Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Northern Italian dioceses take drastic measures against coronavirus

IMAGE: CNS photo/Flavio Lo Scalzo, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- With the biggest two days of celebration and costume parades left, the famous pre-Lenten "Carnevale" of Venice was canceled as were Ash Wednesday services and even funeral Masses throughout the diocese.

The Archdiocese of Milan also issued a notice Feb. 23 suspending all public celebrations of the Mass until further notice in compliance with Italian Ministry of Health precautions to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.

Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy's civil protection service, announced Feb. 24 that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country had risen to 219, including five people who died. The majority of cases -- 167 -- were in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, whose capital is Milan. The Veneto region, whose capital is Venice, had 27 confirmed cases, he said.

Schools and museums in the two regions were closed, and school trips were suspended for all students throughout Italy.

Lazio, the region surrounding the Vatican, has had three confirmed cases, including a married couple from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Neither Lazio nor the Vatican had issued special precautions as of Feb. 24.

Auxiliary Bishop Franco Agnesi, vicar general of the Milan archdiocese, issued further instructions Feb. 24 saying that churches would remain open for private prayer and, although there should be no public celebration of the Mass, "funerals and matrimonies can be celebrated, but with the presence only of close relatives."

Milan's famed cathedral announced it would be closed to tourists Feb. 24-25 while awaiting further instructions from the health ministry and the archdiocese. However, it said, "the area reserved for prayer" would remain open, although no public Mass would be celebrated.

In a statement Feb. 23, Archbishop Francesco Moraglia of Venice announced that all public Masses and gatherings of the faithful were being suspended at least until midnight March 1. The ban included Ash Wednesday services and funeral Masses, although a priest would still be available to bless the body of the deceased in the presence of the person's closest family members.

The archdiocesan Lenten priests' retreat, which was to begin Feb. 27, also was postponed.

Archbishop Moraglia said pastors should try to keep churches open so that a few faithful at a time could make a quick visit for prayer. Within the historic center of Venice that probably would not be possible, he said, and he announced that the city's famed St. Mark's Basilica would remain closed.

At the same time, he said, the archdiocese's charitable activities would continue. Soup kitchens were to continue distributing free meals, but they would be packaged to go to avoid the risk of large numbers of people gathering in a dining hall. Public health officials will assist at dormitories for the homeless to ensure they remain open, he said.

The Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, also in the Veneto region, announced the suspension of Masses and public prayer services through March 1. The Franciscans who care for the basilica, which includes the tomb of St. Anthony, said they would keep the church open, but they asked pilgrims and tourists not to congregate in large numbers.

The Archdiocese of Turin, in Italy's Piedmont region, canceled all catechism classes and other public gatherings except for Masses. However, it ordered priests to empty all holy water fonts and distribute Communion only in the hand. As for the distribution of ashes Feb. 26, it said, "ashes will be placed directly on the head of the faithful without any physical contact and there will be no celebrations for children in order to safeguard their health."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Gospel challenges believers to love without measure, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The only acceptable form of extremism for a Christian is an "extremism of love," Pope Francis said, concelebrating Mass with bishops from throughout the Mediterranean basin.

"'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.' This is the Christian innovation. It is the Christian difference," the pope said Feb. 23 as he celebrated an outdoor Mass in central Bari, a city on the southern Italian coast.

The Mass, concelebrated by 60 bishops from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, marked the conclusion of a five-day meeting to address common concerns, including the need for peace, the care of migrants and refugees, the defense of religious freedom and the promotion of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue.

Pope Francis' homily did not directly address the themes of the meeting but focused on the day's Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Jesus tells his followers not to retaliate against those who harm them and to love and pray for their enemies.

"Pray and love: this is what we must do," Pope Francis said. "The love of Jesus knows no boundaries or barriers. The Lord demands of us the courage to have a love that does not count the cost, because the measure of Jesus is love without measure."

Jesus' commandment of love is not just a suggestion or even a challenge, the pope said. "It is the very heart of the Gospel."

"Where the command of universal love is concerned, let us not accept excuses or preach prudent caution," he said. "The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. It is the only legitimate kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love."

Pope Francis said he knew some people would object and say, "That is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails, and people seem to be concerned only with themselves."

"So is Jesus' logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers?" the pope asked. "In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners."

In the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the pope said, God proved that "evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force."

Of course, he said, Jesus "raises the bar" to a level that seems humanly impossible, but that is where prayer comes in.

"Ask God for the strength to love," he said. "Say to him: 'Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you.'"

"Today let us choose love, whatever the cost, even if it means going against the tide," Pope Francis said. "Let us not yield to the thinking of this world, or content ourselves with half measures. Let us accept the challenge of Jesus, the challenge of charity."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Mediterranean must be crossroad of peace, dialogue, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic communities of every nation on the Mediterranean Sea must work together to promote peace, to aid migrants and refugees and to defend religious freedom, Pope Francis told bishops from 19 Mediterranean countries.

"Amid deep fault lines and economic, religious, confessional and political conflicts, we are called to offer our witness to unity and peace," the pope said Feb. 23 as he joined 60 bishops from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa at the end of a five-day meeting in the southern Italian coastal city of Bari.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, spoke before Pope Francis, noting how for centuries the Mediterranean has been the crossroads of "cultural, commercial and religious exchanges of every kind, but it also has been a theater of wars, conflicts, political and even religious division."

"At the present time, rather than diminishing, these seem to be increasing," the archbishop said. "The destiny of entire populations has been subjugated to the interests of a few," he continued.

Pope Francis, in his speech to the bishops, condemned the "growing attitude of indifference and even rejection" of the poor and migrants by "those who, caught up in their own wealth and freedom, are blind to others."

"Fear is leading to a sense that we need to defend ourselves against what is depicted in demagogic terms as an invasion" of migrants and refugees, the pope continued.

Departing from his prepared text, he said he was frightened by the content and tone of speeches by some political leaders who "sow fear and then hatred" in a way similar to what the Nazis did in the 1930s.

"The rhetoric of the clash of civilizations merely serves to justify violence and to nurture hatred," he said. And rather than building institutions that promote equal opportunity and educate everyone to work for the common good, "the international community has been content with military interventions."

Dialogue and understanding are essential to life in a globalized world, he said. "All too often, history has known conflicts and struggles based on the distorted notion that we are defending God by opposing anyone who does not share our set of beliefs."

"Extremism and fundamentalism deny the dignity of the human person and his or her religious freedom, and thus lead to moral decline," the pope said, urging the bishops to "speak out to demand that government leaders protect minorities and religious freedom. The persecution experienced above all -- but not only --by Christian communities is a heart-rending fact that cannot leave us indifferent."

Working for the common good of all God's children is part of preaching the Gospel, the pope said, which is why Catholics must "act tirelessly as peacemakers."

"The Mediterranean region is currently threatened by outbreaks of instability and conflict, both in the Middle East and different countries of North Africa, as well as between various ethnic, religious or confessional groups," he said.

And regarding "the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," Pope Francis warned of "the danger of inequitable solutions," which many read as a reference to a plan announced in late January by U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under the plan, Israel would annex part of the West Bank and the Palestinians would be given limited sovereignty.

Pope Francis also spoke of the "serious sin of hypocrisy" seen when "so many countries talk about peace but then sell weapons to countries that are at war. This is called the great hypocrisy."

"War, by allocating resources to the acquisition of weapons and military power, diverts those resources from vital social needs, such as the support of families, health care and education," he said.

In other words, the pope said, war "is genuine madness; it is madness to destroy houses, bridges, factories and hospitals, to kill people and annihilate resources, instead of building human and economic relationships. It is a kind of folly to which we cannot resign ourselves: war can never be considered normal or accepted as an inevitable means of settling differences and conflicts of interest."

Many of the victims of those wars or conflicts, those fleeing religious persecution and those seeking a safe and dignified life for their families attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

"The number of these brothers and sisters -- forced to abandon their loved ones and their lands, and to face conditions of extreme insecurity -- has risen as a result of spreading conflicts and increasingly dramatic environmental and climatic conditions," the pope noted.

"We can never resign ourselves to the fact that someone who seeks hope by way of the sea can die without receiving help," Pope Francis said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Jean Vanier had 'manipulative' sexual relationships with six women

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Jean Vanier Association

By Philippe Vaillancourt

MONTREAL (CNS) -- Jean Vanier, founder of the ecumenical L'Arche communities that provide group homes and spiritual support for people with intellectual disabilities, used his status to have "manipulative" sexual relationships with at least six women, concludes an internal investigation commissioned by the organization.

The investigation reports "sincere and consistent testimony covering the period 1970-2005" from six adults, none of whom had disabilities.

These women report Vanier initiated sexual relations with them, the report says. Vanier, who died in 2019, asked the women to keep their relations secret.

The report says the women reported similar facts, although they did not know each other or about their parallel histories.

L'Arche International promised "a thorough and independent investigation" in order "to better understand our history, to improve our work in preventing abuse and thus to improve our own current policies and practices." In particular, the organization wanted to shed light on the environment surrounding Father Thomas Philippe, Vanier's spiritual director, who had sexually abused adult women who were not disabled; the organization learned about it in 2015, 22 years after the priest's death. In a church trial in the 1950s, the priest was banned from exercising any public or private ministry.

The alleged acts with Vanier took place in Trosly-Breuil, France, where L'Arche was founded in 1964 and where Father Philippe and Vanier lived almost permanently until their deaths. All the testimonies mention the same procedure: The women received an invitation to go to Vanier's room, under the pretext of receiving spiritual direction.

In a letter addressed to members of L'Arche communities around the world, which was due out Feb. 25 but leaked to the media earlier, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney, respectively international officer and vice international officer, presented the main conclusions of the investigation entrusted to the British consulting firm GCPS Consulting, which specializes in situations involving children or vulnerable persons. Members of L'Arche were informed last June that such a process had begun.

The investigation reveals the depth of the relationship between Vanier and Father Philippe and says Vanier lied when he said he was unaware of the canonical sanctions against his mentor.

A Feb. 22 statement from Tina Bovermann, executive director of L'Arche USA, said that as a "member of a group of followers of Philippe, starting in the 1950s, Jean Vanier not only subscribed to Philippe's theology, which the Catholic Church deemed heretical. He also shared sexual practices, similar to those of Philippe, with several women. The inquiry found no evidence that these specific relationships were not consensual. It is clear that Jean Vanier enabled Philippe to be involved in the L'Arche community in Trosly until his death in 1993, and thus potentially failed to prevent further abuse."

The six women mentioned above were not part of this founding group, the survey notes.

"When we read the investigation report, we were devastated," said Louis Pilotte, L'Arche Canada national director. "For most L'Arche leaders, it is a shock. For all of us, it's a situation we couldn't have imagined."

"There is no testimony, neither in this investigation, nor in the one concerning Father Philippe, that refers to relationships with people in a situation of disability," Pilotte emphasized.

"The impact of this news will be devastating," Pilotte added. "The shock will be felt far beyond L'Arche and the Catholic community. Jean was a figure recognized everywhere, in all religions."

- - -

Contributing to this story was Francois Gloutnay in Montreal.

- - -

Vaillancourt is editor of Presence info, Montreal. Gloutnay is a reporter with Presence.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Pope clears way for beatification of Salvadoran Jesuit, companions

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

The Vatican announced Feb. 22 that Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of a fellow Jesuit, Salvadoran Father Rutilio Grande, and two companions who were murdered en route to a novena in 1977 in El Salvador.

Papal recognition of their martyrdom clears the way for their beatification, although the Vatican did not announce a date for the ceremony.

"The announcement of the beatification of Father Rutilio Grande has been expected for many years," said Mercy Sister Ana Maria Pineda, a relative of the slain priest, in an email to Catholic News Service. "Today the news is received with jubilee and joy. That a man of such humble origins be recognized for his surrender to God, his love for the poor, and his efforts to achieve justice, is an example."

Father Grande died March 12, 1977, near his hometown of El Paisnal in rural El Salvador after being shot a dozen times or more along with elderly parishioner Manuel Solorzano and teenager Nelson Rutilio Lemus, who were accompanying him to a novena for the feast of St. Joseph. Their bodies were found lifeless in an overturned Jeep the priest was driving.

Though born in the Salvadoran countryside, Father Grande was educated as a member of the Society of Jesus, mostly in Spain and Belgium and other parts of Latin America, but later returned as to work among his native country's poor and rural masses. The mission teams he organized taught peasants to read using the Bible, but also helped rural workers to organize so they could speak against a rich and powerful minority that paid them meager salaries and confront the social maladies that befell them because they were poor.

With a team of Jesuit missionaries and lay pastoral agents, Father Grande, who was the pastor of a church in the neighboring town of Aguilares, evangelized a wide rural area in El Salvador from 1972 until his assassination by death squads. As was the case with the assassination of St. Oscar Romero and tens of thousands of other Salvadorans, no one was ever charged with his death or that of his parishioners.  

"His death in the company of Manuel and the young Nelson Rutilio demonstrates his solidarity with the most needy of his beloved country," said Sister Pineda, a theologian and professor at Santa Clara University in California, who wrote the book "Romero and Grande: Companions on the Journey."

The book explores the life of Father Grande and his close friend, the archbishop of San Salvador, who would later become St. Romero, canonized in 2018. St. Romero would die a similar death three years later, martyred as he celebrated Mass. Some say that when Father Grande died, St. Romero took up the mantle in speaking for the poor, and others, including Pope Francis, believe that the murder of Father Grande led to a moment of conversion for the conservative archbishop, who later became popularly known as the voice of the poor.

Others believe St. Romero already was on a path of conversion because he had seen oppression as an auxiliary bishop in a different rural area where he served.

The official recognition of martyrdom means Father Grande and his companions will be beatified without a miracle being attributed to them, though Pope Francis has, in the past, been quoted as saying that Father Grande's first miracle was St. Romero.

Beatification is a step before sainthood; in order for Father Grande and his companions to be canonized, a miracle would have to be attributed to their intercession.

"For me, the beatification of Rutilio means that the persecuted Latin American and Salvadoran church is being recognized," Salvadoran Bishop Oswaldo Escobar Aguilar of Chalatenango, El Salvador, told CNS in an audio interview via WhatsApp. "His commitment to Medellin, his commitment to the poor, especially the peasants who were being badly mistreated in the Aguilares region, where he worked, led him to become a Jesus in that land."

A 1968 conference in Medellin, Colombia, adapted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council toward the needs of the Latin American church, emphasizing pastoral care for the poor majorities of the region. Father Grande, along with many others, followed that direction with his work among the peasants and that sometimes led him to publicly speak out against their oppression.

"The beatification is a great joy for everyone, for peasants, for the oppressed, for those who experienced violence," said Bishop Escobar, who serves in a largely rural area, one that also saw the killing of many Catholic peasants and clergy. "As I like to say, when they canonized Romero, Romero did not go to heaven alone. Behind Romero, many martyrs followed: all the murdered and persecuted (Salvadorans). It's the same with Rutilio. He is being beatified with two peasants, two laypeople, a symbol of many who were martyred."

Despite many falsehoods spread about the Jesuit priest, including that he was a subversive and took up arms, the truth survived, and he is being recognized for his commitment as a pastor to his people, the bishop said.

For others, the beatification is more personal, as well as spiritual. Ana Grande, the Jesuit's niece and an executive at a nonprofit in California, said she was overcome with joy at the news and hoped that through the intercession of soon-to-be Blessed Grande and St. Romero, El Salvador, which still suffers from great violence, corruption, poverty and other social ailments, would heal and the people's hope and faith would be renewed.

"For years we have prayed that the beatification of our uncle, Father Grande, come at a time to encourage our Salvadoran community, to keep lifting their voices," she said to CNS via Twitter. "I can only imagine the feast Romero and Rutilio will have as they join the communion of saints."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Recording artist Dana headlines Lenten program on Great Catholic Music

IMAGE: CNS photo/Living Bread Radio

By

CANTON, Ohio (CNS) -- Great Catholic Music, a free Catholic music platform with over 16,000 downloads, is partnering with Irish Catholic recording artist Dana this Lent to bring listeners the hourlong program "The Stations of the Cross," airing every Friday of the penitential season.

The program will air at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. (Eastern time). The program will consist of spoken reflection and prayer accompanied by music sung by Dana. Listeners can catch the program at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on Alexa devices or on the outlet's free mobile app for Android and Apple devices.

"This recording of the Stations of the Cross will help you meditate deeply on Jesus' passion, death and resurrection. The use of the harp, beautiful prayerful vocals, and added effects provide the contemplative background music," Dana said in a statement.

She made this album with her brother-in-law, the late Father Kevin Scallon, to allow Catholics "a chance to walk with Christ."

"We could not think of a better program to help our listeners prepare for Easter than Dana's 'The Stations of the Cross,' said Chris Cugini, spokesperson for Great Catholic Music. "The stations are one of the most sacred prayers for Catholics to reflect upon during the Lenten season."

The national sponsor for this program is CatholicBook.net, an online Catholic retailer that is celebrating 30 years of business. The album can be purchased through its online store.

As listeners tune in during this program, they will be praying the stations with thousands of others from around the world, according to a Great Catholic Music news release announcing the Lenten program with Dana.

"Offering the consistent programming for all listeners is important for Great Catholic Music as its goal is to unite all people in Christ through the melodies for the soul," the release said. "In Stations, Father Kevin Scallon's soothing voice and Dana's haunting sung prayers give a clear mental picture of each station. Each time you hear it, you will walk alongside Jesus on his final journey to Calvary."

Great Catholic Music was formed in March 2019 by Living Bread Radio in Canton to help Catholics learn more about the music tradition of the church. The platform allows listeners from anywhere in the world to stream Catholic music that can be used for praise and worship or meditative prayer.

Its founders call the station "revolutionary" and note it is "100% listener supported."

All of Great Catholic Music's offerings, like the special Lenten program, can be streamed online at GreatCatholicMusic.com, on the app available on Apple and Android devices, or through smartspeaker technology, like Alexa.

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Fla. diocese declares Safe Haven Sunday to focus on harms of pornography

IMAGE: CNS photo/courtesy Diocese of St. Petersburg

By

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (CNS) -- Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg has declared Feb. 23 as Safe Haven Sunday, a day when parishes in the diocese set aside time to address "the pervasive problem of pornography and its devastating effects on marriages and families."

According to a Feb. 19 news release, the special Sunday designation is part of Freedom From Pornography, an initiative tthe Diocese of St. Petersburg launched in 2016 to combat the growing problem of pornography.

This is the diocese's second Safe Haven Sunday, and the goal is to make each home "a safe haven" from pornography. Under an overall theme of "Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children," this year's observance will focus on "Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure."

"Pornography is detrimental to both the physical and spiritual life of each individual and the greater community," Bishop Parkes said in a statement. "The use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family's life and across generations."

In February 2018, the Florida House approved a measure declaring pornography a public health risk and called for education, research and policy changes that would protect Floridians, especially teenagers, from pornography. The bill said pornography "can exacerbate mental and physical illnesses and promote deviant, problematic or dangerous behaviors."

With its pastoral initiative, "the Catholic Church in west central Florida is responding to this crisis that dehumanizes women and children and normalizes violence," the St. Petersburg diocesan news release said. Statistics show that about 30% of people are exposed to pornography before age 12, it noted.

In February of this year, the Alabama Senate unanimously passed a resolution also declaring pornography a public health risk. More than a dozen other states have acted similarly.

For Safe Haven Sunday, the St. Petersburg Diocese is partnering with Covenant Eyes, a company that creates faith-based resources and tools to prevent exposure to pornography and to overcome pornography use and addiction.

They will offer resources, available in English and Spanish, that are focused on education and prevention, such as books, prayer cards, software to filter out pornography and practical tips to create safer digital environments.

Since it launched the launch of Freedom From Pornography initiative, the diocese has held educational events and training programs to equip Catholics to protect themselves from pornography and to "seek assistance and healing" from using pornography.

The initiative has a website, http://www.dosp.org/freedom-from-porn, with all manner of resources to combat pornography, including a list of counselors who work with people to help them recover from addiction to pornography.

The diocese said the idea for Safe Haven Sunday was inspired by the U.S. bishops' November 2015 pastoral letter "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography."

"Being exposed to pornography can be traumatic for children and youth. Seeing it steals their innocence and gives them a distorted image of sexuality, relationships, and men and women, which may then affect their behavior," the bishops wrote. "It can also make them more vulnerable to being sexually abused, since their understanding of appropriate behavior can be damaged."

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Deaf survivors call on Vatican to release documents on abusers

IMAGE: CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ROME (CNS) -- Three former students at a school for the deaf in Argentina traveled to Rome to demand Pope Francis and Vatican officials release records on priests who abused them and other students.

Speaking to journalists at a news conference in Rome Feb. 20, Daniel Sgardelis, who was abused at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf in La Plata, Argentina, said he wants an international law that would force "the Vatican to stop covering up, to definitively change the situation."

"We need this to change. Enough!" Sgardelis said through an interpreter. "It's been a long time -- 50 years -- and it's still the same. We are victims and there is still a long way for this to change. We need for them to give us evidence."

Sgardelis was accompanied by Ezequiel Villalonga and Claudia Labeguerie, two survivors of the institute's sister school in Mendoza. Their interpreter, Erica Labeguerie, is Claudia's sister.

The survivors were in Rome after a recent visit to U.N. headquarters in Geneva, where they informed the U.N. Committee Against Torture about their sufferings at the schools.

They also told the U.N. committee that although Pope Francis and the Vatican had been informed of abuses that occurred at the institute's schools in Italy and Argentina, no concrete action has been taken to release the names of abusers.

"I went to the United Nations to denounce the abuses and tortures I suffered, and I need the pope to end this," Villalonga said. "And I also need him to give the evidence and the photos (of the abusers), because in Argentina we have not received justice."

Lucas Lecour, an attorney for the survivors, told Catholic News Service Feb. 20 that members of the U.N. committee assured him they would investigate and would respond "very soon."

"I have understood that there will be good resolutions against the Holy See, above all, calling for an end to covering up and an adequate reparation for the victims," Lecour told CNS.

The first Institute for the Deaf was founded in Verona, Italy, in 1830 by Venerable Antonio Provolo, a priest who developed a method of teaching deaf people to communicate by mimicking words through lip reading and vibrations of the throat and chest.

He also founded the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mute as well as the Sisters of the Society of Mary for the Education of the Deaf-Mute. Both religious congregations established schools in other parts of the world, including Argentina.

The female congregation arrived in Argentina and established the first institute in La Plata in 1924. Several decades later, in 1995, another institute was established by Italian Father Nicola Corradi in the western province of Mendoza.

Although Father Corradi is now imprisoned for the abuses at the school in Mendoza, allegations against the priest date back to 1970, when he taught at the Provolo Institute in Verona.

Despite the allegations, the Society of Mary transferred him to teach at their school in La Plata, Argentina, along with several other priests accused of abuse in Verona.

While the visual and vibrational method pioneered by Venerable Provolo was meant to help deaf people talk, survivors said it was used instead to silence victims at the institute's schools in Verona and Argentina.

Students were prohibited and even physically abused if they attempted to use sign language, which left many unable to communicate the sexual abuse they encountered to their families or authorities.

According to The Washington Post, survivors said there was only one hand gesture they were taught by the abusive priests at the institute: an index finger to the lips to demand their silence.

Sergio Salinas, another attorney for the survivors, explained to journalists in Rome that the method taught by the schools was based on the belief that "deaf people are abnormal, while those who could hear are normal."

Many survivors, he said, learned sign language after leaving the school. However, it is still challenging to learn to communicate and thus difficult to describe the abuse or identify their abusers.

"Sign language must be respected as a human right, and the deaf community must be respected," Salinas said.

"We suffered a lot, we weren't allowed to speak in sign language, we felt that we weren't listened to," Labeguerie told journalists. "But now we are survivors and we have learned and we know our rights. And that is why we went to the United Nations. We need this to stop."

In late November, Father Corradi and Argentine Father Horacio Corbacho were each sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for sexually abusing an estimated 20 children at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza.

The institute's gardener, Armando Gomez, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for sexually abusing students.

All three were accused by 10 former students of 25 acts of aggravated sexual abuse that occurred between 2004-2016, the Buenos Aires Times reported in November.

Several school staff members working at the school, including Japanese Sister Kosaka Kumiko, also were arrested for sexual abuse or for covering up the abuse that occurred in the school.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Philippine bishops release additional guidelines to fight coronavirus

IMAGE: CNS photo/Ezra Acayan, Reuters

By Ryan Harms

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Amid continuing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, Catholics in the Philippines have been asked not to kiss or touch the cross when they venerate it on Good Friday, April 10.

Instead, they should "genuflect or make a profound bow" before the cross during the veneration of the cross, according to updated liturgical guidelines issued Feb. 20 by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines and posted on Twitter.

Already in January, the bishops' conference advised priests to distribute the Eucharist in communicants' hands rather than their mouths, to place protective cloths over the screens of confessionals and to change the holy water in church fonts regularly. The conference also asked the faithful not to hold hands during the "Our Father" and not to shake hands during the sign of peace.

In the new guidelines, which the bishops' conference said it "strongly recommends" following, priests were asked to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, by "dropping or sprinkling a small portion of blessed ash on the crown of the head of the faithful," rather than rubbing them on the person's forehead.

The World Health Organization reported that as of Feb. 19, there were more than 75,000 cases of coronavirus, but fewer than 1,000 of the cases involved people outside of China. Three cases of the coronavirus have been documented in the Philippines, with one resulting in death, according to WHO.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]

Almsgiving: An overshadowed Lenten pillar has something to say

IMAGE: CNS photo/Georgina Goodwin for Catholic Relief Services

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- When it comes to the three pillars of Lent, almsgiving is a little bit like the middle child, not always getting the attention that prayer and fasting do.

The word hardly rolls off the tongue and people don't talk about it as they might discuss what they are giving up for Lent or how they might be praying more or reading spiritual books during the 40 days before Easter.

A February editorial in America magazine described almsgiving as the "under-practiced, under-encouraged Lenten discipline" and pointed out that in the magazine's 110-year-old archives, a search for prayer and fasting in article titles had thousands of examples but a similar search for almsgiving yielded just two results.

Almsgiving is defined as donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." The practice of giving to help those in need runs through all the major faith traditions.

Christians might have good reason not to talk about their almsgiving practices since biblical warnings are pretty clear on guidelines of keeping this practice quiet.

For example, in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus has this to say: "When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others."

But out of sight in this case should not mean out of mind.

The Old Testament is full of reminders about the need to give alms and a passage from the Book of Tobit goes a step further by saying "almsgiving saves from death and purges all sin."

So, if believers know that they should give, why isn't this discipline more of a Lenten topic of conversation?

Jesuit Father Bruce Morrill, the Edward A. Malloy professor of Catholic studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee, said one possibility is that so much of the religious practice of Lent is shaped by images that represent what people are trying to do with their faith -- ashes, for example, or fish on Fridays.

"Almsgiving is not easily recognizable," nor does it necessarily demonstrate religious devotion as prayer and fasting do with their focus on personal holiness, he said.

He pointed out that the practice of giving to those in need was not recognized for its spiritual value even in the New Testament. Jesus spoke about being asked: "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?" and his response was if they did this for "the least of these" they also did it for him.

Since the Second Vatican Council, Father Morrill said, the church has made more of an effort to connect worship and prayer to moral activity, and many Catholics have made the connection that fasting is not just to be pious but should have practical measures: taking the money that would have been spent on food or drink, for example, and setting that aside to give to the poor.

That is the whole idea behind Catholic Relief Services' Rice Bowl, the small cardboard box for collecting donations to help those supported around the world by CRS, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency. Since its inception in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl has raised nearly $300 million. Last year, nearly 14,000 Catholic parishes and schools across the U.S. participated in the program.

One of the suggestions on the website is to follow meatless recipes it provides from around the world and to put the money saved from not buying meat into the Rice Bowl.

Deacon Nicholas Szilagye, writing in a 2018 issue of Horizons, the online newsletter of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio, linked almsgiving to the other Lenten disciplines by describing it as "fasting from our income and material possessions" and saying it translates "prayers into love for each other by giving to the needy in the name of Christ."

He stressed the practice is not an optional one, but one that is required of believers, but he also lamented that it "seems to get the least attention among the three" Lenten disciplines.

The deacon suggested that people create an almsgiving plan that doesn't necessarily need to be about giving money but also could be a donation of time, energy or talents to those in need.

"Let's make almsgiving an encounter with God during Lent through the face of the poor," he wrote.

Similarly, Father Morrill stressed that when rooted in faith, the practice of caring and providing for those in need is a way of "knowing this is how you encounter and know God."

Alms might not get their due, so to speak, because Christians are hesitant to say their efforts to help others somehow earns them something, the priest said. But really, he said, they should recognize the practice is "a way to join in the generosity of God" and show the love of God for all, which is "truest when given to the least."

- - -

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim

 

- - -

Copyright © 2020 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at [email protected]