to them by thanking them for their work with Guardini’s thought, which he said will help to ever more “understand the meaning and value of the Christian foundations of culture and society. From my heart I bless you, and I ask you to please pray for me.” Read more

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2015 / 04:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The acts of terrorism which took place in Paris Friday night are the latest part in what Pope Francis has called a “piecemeal World War III,” describing the attacks as “inhuman.” “There is no justification for these things,” the pontiff said in a phone interview Saturday with TV 2000, the official broadcasting station for the Italian Bishops Conference. Speaking in response to the Nov. 13 attacks, which are the deadliest acts of violence the city has seen since the World War II, the Pope said he is “moved and pained” by what happened, and expressed his closeness to those affected by the tragedy. “I am close to the people of France, to the families of the victims, and I am praying for all of them,” he said. “These things are hard to understand,” he said, adding that he “loves France very much.” At least 128 people are confirmed dead and more than 180 wounded in terrorist attacks which targeted bars, restaurants, a concert hall, and a football stadium in the heart of Paris on Nov. 13. Around 80 people are listed in critical condition, according to the BBC. The deadliest attack came when militants overtook the Bataclan concert hall, in which at least 82 people were killed, after the terrorists had seized dozens of hostages. Eyewitnesses reported  hearing the terrorists cry out “Allahu Akbar!” – Arabic for “God is Great!” The terrorists carried out the siege with suicide bombs and semi-automatic weapons. Police have said all eight attackers are dead. In the wake of the attacks, Paris archbishop Cardinal André Vingt-Trois in a Nov. 14 statement appealed for the grace to be “artisans of peace.” He stressed that “we must never despair of peace if we are to build justice. “Faced with the violence of men,” he said,  “we can receive the grace of a steadfast heart without hate.” The French prelate called for people to not give in to panic or hatred. “This morning I pray and I invite the Catholics of Paris to pray for those who were killed yesterday and for their families,” Cardinal André Vingt-Trois continued. He also called for prayers for the injured, those working to help those affected by the crisis, and the nation’s leaders in order that they “remain together in unity and peace of heart.” “We ask for the grace to be artisans of peace. We must never despair of peace, if you justice,” he said. The BBC reports that French president Francois Hollande has called the attacks “an act of war” by ISIS. The French president declared a nationwide state of emergency soon after the rampage began and closed the country’s borders. Parisians were urged to stay in doors. This is the second and deadlier of two sieges against Paris by Islamic terrorists in 2015. 12 people were killed on Jan. 7 when Islamic terrorists stormed the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.Updated: Nov. 14, 2015 at 3:30pm Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, sent a telegram to Cardinal Vingt-Trois on behalf of Pope Francis, assuring the archbishop of Paris of his prayers for those affected by “horrific terrorist attacks.” “The Holy Father vigorously condemns violence, which cannot solve anything,” the telegram reads, according to Vatican Radio’s translation of the message which was originally written in French. “He asks God to inspire thoughts of peace and solidarity in all and to impart on families in this trial and on all of the French people, the abundance of His Blessings.” The telegram by saying the Pope prays that God might “welcome the victims into the peace of His light and bring comfort and hope to the injured and their families,” and assured his “spiritual closeness” to the French people.   Read more

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2015 / 04:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday the names of the 15 cardinals and bishops chosen to prepare for the next synod were announced by the Vatican – one of them being Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The names of the new members of the synod council were announced in a Nov. 14 communique from the Vatican. The Council for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops is charged with preparing for the Ordinary Synod, which takes place every three years to discuss a specific theme of importance in the Church. Serving as an advisory body to the Pope, the synod of bishops was established by Pope Paul VI in 1965 by the motu proprio Apostolica sollicitudo to “strengthen (the Pope’s) union” with other bishops and to “establish even closer ties” with them. It consists of a group of bishops from around the world who meet every three years “to foster closer unity between the Roman Pontiff and bishops, to assist the Roman Pontiff with their counsel … and to consider questions pertaining to the activity of the Church in the world,” according to canon law. Ahead of each gathering a theme is selected by the Pope, and the council prepares for the synod according to the topic chosen. The Pope can also call an Extraordinary Synod if he feels that the theme needs further discussion, as was the case with the 2014 extraordinary synod on the family. The Synod Council is composed of a permanent Secretary General (Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri) and Undersecretary (Bishop Fabio Fabene), as well as 15 members – 3 from each continent, with Asia and Oceana (Australia) counted as one – and three appointed by the Pope. Of the 15 members 12 are nominated by the cardinals and bishops at the end of the Ordinary synod meeting, and serve a three year term. Once their term finishes with the close of the Ordinary Synod, a new council is elected to prepare for the next one. In addition to Archbishop Chaput, other members elected to prepare for the 2018 synod are: Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments; Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation of Bishops; Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa; Cardinal Christoph Shoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna; Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila; Cardinal George Pell, Prefect for the Secretariat of the Economy; Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Archbishop Mathieu Madega Lebouakehan of Mouila, Gabon, and Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto. The three members appointed by Pope Francis himself are: Archbishop Louis Raphael Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid and Archbishop Sergio Da Rocha Archbishop of Brazil and president of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference. Read more

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2015 / 06:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After Friday evening’s devastating terror attacks throughout Paris that are reported to have claimed over 100 lives, the Vatican voiced its dismay over the events and urged a “decisive” response. “We are shocked by this new manifestation of maddening, terrorist violence and hatred which we condemn in the most radical way together with the Pope and all those who love peace,” Holy See press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. “We pray for the victims and the wounded, and for all the French people. This is an attack on peace for all humanity, and it requires a decisive, supportive response on the part of all of us as we counter the spread the homicidal hatred in all of its forms.” Numerous attacks across the city of Paris were reported on the evening of Nov. 13. Explosions were reported near the Stade de France, the national stadium where a soccer match was underway. Shootings were reported in the area of the famous Louvre museum and the nearby Les Halles shopping mall, as well as Le Petit Cambodge restaurant. In addition, dozens of hostages were reportedly held at Bataclan concert hall. French police stormed the concert hall and later declared the hostage situation over, saying that they had killed two attackers. AFP quoted police sources saying about  100 people had been killed in the concert venue. Amid the violence, French President Francois Hollande announced a state of emergency throughout the entire country and said that the nation’s borders would be closed. Global leaders from U.S. president Barack Obama to British prime minister David Cameron, as well heads of state from around the world expressed outrage and sadness over the grisly attacks. Church leaders also voiced their solidarity with the victims and their families. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged prayer for all involved, with individual bishops posting their reactions via social media. “May St. Denis and Our Lady of Lourdes intercede tonight for the people of Paris,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska said on Twitter. “My prayers are with the people of Paris tonight. Let us pray for the victims, the hostages, and their families,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth also voiced prayers on Twitter. Read more

Paris, France, Nov 13, 2015 / 04:34 pm (CNA).- Amid devastating attacks at locations throughout Paris, Church leaders are calling for prayer.   Prayers for Paris tonight. — US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) November 13, 2015 “May St Denis and Our Lady of Lourdes intercede tonight for the people of Paris,” Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska said on Twitter. “My prayers are with the people of Paris tonight. Let us pray for the victims, the hostages, and their families,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth also voiced prayers on Twitter. Numerous attacks across the city of Paris were reported on the evening of Nov. 13. Explosions were reported near the Stade de France, the national stadium where a soccer match was underway. Shootings were reported in the area of the famous Louvre museum and the nearby Les Halles shopping mall, as well as Le Petit Cambodge restaurant. In addition, dozens of hostages were reportedly held at Bataclan concert hall. French police stormed the concert hall and later declared the hostage situation over, saying that they had killed two attackers. AFP quoted police sources saying about 100 people had been killed in the concert venue. Amid the attacks, French President Francois Hollande announced a state of emergency throughout the entire country and said that the nation’s borders would be closed.Updated on Nov. 14, 2015 at 9:40 a.m. MST: As of Saturday, Nov. 14, Paris officials have estimated the fatalities at 127, with 300 people injured, 80 of them critically. According to French president Francois Hollande, the Islamic terrorist group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Eight of the alleged gunman are said to have been killed, either by French police fire or suicide bombing. Accomplices in the attack may still be at large. Hollande declared a national emergency Friday night and has had the country’s borders closed. He has also mandated three official days of mourning. A memorial Mass is slated to take place at the city’s Notre Dame cathedral on Sunday evening.   Read more

Barcelona, Spain, Nov 13, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA).- A man who identified himself as a former missionary with the pseudonym of “Paulino” recently made accusations to the Spanish press that he had been a sex slave of a religious congregation which has roots in Barcelona. He is accusing the Missionary Community of the Saint Paul the Apostle (MCSPA), founded by the late Spanish priest Fr. Francisco Andreo García. The community has a presence in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Malawi, Germany, Colombia, and the Philippines. “Paulino” has also accused the Church of allegedly covering up his case.“Paulino”’s account In statements made to the Spanish daily El País in early November, Paulino told how he was a “work and sex slave of a group of depraved men” in the MCSPA. “In the three years I was at the Nariokotome mission in  Kenya they treated me like a beast of burden. There were about 30 of us working as slave laborers and to that they added sexual slavery,” he claimed. Paulino, who has been identified only as Bolivian to preserve his anonymity, said that inside the MCSPA “they told us that an active sexual life is something that God wants, and that he also wanted us to go around naked because he created us naked.” In his message published in El Pais, the former missionary asks for Pope Francis’ help to give him “a bit of relief for my broken soul” and to “not let other men continue going through this hell.” The accusations of abuse focus especially on Fr. Andreo García, Fr. Alberto Salvans, and Fr. Pere Cané. The three have a common history in a controversial formation house called “Casa de Santiago,” created decades ago in Barcelona to promote late vocations.Abuses? Starting when? Various news sources report a variety of alleged abuses against minors in parishes in the late 1970s in Barcelona. At the time there was a laywoman’s order associated with the Casa de Santiago called “Claraeulalies.” The Germinans Germinabit website, reporting on Church controversies in Catalonia, states that the first scandal at Casa de Santiago “broke out because of several cases of girls in the (Claraeulalies) order who had gotten pregnant.” “But the biggest scandal occurred  involving an association called Nous Camins (New Ways) directed by the founder of Casa de Santiago, Father Francisco Andreo García, who acted along with a series of deacons, among whom Albert Salvans Giralt and Pere Cané Gombau stand out. The most notable case involving Nous Camins, Germinans Geminabit states, “happened at Saint Pius X parish where three girls between the ages of 14 and 17, who were part of Deacon Salvans’ group, accused him of forcing them to carry on a sexual relationship with him.” “The families of the minor girls reported the facts to the pastor, Father Soler Perdigó – who later became the auxiliary bishop of Barcelona and Bishop of Girona – and also to Cardinal (Narisco) Jubany. However, both of them pressured the victims not to go file a complaint with the civil courts. The complaint also included Deacon Pere Cané Gombau since he participated in trips and excursions with Salvans’ group.” The Catalan website also reports that the “sect-like” nature of Nous Camins tried to take advantage of the minor girls of wealthy families by using them “to pull in donations from big Catalan  businesses” while they “initiated them from when they were quite little into a world where everything revolved around sex, with the excuse that they needed to become uninhibited because they had problems owing to a lack of affection.” When Cardinal Jubany was informed of the accusations, he assured that the accused would be quickly dealt with.The Archdiocese of Barcelona issues a statement The Archdiocese of Barcelona told CNA Nov. 10 that in the 1980s “all appropriate measures” were “very strictly” carried out and were undertaken by Cardinal Narcíso Jubany and afterwards by his successor, Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles Gordo, “applying appropriate penalties in the case.” The archdiocese explained that Salvans and Cané “were punished, as they were deacons,” but lamented, “we don’t have any information available on Father Andreo.” Even though Cardinal Jubany may have offered to expel both deacons, this never would  have had any real effect. “Alberto Salvans and  Pere Cané left our archdiocese in the 1980s, showing up later in other dioceses in England and the U.S. where they supposedly remain, having no connection with the Archdiocese of Barcelona for years,” the archdiocese pointed out. Salvans managed to be ordained as a priest in the Archdiocese of Westminster, while Cané was ordained in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Although some accuse the Archdiocese of Barcelona of failing to report on the sanctions against the two deacons, the archdiocese defends itself, maintaining, “there is no record they asked for the mandatory reports prior to their ordination in the other dioceses.” The Archdiocese of Barcelona also pointed out that the controversial Casa de Santiago was suppressed by Cardinal Carles on Oct. 4, 1994. After the Casa de Santiago was dissolved, Father Francisco Andreo García founded the now in question  Missionary Community of the Saint  Paul the Apostle, with  Salvans and Cané as close collaborators.The accused defend themselves In response to an inquiry from CNA, the Board of Directors of the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle, which is now headquartered in Milwaukee, refuted the  “false accusations” against them, and complained that “the testimony of so many families and young people that have spent years living together with the missionaries” is being ignored. According to the organization, the report in the Spanish press “has no credibility” since “ the sole specific reference that appears is a complaint or accusation by someone hiding behind anonymity.” “Additionally, the person who appears to be the one accused died two years ago, which makes it very difficult for him to defend himself. Everything else is highly implausible generic assertions, devoid of the least corroboration,” the missionary community contended. The MCSPA maintained that their work has always been carried out “with transparency, and following the directives of the bishops and Church authorities, who know us fully and firsthand, without us having anything to hide.” The organization now being questioned published on their website a statement similar to what was sent to CNA, also characterizing the accusations as “radically false and lacking all credibility” and complaining of the “similar defamation of our beloved Paco (Francisco Andreo), who died in 2013.” The Archdiocese of Barcelona clarified that other organizations with ties to the Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle, such as Nous Camins and the Emalaikat Foundation, do not have any relationship with, nor are they recognized by, the local Church. “The Archdiocese of Barcelona maintains no relationship with any one of the civil associations that are mentioned. Therefore, neither do they have any recognition on the part of our archdiocese,” they stated.   The current accusations as well as those from the 1980ss would already be in the hands of the Holy See according to the Archdiocese of Barcelona. “Paulino” himself trusts that the Pope will lend his help so that “what happened to me will not keep on happening to others.” At press time, the MCSPA told ACI Prensa that Father Pere Cané “has not been a member” since 2008, while Father Alberto Salvans “is a member and has no leadership role” in the organization. Read more

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