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Philippines preparing for 7th Asian Youth Day ‎

(Vatican Radio) The biggest event of the Asian Catholic Church this year, is taking place in Yogyakarta city, Indonesia, next week.  The 7th Asian Youth Day (AYD7) is being hosted by the Archdiocese of Semarang, August 2-6, with over 2000 ‎‎young people from ‎‏‎21 ‎Asian countries rallying around the theme, “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel ‎in Multicultural Asia‎!”‎ The continent-level event has been held in various Asian cities since 1999 in intervals of 2, ‎‎3 ‎and 5 years, with the last AYD in Daejeon Diocese in Korea in 2014, in which Pope Francis participated. 

Organizers have divided the entire AYD into three events spread across 11 days from July 30 to August 9.  On arrival, the participants will head to the 11 of Indonesia’s 37 dioceses who will be hosting them from July 30 to August 2 in what is called Days in the Dioceses (DID).  All the participants will then converge in Yogyakarta from August 2 to 6 for the central event of the AYD7.   The 5 days will include a variety of activities such as adoration, confession, Mass, reflections, testimonies, workshops, group sharing, country exhibits and cultural performances.  After the main event, the Asian Youth Ministers will stay back for a meeting, August 6 to 9.

Among the 21 countries participating in the AYD is also the Philippines.  To know about it, we called Fr. Conegundo Garganta, the executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.  Speaking to us on the phone from Manila Fr. Garganta  first talked about the Philippine youth delegation to the Asian Youth Day.

Listen:  

Summary:

Fr. Garganta said that 69 young people have been officially registered with the AYD7 but with bishops and youth ministers accompanying them, the entire delegation has 82 members. 

Peparation

The young people will first head to the Indonesian dioceses of Bogor and Jakarta for the Days in the Diocese (DID).  The young people have been preparing for the event following the pre-event modules of the AYD, that recommend reflecting and meditating on the suggested scripture passages, visiting churches, talking to priests, visiting non-Christian families and communities etc.   

Philippine contribution to AYD

Fr. Garganta also talked about the contribution that the Philippine young people will be brining to the AYD.  He talked about the warmth and friendship of the Filipino people, particularly visible in their smiles, and their strong faith.  They would also display the “multi-culturality” of the Philippines, where there are minority and tribal groups and followers of other faiths, “but still people are able to blend well.”

Message

The executive secretary of the Philippine Episcopal Commission on Youth ‎sent a message to Filipinos abroad assuring them that despite numerous challenges and struggles, as in many countries, the faith of the Philippine people was leading them to hope  and to continue working for peace. The Church regards the young not merely as hope for the future but much more for the present.  Fr. Garganta urged the country, the Church and the government, also of other countries, to “really invest in the young people” , because they provide “new perspectives in ways of looking at life…” which promote solidarity, unity, friendship, and understanding.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican on migration: an opportunity for development and fraternity

(Vatican Radio) The integration of migrants and refugees in host nations can and must become an opportunity for new understanding, broader horizons and greater development for everyone.

This message was at the heart of a statement released on Monday by Father Michael Czerny at the UN in New York during an Informal Thematic Session in New York  to gather substantive input and recommendations to inform the Global Compact on Migration

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Father. Michael Czerny, who is the Undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees in the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development – which answers directly to  Pope Francis himself - focused his intervention on the need to promote a culture in which the consequences and impacts of migration become an opportunity for “human growth, encounter and dialogue in view of the promotion of peace and fraternity among peoples.”   

Pointing out that no one should ever be forced to leave his or her home due to lack of development or peace and that tragically the reasons that compel millions to go on the move today are to be found in endemic poverty, hunger, violence, inadequate work, environmental degradation, weak and corrupt institutions, Fr Czerny said that whether the effects of migration become a gain - for them, their families, their countries of destination and hopefully one day perhaps their countries of origin - depends on the extent to which  they are welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated.

That gain - he continued – hinges “on whether migrants and refugees are helped to transition from objects of emergency care to dignified subjects of their own development” and are permitted to use the education, skills, ambitions, experiences and cultural wisdom they already have, as well as those that could be enhanced through further schooling and training for the development of society.

For this desired win-win to occur, he concluded, migrants must first be received and treated as human beings, with dignity and respect for their rights, and they must be protected against all forms of exploitation and from being permanently cast-away, whether socially, economically or legally.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Angelus: Pope appeals for dialogue after Jerusalem violence

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for moderation and dialogue after a surge of violence and killings over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope said he is following “with trepidation the grave tensions and violence of the last days in Jerusalem.”

Last week Arab gunmen, shooting from the site – which is Holy to Jews and to Muslims -  killed two Israeli policemen sparking a wave of violence in which three Palestinians were killed in street clashes and a Palestinian fatally stabbed three members of an Israeli family.

“I feel the need to express a heartfelt appeal for moderation and dialogue” Francis said and he invited all faithful to join him in prayer so that the Lord may inspire all sides to come together with proposals for reconciliation and peace. 

Tensions over the site, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have surged in the past couple of days following the installation by Israel of metal detectors after two Israeli policemen were killed near there earlier this month.

The measures angered the Palestinians, who accuse Israel of trying to take control over a sacred place.

Israel now says it is willing to consider alternatives to the controversial metal detectors it installed and has called on the Muslim world to put forward other suggestions.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope endorses campaign to put 'Laudato Sì' into action

(Vatican Radio) Following the 2nd anniversary of the publication of his encyclical “Laudato Sì – On Care of our Common Home”, Pope Francis has endorsed a pledge campaign that aims to mobilize at least 1 million people to directly engage in turning the encyclical’s message into action. 

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

Organized and promoted by the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the pledge  calls on those who sign to answer the call of Laudato Sì by praying with and for creation, living more simply, and advocating to protect our common home.

The "Laudato Sì Pledge campaign" has received support from Church leaders from around the globe including Cardinal Turkson, Cardinal Tagle, Cardinal Ribat, Cardinal Cupich and Cardinal Marx. It has also garnered the support of major environmental leaders.

Tomás Insua, Executive Director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, said, "We are grateful and inspired by Pope Francis' endorsement of the Laudato Si' Pledge. With 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, we have a critical role to play in tackling climate change and the wider ecological crisis. Pope Francis has already changed the discussion around climate change and this pledge is inviting us to put the Church's teachings into action and answer the urgent call for strong political action and lifestyle change put forth in Laudato Si'."

The Pope's endorsement adds to the momentum of recent Catholic climate action: Pope Francis requested that Angela Merkel uplift the Paris climate accord during the G20 summit, several Catholic organizations recently divested from fossil fuels, GCCM joined other Christian groups calling on governments to take strong action before the G7 last month and the Movement’s Executive Director joined other scientific, political and faith leaders in publishing a letter in Nature Magazine pushing the G20 to recognize the urgency of the climate crisis. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to catechists: Be creative

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to an International Catechetical Symposium which is taking place this week at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in Buenos Aires, and has as its theme “blessed are those who believe”.

Listen: 

In the message to the symposium, the Holy Father points out that “being a catechist is a vocation of service in the Church, that has been received as a gift from the Lord and must in turn be transmitted.”

He goes on to say that the catechist walks with Christ, therefore is not a person who starts from his own ideas and tastes. He or she  looks for the Lord and that searching makes their heart burn.

Pope Francis also notes in his message that the role of the catechist is a creative one because this person seeks different ways and means to announce the good news of Christ. The Pope adds that “this quest to make Jesus known as supreme beauty leads us to find new signs and forms for the transmission of the faith.”

The means may be different, the Holy Father underlines, “but the important thing is to keep in mind the style of Jesus, who adapted to the people around him in order to bring them the love of God.”

The Pope continues that, it is necessary to know how to "change" and adapt, in order to transmit God’s message even though the message itself is always the same.

Finally, Pope Francis encourages catechists taking part in the symposium to be joyful messengers, guardians of good and beauty who shine in the faithful life of the missionary disciple.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to abuse charges in Australia

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2017 / 03:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a brief hearing in a court in Melbourne Wednesday morning, Cardinal George Pell said he will be pleading not guilty to charges of multiple counts of sexual abuse. Cardinal Pell did not address the court, but his lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court July 26 that "for the avoidance of doubt...Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all charges, and will maintain the presumed innocence that he has." In the less than 10-minute-long hearing, the judge, Magistrate Duncan Reynolds, read a prepared statement outlining the reason for the hearing and noted that it was purely administrative. The senior prosecutor of the case, Andrew Tinney, SC, addressed a packed courtroom with a statement emphasizing the need for "fair and accurate reporting" by media. Prosecutors have a deadline of Sept. 8 to prepare their brief of evidence, but Tinney indicated that it would likely be ready as early as late next week. The next step in the trial will be a preliminary hearing – called the committal mention – which is set for Oct. 6. Wednesday’s hearing follows the announcement at the end of June that the police of Victoria, Australia were charging Cardinal Pell on multiple counts of past sexual abuse. As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse. With the permission of Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell has taken leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings. Both walking in and out the hearing Wednesday, Pell was surrounded by a dozen policemen as media and victims of abuse and their supporters crowded around him. Cardinal Pell did not respond to questions from media. Supporters of Cardinal Pell were also present outside of the courthouse. Following the announcement of the charges, Pell held a news briefing with journalists June 29, maintaining his innocence and saying he takes leave from his position as the Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in order "to clear my name." "I am looking forward, finally, to having my day in court. I'm innocent of these charges, they are false," he said, adding that "the whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me." "News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me the opportunity to clear my name and then return here, back to Rome, to work," he continued. Pell was ordained in the diocese of Ballarat in 1966, where he served as a priest and later as a consulter to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who oversaw the diocese from 1971-1997. He was appointed auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese of Melbourne in 1987, and was named archbishop in 1996. In February 2016, the cardinal testified for the third time before Australia's Royal Commission regarding claims that surfaced in 2015 accusing him of moving “known pedophile” Gerald Ridsdale, of bribing a victim of the later-defrocked priest, and of ignoring a victim’s complaint. Established in 2013, the Royal Commission is dedicated to investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse. Despite having testified before the commission twice before on the same charges, Pell again offered to give his testimony, which he did via video conference from Rome. Shortly before the hearing, abuse allegations surfaced accusing the cardinal of multiple counts of child sexual abuse dating as far back as 1961, which he has continued to fervently deny. Cardinal Pell has also been supported by the Vatican, which issued a June 29 communique from Holy See spokesman Greg Buke echoing Pell’s statement and affirming that Pope Francis had granted the cardinal an absence from his duties "so he can defend himself." On behalf of the Holy See, Burke also voiced respect for the Australian justice system, which "will have to decide the merits of the questions raised." However, at the same time, he said "it is important to recall that Card. Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable the acts of abuse committed against minors" and has cooperated with Australian authorities in the past, specifically with his depositions before the Royal Commission. Moreover, the cardinal has been supportive of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and as a diocesan bishop in Australia, introduced systems and procedures "both for the protection of minors and to provide assistance to victims of abuse." Burke closed by noting that Cardinal Pell will no longer be attending public events while facing the charges.

Vatican conference aims to build momentum for nuclear disarmament

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 08:53 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Nuclear disarmament will be the focus of a Vatican conference this Nov. 10-11, following recent progress toward international bans on nuclear weapons. Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi told CNA that “the Holy See is working to create a public opinion convinced that the world is safer without nuclear weapons, rather than with them.” The archbishop is delegate secretary to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which is working to organize the disarmament conference. The Holy See has invited Antonio Gutierres, Secretary General of the United Nations, to address the conference. It is not reported whether he has accepted the invitation. Archbishop Tomasi said that the conference is conceived as a follow-up to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, passed July 7 at the United Nations. Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document. The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor and one abstention, Singapore. However, 69 countries, namely all nuclear weapons states and all NATO members excepting the Netherlands, did not take part in the vote. The U.N. decided to start negotiations for the treaty after a series of three conferences on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. The first conference took place in Oslo, Norway in March 2013. The second was held in Nayarit, Mexico in February 2014. The third conference, held in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 8-9, 2014, was the first meeting on nuclear weapons attended by some nuclear weapons states. At the end of the Vienna conference, 127 states formally endorsed a humanitarian pledge, with 23 more voting to approve a resolution in its favor. The endorsing states said they were aware that the risk of nuclear weapons use and their “unacceptable consequences” are avoidable only “when all nuclear weapons have been eliminated.” The pledge called on all nuclear powers to take concrete measures to reduce the operational status of nuclear weapons and remove them from deployment. It called on nuclear powers to diminish nuclear weapons’ role in their military doctrines and to make “rapid reductions of all types of nuclear weapons.” Archbishop Tomasi, who attended the Vienna conference in his former position of Holy See Permanent Observer to the U.N. in Geneva, told CNA that the Vienna conference is “particularly important, because it underscores that just being in possession of nuclear weapons is already not ethical.” The November 2017 conference at the Vatican aims to be another step on the path towards nuclear disarmament. It would build on the conference to negotiate the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which took place in New York in March 2017. Pope Francis sent a message to that conference saying that the doctrine of nuclear deterrence has become ineffective against 21st century threats like terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, environmental problems and poverty. These threats, the Pope stressed, are “even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.” To Pope Francis, the elimination of nuclear weapons is both “a challenge and a humanitarian imperative.” The Pope also asked attendees to promote “reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.” As a permanent observer to the United Nations, the Holy See took part in the negotiations. It was granted the possibility to participate at procedural votes during the negotiations, a right that the Holy See usually does not use. The Holy See is a founder and member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and has always praised the developments in nuclear technology while strongly opposing the development of such technology for military purposes. This was evident in the May 3 remarks of Monsignor Janusz Urbanczyk, the Holy See’s representative to the IAEA. Addressing the first meeting for the 2020 review conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, he stressed that “the Holy See cannot but lament the fact that the potential devastation caused by the use of nuclear weapons so clearly identified over 40 years ago has not been relegated to history.”  

Vatican turns off fountains to conserve water for drought-hit Rome

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 07:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the city of Rome and much of Italy experiences a severe drought, the Vatican has turned off its fountains in an effort to preserve water and show solidarity with the city, which may be forced to ration water to about 1 million of the city’s residents. As far as is known, this is the first time the Vatican has been forced to turn off its some 100 fountains, “so this is an exception,” Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told Reuters TV. The water that comes into the Vatican is from the same sources as the water to the city of Rome, he said. “This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis.” A prolonged heatwave in southern Europe and two years of well-below-average rainfall have caused a severe drought in Rome and the surrounding areas. The two large fountains in St. Peter’s Square – Baroque masterpieces by 17th-century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini – were turned off Monday. All 100 fountains will be turned off gradually over the next few days, including those in the Vatican Gardens. “This decision is very much in line with the Pope’s thinking on ecology: you can’t waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice,” Burke said. “We have very beautiful gardens in the Vatican. They might not be as green this year, but we'll survive.” The decision to turn off the fountains is in line with Pope Francis’ commitment to the environment and concern for the protection of “our common home” that he laid out in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.” To preserve water, the city of Rome has turned off its drinking fountains and has also begun to turn off or lower the flow of many of its historic fountains. A ban on drawing water from the drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 25 miles from the city and supplies at least part of its water, will go into effect July 28. Following this ban, the city may be forced to ration the water supply in up to eight hour intervals to around half of its 3 million residents. In southern Italy and Greece, temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit combined with strong winds have caused forest fires leading to the closure of popular tourist sites, such as Mount Vesuvius near Naples, which had 23 wildfires on its slopes earlier this month. Wildfires near the Calampiso seaside resort west of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, caused more than 700 tourists to be evacuated by boat July 12. A Vatican seminar on water in February highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people, including under environmental factors such as drought. Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right. “Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.” “God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued. “With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

Francis prays for Charlie Gard, as his parents end legal battle

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a US neurologist determined that an experimental therapy could no longer potentially be of aid to a British baby born with a disabling medical condition, his parents have given up a legal challenge to take him to the US for the treatment. British and European courts had sided with English hospital officials who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment overseas. Greg Burke, the Holy See press officer, said July 24 that “Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering. The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.” Charlie Gard, aged 11 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move. His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, had wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.6 million to help seek his treatment in the US. However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected. The efforts to keep Charlie's parents from seeking overseas treatment were based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics told CNA earlier this year. Dr. Melissa Moschella said the hospital's effort represented a “quality of life” ethic that says human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities, and that it is moreover a violation of parental rights. A neurologist in the US, Dr. Michio Hirano, had been willing to offer Gard nucleoside bypass therapy, while acknowledging it would not necessarily heal him. But after seeing a new MRI scan this week, Hirano declined to offer the therapy. According to the Guardian, Connie said, “All our efforts are for [Charlie], we only want to give him a chance at life. There’s one simple reason for Charlie’s muscular deterioration [and] that was time,” noting the lengthy decisions from the courts of London which restricted Charlie from the U.S. treatment. The representative for Charlie’s parents, Grant Armstrong said, “For Charlie, it’s too late, time has run out, irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment can no longer be a success.” The child's life support is expected to be pulled in the next few days. His parents now wish to establish a charity to research and combat mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

Pope: the choice between good, evil is one we all have to make

Vatican City, Jul 23, 2017 / 05:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said good and evil are often entwined, and that as sinners, we can't label any one group or institution as bad, since we all face temptation and have the ability to choose which path to follow. “The Lord, who is wisdom incarnate, today helps us to understand that good and evil cannot identify with definite territories or determined groups of people,” the Pope said July 23. Jesus tells us that “the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every person. We are all sinners,” he said, and asked for anyone who is not a sinner to raise their hand – which no one did.   “We are all sinners!” he said, explaining that with his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ “has freed us from the slavery of sin and gives us the grace of walking in a new life.” Pope Francis spoke to the crowd of pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which this week focused on the day's Gospel passage from Matthew, in which an enemy secretly plants weeds alongside the wheat in a master's field. The image, he said, shows us the good seed that is planted in the world by God, but also the bad seed planted by the devil in order to corrupt the good. It not only speaks of the problem of evil, but also it also refers to God's patience in the master, who allows the weeds to grow alongside the wheat, so that the harvest is not lost. “With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are totally entwined, that it's impossible to separate them and weed out all the evil,” Pope Francis said, adding that “only God can do this, and he will do it in the final judgment.” Instead, the parable represents “the field of the freedom of Christians,” who must make the difficult discernment between good and evil, choosing which one to follow. This, the Pope said, involves trusting God and joining two seemingly contradictory attitudes: “decision and patience.” Francis explained that “decision” in this case means “wanting to be good grain, with all of it's strengths, and so to distance yourself from evil and it's seductions.” On the other hand, patience means “preferring a Church that is the leaven of the dough, which is not afraid to dirty her hands washing the feet of her children, rather than a Church of the 'pure,' which pretends to judge before it's time who is in the Kingdom of God and who is not,” he said. Both of these attitudes are necessary, he said, stressing that no one is perfect, but we are all sinners who have been redeemed by Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross. Thanks to our baptism, Jesus has also given us the Sacrament of Confession, “ because we always need to be forgiven for our sins,” Francis said, adding that “to always look at the evil that is outside of us means not wanting to recognize the sin that is also within us.” Jesus also teaches us a different way of looking at the world and observing reality, he said. In reflecting on the parable, we are invited to learn God's timing and to see with his eyes, rather than focusing on our own, narrow vision. “Thanks to the beneficial influence of an anxious waiting, what were weeds or seemed like weeds, can become a product of good,” he said, adding that this is “the prospect of hope!” Pope Francis closed his address praying that Mary would intercede in helping us to observe in the world around us “not only dirtiness and evil, but also the good and beautiful; to expose the work of Satan, but above all to trust in the action of God who renders history fruitful.” After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, he voiced his sadness over “serious tensions and violence” in Jerusalem over the weekend, which have left seven people dead. The deaths were the result of protests that were prompted by the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque in the city, and have prompted world leaders to call for restraint on either side before the situation boils over. Pope Francis invited pilgrims to join him in praying for a deescalation of the violence, and that “the Lord inspires in all proposals of reconciliation and peace.”

In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia. Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as its new Chief of Office. Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican. Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura. The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged. The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church. Among its responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process was streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things. Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia. Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm. Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set. These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since many curial officials were been named by Benedict before his resignation. While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions. The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage. The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015. Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit. When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February. In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.” Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period. “No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case. The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.” They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Father Giacomo Morandi promoted to CDF secretary

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Father Giacomo Morandi secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Italian priest had been a subsecretary in the dicastery since 2015. Fr. Morandi was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere July 18; the date of his episcopal consecration has yet to be determined. He was born in Modena in 1965, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola in 1990, at the age of 24. Fr. Morandi obtained a licentiate in biblical sciences from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1992, and a licentiate and doctorate in the theology of evangelization from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2008. He has taught scripture at several institutions. In the Modena-Nonantola archdiocese he has served as a pastor, episcopal vicar for catechesis, evangelization, and culture, archpriest of the cathedral chapter, and vicar general. Since October 2015 Fr. Morandi has served as subsecretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Morandi's promotion from within the congregation fills the vacancy left by the July 1 appointment of Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., as the office's prefect. Archbishop Ladaria had in turn taken the place of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whose five-year term in the post had expired, and which was not renewed.

Corruption trial of former Vatican hospital officials begins

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after Vatican City charged a priest and a laywoman in the second “Vatileaks” trial, it has begun a legal process against two laymen accused of misallocating funds from the Vatican-owned children's hospital, Bambino Gesu. The hearing, which began at 10 a.m. inside the Vatican July 18, focused on charges brought against the former president and treasurer, respectively, of Bambino Gesù, Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina. The Vatican announced July 13 it was charging the two with illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of  more than 422,000 euro ($480,000) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, emeritus Secretary of State, lives. The alleged crime is said to have been carried out between November 2013 and May 28, 2014, and to have benefited the construction firm of Italian businessman Gianantonio Bandera, which was carrying out the renovations. Profiti and Spina were summoned to appear before the court by a June 16, 2017, decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, with the first hearing set for July 18. During the hearing, Profiti and Spina were accompanied by their lawyers: Antonello Basi for Profiti, and Alfredo Ottaviano for Spina. The judicial board was made up of Paolo Papanti Pelletier, president, Venerando Marano, judge, and Carlo Bonzano, judge. The office of the Promoter of Justice was represented by the promoter himself, Gian Piero Milano, and by an added promoter, Roberto Zannotti. After the charge was read, the lawyers made an initial request that journalists be removed from the courtroom due to noise and pressure put on the defendants from their affirmation or dissatisfaction with the proceedings, suggesting that in the future, they be placed in a separate room to watch a live stream of the hearing. Milano refused the request, insisting it is a public hearing, and that public interest itself demands that the process be public. A second objection the lawyers brought, but which was also immediately dismissed, was that the Vatican had no jurisdiction over the case, since the headquarters of Bambino Gesu is located in a piazza that is not Vatican-owned, and because the money was sent to England. However, both Milano and the tribunal affirmed that the offense happened the moment the transfer was made, and since it was done through an APSA account, it was therefore a Vatican offense. APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, oversees the Vatican's real estate and investments. Ottaviani and Basi also argued that the defendants are not public officials, given their work for the Vatican. However, it was ruled that in the Vatican's statutes and laws, the definition of a public official does, in fact, include the responsibilities of Profiti and Spina. The lawyers also requested that in future proceedings, all witnesses be called on the same day in order to avoid influence and pressure from the media, which was agreed on by everyone.   Finally, at the request of the witnesses, a letter that in some way involves Cardinal Bertone was added to the trial documents. Although the nature and contents of the letter are unknown, Ottaviani held that it was essential to the trial process, asking the tribunal permission to quote it as a testimony of the emeritus Secretary of State. Milano agreed, saying, “if needed, it will be discussed.” The hearing closed by setting the dates for the next one: Sept. 7-9. Among those present at the hearing from the public was Jeffrey Lena, legal adviser to the Holy See. The Vatican reported it was conducting an investigation into this matter in 2016 after documents published in the “Vatileaks 2” scandal implicated there may have been an illicit transfer of funds from the hospital’s foundation. Earlier this month, the Vatican held a press conference on the hospital to confirm that though it has had problems in the past, the Vatican has worked to resolve them. The operations of the Bambino Gesù Hospital had come under scrutiny after a report by the Associated Press, which examined the hospital’s operations under its 2008-2015 administration, finding among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had subpar standards of care.   In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery, and risk of infection due to overcrowding. After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved. “For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, said at the July 4 press conference. The Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope's Hospital.” While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.

Vatican commission agrees to disagree on Cardinal Stepinac

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A commission of Catholic and Orthodox leaders tasked with examining the wartime record of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac concluded their final session last week, agreeing to disagree about the Croatian cardinal’s cause for canonization. The Secretariat of the Holy See prepared a joint statement, adopted by both sides, at the conclusion of the commission’s sixth and final round of meetings at the Vatican July 12-13. The document states that the opinions of either side remain unchanged, but also acknowledges that ultimately the competency for approval of the cardinal’s cause falls under Pope Francis. “It has come to the conclusion that various events, speeches, writings, silences, and views are still subject to different interpretations. In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the interpretations that were predominantly given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent,” it states. It included their thanks to Pope Francis for establishing the commission, which he did in May 2016 after receiving a letter from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, who stated his opposition to the cardinal's canonization. They also expressed their gratitude for the atmosphere of the discussions which allowed “full freedom of expression.” “From the commencement of the commission's work, the members were aware that the process of canonization of Cardinal Stepinac was in the exclusive competence of the Pope. They also admit that each Church has its own criteria for the canonization process,” it continued. The Secretariat of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accepted the outcome of the commission, which was led by Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. With the conclusion of the commission, the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is fully open. The proper requisites in place, it is in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and then will go to Pope Francis for approval. It is believed the announcement of his canonization could take place soon. Cardinal Stepinac, who is hailed as a hero in Croatia, has been a target of decades-long communist smears and disinformation. Despite this, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II in October 1998. Many in the Serbian Orthodox community are deeply skeptical of the cardinal's wartime record. Though one researcher of the period says the facts counter false claims about the beatified cardinal's record. “What you have is a false narrative created by Soviet agents,” Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak told CNA/EWTN News in 2016. Cardinal Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960 at the age of 61. In Yugoslavia during the Second World War, the pro-Nazi Ustashe movement came to power under leader Ante Pavelic after the Axis occupied the country. “Stepinac's sermons against the Ustashe were so strong. They prohibited them from being published, because they were so strong against the Ustashe,” Rychlak said. Instead, his words were secretly printed and circulated and occasionally broadcast over the radio. He also severely condemned the Ustashe’s destruction of Zagreb’s main synagogue in 1941 and in an October 1943 homily, the archbishop condemned notions of racial superiority. In 1946, Stepinac was put on trial for allegedly collaborating with the Ustashe’s crimes. The trial drew critical coverage from Western media like Time and Newsweek and protests from those who saw it as a show trial. Archbishop Stepinac was denied effective representation and only met with his attorney for an hour before the trial. The government’s witnesses were told what to say, and the archbishop was not allowed to cross-examine them. In 1953, Pope Pius XII made him a cardinal, although he was never allowed travel to the Holy See to be officially elevated. He died in 1960 of an alleged blood disorder, which was said to have been caused by the conditions he endured in jail. Recent tests of his remains by Vatican investigators show evidence he was also poisoned. In June 2011 Pope Benedict XVI praised Cardinal Stepinac as a courageous defender of those oppressed by the Ustashe, including Serbs, Jews and gypsies. He said the cardinal stood against “the dictatorship of communism, where he again fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, the true humanity that is dependent on the presence of God.”