Browsing News Entries

Coptic archbishop: Condemning persecution of non-Christians follows the example of Christ

Archbishop Angaelos / Courtesy photo.

Washington D.C., Jul 27, 2021 / 10:30 am (CNA).

Christians around the world must speak out against all religious persecution - including against the Muslim Uyghurs, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London told CNA during a recent summit on international religious freedom.

“As Christians who live as part of persecuted communities, we understand the pain of persecution, and if we cannot accept it for ourselves, we should never accept this for anyone else,” Archbishop Angaelos of London told CNA in a July 15 interview about global religious persecution.

The archbishop, who has become a leading voice on global religious persecution, was scheduled to address the recent 2021 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., but was unable to attend due to pandemic-related travel restrictions in the United Kingdom. He spoke on the phone with CNA about what he had planned to tell the summit. The July 13-15 event featured religious and civic leaders from around the world, as well as survivors of religious persecution.

It is “utterly reprehensible and unacceptable” that “we still many millions of people around the world deprived of their very basic right to believe or not to believe," he said, pointing to significant advances in other parts of society such as technological progress.

Last year, Angaelos signed a statement against China’s “potential genocide” of the Uyghurs, a largely-Muslim population in northwest China. More than 75 religious leaders signed the document – including two Asian cardinals, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon, Burma, and Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, Indonesia. The leaders called for prayer and solidarity with the Uyghurs, as well as “action to end these mass atrocities.”

Archbishop Angaelos explained his decision to join other voices in condemning China’s atrocities.

It was “Our Lord Himself Who, having seen the world’s suffering, then took flesh and came to resolve that suffering, and shared in our suffering, to raise us above that,” he said. Thus, “we too must look at the suffering of others and continue to do what we can to alleviate it.”

Christians in certain countries have suffered egregiously in recent years, the archbishop said, pointing to a “major exodus” of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as attacks on Christians in Nigeria, China, and Pakistan.

However, he emphasized, non-Christian communities have been targeted for persecution as well, such as the Uyghurs in China, the Rohingya Muslims in Burma, Baha’is in Iran, and Yezidis in Iraq.

Christians must speak out against persecution of any community, he said, not only as a matter of justice but also as a practical means of protecting all religious communities.

“Human rights violations are always a cascade,” he said. “There’s a start with one particular group, and then the group that is persecuting will move to the next, what they perceive to be a soft target, and the next, and the next.”

Egypt’s Coptic Christians have been targeted through church bombings and attacks on pilgrims in recent years - although the overall “scale” of persecution there has decreased during the recent pandemic, Archbishop Angaelos told CNA.

However, he noted, Coptic Christian women and girls have still been abducted and forcefully converted, and some Christian communities have experienced a deprivation of resources during the pandemic.

“We might be in a slightly better place, and yet, of course, we know that we have such volatile settings, it doesn’t take much to set things off and it doesn’t take much for communities to be demonized and vilified,” he said.

The Coptic Orthdox Church is an Oriental Orthodox Church which rejected the Council of Chalcedon of 451. It followers were historically considered monophysites – those who believe Christ has only one nature – by Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox.

Christians in the West can help the persecuted by spreading awareness of their plight, Archbishop Angaelos said.

“When things fall off the top of our newsfeeds and are no longer headlines, they are easily forgotten. And what we need to do is to keep the issues alive, even with awareness, with speaking, with keeping our eye on spots where there is violation against people,” he said.

Dutch Catholic bishop: Traditionis custodes appears to be a ‘declaration of war’

Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands. / Danny Gerrits - wikiportret.nl via Wikimedia (CC-BY-SA 4.0).

’s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, Jul 27, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

A Dutch Catholic bishop has launched a strongly worded attack on Pope Francis’ motu proprio restricting Traditional Latin Masses, saying that the document seemed to be a “declaration of war.”

In an essay posted on his blog on July 22, Bishop Rob Mutsaerts described the pope’s intervention as “dictatorial,” “unpastoral,” and “unmerciful,” and argued that it would benefit the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), a breakaway traditionalist group.

The comments by the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch, in the southern Netherlands, contrast with those of other European bishops who have broadly welcomed the motu proprio, such as Bishop Jean-Pierre Batut of Blois and Bishop Olivier Leborgne of Arras in France.

The motu proprio Traditionis custodes, which entered into force on July 16, the day it was released, said that it is a bishop’s “exclusive competence” to authorize Traditional Latin Masses in his diocese.

The document made sweeping changes to Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum, which had acknowledged the right of all priests to say Mass using the Roman Missal of 1962 without having to seek their bishop’s permission.

Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal is referred to variously as the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Tridentine Mass, and the Traditional Latin Mass.

The Dutch bishop’s essay was entitled “A malicious ukase from Pope Francis.” An “ukase” was a proclamation with the force of law issued by the czar of Russia.

“Pope Francis promotes synodality: everyone should be able to have their say, everyone should be heard,” Mutsaerts wrote.

“There was little question of this in his recently published motu proprio Traditionis custodes, a ukase that should put an immediate end to the Traditional Latin Mass.”

“In doing so, Francis strikes Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict’s motu proprio which gave ample space to the old Mass.”

Mutsaerts, 63, suggested that the pope’s decision indicated that he was “losing authority.”

“This was already evident earlier when the German bishops’ conference took no notice of the pope’s advice regarding the synodality process,” he wrote, referring to clashes between the Vatican and German Church officials over the “Synodal Way.”

“The same occurred in the United States when Pope Francis called on the bishops’ conference not to prepare a document on receiving Holy Communion in a dignified way,” he said, alluding to the dispute over “Eucharistic coherence” within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He continued: “The pope must have thought that it would be better not to give advice, but an injunction, now that we are talking about the traditional Mass.”

“The language used looks very much like a declaration of war.”

Mutsaerts, who was named a bishop by Benedict XVI in 2010, confirmed his authorship of the blog post in a July 26 email to CNA.

Asked if he was concerned about the Vatican’s response to his essay, he told CNA: “No, I am not concerned. I don’t think Rome worries about the opinion of an unknown auxiliary bishop in this tiny country. They have other matters to worry about.”

He added that he had never celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass himself.

“And I am not old enough to know it from my youth, so my comments have nothing to do with nostalgia or anything of that kind,” he said.

Mutsaerts has published outspoken posts on his blog, “Paarse Pepers” (Purple Peppers), since 2019. Previous posts have included sharp criticism of the Amazon synod, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, and “cancel culture.”

The number of Catholics in the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people bordering Germany and Belgium, has fallen sharply in recent decades. But Catholics remain the nation’s biggest religious group.

The diocese of ’s-Hertogenbosch has the largest number of Catholics of any diocese in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch Catholic blog In Caelo et in Terra.

In his essay, the bishop argued that Pope Francis took a radically different approach to the Traditional Latin Mass to his predecessors.

“Pope Francis slams the door hard by means of Traditionis custodes. It feels like treason and is a slap in the face of his predecessors,” he wrote.

Mutsaerts argued that Sacrosanctum concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was a “conservative document” that did not sanction many liturgical changes that followed.

“Only 17% of the prayers of the old missal (Trent) are found in the new missal (Paul VI). It is then difficult to speak of continuity of an organic development,” he wrote.

He continued: “Pope Francis is now pretending that his motu proprio stands in the organic development of the Church, which utterly contradicts reality. By making the Latin Mass practically impossible, he is finally breaking with the centuries-old liturgical tradition of the R.C. Church. Liturgy is not a toy of popes, but is the heritage of the Church.”

He argued that the small number of places where the Traditional Latin Masses are celebrated attract large, devout families.

He said: “Why does the pope want to deny people this? I come back to what I said earlier: it is ideology. It is Vatican II, including its implementation with all its aberrations, or nothing!”

“The relatively small number of believers (which is growing, by the way, as the Novus Ordo collapses) who feel at home with the traditional Mass must and will be eradicated. That is ideology and evil.”

He said that if the goal was to evangelize, then Tridentine Masses should be maintained.

He wrote: “From this day on, the Old Mass may not be celebrated in parish churches (where then?), you need explicit permission from your bishop, who may only allow it on certain days, and for those who will be ordained in the future and want to celebrate the Old Mass, the bishop needs permission from Rome. How dictatorial, how unpastoral, how unmerciful do you want it to be!”

Cardinal Marx won’t rule out offering resignation for a 2nd time

Cardinal Reinhard Marx. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Munich, Germany, Jul 27, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said that he cannot rule out asking Pope Francis to accept his resignation for a second time.

The Catholic archbishop of Munich and Freising discussed the possibility of a second resignation offer in a letter issued on July 23 and read out in churches in the archdiocese at the weekend, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

“I do not understand my service as a bishop as an office that belongs to me and that I have to defend, but as a mission for the people of this archdiocese and as a service to the unity of the Church,” he wrote.

“Should I no longer be able to fulfill this ministry, then it would be time -- after consultation with the diocesan bodies and also the abuse appraisal commission and the affected persons’ advisory board -- to decide for the good of the Church and offer my resignation from office once again.”

Marx is a member of the pope’s Council of Cardinals and the coordinator of the Vatican Council for the Economy. Until last year, he served as the chairman of the German bishops’ conference.

The 67-year-old cardinal wrote to Pope Francis in May, offering to resign amid the fallout from the clerical abuse crisis in Germany. The pope declined his resignation in June.

In the letter to his flock, Marx said that he was surprised by the pope’s decision but fully accepted it.

“After Pope Francis’ letter of response, I am renewing my yes to my ministry as archbishop of Munich and Freising. Together with my staff and diocesan bodies, I will reflect on what it means not to simply go back to business as usual, as previously stated in my declaration,” he wrote.

The cardinal, who was appointed archbishop in 2007 by Benedict XVI, said that he remained in shock over the depth of the abuse crisis.

“Since 2010, however, the shock that this terrible thing was perpetrated by officials and employees of the Church, and that we bishops may not always have seen or wanted to see that intensively enough, has not gone away for me,” he wrote, referring to the year that the sex abuse scandal broke in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising.

He continued: “My decision to resign from office, which I made after careful consideration, was intended as a sign that I have to take responsibility for all this personally and as an official, including also for what happened in the past, because as a bishop I represent the Church.”

In April, Marx asked German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier not to bestow the Federal Cross of Merit on him after an outcry among advocates for abuse survivors over the award.

He had been scheduled to receive the Bundesverdienstkreuz, Germany’s only federal decoration, at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin on April 30.

Marx said that he did not want to draw negative attention to other award recipients.

Peter Bringmann-Henselder, a member of the affected persons’ advisory board of Cologne archdiocese, had urged the president to withhold the honor, citing Marx’s handling of cases when he was bishop of Trier in 2001–2007.

The official web portal of the Catholic Church in Germany reported in June that Marx’s actions in Trier would be “comprehensively investigated” by an independent commission on behalf of the diocese that has been led by Bishop Stephan Ackermann since 2009.

It also noted that in the next few months the Munich law firm Westpfahl-Spilker-Wastl is expected to release a study of the handling of abuse claims in the archdiocese of Munich and Freising, including during Marx’s time as archbishop.

Concluding his message to his archdiocese, Marx wrote: “But now, with great readiness, I say again a new yes to my mission here in our archdiocese and ask you for your prayers and your trust.”

“I am convinced: We need reform and renewal in and for the Church, but we also need a sense of the unity of the people of God, which becomes visible in diversity. Let us walk this path together in our archdiocese.”

“As your archbishop, I am undertaking this journey with you and would like to continue to make my contribution so that we can master the great challenges that lie ahead. With God’s help, we can succeed.”

Pope Francis to UN chief: World hunger ‘a crime that violates basic human rights’

Steve Knutson via Unsplash.

Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis described world hunger on Monday as “a crime that violates basic human rights.”

In a July 26 message to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the pope called for a “new mindset” in the battle against malnutrition.

“We produce enough food for all people, but many go without their daily bread. This ‘constitutes a real scandal,’ a crime that violates basic human rights,” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti.

“Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to eradicate this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies.”

The pope sent the message to the U.N. chief at the start of the Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit in Rome. The event, held on July 26-28, is seeking to build momentum ahead of the summit in New York in September.

The U.N. estimates that that nearly 690 million people -- 8.9% of the world population -- suffer from hunger, an increase of almost 60 million in five years.

“If we want to guarantee the fundamental right to an adequate standard of living and fulfill our commitments to achieve Zero Hunger, it is not enough to produce food,” wrote the pope, who returned to the Vatican on July 14 after undergoing colon surgery.

“We need a new mindset and a new holistic approach and to design food systems that protect the Earth and keep the dignity of the human person at the center; that guarantee sufficient food globally and promote decent work locally; and that feed the world today, without compromising the future.”

Pope Francis has consistently highlighted world hunger since his election in 2013.

He made a donation last year to the World Food Programme as the U.N. organization worked to feed 270 million people amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The pope told the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in June that the pandemic should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

In his message to Guterres, who is a Catholic, the pope said: “We are aware that individual, closed, and conflicting -- but powerful -- economic interests prevent us from designing a food system that responds to the values of the common good, solidarity and the ‘culture of encounter.’”

“If we want to maintain a fruitful multilateralism and a food system based on responsibility, justice, peace and the unity of the human family is paramount.”

“The crisis we are currently facing is indeed a unique opportunity to engage in authentic, bold, and courageous dialogues, addressing the roots of our unjust food system.”

The Vatican finance trial begins today. Here’s what you need to know

Cupola of St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City / CNA

Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 01:55 am (CNA).

On Tuesday, the Vatican court is holding the first hearing in a trial against 10 people charged with committing financial crimes against the Holy See.

The Vatican finance trial is unprecedented in modern times. Among the defendants is Cardinal Angelo Becciu, the first cardinal to be tried by the tribunal of the Vatican City State since Pope Francis changed the rules to allow it in April.

The first hearing, on July 27, will be the arraignment, when prosecutors will inform defendants of the criminal charges against them and the accused will enter their pleas of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

The tribunal has also set a second hearing date for July 28, which may or may not take place before the court adjourns for a summer recess.

Who is involved in the trial, and what is the likely outcome?

The Court

The finance trial will take place in a multi-purpose room inside the Vatican Museums recently renovated to allow more space for hearings.

The trial’s outcome will be decided by the Vatican City State’s court of first instance, a panel of three judges.

The Vatican’s lay judges, who have each been appointed by the pope, are led by tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone, a retired Italian prosecutor.

The investigation’s chief prosecutors, called Promoters of Justice, are the Italian lawyers Alessandro Diddi and Roberto Zannotti.

The prosecutors will be representing the interests of the Holy See, and those the court has identified to be the parties injured by the alleged crimes: The Secretariat of State and the IOR (commonly called the “Vatican bank”.)

The Charges

In the trial, the Vatican will attempt to prosecute Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly number two at the Secretariat of State, for embezzlement and abuse of office related to several scandals surrounding his time working in the powerful curial department.

The main scandal is the secretariat’s purchase, from 2014 to 2018, of an investment property at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. The deal, investigators argue, turned out to be cooked up by bad actors who took advantage of Vatican money to finance their own debts from prior deals that went wrong.

Prosecutors have charged Italian businessmen Raffaele Mincione and Gianluigi Torzi, who negotiated and brokered the Secretariat of State’s purchase of the property with help from longtime Vatican investment manager Enrico Crasso.

Mincione has been charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation, and self-money laundering, and Torzi with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

Nicola Squillace, a lawyer who worked with Torzi, faces the same charges he does minus extortion.

Crasso, who is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund in which the Holy See is the principal investor, faces charges of corruption, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, self-money laundering, fraud, abuse of office, falsifying a public document, and falsifying a private document.

The Vatican has also charged three corporations owned by Crasso with fraud.

Additionally, prosecutors have asserted that two officials at the Secretariat of State were involved in the fraud. Fabrizio Tirabassi, who oversaw investments, has been charged with corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office. Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked with him, has been charged with extortion and abuse of office.

René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, respectively the former president and former director of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, have been charged with abuse of office. Di Ruzza is also charged with embezzlement and violation of confidentiality.

Another defendant in the trial is Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, who has been charged with embezzlement following an investigation into reports that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Secretariat in connection with Becciu, and that she spent the money earmarked for charity on luxury goods and vacations.

The Evidence

Vatican prosecutors will be making their case against the defendants based on documents, financial records, and witness testimony.

Based on information in a 488-page charge sheet reviewed by CNA, other people who may be called to the witness stand during the trial include Luciano Capaldo, manager of the London building at 60 Sloane Avenue, and Manuele Intendente, who was reportedly present at meetings leading to Torzi’s brokerage of the final stage of the London deal in 2018.

One Secretariat of State official who was also investigated because of his involvement in the London investment, but who has not been charged in this trial, is Msgr. Alberto Perlasca. Prosecutors identified Perlasca’s testimony, provided over the course of several interviews, as being important for reconstructing “some central moments” in the affair.

Investigators have also gained access to emails and text messages related to the charges.

The Defense

None of the defendants has admitted wrongdoing, while Brülhart, Di Ruzza, and Becciu have all said that they are looking forward to defending their innocence in court.

While most of the accused have declined to be interviewed ahead of the trial, some have given some indications of what their defense may include.

One of them is Cecilia Marogna, who has said that she interacted with Italian secret service agents and that she was paid by Cardinal Becciu to create dossiers of incriminating information on Vatican personnel. (Becciu has denied all wrongdoing.)

In addition to two lawyers, Marogna’s defense team also includes an ex-Italian intelligence agent, Riccardo Sindoca, who is working as a legal consultant.

Through Sindoca, Marogna told the media last month that her “relationship of trust” with Becciu “remains unchanged.” She also attempted to cast doubt on claims that the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was ignorant of what she was doing within the Secretariat.

According to some Italian media, Marogna has plans to put Parolin on the witness stand, along with a figure who used to work for the now-defunct secret service of the Italian military, SISMI.

Brülhart is alleged to have had a consulting deal at the Secretariat of State at the same time that he was president of the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog, which is responsible for notifying judicial authorities about potential financial misconduct. His lawyer has said that the arrangement was legitimate and approved by Secretariat of State officials.

Becciu’s lawyer told the Catholic website The Pillar this month that the “alleged consulting deal” was “properly authorized and overseen by His Eminence Cardinal Parolin, without any involvement of His Eminence Cardinal Becciu,” indicating a possible direction of Becciu’s defense.

The Outcome

We do not yet know how the Vatican judges will rule and what sentences they will give. The ability to achieve convictions will depend on the competency of the prosecutors, the quality of the investigation, and the strength of the evidence.

If convicted, the accused will have the opportunity to appeal.

In the charge sheet, prosecutors said that former secretariat official Fabrizio Tirabassi, if found guilty of embezzlement, could face three to five years in jail, a perpetual ban from public office, and a fine of at least 5,000 euros (around $5,900.)

Cardinal Parolin told French media La Croix this month that he believes the trial will be the moment of “judicial truth.”

He also said earlier this month that he hoped the trial would be “brief.” But the tribunal’s record on trying cases does not support that outcome.

In January, Angelo Caloia, a former president of the IOR, was sentenced to eight years and 11 months in prison for money laundering and aggravated embezzlement. He was also ordered to pay a fine of 12,500 euros (around $14,700).

The conclusion of the trial, which began in 2018, marked the first time the Vatican had issued a prison sentence for financial crimes.

The sentence fell between an on-site Vatican inspection by Moneyval, the Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering watchdog, and the publication of its report on the Vatican’s compliance with international financial standards.

The watchdog group’s assessment was that the sanctions in two Vatican convictions for self-laundering in 2018 and 2019 were “not proportionate and dissuasive.”

Moneyval also expressed doubt about the Vatican court’s ability to resolve complex financial cases in a timely manner.

US bishops and priests in the Cuban diaspora send video message back home

Fernando Medina/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 26, 2021 / 16:10 pm (CNA).

In an eight-minute video, about 30 American bishops and priests of the Cuban diaspora sent their prayers and a message of support to protesters on the island. 

Bishop Nelson Jesús Pérez, archbishop of Philadelphia and the son of Cuban parents, said in the video: “This is a message for the Cuban people who are suffering these moments of difficulty, injustice, oppression and lack of respect for human rights. Know of our prayers, our love, our affection and solidarity with all of you. May Our Lady of Charity hear our prayers, protect you and bring peace.”

Bishop Felipe de Jesús Estévez of Saint Augustine, Florida, of Cuban origin, said that "charity unites all those born in Cuba." He also asked Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of the country, to "save Cuba."

The Cuban-American auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese of Newark,  Manuel Aurelio Cruz, expressed his "respect and unity with my Cuban people." 

“I know the pain, the suffering of our people, and the time has come for our homeland to have freedom. Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, save, save our Cuban people. Amen,” he said.

“As a Cuban, I am faithfully praying for all of you. From the diaspora, we are asking only one thing:  Our Lady of Charity, save your people in Cuba,” said Fr. Fernando Hería, a Cuban priest and rector of the National Shrine of the Our Lady of Charity in Miami.

Msgr. Willie Peña, a priest of Cuban origin and pastor of the St. Bernadette church in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and host of the Spanish language “As the World Turns” program on EWTN, assured his compatriots that “we are with you in prayer and solidarity."

“I send you a hug with all my heart. Keep on standing because we are with you. Our Lady of Charity, save Cuba!” he added.

Msgr. Mario Guijarro de Corzo, a Cuban priest and pastor of St. Peter the Martyr church in Verona, Puerto Rico, said that “the Cuban people have the right to live in freedom, to live in democracy, to seek their prosperity, to a change of life.”

"For Cuba it’s time, and that is why we’re asking Our Lady of Charity to save Cuba," he added.

Fr. José Luis Menendez, pastor of Corpus Christi church in the Miami archdiocese, said that “at this very special moment in our history, perhaps more than ever we must be united in heart, in mind and in prayer, at the feet of the Virgin, so that our homeland, once and for all, may achieve the longed for freedom.” 

Fr. Juan Sosa, who serves in the St. Joseph parish in the Miami archdiocese, said, “I believe that everything we have to do must be done at the feet of the Virgin, because she is the Mother who accompanies us wherever we may be.”

Fr. Manny Alvarez of St. Therese of the Little Flower parish in Coral Gables, Florida, said he was connected “with your Cuban roots and with every one of you by the priestly fraternal bonds, praying for each one in this difficult moment.”

“To my dear Cuban people, all my support and my prayers. The truth sets you free. Love conquers all. Love of God, country, the family. Our Lady of Charity, save Cuba,” said Fr. Carlos Céspedes, who serves at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in Miami.

Cuban priest Fr. Enrique Corona, from St. Agnes parish in New Jersey, also sent a message. “I am with all Cubans, inside and outside of Cuba. We are here to let you know that you are not alone.”

Fr. José Enrique López, from St. Gregory parish in the Miami archdiocese, told his compatriots that "the Lord is the God of justice." 

"Your cause is just, the Lord is with you," he added.

Fr. Roberto Ayala, from St. Matthew parish in the Miami archdiocese, said, “I ask God to give you the energy, the words, the courage, so that you can go forward. Know that we are with you.”

For his part, Fr. Salvador Díaz-Guerra, a priest of St. John Bosco parish in Miami, said: “Dear Cuban brother… take courage because God is on the side of those who make a homeland. Our Lady of Charity, save Cuba. Long live free Cuba!”

Fr. Delvis Mederos, who resides in Miami, told Cubans that "freedom is knocking on your doors." 

"Only in the Lord and with the help of the Virgin is your strength," he added.

Fr. Esney Muñoz Díaz, from St. Michael the Archangel parish in Miami, told Cubans that "you’re not alone." 

“The road is long and hard but Christ is with us. May Our Lady of Charity accompany you.”

Fr. Alfred Cioffi, professor of biology and bioethics at St. Thomas University in Miami, spoke to his brother priests in Cuba, to tell them that they are with them "in prayer."

And Fr. Ricardo Ortega, from Annunciation of the Virgin Mary parish in New Jersey, encouraged his compatriots to continue "defending your own right to truth, justice, and love between brothers and compatriots."

Fernando Karadima, former priest whose sex abuse scandal rocked Chile, dead at 90

Fernando Karadima / Chilean Judicial Branch

Denver Newsroom, Jul 26, 2021 / 14:45 pm (CNA).

Fernando Karadima, an influential former priest in Chile whose sexual abuse of minors prompted major questions about episcopal cover-ups, has died at the age of 90. Allegations that Karadima’s protégés helped cover up his abuse entangled Pope Francis, and resulted in massive controversy and sweeping changes to the makeup of the country’s bishops.

Local media reported that while the cause of Karadima’s death was unknown, he had previously been treated for heart problems. According to Reuters, while one news report said that Karadima died Monday, CNN Chile showed a death certificate indicating that he died the night of Sunday, July 25. He had resided most recently at a nursing home in Chile.

“We closely accompany the surviving victims and their families, asking the merciful God to heal the pain caused to all those who have suffered,” the Archbishopric of Santiago said in response. “At the same time, as the archbishopric we reaffirm our commitment to continue working to promote healthy and safe environments within the Church.”

Karadima was a highly influential Santiago-area priest who for decades led a lay movement from his parish in El Bosque. He is considered to have personally fostered around 40 vocations to the priesthood, and some of these men became bishops.

Karadima himself has denied the allegations of sex abuse, and he never faced a trial under Chilean law for his alleged crimes because of the statutes of limitations. He was convicted in a church court and was later laicized.

As details of his abuse became known, several prominent Chilean bishops stood accused of systematically covering up his abuse, and of doing the same for other accused priests.

On a 2018 visit to Chile, Pope Francis publicly contended it was “calumny” to claim that Karadima’s protégé Bishop Juan Barros had collaborated in abuse. The pope said that he had seen no evidence of this. After drawing rebukes, he soon apologized to Karadima’s victims and investigated the matter. He then said he had been misinformed, sought a meeting with some victims, and demanded that scores of Chile’s bishops submit their resignations to him.

Karadima was found guilty of sexually abusing minors in a canonical process handled by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2011. Because of his advanced age and poor health, he was ordered to “retire to a life of prayer and penance, in reparation (for his crimes) as well for the victims of abuse.”

In September 2018, Pope Francis laicized Karadima, expelling him from the clerical state in a move the Vatican described as an “exceptional measure” taken in response to the “exceptional damage” done by the priest’s crimes.

In March 2019, the Court of Appeals of Santiago ordered the Santiago archdiocese to pay 300 million pesos - about $439,000 - to three victims of Karadima who said the former priest abused them over a period of years when they were minors 

The Santiago archdiocese accepted the court ruling and voiced hope the action could help restore trust and prevent further mishandling of abuse. The archdiocese said the ruling showed the necessity of making “deep reforms” to prevent other failures. The ruling could mean many more civil lawsuits against the Church.

Karadima victims Juan Carlos Cruz, James Hamilton and José Andrés Murillo had filed the lawsuit against the archdiocese in 2013 for “moral damage.” The public testimony of the men, especially Cruz, was instrumental in bringing the Chilean abuse crisis to international attention.

In a July 26 statement posted to Twitter by Cruz, the three men responded to his death.

“Everything we had to say about Karadima has been said. He was one more link in the culture of abuse and cover-up in the Church,” they said. “We are at peace, and we are only moved to continue fighting so that these crimes do not happen again, and for so many people who have lived through it and who still do not have justice.”

Protests against the promotion of Bishop Juan Barros, alleged to have been one of Karadima’s protégés and protectors, helped turn the Chilean sexual abuse crisis into a global concern for the Church. The matter escalated during a papal visit to the country in January 2018, during which Pope Francis made his public defense of Barros. 

Those remarks drew serious rebukes, including one from Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, chair of the pope’s commission on sexual abuse. Pope Francis apologized for the tone of his remarks, while initially insisting on the innocence of Barros.

The Pope then sent Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, an expert on clerical sexual abuse allegations, to investigate the claims against Barros. Scicluna produced a lengthy report on the matter, leading to a more thorough papal apology and major efforts to change and reform the leadership of the Catholic Church in Chile.

In April 2018, Francis sent a letter to Chile’s bishops saying that he had made “serious errors in judgement regarding the matter,” which he attributed to “a lack of truthful and balanced information.” After crisis meetings over several days in May 2018, the pope expressed his anger at evidence of systematic attempts to suppress and ignore allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the country. Some 34 Chilean bishops submitted their resignations, and the Pope accepted at least eight of them.

In March 2021 Pope Francis appointed Cruz, a victim of Karadima, to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

“I am very grateful to Pope Francis for trusting me with this appointment. I deeply appreciate it,” Cruz said in response.

In 2015 Cruz had sought to send a letter to Pope Francis through Marie Collins, then a member of the pope’s sexual abuse commission. The letter included Cruz’s report that Barros and others had witnessed Karadima abusing or kissing him but did nothing to stop it. In April 2015, Collins delivered this letter to O’Malley and asked the cardinal to deliver it to Pope Francis.

In February 2018, Collins told the Associated Press that O’Malley gave assurances that the letter was delivered during the September 2015 papal visit to Philadelphia. Collins said O’Malley “told me, among other things, that he had given the letter to the pope — in his hands.”

Victims have argued that Cardinals Francisco Javier Errázuriz and Ricardo Ezzati, who both served as archbishops of Santiago, were responsible for covering up Karadima’s crimes. In March 2019 Pope Francis accepted Ezzati’s resignation as archbishop—a resignation originally submitted with the other Chilean bishops. Ezzati had faced allegations of covering up abuse by other priests, though he denies ever covering up abuse.

In a 2018 lawsuit, Cruz and the two other Karadima victims with him charged that Errazuriz had committed perjury in the civil suit for compensation for damages filed against the Archdiocese of Santiago.

Cardinal Errazuriz served for a time on Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals, a special advisory body. He left that council in 2018, telling local media it was the end of his term. He has been accused of misinforming the Pope about the role of Barros in concealing Karadima’s abuse.

CRS warns of ‘hunger pandemic’ afflicting the elderly in Cuba

July 11, 2021: Cubans protest in Havana / Domitille P/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 26, 2021 / 14:20 pm (CNA).

The director of the Hispanic Development Unit of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ana Gloria Rivas-Vásquez, called for Catholics around the world to help Cuba, especially its elderly, afflicted by what she calls a "hunger pandemic."

“In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a hunger pandemic in Cuba. The people most affected are the elderly. The people of Cuba are aging and around 20% are older people,” Rivas-Vásquez told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner July 25, the day the Church inaugurated the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

According to 2017 data from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 20% of the population of the countries of Barbados, Cuba and Uruguay was 60 years old or more, and 6 to 7% of the population was 75 years old or more.

The commission’s data also indicated that the island became the first aging economy in the region since 2010 due to various factors, including a sustained decline in fertility and a sustained net loss in emigration versus immigration.

The Cuban government itself reported that at the end of 2020, 21.3% of its population was over 60 years old. Some estimates indicate that in the near future, one-third of the island's inhabitants will be seniors.

In this context, CRS has been working closely with Cáritas Cuba for about 30 years to help the vulnerable population, including the elderly.

Both humanitarian agencies currently have a feeding program for older adults in the dioceses of Matanzas, Cienfuegos and Holguín.

Rivas-Vásquez indicated that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this "program for the elderly, which was initially carried out in soup kitchens, is now carried out individually, house by house."

“We also bring food to people who are in isolation after being infected with the virus, which makes logistics even more difficult. However, thank God, Caritas Cuba has a network of volunteers who help these people who need it so much,” she added.

The Catholic Relief Services director said "there’s a shortage of food, hygiene supplies and personal health protection equipment" in Cuba.

Massive protests took place across Cuba from July 11-12. Protesters shouting “Freedom!” also cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel has blamed the United States for the country’s economic problems, as the Castro brothers before him had done. The United States has maintained an economic embargo of exports to Cuba since 1960. However, the U.S. State Department stated on July 23 that the embargo “allows humanitarian goods to reach Cuba, and the U.S. government expedites requests to export humanitarian or medical supplies to Cuba.”

Given the situation, Rivas-Vásquez said that "what we want is to increase the help we provide to Caritas Cuba, because the elderly are the most affected by the crisis."

“We do everything possible so that the food reaches our partner agency. We work in more than 100 countries around the world and we are always looking for ways to get help to those most in need. We have nearly 80 years of experience in many different environments,” she explained.

Rivas-Vásquez said that CRS has "very generous Catholic and non-Catholic donors in the United States," but that today they want "to reach more people to help us, especially with our brothers and sisters on the island."

Donating responds to “the call of the Gospel, to help others,” she said. “We thank in advance for all the financial help, because without that we would not be able to do our job. But we also always ask for prayer.”

Recent target of NY pro-abortion protests speaks out

Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR (right) encounters protesters during the July 10 "Witness for Life" prayer procession in Brooklyn. / Jeffrey Bruno/Instagram/EWTN Pro-Life Weekly

Washington D.C., Jul 26, 2021 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

After pro-abortion protesters obstructed a July 10 pro-life rosary procession in Brooklyn, a priest leading the procession compared it to a “Way of the Cross.”

Pro-life advocate Fr. Fidelis Moscinski, CFR helped lead the “Witness for Life” prayer procession from St. Paul’s Catholic church in Brooklyn to the local Planned Parenthood clinic on July 10. Pro-abortion protesters physically impeded the march and harassed participants; the procession took two hours to traverse seven blocks, according to march leaders.

“When we go to the abortion clinic, it’s as if we’re going to modern-day Calvary, where innocent blood is shed,” Fr. Moscinski told EWTN Pro-Life Weekly in an interview on Thursday, July 22. “And our procession there, on that day, was kind of like a Way of the Cross for us.”

“I was kind of thinking of the abuse that Our Lord suffered when He was carrying His cross to Calvary,” he said, noting that “we were all in a spirit of prayer there, we were praying the rosary as we went.”

“So it was difficult, but we persevered, and we did finally get there.”

Brooklyn’s Witness for Life day of prayer, which occurs on the second Saturday of each month, normally begins with an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Paul’s church. A rosary procession to the local Planned Parenthood clinic follows Mass. 

However, on July 10, the group New York City for Abortion Rights (NYCFAR) gathered outside St. Paul’s before the morning Mass and chanted throughout the Mass. Some of their chants outside the church included “Our bodies, our lives, our right to decide,” as well as “St. Paul’s Church harasses patients” and “Free abortion on demand, can we win it? Yes we can.” 

Protestors held signs with phrases including “God loves abortion,” and “This church harasses women.” 

NYCFAR targeted Moscinski in flyers as the “leader” of the pro-life march and described him as “far from peaceful.”

Photos of the procession showed pro-abortion advocates holding signs and smoking cigarettes in the face of Fr. Moscinski. EWTN Pro-Life Weekly host Catherine Hadro asked Moscinski how he found peace amidst the chaos 

“We had just come from celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We received Jesus in Holy Communion, and He’s the source of our peace and our strength,” he said. “And when I was looking at those people, I was thinking ‘these people are not the enemy. They’re deceived.’”

When asked what more pro-life advocates could do to fight abortion, Fr. Moscinski said that “prayer and fasting” is necessary. 

“We need to discover again the humility and courage to pray and fast,” he said. “And I think that’s something we could all do a lot better.”

“Pro-life is the pre-eminent issue in the United States, and every Catholic has to be actively engaged in the pro-life movement in some way,” he said in the July 24 interview. “Not everybody can do everything,” he said, “but everybody has to do at least something.”

The July 10 encounter between pro-abortion protestors and “Witness for Life” was the second such incident in as many months. At the previous month’s Witness for Life event, NYCFAR organized a protest as well.

Moscinski told Hadro the situation for the pro-life movement in the area is “challenging and difficult,” noting the almost 300 abortions that take place each day in the state. 

Moscinski has been arrested multiple times in “red rose rescues,” where he enters abortion clinics and attempts to counsel women seeking abortion to choose life. 

“Our measure of our love for Christ is determined by what we do to save the least among us,” Moscinski said, “because the Lord said whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did to me.” 

Fr. Jacques Hamel: Catholic priest honored 5 years after he was killed at Mass in terrorist attack

Fr. Jacques Hamel. / Diocese of Rouen via Wikipedia.

Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, France, Jul 26, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Catholic Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen celebrated a Mass on Monday marking the fifth anniversary of the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in a terrorist attack.

The Mass took place at the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, in northern France, where Hamel was killed by supporters of the Islamic State during Mass on July 26, 2016.

In his homily, based on the day’s Gospel reading, Lebrun said: “The Kingdom of God is built from the smallest of seeds or a little leaven. How can we not think of Fr. Jacques Hamel, an anti-celebrity priest, working in a parish that was apparently little-noticed, who sowed by his presence, by his welcome, by his preaching?”

“It takes time, the time of the plant that grows, the time of the leaven that makes the dough rise. Time is an ally. We are only at the fifth anniversary, if I dare say so.”

Gérald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, attended both the Mass and a civil commemoration in the town in the Normandy region.

“Isn’t murdering a priest in his church a profound attack on the soul of France?” he asked in a video posted on his Twitter account. “And by striking the Catholic Church, the Church of France, the terrorists did not simply strike those who believed in God, they evidently struck all French people.”

The French weekly La Vie published documents earlier this month indicating that the attackers, who were shot dead by police as they exited the church, communicated beforehand with a senior ISIS operative based in Syria.

AFP reported on July 26 that four people suspected of involvement in the attack are scheduled to go on trial in Paris on Feb. 14, 2022.

The Rouen archdiocese began a preliminary inquiry into Hamel’s sainthood cause in 2016 after Pope Francis waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

Lebrun -- who was Hamel’s bishop -- announced the formal opening of the priest’s cause on April 13, 2017.

During the diocesan phase of the cause, archivists transcribed 600 homilies preached by Hamel, reported the French Catholic television channel KTO.

Lebrun gave the French section of Vatican News an update on the cause on July 24.

He said: “As you know, the pope dispensed us from the five-year time limit for opening the cause, which made it possible to carry out the diocesan investigation.”

“And if I may say so, providentially, this dispensation was welcome because a few weeks ago, the first eyewitness, Jeanine Coponet, passed away, just before the five years elapsed.”

“Then, two years ago, we filed the acts of the diocesan investigation. A year ago, we received the decree of validity, which means that the investigation is valid.”

“Now, all the testimonies are registered at the [Vatican] Congregation for the Causes of Saints and it is no longer ours. We are waiting wisely and I think it is good that the five-year deadline is being respected.”