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No reform possible without new leaders in Legionaries of Christ, advocates and survivors say

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 02:05 pm (CNA).- Advocates and survivors of abuse perpetrated by priests of the Legionaries of Christ say that the religious order has no hope of authentic reform without wholesale replacement of the Legion’s leadership figures. “As long as the same people are in power, there will continue to be manipulation, authoritarianism and cover up,” Adriana Lozano, a consecrated lay woman in the Legion's Regnum Christi apostolate, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.  She told ACI Prensa that although she reported for years to Legionaries leadership abuse allegations about a now laicized priest, Fernando Martínez, her allegations went unheard, even by current leaders of the religious institute. “Nevertheless, I continued to inform each director in turn about the case, without getting a response,” she said. “As for the Legion. most of the time they ignored my messages or told me 'thanks, we'll take action on the matter,' because I began to inform them about other cases or situations that I saw,” she added. Martinez abused at least six girls, ages 6 to 11, between 1991 and 1993 when he directed the Cumbres Institute in Cancún, Mexico. He is also accused of other acts of abuse, including that of a boy between the ages of 4 and 6 at the Cumbres Lomas Institute in Mexico City in 1969. The priest was dismissed from the clerical state earlier this month. While the Legion of Christ had received allegations against him at least as early as 2014, it did not act to investigate them until May 2019, after Ana Lucía Salazar, a Mexican television personality, went public with accusations of sexual abuse and cover-up involving the now-laiciized priest. One woman abused by the priest when she was a child, Belén Márquez, told ACI Prensa that the Legionaries of Christ neglected their responsibilities for years. In particular she said that one priest in the religious order, Fr. Eloy Bedia, knew about abuse allegations against Martinez Suarez as early as 1993, and did nothing. Marquez also criticized the current superior of the religious community, Fr. Eduardo Robles-Gil, noting “he acknowledged that in 2014 he knew about it and did nothing.” “There hardly can be a renewal of the congregation with the same people” in leadership, she said. Asked by ACI Prensa why allegations against Martinez were seemingly ignored until 2019, a spokesman for the order referred to a letter written to victims by Robles-Gil. 'The inadequate attention given when your parents presented their complaints also pains me...I could have remedied it, beginning in 2014, but I followed the decisions that had been made in past decades and we did not re-examine the case. Today I am sorry I did not do it,’' Robles-Gil wrote in that letter. In 2014, Robles-Gil was directed to implement changes in the group's formation process and to implement safe environment policies for the care and protection of minors. The spokesman explained that recent reforms to the Legionaries of Christ religious order are intended to build a structure of accountability, and avoid the centralization of authority that characterized the Legion’s early years, although those reforms did not lead to a change in the way allegations against Martinez were handled. The Legion of Christ, founded in 1941 by Marcial Macial, was the subject of controversy in the Church long before it was rocked by the Vatican’s acknowledgment that its charismatic founder lived a double life, sexually abused seminarians, and fathered children. In 2006 the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith removed Maciel from public ministry and ordered him to spend the rest of his life in prayer and penance. The congregation decided not to subject him to a canonical process because of his advanced age. In 2010, Pope Benedict appointed then-Archbishop Velasio de Paolis as the papal delegate to the Legion of Christ to oversee its reform. De Paolis, who died in 2017, has been accused of refusing to punish or even investigate Martinez or the superiors who covered up his crimes, according to reporting from the Associated Press. Martinez had himself been abused by Fr. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ, in Ontaneda and Rome in 1954, when Martinez was 15. The Legionaries of Christ order is now meeting in its general chapter. The meeting is the first such chapter since Pope Francis approved new constitutions for the troubled congregation in Nov. 2014, following an extraordinary general chapter earlier that year. At that meeting, Robles-Gil was entrusted with implementing reform measures. The priest has since admitted initiating no new no process to recieve or review allegations of abuse. In addition to assessing the last six years, the 2020 General Chapter will elect the new general director, six councilors, and a general administrator.   A version of this story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.    

Pope's new personal secretary ran a ministry for street children

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 10:51 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Sunday that Pope Francis has a new personal secretary, Fr. Gonzalo Aemilius, a priest from Uruguay known for his ministry with children on the streets. Pope Francis first met Aemilius in 2006 when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. In one of his first Masses after becoming pope, on March 17, 2013, Francis recognized Fr. Aemilius in the crowd at the Church of Santa Anna in the Vatican and said: “I want to introduce you to a priest who comes from afar, he has come, a priest who has been working with street children for a long time, with drug addicts. He opened a school for them, he did many things to make Jesus known, and all these street boys and girls today work with the study they have done, have work skills, believe and love Jesus.” Aemilius replaces Fr. Fabian Pedacchio, who served as the pope’s secretary from 2013 to 2019. Pedacchio returned to his position in the Congregation for Bishops in December. The new secretary will support Fr.Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, the pope’s personal secretary. Born in Montevide in 1979 into a family without faith, Aemilius converted to Catholicism in high school, inspired by the witness of joy in the priests he encountered who served the poor, according to Vatican News. He felt called to the priesthood to dedicate his life to the poor and abandoned children in Uruguay, and was ordained a priest in 2006. Aemilius studied theology in Rome, and directed Jubilar John Paul II High School in Uruguay. Aemilius told L’Osservatore Romano in 2013 that Pope Francis’ witness as Archbishop of Buenos Aires was “decisive in my life.” “It struck me greatly when, during Holy Thursday Mass celebrated in a neighborhood similar to a Brazilian favela, where a lot of drugs circulated, he did the washing of the feet for drug addicts and sick people of AIDS with a shocking tenderness. And with his gesture he redeemed many inhabitants of the neighborhood, prisoners of that tremendous mechanism that are drugs and his way,” the priest said. “He taught me to get the best out of each individual, however different he may be from all the others, and to put it to good use for the good of all,” Fr. Aemilius said.

'Never again': Pope Francis calls for prayer on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Vatican City, Jan 27, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis has asked for people to spend a moment in prayer and recollection on Monday for International Holocaust Remembrance Day. January 27 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Between 1940 and 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, many killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival at the camp. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust. “In the face of this huge tragedy, this atrocity, indifference is not admissible and memory is a must,” Pope Francis said Jan. 26 in his Angelus address. The pope invited each person to spend a moment on the anniversary in prayer and recollection with  “each person saying in his own heart: ‘never again, never again!’” In a meeting with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, last week Pope Francis recalled his visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Poland in 2016: “I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity.” “If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” Pope Francis said. The pope also condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of cases of anti-Semitism in the world, and urged the need to respect each person’s human dignity. “It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20. “This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. Once more I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism.” The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Union also denounced anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia in a Jan. 25 statement marking the anniversary. “At the hour of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, let us light candles and say a prayer for people murdered in death camps of all nationalities and religions and for their relatives. Let our prayers broaden the reconciliation and brotherhood, of which the opposite is hostility, destructive conflicts and fueled misunderstandings,” the bishops encouraged. “Cruel wars, genocide, persecution, and different forms of fanaticism are still taking place, although history teaches us that violence never leads to peace but, on the contrary, breeds more violence and death,” they added. “May the power of Christ’s love prevail in us.”

Pope Francis prays for coronavirus victims in China

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2020 / 06:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed Sunday for people infected by the coronavirus, which has killed 56 people in China. “May the Lord welcome the deceased in his peace, comfort families and support the great commitment of the Chinese community, already put in place to fight the epidemic,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Jan. 26. Originating in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the virus has spread to nine countries with 1,975 confirmed cases. The World Health Organization’s latest report Jan. 25 stated that among the confirmed cases, 237 people have been reported as severely ill. The number of people with coronavirus has increased by 655 cases in the 24-hours since the WHO report’s release, the Chinese government reported Jan. 26, one day after Lunar New Year. Hundreds of millions of people travel for the holiday, which is the biggest celebration of the year in China. Wuhan, a city around the size of London, has been on lockdown since Jan. 23 with restrictions on travel by trains, planes, ferries, and cars. The United States Embassy is working to evacuate all American citizens in Wuhan. A third U.S. case of coronavirus was confirmed in California on Jan. 26. Outside of China, coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Australia, France, South Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, and the United States in Chicago, Seattle, and Orange Country. There are currently suspected cases among recent travelers from China in Canada, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast. Before his Angelus prayer, Pope Francis gave thanks for the Church’s first Sunday of the Word of God being celebrated throughout the world on the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. “It is this - the Word of Jesus … the Gospel - which changes the world and hearts! We are therefore called to trust the word of Christ, to open ourselves to the Father's mercy and allow ourselves to be transformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit,” he said. The pope also prayed for people affected by Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, and spent a moment in silence in remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He invited everyone to spend time in prayer on the anniversary, Jan. 27, and to repeat in their hearts: “Never again!” The coronavirus was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31. Bishops in the Philippines have urged residents to be vigilant and to quickly check into a hospital if they believe they have been infected with the illness. Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga released a special prayer for the prevention of a global outbreak: “We pray that you control and prevent a global epidemic of coronavirus. We fervently ask that you display your power and stop the rapid spread of this deadly virus. Manifest your presence to those who have already been infected. Give them hope and courage and may your miraculous healing hands be upon them.”

Pope Francis: Keep a Bible close to you for daily inspiration

Vatican City, Jan 26, 2020 / 04:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis preached Sunday about the life-changing power of God’s word in Scripture, encouraging everyone to keep a Bible close for daily inspiration. “Let us make room in our lives for the word of God. Each day, let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily,” Pope Francis said in his homily Jan. 26. “The Lord gives you his word, so that you can receive it like a love letter he has written to you, to help you realize that he is at your side. His word consoles and encourages us. At the same time it challenges us, frees us from the bondage of our selfishness and summons us to conversion. Because his word has the power to change our lives and to lead us out of darkness into the light,” the pope said. Pope Francis inaugurated the first Sunday of the Word of God with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The pope established the Sunday of the Word of God to take place annually throughout the world on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. “On this first Sunday of the Word of God, let us go to the roots of his preaching, to the very source of the word of life,” the pope said. “We need his word: so that we can hear, amid the thousands of other words in our daily lives, that one word that speaks to us not about things, but about life,” he said. The pope reflected on Jesus’ preaching in Matthew’s Gospel: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” “We can now understand the direct demand that Jesus makes: ‘Repent,’ in other words, ‘Change your life.’ Change your life, for a new way of living has begun. The time when you lived for yourself is over; now is the time for living with and for God, with and for others, with and for love. Today Jesus speaks those same words to you,” he said. Francis said that Jesus began preaching from the peripheries in Galilee, passing through “all of that varied and complex region.” In the same way, Christ is not afraid to explore the difficult terrain in our hearts. “Here there is a message for us: the word of salvation does not go looking for untouched, clean and safe places. Instead, it enters the complex and obscure places in our lives,” the pope said. “Now, as then, God wants to visit the very places we think he will never go. Yet how often we are the ones who close the door, preferring to keep our confusion, our dark side and our duplicity hidden. We keep it locked up within, approaching the Lord with some rote prayers, wary lest his truth stir our hearts,” he said. Throughout the Mass, the statue of Our Lady of Knock from Ireland was on the altar as the Church celebrates the 140th anniversary of the Marian apparition. Pope Francis blessed this statue of Our Lady of Knock when he visited the Irish Marian Shrine during the World Meeting of Families in 2018. The relics of St. Timothy were also moved to St. Peter’s Basilica for the Sunday of the Word of God. At the end of Mass, Pope Francis gave copies of the Bible to 40 people as a symbolic gesture. “To follow Jesus, mere good works are not enough; we have to listen daily to his call. He, who alone knows us and who loves us fully, leads us to put out into the deep of life,” he said. “We will discover that God is close to us, that he dispels our darkness and, with great love, leads our lives into deep waters,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis prays at St. Paul’s tomb with Orthodox and Anglican Christians

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2020 / 11:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis prayed at the tomb of St. Paul with Orthodox and Anglican leaders Saturday to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. “God’s priority is the salvation of all,” Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls Jan. 25. “This is an invitation not to devote ourselves exclusively to our own communities, but to open ourselves to the good of all, to the universal gaze of God who took flesh in order to embrace the whole human race and who died and rose for the salvation of all,” he said. On the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the pope presided over ecumenical vespers with Metropolitan Gennadios, representative of the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, and Anglican bishop Ian Ernest, personal representative of  the Archbishop of Canterbury. Pope Francis told those gathered in prayer that the Acts of the Apostles speaks to “our ecumenical journey towards the unity which God ardently desires.” The Christian leaders also venerated the relics of St. Timothy, which were moved to Rome for the Week of Christian Unity, and will be present in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 26 for the Sunday of the Word of God. Pope Francis quoted St. Paul’s first letter to St. Timothy in which Paul wrote that God “desires everyone to be saved.” Ecumenical prayers have been held in Rome each day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Jan. 18 - 25. The Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity participated in the preparation of the prayer materials for the week, as it has each year since 1968. “From this Week of Prayer we want to learn to be more hospitable, in the first place among ourselves as Christians and among our brothers and sisters of different confessions,” Pope Francis said. “Among Christians as well, each community has a gift to offer to the others. The more we look beyond partisan interests and overcome the legacies of the past in the desire to move forward towards a common landing place, the more readily we will recognize, welcome and share these gifts,” the pope said.

Pope Francis and Iraqi president discuss securing a future for Christians

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis met Saturday with Iraqi President Barham Salih, and discussed the need to secure the future of Iraq’s deep-rooted Christian population. The president and the pontiff spoke privately for about 30 minutes before Sahil met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. A Vatican statement Jan. 25 said the talks focused on “the challenges the country currently faces and the importance of promoting stability and the reconstruction process.” “Attention then turned to the importance of preserving the historical presence of Christians in the country, of which they are an integral part, and the significant contribution they bring to the reconstruction of the social fabric,” the Holy See said. During the talks, the Vatican underlined the need to guarantee Christians “security and a place in the future of Iraq.” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told EWTN News that Pope Francis also expressed his great concern for persecuted Christians in Iraq in his audience with the pope the day prior. Christianity has been present in the Nineveh plains in Iraq – between Mosul and Iraqi Kurdistan – since the first century. However, since the ousting of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Christians have been fleeing the region. Five years after the Islamic State captured the Christian communities of the Nineveh plains, the region’s diminished Catholic population are still in the process of rebuilding their destroyed homes and churches. Recent tensions between the United States and Iran have heightened Iraqi bishops’ fears for Iraq’s fragile Christian communities. “Iraqi Christians “need the certainty, reassurance, hope and the belief that Iraq can be a peaceful country to live in rather than being victims and endless collateral damage,” Archbishop Bashar Warda told CNA following an Iranian attack on an air base in Erbil Jan. 8. The Holy See said it encouraged “the path of dialogue” and solutions in favor of the Iraqi people and “with respect for national sovereignty” in the meetings with Salih. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis began protesting government corruption and Iranian influence in Oct. 2019 in the largest protests in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Vatican meeting occurred one day after an estimated 200,000 people protested in Baghdad in a demonstration against the U.S. military presence in Iraq organized by Shiite groups with ties to Iran. Amid the tensions, Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, has called for dialogue. “The international community has a responsibility for what is happening in the region in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran now. They should help people to sit together and to dialogue in a civilized way and to look for a political solution,” Cardinal Sako told EWTN News Jan. 6.

Cardinal Re elected new dean of the College of Cardinals

Vatican City, Jan 25, 2020 / 05:30 am (CNA).- Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re has been elected the new dean of the College of Cardinals with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri as vice-dean. Re, 85, will serve a five-year term under the new term limits created by Pope Francis in a motu proprio issued Dec. 21. Previously, cardinal dean, considered “first among equals,” was a position held for the duration of one’s life. The dean of the College of Cardinals presides at the conclave for the election of the pope and represents the Holy See during the sede vacante. Because Cardinal Re is over the age of 80, he is ineligible to take part in a conclave. The responsibility of presiding over the conclave will therefore fall to 76-year-old vice-dean, Cardinal Sandri. Both Re and Sandri’s elections were approved by Pope Francis on  Jan. 18 and Jan. 24 respectively. The College of Cardinals is structured in three orders, or ranks: the order of “cardinal deacons,” the order of “cardinal priests,” and the order of “cardinal bishops.” The dean is elected by and from among the highest of these ranks, the cardinal bishops. He has the responsibility to communicate the pope’s death to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and to the heads of nations, and he is the one who asks the pope-elect if he accepts the election, and what name he will take. Re’s election follows the resignation of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, 92, who was elected dean of the College of Cardinals in 2005. Since 2017, Re held the position of vice-dean under Sodano, who can now assume the title of dean emeritus. In his motu proprio Dec. 21, Pope Francis said he made the decision to set a five-year, renewable mandate “with regard to the fact that with the increase in the number of cardinals, ever greater commitments come to weigh on the person of the cardinal dean.” The dean and assistant dean, elected from among the cardinal bishops, are “called to exercise among the cardinal confreres a fraternal and fruitful presidency of primacy inter pares,” the pope said. Re retired as prefect of the Congregation for Bishops in 2010 after leading the Vatican congregation for ten years. He worked closely with St. John Paul II as sostituto, or deputy, at the Secretariat of State from 1989 - 2000 before his appointment as prefect of the Congregation of Bishops. A native of Lombardy, Italy, Re was ordained to the priesthood in 1957, and entered into the diplomatic service of the Holy See. John Paul II appointed him to be an archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for Bishops in 1987 and a cardinal in 2000. Re has served as vice-dean of the College of Cardinals since 2017. Sandri is the current prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Eastern Churches, a position he has held since 2007 when Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal. Born in Buenos Aires in 1943, Sandri was ordained to the priesthood in 1967. He shortly after studied to be a papal diplomat, and went on to serve in the nunciature in Madagascar and Mauritius. St. John Paul II appointed him regent of the Prefecture of the Papal Household in 1991, and the following year he was promoted to be an assessor for the Section for General Affairs in the Secretariat of State. Sandri went on to be appointed as an archbishop and apostolic nuncio to Venezuela in 1997, and apostolic nuncio to Mexico in 2000. After only a few months, he was called back to the Vatican to assume the position of sostituto for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State following Re.

Full text of EWTN News interview with VP Mike Pence

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2020 / 09:40 am (CNA).- After an hour long meeting with Pope Francis Jan. 24, Vice President Mike Pence sat down with EWTN News to discuss their conversation. Here is CNA's transcript of that interview: EWTN News: Mr. Vice President, you spent about an hour with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, today and what did you discuss? Pence: Well, it was a great privilege for me to spend time with Pope Francis and to be able to do so on a day that literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many Catholic Americans, are gathered on our National Mall in Washington D.C. standing up for the right to life, was a particular joy for me. And to hear his passion for the sanctity of life, and to hear the American Bishops were coming to him this month and speaking about their determination to see the Church in the United States continue as it has always done to stand without apology for the sanctity of human life. It was a great privilege.   EWTN News: How can the U.S. government work together with the Holy See in the entire world to promote the sanctity of life and work against abortion and also euthanasia?   Pence: Well, I believe that the Church in the U.S. has been a bulwark in the right to life movement since Roe v Wade was first adopted by our Supreme Court in 1973. In fact, on the National Mall today, among those hundreds of thousands of young people, will be an enormous number of Catholic youth. They will be waving their banners of their parishes, they’ll be waving the banners of their Catholic schools, and I think continuing to educate young people about the unalienable right to life, and the fact that every child is a gift from God has been the contribution that the Church has made to this cause, and the truth is in the U.S. we see more young people everyday embracing the right to life. The numbers are growing. I know the Church is playing a critical role in that and I know will continue to until we reach that day that we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law and will carry that message throughout the world.   EWTN News: You’ve personally been involved with many Marches for Life now, Mr. Vice President. Why have you taken this on as your sort of personal campaign as well?   Pence: Well, for my wife and me to stand for life in the public square is a calling. It’s a calling of our convictions, it’s a calling of our faith. We think it is the most pressing moral issue of our time. And throughout our years in congress, and as Governor, and now as Vice President, I’ve sought to stand for the right to life and to stand with all of those who cherish the unborn. But I have to tell you, I couldn’t be more proud to be Vice President to the most Pro-Life president in American history. As we gather here in Rome today, President Trump will go to the National Mall and be the first American president to ever address the March for Life in person. And that’s no real surprise when you see President Trump’s record for life, whether it be ending the Mexico City Policy, ending the providing funding for organizations that promote or support abortion around the world, defunding the largest abortion provider in America, or appointing principled conservatives to our courts. One step after another, President Donald Trump has stood consistently for the right to life, and I expect the warm reception that he’ll get today from those hundreds of thousands of people gathered on our National Mall will reflect the fact that people all across America know in President Donald Trump they have a champion for life. EWTN News: Going back to your meeting with Pope Francis today, did you speak about the tensions between the United States and Iran? He has spoken about this and has invited both parties to dialogue. Pence: Today in my discussions with Pope Francis, we spoke about a number of issues, including the Pope’s great concern for Christian and religious minorities in Iraq and across the Nineveh Plain. I told the Pope that we are very proud to work with many Catholic charities as we work to rebuild Christian communities that were so set upon through ISIS and terrorist action in the region in recent years. We’ve really partnered with the Knights of Columbus and other organizations across the region to make it possible for those Christian communities to come back and to have vibrant communities, not only Christian, but Yazidi communities, and the Pope shared with me his great passion for [the issue of] religious persecution and for religious minorities across the Middle East. We also then talked about Venezuela. Pope Francis is a son of South America, and I wanted to better understand his insight about how we can together work as a global community to help restore democracy for the people of Venezuela. As I stand here today, the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro has impoverished their country, nearly 5 million people have fled Venezuela to neighboring countries, the poverty and deprivation there in what was once one of the wealthiest countries in our hemisphere is tragedy. I sought Pope Francis’ counsel about how we can work more closely with him and with the Church in Venezuela and across South and Central America to really continue to bring the kind of pressure to bear from the ground up that will make it possible for the people of Venezuela to have a new birth of freedom. The reality is that the National Assembly has named Juan Guaidó now more than a year ago as the interim president, and democracy is waiting in the wings in Venezuela, but it will take all of us and I trust the consistent and courageous voice of the Church in Venezuela to see liberty restored. EWTN News: You said yesterday in Israel that you invited states to stand together against this rise of anti-Semitism worldwide. Pope Francis has often spoken out against anti-Semitism... Pence: He has. EWTN News:... as well. How do you see that the US and Europe and the world can take concrete steps forward against anti-Semitism? Pence: Well, first it’s so important that we remember the past, so as not to relive it in the future. And yesterday in Jerusalem, it was my great privilege to be there as we mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, and to see nearly 60 world leaders come together to mark what was not only the darkest chapter in human history but to really...to mark a triumph of freedom 75 years ago was deeply moving. But what was equally impressive was the universal call by all those present to condemn anti-Semitism in all of its forms. And the truth is that we are seeing vile anti-Semitism rear its head in both rhetoric and violence across the world. We’ve seen synagogues attacked in the United States of America, Jewish communities attacked around the world, and we believe as we said yesterday that it’s imperative that leaders around the world and in the faith community and in the public sphere condemn anti-Semitism without reservation every time it emerges. And also in the midst of that that we stand together against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism on the planet: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran actually today, as a state position denies the Holocaust ever happened or routinely says that its aim is to wipe Israel off the map. It’s important, particularly in the light of our action against Iran and a military leader just a month ago that the world continue to isolate Iran economically and diplomatically, and President Trump is going to continue to lead that charge. We cannot allow the leading state sponsor of terrorism with so much enmity toward Israel to ever have a nuclear weapon, and we will continue to stand strong, and we will continue to work to bring the world community together, but stopping anti-Semitism wherever it emerges must be a priority of every nation in the world, and we need only to look to that dark chapter 75 years ago to know how dangerous anti-Semitism is and how it is a moral imperative in this century to see to it that it is condemned and rejected wherever it’s expressed. EWTN News: Thank you so much, Mr. Vice President. Pence: Thank you.   This interview was air on EWTN News Nightly, Jan. 24, 2020.

VP Pence and Pope Francis discuss US pro-life movement during Vatican meeting

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2020 / 09:20 am (CNA).- As the March for Life got underway in Washington, DC, Pope Francis and Vice President Mike Pence met in the Vatican Friday to discuss the Church's commitment to the pro-life movement. "It was a great privilege to spend time with Pope Francis and to be able to do so on a day that literally hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many Catholic Americans, are gathered on our National Mall in Washington D.C. standing up for the right to life, was a particular joy for me,” Pence told EWTN News Jan. 24. "And to hear his passion for the sanctity of life ... It was a great privilege,” Pence added. “I believe that the Church in the U.S. has been a bulwark in the right to life movement since Roe v Wade was first adopted by our Supreme Court in 1973,” the vice president said after his hour long meeting with the pope. “In the U.S. we see more young people everyday embracing the right to life. The numbers are growing and I know the Church is playing a critical role in that and I know will continue to until we reach that day that we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law and will carry that message throughout the world,” he added. Speaking of the March for Life taking place Jan. 24 in Washington, DC, Pence said that “on the National Mall today, among those hundreds of thousands of young people, will be an enormous number of Catholic youth.” “They will be waving their banners of their parishes, they’ll be waving the banners of their Catholic schools, and I think continuing to educate young people about the unalienable right to life, and the fact that every child is a gift from God has been the contribution that the Church has made to this cause.” The vice president told EWTN News that Pope Francis spoke in their meeting of the great determination of the American bishops to see the Church in the United States stand without apology for the sanctity of human life. The pope has been meeting with groups of U.S. bishops since November, as they travel to Rome for their ad limina visits. Pope Francis also told Pence of his great concern for persecuted Christians in the Middle East, the vice president said. “Today in my discussions with Pope Francis, we spoke about a number of issues including the Pope’s great concern for Christian and religious minorities in Iraq and across the Nineveh Plains,” Pence said. The vice president said he sought advice from the pope as to how the U.S. can work with the Church to help people suffering in Venezuela. “We also then talked about Venezuela. Pope Francis is a son of South America, and I wanted to better understand his insight about how we can together work as a global community to help restore democracy for the people of Venezuela,” Pence said. “I sought Pope Francis’ counsel and how we can work more closely with him and with the Church in Venezuela and across South and Central America to really continue to bring the kind of pressure to bear from the ground up to make it possible for the people of Venezuela to have a new birth of freedom,” he said. “The reality is that the National Assembly has named Juan Guaidó now more than a year ago as the interim president, and democracy is waiting in the wings in Venezuela, but it will take all of us and I trust the consistent and courageous voice of the Church in Venezuela to see liberty restored.” At the Vatican, Pence also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Upon meeting the pope in the Apostolic Palace, Pence extended a greeting on behalf of President Donald Trump. Later today Trump is scheduled to address the March for Life in person. He will be the first president to attend the March for Life in the event’s 47-year history. For Pence, protecting the sanctity of life is personal. “For my wife and me to stand for life in the public square is a calling, a calling of our convictions, it’s a calling of our faith,” he said. “We think it is the most pressing moral issue of our time,” Pence added.