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Bishop: Congo 'gained heroes' when protesters shed blood

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jan 17, 2018 / 12:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo held a memorial Mass Friday for protesters killed last month while demonstrating against the presidency of Joseph Kabila.

Catholic leaders were outspoken during the Jan. 12 Mass, honoring the victims of an anti-Kabila protest held on Dec. 31. During the New Year’s Eve demonstration, six people were killed and more than 120 were arrested.  

The country’s Catholic and Protestant leaders had called for peaceful marches to protest the continued presidency of Kabila, according to the Daily Mail.

Activists and observers say that police and military forces used violence to disrupt the protests. Days after the fatal event, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa, accused security forces of opening fire on peaceful protesters, calling their actions “nothing less than barbarism.”

Cardinal Monsengwo, who has become known for public criticism of the Kabila government, celebrated the memorial Mass on Friday.

The Mass at Kinshasa Cathedral last week drew a large crowd of locals, and diplomatic representatives from the United States, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the EU, and the Vatican, the Daily Mail reported.

“If we have lost a brother, a sister, we have gained heroes, real ones, because they have mingled their blood with that of all those who have died for a change of power, the guarantee of democracy,” Bishop Donatien Bafuidinsoni said during the Mass on Jan. 12.

After the Mass, police fired warning shots and teargas to disband worshippers outside the cathedral, where a few people sustained injuries.

Kabila has been Congo’s president since 2001, but failed to step down at the end of his constitutionally-limited two terms of power in 2016. Congolese bishops stepped in to help broker terms with the president in which both parties agreed that new presidential elections would be held in December 2017.

However, the country’s electoral commission postponed the original date, saying an election could not be organized until December 2018. Many of the president’s opponents believe that Kabila has no intention of leaving his position of power, despite the calls for his resignation.

Political tensions have risen as Kabila continues to postpone elections. Dozens have died during protests against Kabila, and some fear the return of a civil war within the country.

“We are witnessing a campaign of propaganda, of disinformation, of libel even, orchestrated by heads of the institutions of the republic against the Catholic church and its leadership,” said Fr. Donatien Nshole, a Church spokesman.

He encouraged Catholics to “peacefully block all attempts to confiscate or seize power by non-democratic or anti-constitutional ways.”

Pope Francis meets with sex abuse victims in Chile

Santiago, Chile, Jan 16, 2018 / 08:13 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met privately Tuesday with 6 victims of sexual abuse committed by priests in Chile, the papal spokesman has reported. The meeting had not been previously announced as a part of the Pope’s schedule.

"Today after lunch, the Holy Father met with a small group of victims of sexual abuse committed by priests, at the Apostolic Nunciature in Santiago. The meeting was strictly private, and there was no one else present: only the Pope and the victims. In this way, the were able to share their sufferings with Pope Francis, who listened to them, and prayed and cried with them," reported Greg Burke, director of the Vatican’s press office.

At a press conference from Santiago, Burke told reporters that the meeting lasted half an hour.

The Pope’s visit to Chile has been marked by protests, including some from groups who allege a bishop appointed by the Pope covered up acts of sexual abuse committed by an influential Chilean priest.

Earlier Tuesday, during a speech to Chile’s civic authorities and diplomats, the Pontiff expressed his sorrow for the cases of abuses against minors.

"I can not help but express the pain and shame I feel at the irreparable damage caused to children by Church’s ministers. I join with my brothers in the episcopate, knowing that it is a matter of justice to ask for forgiveness, and to support the victims with all our strength. At the same time we must work so that it does not happen again," he said at the event.

Later, in the afternoon, the Pontiff conveyed solidarity with priests and religious who, he said, suffer insults and misunderstandings because of the abuses committed by some ministers of the Church.

"I know that at times you have been insulted in the metro or walking on the street, and that by going around in clerical attire in many places you pay a heavy price. For this reason, I suggest that we ask God to grant us the clear-sightedness to call reality by its name, the strength to seek forgiveness and the ability to listen to what he tells us,” the Pope said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Catholic college contingents head to the March for Life

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 45th annual March for Life will take place in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, and hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend. Many of the marchers will be students from Catholic universities, who will, in some cases, skip class to march for an end to abortion.

Here are some of the schools that will be well-represented at Friday’s march:

Nearby Christendom College, cancels all scheduled classes on the day of the March for Life, so that all students and faculty are able to attend. Christendom is located in Front Royal, Virginia, about an 80 minute drive from the National Mall. Christendom students have attended each March for Life since the school’s founding in 1977.

Franciscan University of Steubenville, which also cancels day classes on the day of the March, will send roughly a quarter of its student body--about 500 students--to the March for Life this year. In a press release, the school said that they will be sending eight busses on the five-hour journey to DC, with additional students and alumni making the trek on their own.

The University of Notre Dame likely is the winner of the sheer numbers game. The school says it is preparing to bring over 1,000 people from the greater Notre Dame community--including students from nearby St. Mary’s College and Holy Cross College, graduate students, and faculty--to Washington, D.C. for the March. In 2017, there were about 700 Notre Dame students at the March.

North Dakota’s University of Mary, which led the marchers at the 2017 March for Life, also will send a contingent of students on the two-day drive from Bismarck to the nation’s capital. In 2016, the group from North Dakota was trapped in the snow for over 16 hours, which resulted in a “snow Mass” that went viral on the internet. About 145 students, faculty, and staff will attend this year’s march.

On the other end of the travel spectrum is the Catholic University of America, whose students will only have to take a short metro ride to go to the March for Life. CUA plays host to the Vigil for Life Mass on the eve of the March for Life, and thousands of people descend upon its campus each year in the lead-up to the March. In order to successfully handle the influx of pilgrims, the school has a pro-life hospitality ministry, staffed by student volunteers.

Trump issues statement promoting religious liberty

Washington D.C., Jan 16, 2018 / 04:15 pm (CNA).- US President Donald Trump issued a proclamation declaring Jan. 16, 2018, as “religious freedom day.” This date was chosen as it is the 223rd anniversary of Virginia’s enactment of the Statute for Religious Freedom.

In his proclamation, Trump said that “Faith is embedded in the history, spirit, and soul of our Nation,” and that the day was intended to celebrate the religious diversity in America. Trump spoke of how the nation's forefathers came to what is now the US “seeking refuge from religious persecution” and believing that “freedom is not a gift from the government, but a sacred right from Almighty God.”

He noted that in 1786, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, which said that “all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” This bill would inspire the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Trump touched on his efforts to preserve religious freedom in the United States, and said that it was “unfortunate” that past policies had infringed on this right. The president said that he attempted to address this issue with an executive order early in his presidency, and that “No American – whether a nun, nurse, baker, or business owner – should be forced to choose between the tenets of faith or adherence to the law.”

The president said that the United States is the “paramount champion” for religious freedom worldwide, and that the U.S. will keep fighting against extremism, acts of terror, and violence against people due to their religious beliefs.

He condemned the “genocide waged by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” against religious minorities in the region, such as the Yazidi, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Additionally, Trump said that “we will be undeterred” in efforts to put into place policies that promote religious freedom worldwide and to ensure that people are not persecuted for their beliefs.

“Faith breathes life and hope into our world. We must diligently guard, preserve, and cherish this unalienable right,” said Trump.

Here's the newest basilica in North America

Arlington, Va., Jan 16, 2018 / 03:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, the first permanent Catholic parish in Virginia, has a new name and a new designation for the new year. It was announced Sunday that the Holy See had decreed the building to be a minor basilica, and the church will now be known as “The Basilica of Saint Mary.”

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington announced during the 8:30 a.m. Mass Jan. 14 that he had recently received a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments which decreed that the building would be a minor basilica. The parishioners broke into applause at the news.



The Basilica of Saint Mary is located in Alexandria, Va., fewer than 10 miles south of Arlington.

“Within our Catholic Church, this is indeed a great news, and it’s a very thorough process,” Burbidge said. Burbidge joked that the pastor of St. Mary’s, Fr. Edward Hathaway, inquired about the process to pursue the title “about three minutes” after he was named Bishop of Arlington last year.

“We are overjoyed and humbled by the recognition of St. Mary’s as one of the major churches in the world,” said Fr. Hathaway.

“We are overjoyed and humbled by the recognition of St. Mary’s as one of the major churches in the world.” Read the full story here: https://t.co/i560ZfhMax
Photos courtesy of The Basilica of St. Mary #Catholic #Vatican pic.twitter.com/JvMSQCLG6l

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) January 17, 2018 The designation of the building as a basilica means that the parish “has a special relationship with the Holy See,” and Burbidge emphasized that this was a “great honor” for the church. St. Mary’s was chosen due to its importance in the community, its history as a parish, and its significance in the history of the United States.

The Basilica of Saint Mary is the 84th basilica in the United States, and the first in the Diocese of Arlington. Throughout the world there are just under 1,800 minor basilicas, and there are four major basilicas in Rome.

The parish was founded in 1795, a time when Catholicism was heavily restricted in Virginia, with Catholics barred from voting or holding public office. The first donor to the church was George Washington, who was not Catholic; though his close aide, Col. John Fitzgerald, was. The president gave the parish the equivalent of $1,200 today.

The church moved to its current location in 1810, and the current building was dedicated in 1827. The site of the original church is now the parish's cemetery.

Now that St. Mary’s has been recognized as a minor basilica, it will be outfitted with an umbraculum, a canopy of yellow and red silk; a tintinnabulum, a bell mounted on a pole which is used when the Pope visits a basilica; and the display of the papal symbol of the keys of St. Peter.

As a basilica, St. Mary's has a new seal, which includes the umbraculum and the papal keys. It has adopted the motto Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam, or “All with Peter to Jesus through Mary.”

 

Three signs indicate that a church has been designated as a basilica: an ombrellino (umbrella), tintinnabulum (bell to alert the Pope’s arrival) and the display of the Papal Symbol on church furnishings. More about @stmaryoldtown, now #StMaryBasilica! https://t.co/UtGIeZWGTt pic.twitter.com/Bw6ZOWV5Ir

— Diocese of Arlington (@arlingtonchurch) January 15, 2018


 

Dr. Chad Pecknold, a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America and a parishioner of St. Mary’s, appeared on EWTN’s “Morning Glory” radio program on Tuesday to discuss what this means for his home parish.

According to Pecknold, the historical significance of a basilica is that it is where an emperor would sit. Nowadays, given the relative lack of emperors, the designation of a basilica is more of a symbol of a church’s connection to Rome.

“It shows our special connection to the See of St. Peter,” said Pecknold. He said the process began about a year ago, and that the Vatican moved remarkably fast in making its decision.

“It was exactly a year from the beginning of our application to the end – of a great result,” said Pecknold. “We were absolutely thrilled that the Vatican worked so quickly. I think our case was strong,” he added.

The Basilica of Saint Mary will celebrate its 225th anniversary in 2020.

 

Editor's note: 2018 Jan. 17, 15:03 MST. A previous version of this article said the Basilica of Saint Mary will celebrate its 220th, not its 225th, in 2020.