Catholic News Agency (CNA)
Miao, India, Nov 7, 2018 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Many bishops spend their days carefully making plans to lead and manage the dioceses entrusted to them.
Bishop George Pallipparambil of the Indian diocese of Miao is different. He says that in his diocese, the planning is done by God. His job, he says, is to listen and respond.
Officially, his diocese has only existed since 2005. But Bishop Pallipparambil has been tending a flock in rural northeastern India for nearly four decades, watching it grow from 900 baptized Catholics in 1979 to more than 90,000 today, nearly 20 percent of the local population.
When he arrived, he had no plan, no church, no rectory. When asked how it happened, he told CNA simply “God did it.”
Until very recently, the diocese of Miao, situated along the Chinese border in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, was considered remote, nearly inaccessible.
When Pallipparambil arrived 40 years ago, the region was run by the Indian military as a kind of “state within a state.” Populated by ethnically Mongolian tribes often in violent conflict, it was, Pallipparambil recalls, “in a way forbidden for the Church.”
Originally from Kerala, in southern India, Pallipparambil assisted in setting up a school for tribal children who had migrated south, long before he ever thought of dedicating his ministry to India’s northeastern region.
As students from his school returned home well-fed, able to read and write, and Christian, the elders of warring tribes called a truce, and sent a message south with returning students.
Pallipparambil remembers the children delivering the message, which they had memorized: “Dear Father George, please come to us and tell us more about this God Jesus, who has done so much for our children.” He smuggled himself north in 1979, and has remained there ever since.
Pallipparambil’s first years were marked by trial. Priests were banned in the region, as was evangelizing.
One day, as he walked from village to village preaching the gospel with a lay man, he was arrested and held in the regional police headquarters. It was Christmas, 1980.
“We were not welcome,” he recounted with a smile. “We were picked up around 10:30 in the morning and detained and questioned for hours.”
Word of their arrest made it back to a nearby village in which he had been preaching.
“They finished their Christmas celebrations, and then all the men – a few hundred of them – came with swords and torches to the police station.”
The tribal elder confronted the police superintendent, telling him “Give me back my father.”
“Finally,” Pallipparambil recalled, “at about one-thirty in the night, we were taken back to our mission.”
Freedom in the Gospel
Pallipparambil found the people hungry for the Gospel. “They were living at the level of animism,” he said.
“For them, the Gospel was something very meaningful; it brings liberation in a larger sense but particularly it gave them a dignity they had not known before.”
Conversion to Christianity was and remains a contentious issue in India, but for Pallipparambil it is not a question of “making” converts, but allowing the transformative message of the Gospel to speak for itself.
“Conversion properly understood, especially in India, is like a child growing up – it’s natural. For them it was as simple as this: they were born, were living a primitive kind of religion and then they found something better.”
“Religion is a part of every person’s life, and they were enslaved by these animistic beliefs, which were all they knew,” he told CNA.
The “slavery” to their natural religion was practical, not only theological, Pallipparambil said. The only worship the tribal people knew was ritual animal sacrifice, the cost of which kept them in literal poverty.
“Christianity, the freedom of the Gospel, was also an economic liberation for them,” Pallipparambil explained. Suddenly it opened the communities up to medicine, education, all things that before they simply could not have.
Social development and the spreading of the gospel go hand-in-hand, according to Pallipparambil.
“We never concentrated on pushing the Gospel down anyone’s throat,” he said.
“Our primary goal was to help them, whatever was needed – education, medicine, whatever. These were the works that we did, but they understood. They saw we were there, living with them, staying with them, they saw the witness. Accepting the Gospel was a fruit of our work of love, freely given.”
Human dignity is key to the change, according to the bishop, who has opened 40 schools in the region over the last 30 years. But a literally biblical hundred-fold increase of baptisms cannot be attributed to a few schools.
Achieved without any formal plan for “Christianizing” the people, the results have been nothing short of staggering.
“It is an actual, direct intervention of the Holy Spirit in their lives, it’s not us,” Pallipparambil told CNA.
While the growth of the local Church itself is large, the bishop said that it is its effect on the wider local community which has been most important, comparing it to the gospel metaphors of salt, light, and leaven.
He said that compared to religious tensions which characterize much of the country an atmosphere of tolerance exists in the region. He told CNA this is a fruit of the Church’s presence.
“The reason for this is that among the tribal communities there is equality. The caste system is not there, and for this reason they see the dignity in the Gospel but have rejected Hinduism.”
Dignity of women
One thing Christianity has brought to the tribal communities is advancement for women, Pallipparambil told CNA .
“This was their society, that the women were for housework and for children.”
In many places polygamy was common, Pallipparambil said, noting that child-brides and selling daughters into marriage was also normal.
That is not the case anymore. But like the conversion from animism to Christianity, the change came from example and witness, not by insistence.
“We did not fight that directly, or insist on telling them it is wrong,” the bishop said. “Instead, we started educating these younger girls, organizing training courses for them, teaching literacy and trade skills to young women who really blossomed.”
As the young men left to pursue work or education elsewhere, these women stayed. In short order, the bishop said, they became the leaders of the village, supported by Catholic women’s groups, fostering community and common life where previously they had been totally dependent upon men.
“It was a little thing that completely transformed the entire world of these women.”
Today, in an inversion of generations of practice, these women select their husbands from eligible men of the community. What they always insist on, Pallipparambil told CNA, is that they marry a Christian, or a man who will become a Christian.
“Christianity is a marriage of equals, based on love. This was transformative for the tribes, but it has now spread across the whole state.”
Universal call to holiness
The spread of the Gospel has not just yielded social change or economic improvement, it has also brought about vocations.
When the diocese was founded in 2005 and Pallipparambil made its first bishop, a minor seminary was erected with it. At the same time, many of the young women educated by the Church choose to enter religious life.
While these vocations are welcome, the diocese remains committed to its evangelizing mission, and that includes its approach to vocations.
“They are really committed to the mission, because their parents were lay missionaries; they are the ones who brought the Church here, planted the Church, suffered for the Church.”
The emphasis on the local faithful as lay missionaries is at the root of the diocese’s origin, and its growth.
“When I came here, no missionaries were allowed to even enter. That is how I ended up in jail over Christmas. Everything had to be done by lay people. At first it was the village people themselves, then it was the children, students coming home twice a year from the school in the south.”
“They preached, they converted people, they baptized, and – since Mass was impossible and no priests were allowed – one of them would gather them together in the villages once a week and they would pray together, read the readings of the day, and sing hymns.”
Today, the diocese has 28 priests, with another 68 from religious orders. They serve the 90,000 Catholics spread across the 17 thousand square miles of the diocese, much of it unreachable by car. While another bishop might view this as an intolerable shortage of priests, almost an impossible situation, Bishop Pallipparambil sees it as the key to continued growth in the diocese.
“No one leaves anything for the priest,” he told CNA. “They are the Church, they have to bring the gospel; they know this because they built it.”
When a new community begins in a village, it starts with meetings in the home of a lay catechist, when they grow to the point of needing a church, they physically build it themselves.
“The priests are essential, or course, for hearing confessions and saying Mass. But it is the lay people who evangelize, who form the Church.
In the remote villages, lay missionaries are not bringing the people into a church somewhere else, they are staying there, building the Church.”
The model is a stark contrast to the reality facing many dioceses in the West, where churches are closing. Asked if he thinks the near-total reliance on lay evangelization can be a lesson for the Church elsewhere, Pallipparambil has no doubts.
“Absolutely. We have to give more room to the Holy Spirit and his operation, and less to the ‘heavy machinery’ that generally as Catholics we rely on.”
Formation, the bishop told CNA, is a crucial part of a Church in which the laity truly live the faith and are the Church.
“For me, the biggest fallacy is that we begin formation [at a certain age] and end formation with the reception of the sacraments. Actually we never start and we can never end it. Our entire life has to be an experience of God.”
“Yes, the catechists have to attend certain courses and complete certain credits, but that is pure theory. How does it help to spread the gospel? For this it has to have a real experience of God in your life, and bring this into contact with another.”
When this is done, the bishop said, the Church grows.
Pallipparambil said that while it is difficult for priests to reach all diocesan communities as often as they would like, the important thing is that the faith is alive in them.
Next year, the Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome to discuss the Church in the Amazon. Already, several bishops have suggested that a crucial topic will be the ordination of married men for service in remote communities – very much like the communities in Miao.
But Pallipparambil says Catholics have no interest in the idea of married priests in his diocese.
“I don’t like to discuss the topic at all, it is a never-ending discussion,” he told CNA.
“One thing I know is this, whenever I have a meeting with a number of young people, university age, I always ask them ‘Do you think more of you would become priests if you were allowed to get married?’ They always say very clearly, ‘we do not want married priests.’”
“One thing I am sure of is this: by baptism all of us are priests, let us enhance this ‘priesthood’ in the laity and let there be less insistence on this clerical solution to everything.”
The lesson of Maio seem especially relevant even for dioceses in the United States, where priests now find themselves stretched across several different parishes.
“Priests have to become a little more available so they can reach out to many more with fewer numbers. We have to change certain things with our thinking, our scheduling of priestly life, and become much more elastic.”
“We grow by interaction. We can all of us spend our lives locked in libraries or on websites reading everything, becoming an expert – a giant – but on our own. Will I not become much more useful to God if I know half of it, but live my whole life sharing it with others?”
Vatican City, Nov 7, 2018 / 04:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis spoke of the need for creative entrepreneurship in the face of “scandalous poverty” Wednesday, stressing the importance of generosity with one’s possessions.
“If there is hunger on earth, it is not because food is missing!” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 7.
“What is lacking is a free and far-sighted entrepreneurship, which ensures adequate production, and a solidarity approach, which ensures fair distribution,” he continued.
“Possession is a responsibility,” Francis stressed. "The ownership of a good makes the one who owns it an ‘administrator of Providence.’”
“The possession of goods is an opportunity to multiply them with creativity and use them with generosity, and thus grow in love and freedom,” he said.
Quoting the catechism, Pope Francis said, “Man, using created goods, must consider the external things that he legitimately possesses, not only as his own, but also as common, in the sense that they can benefit not only him but also others.”
The pope’s remarks on entrepreneurship and ownership came during a reflection on the seventh commandment, “Thou shall not steal.” In recent months, Pope Francis has dedicated his weekly general audiences to a series of lessons and reflections on the Ten Commandments recorded in the scriptural books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.
“‘Do not steal’ means: love with your goods, take advantage of your means to love as you can. Then your life becomes good and possession becomes truly a gift. Because life is not the time to possess, but to love,” Francis said.
In a departure from his prepared remarks, he said, “If I can give … I am rich, not only in what I possess, but also in generosity.”
“In fact, if I cannot give something, it's because that thing has me -- I'm a slave!” he added.
Pope Francis reflected upon St. Paul’s letter to St. Timothy, which says, “For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.”
Christ “enriched us with his poverty,” Pope Francis said.
“While humanity struggles to get more, God redeems him by making himself poor: the Crucified Man has paid for all an inestimable ransom from God the Father, ‘rich in mercy,’” he continued.
The love of money leads to vanity, pride, and arrogance, the pope warned, adding that “the devil enters through the pockets.”
During his general audience, the pope greeted pilgrims from around the world, including a particular greeting for the participants of the first International Men’s Meeting in Rome.
The pope also mentioned that this weekend will mark the 100th anniversary of the independence of Poland and said, “May you always be accompanied by the protection of Mary Queen of Poland and the blessing of God!”
Jerusalem, Nov 7, 2018 / 03:07 am (CNA).- Pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a powerful journey that can ignite Christian faith through seeing the places Jesus walked, worked miracles, died and rose from the dead.
The Franciscans who have served in the region say people should go.
“When you come here, you are very moved by the experience. It puts the gospel in perspective,” Father Athanasius Macora, O.F.M., told CNA from Jerusalem. “It’s a very powerful tool for evangelizing or re-evangelizing Catholics.”
Macora, an American, is a friar of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, which oversees the holy sites, helps support the Christian presence in the Holy Land, and welcomes Christian pilgrims from around the world.
Another Holy Land Franciscan, the Ghana-born Father Benjamin Owusu, O.F.M., reflected that the Christian experience of Jesus Christ preceded the written scriptures.
“Jesus said we should go and proclaim the gospel. And the gospel was proclaimed. People came to believe. But not in the written part of revelation… if the Word became flesh, it became flesh in a place. Where is that place? That is the Holy Land,” Owusu told CNA. “The Holy Land also testifies to the Word made Flesh, and that makes it more real to us.”
“By going to the Holy Land, the Holy Land becomes real in the life of Christians because of what it stands for,” he continued. “It is, as Pope Paul VI put it, the ‘fifth gospel’ which is not written on ink, but written on stones.”
Owusu works in the pilgrimage office of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, the Franciscan Custody’s outpost in Washington, D.C. The monastery itself hosts replicas of holy sites and holds various events to help link visitors to the land where Jesus Christ walked.
The Holy Land includes Israel, the Palestinian territories, and parts of Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The diversity of Christian sites there range from the churches and other places marking events like the Annunciation in Nazareth, the Nativity in Bethlehem, Jesus’ ministry along the Sea of Galilee, and of course Jerusalem, where the site of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is now marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Added to these places are the living legacy of the Jewish people. The Wailing Wall, located at the base of the site of the Temple of King David, gathers thousands of Jews who pray and celebrate at the start of every Sabbath.
Muslims too consider Jerusalem a holy site, and the heights Temple Mount, once the site of the Temple, now hosts both the al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden, gleaming Dome of the Rock shrine.
Father Macora said that in his time in the Holy Land, he has witnessed “quite a number of stories” of spiritual enrichment or transformation among Christian pilgrims. People decide to go to confession for the first time in decades because of a visit to the Holy Sepulchre.
“Once I was asked by a friend to guide a woman at the Holy Sepulchre. I don’t think she was practicing her faith, but after she came out of the tomb she was weeping. So she was hit by the experience,” he continued.
Owusu said the Holy Land has played a large role in the Christian imagination “since time immemorial.”
“Believers have always wanted to go back to their roots, to see the places where our salvation history took place. For example, St. Francis of Assisi was so eager to go and see where Jesus was born, where he was crucified, and where he rose again.”
A Holy Land pilgrimage “really helps Christians in their belief, it ignites their faith and helps us to understand the Scripture in a different way.”
Macora has seen pilgrims weeping at the altar in the quiet Basilica of Agony, near the Garden of Gethsemane, the site where Jesus prayed before Judas handed him over to be arrested.
The Franciscan priest, an American who grew up in a military family, has served in the Holy Land for more than 20 years. Among his current roles is guardian of the Flagellation Monastery in Jerusalem.
Meeting local people is an important part of the experience, he commented, as they are “definitely part of the enduring fascination of the Holy Land.” Some people, such as the region’s shepherds, maintain cultural practices similar to those of biblical times. The guides who accompany visitors and pilgrims are very important, serving as “an ambassador of his or her people.”
He also cautioned that the enduring problems and recent history of the Holy Land, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are something that first-time pilgrims can misunderstand.
“I think that they have to understand how complex the Holy Land is,” said Macora. “I think that they need to hear both sides of the story. There is a conflict going on and there are all kinds of sharp rivalries, even between Christians themselves.”
Israel is about 75 percent Jewish. Its Palestinian population, largely resident in the West Bank and the Gaza strip, is about 18 percent Muslim and two percent Christian, with both Christians and Muslims tending to identify as Palestinian Arab. The Christian population has largely declined due to emigration. Only about 16,000 of the 870,000 residents of Jerusalem are Christian, a significant drop in recent decades, CNEWA reports.
Owusu said there is more to the region than many visitors expect. While people hear about the Holy Land through news media, which often tell stories of violence and conflict, he stressed the importance of “those stories we don’t hear: the day-to-day experiences that go on there among these people, where Christians and Muslims live together in the same place, where Jews and Muslims live together in a particular place.”
“Those things never come on the news,” he said. “These are the things that really make the place real. Not occasional crisis, but the day-to-day life that really goes on. That is what people would really like to know.”
“It is a place where life continues,” he said. “People should not be limited to the bad news, but they should look beyond that and be hopeful.”
However, Macora said it is difficult to make deep contact with local people.
“It takes time to understand certain things and this is not easily achieved,” he said. “For someone coming to the Holy Land for the first time, there is a lot of information, almost too much, to process on the first pilgrimage.”
For Owusu, the Holy Land should never be “a museum where you go and only see places.”
“The people are formed in Mother Church, especially the Christians in the Holy Land,” he said. “The people reflect the reality and the history of what we know about the place, especially in connecting it to the Scriptures.”
While Americans can be skeptical of visiting the region, Owusu said locals receive Americans “with two arms open, as they would receive the Polish or the Italians.” Travel to the Holy Land is positive for both the pilgrim and the host.
“It brings them together,” said the priest. “Pilgrimage in this land is also a sign of hope. The people mostly depend on pilgrimages and they also see that, irrespective of whatever situation the American comes from, there is another brother on the other side of the world that may bring them hope.”
“What you bring back from the holy land is faith…. You take your faith there and you bring it back,” Owusu said.
Pilgrim groups hit a record high in January 2018, with 770 groups bringing 26,000 people, the Custody of the Holy Land-sponsored Christian Information Center said in February. In January 2017 only 529 groups visited and a year prior only 390 did.
Israeli government statistics indicate over half of 2017 tourists were Christian and one-quarter were coming on pilgrimage, with over 40 percent having previously visited Israel. The number of Chinese, Russian and Eastern European pilgrims were on the rise, the Jerusalem Post reported in February.
Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin credited the increase in tourism to his office’s changes, including an improved visa process.
While travel costs and can be a barrier for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Owusu said it is possible with some financial preparation.
“It’s a life experience,” he said. Those with a desire to go could afford it by saving about a thousand dollars a year for several years, he estimated.
Those who want to go on a pilgrimage should contact the Franciscans who work there, he suggested.
“We’ve been doing this since time immemorial,” said Owusu.
The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America has information on pilgrimages at the website holylandpilgrimages.org.
Geneva, Switzerland, Nov 7, 2018 / 12:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Human rights advocates are calling on the United Nations to address reports of Chinese internment camps holding 1 million Muslim minorities in Northwest China.
The call comes shortly before a review of China’s human rights record on November 6 by the U.N. Human Rights Council. The last review of China’s human rights was in 2013.
Ex-detainees have said these camps include abuse and political indoctrination, the Guardian has reported.
Researchers believe an estimated 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been detained at these camps. British diplomats, who visited Xinjiang in August, have confirmed those numbers, according to officials.
“The Human Rights Council must send an unequivocal message to the Chinese government that their campaign of systematic repression in the XUAR (Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region), including the arbitrary detention of up to 1 million people, must end,” said Patrick Poon, China researcher at Amnesty International.
Poon was among numerous human rights advocates at an activist forum on China held in Geneva Nov. 2.
Sharon Hom, executive director Human Rights in China, also attended the forum.
“The detention of over a million ethnic Uighurs is a tipping point for the international community. They really can’t look the other way now,” Hom told Reuters.
Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uighur Congress, stressed the urgency of the situation.
“In the last five years, generally the human rights situation in China has been getting worse, particularly in east Turkestan (Xinjiang) and Tibet, there has been an unimaginable deterioration,” he told Reuters.
The Washington Post reported that the chairman of China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, Shohrat Zakir, stated earlier this month that the camps do exists but are a “vocational education and training program” aimed at curbing terrorism.
China has said that it is responding to threats in Xinjiang posed by Islamist militants and separatists. However, it has rejected accusations of mistreatment in Xinjiang or Tibet.
Vatican City, Nov 6, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The Russian Orthodox Church announced that it has withdrawn from a Vatican sponsored Commission for Catholic – Orthodox Theological Dialogue, in response to a dispute between Orthodox patriarchs in Moscow and Constantinople.
The decision was announced in a statement released after an Oct. 19 meeting between Pope Francis and Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolansk, head of the Department for the External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate.
The Moscow Patriarchate stressed that its bilateral relations with the Catholic Church remain in place. The decision to withdraw participation from the commission comes as a consequence of Moscow’s dispute with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople about the eventual establishment of an autocephalous, or independent, Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Until October, Ukraine had been under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, which has a metropolitan see in Kiev.
There are also two other Orthodox Churches in Ukraine: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, established in 1992 and led by Filaret Denisenko; and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, led by Primate Makaryi, with a smaller number of members and parishes.
Those two were not recognized to be in communion with the Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church is a kind of confederation of autocephalous (independent) and autonomous Churches that have reciprocal communion with one another, and recognize the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople as the “first among equals”.
A dispute began in April, when Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko forwarded a request to establish a national Ukranian Orthodox Church to Patriarch Bartholomew. If honored, the request would result in the unification of the two existent “schismatic” Orthodox Churches.
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople pondered the request, met Aug. 31 with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, and after the meeting started the process of granting the “tomos” (document) of autocephaly for a new Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Moscow Patriarchate opposed the decision, noting that the Patriarchate of Constantinople granted the Moscow Patriarch the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev in 1686. Ever since, the Moscow Patriarchate remarked, Ukraine has been the Moscow Patriarchate’s “liturgical territory.”
In making the decision to grant the tomos of autocephaly, the Patriarchate of Constantinople also annulled the 1686 synodal letter.
Moscow considers the Constantinople decision “an invasion”. For this reason, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, gathered Oct. 15 in Minsk, made the decision to break communion with Constantinople.
The position was explained by Metropolitan Hilarion October 27 on Russian television program, ‘The Church and the World,’ aired by Russia-24.
Speaking about his Oct. 18 meeting with Pope Francis, Metropolitan Hilarion said that a big part of the discussion was dedicated to the situation in Ukraine, but that “the breakoff of the Russian Orthodox Church’s relations with Constantinople has also to do with the relationships with the Roman Catholic Church since, along with the bilateral relations between the Russian Church and the Roman Church, there is also a pan-Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue. And we have withdrawn from this dialogue as well.”
This internal issues of the Orthodox Church might now have consequences on the Catholic Church, particularly because of the special relationships Pope Francis has with both Patriarch Bartholomew and Patriarch Kirill.
Pope Francis and Bartholomew were together in Jerusalem in 2014, in the Vatican Gardens for the “Prayer for Peace in the Middle East” in 2014, in Lesbos in 2015 and in Egypt in 2017, and they have written joint messages for the World Day for the Care of Creation.
Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill had a historic meeting in Havana, Cuba, Feb. 12, 2016, and last year the relics of St. Nicholas were temporarily moved to Russia, for veneration by Russian faithful. The two developed a dialogue on cultural issues, with a common commitment to the education of youth, as expressed Oct. 18 by Metropolitan Hilarion in his speech at the Synod of Bishops in Rome.
The freeze in theological dialogue comes at what had been a particularly favorable moment for ecumenical dialogue.
The latest document of the Catholic-Orthodox Joint Theological Commission was released after the 2016 Chieti meeting.
The final document underscored that the Church of the first millennium recognized a primacy to the Church of Rome, whose prerogatives were cooperation in recognizing a council as ecumenical and the possibility to receive appeals.
Those prerogatives were exercised, the final document reads, in synodality; that is, in relation with bishops of the other major sees of the first millennium or together with the synod of the Roman Church.
After the meeting in Chieti, the coordinating committee of the commission met Sep. 5-9, 2017 in Leros, Greece. The meeting ended with the decision to draft a document on the theme “Toward unity in faith: theological and canonical issues.”
The drafting of this new document was entrusted to a subcommission composed of four Orthodox and four Catholic members.
The document will be divided in two parts. The first part will be about the fruits of the dialogue already in action, the second part will be about the theological and canonical issues that need to be resolved in order to get to full communion.
The next meeting of the coordinating committee is scheduled for the end of 2018.
The Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to withdraw from dialogue has been read by some observers as a sort of pressure on the pope to operate some persuasion on Bartholomew, without asking for it explicitly.
In the Russia-24 interview, Metropolitan Hilarion said: “We do not assume that the pope of Rome can be an arbiter in this dispute – it is absolutely impossible. It would be wrong to involve him in these problems and expect that he would take some actions or identify with a particular side. The Orthodox Church lives according to her own laws and rules. We will solve this problem on our own, without the participation of the pope of Rome.”
Moscow’s move shows that, though the primacy of Rome has been recognized more and more in theological dialogue, none of the Orthodox Churches will ever consider this primacy concretely.
So, while the Catholic Church already spoke about the possibility of establishing new forms of exercising Petrine ministry in order to reach full unity, the Orthodox Church seem stuck in an internal dispute that will likely further divide it.
Pope Francis will not be involved in this process, nor is the Catholic Church going to be welcomed as an effective mediator. Ecumenical dialogue, however, has been impoverished because of this dispute.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Nov 6, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Police in Papua New Guinea are moving sick refugees and migrants out of the capital city in preparation for a major economic conference, drawing ongoing criticism from the country’s Catholic leaders.
The refugees and migrants are being sent back to Manus Island off the northern coast of the country, where asylum seekers trying to reach Australia are being housed in poor conditions.
The Australian government has sent hundreds of asylum seekers to the island for processing since 2012, and around 70 men had been taken to Port Moresby, the capital, for medical treatment.
As many as 10 of the men being moved had not finished their treatment, but were told they would return in a month to complete it, Guardian Australia reported. One man reportedly attempted suicide after he was told he would be sent back to Manus Island without treatment.
Authorities are justifying the move by saying that the city’s hospital is needed for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference delegates and conference employees who may need medical treatment. APEC is scheduled to begin meetings in Port Moresby Nov. 12.
The Papua New Guinea Bishop’s Conference recently called for all the refugees and asylum seekers to be brought to Australia by Dec. 25, saying that their country cannot continue to provide adequate care.
“We are deeply concerned that the human rights of the refugees and asylum seekers have been breached as they were forcibly sent to [Papua New Guinea]; and Australia's policies has caused us reputational damage,” a panel convened by the bishops wrote Nov. 1.
“We, the participants are speaking on behalf of the women and children on Manus who are the victims of Australia's policies. The men have suffered enough from prolonged detention. Enough is enough. The time has come to let them go.”
About 650 migrant and refugee men are currently living on Manus Island, according to The Guardian. Conditions are bad, according to Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish Iranian journalist, who said the men are suffering widely from mental and physical illness. The conditions at the camps have been condemned by Church leaders and human rights groups.
Australia has had a system of “third country processing” since 2012 for asylum seekers who come to Australia by boat without a valid visa. The system transfers the asylum seekers to other countries, where they are processed based on that country’s laws.
Many of those seeking asylum in Australia come from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Iran, travelling by boat from Indonesia. They are typically intercepted by the Australian navy before reaching land, and are then sent to detention camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a small Micronesian nation.
The government of Australia made an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea in 2013, providing that migrants sent to Papua New Guinea from Australia would be settled there if they are found to be refugees. Otherwise they would be sent back to their country of origin or another country where they have legal residence.
Papua New Guinea is facing a medication shortage, an outbreak of polio, increased rates of tuberculosis, and funding crises in health and education, according to The Guardian.
Bangalore, India, Nov 6, 2018 / 03:24 pm (ACI Prensa).- Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, the priest who was kidnapped in 2016 and held captive for 18 months by terrorists in Yemen, said that his ability to persevere “was thanks to the prayers of everyone” who interceded for him.
“Prayer is the best thing that God has given us and can obtain everything,” he told ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language sister agency. “Surrendered to the Lord's will, during my captivity I prayed to the Lord that they would release me soon, but I also asked him to give me the grace to complete the mission that he had planned for me.”
A Salesian missionary, Uzhunnalil first garnered the world's attention when he was kidnapped March 4, 2016, during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four Sisters.
His international profile grew when rumors spread that he was to be crucified on Good Friday, which were later discredited. After that, numerous photos and videos were released depicting Uzhunnalil, thin and with an overgrown beard, pleading for help and for his release, saying that his health was deteriorating and he was in need of hospitalization.
The government of Oman and the Holy See had worked for the priest’s release. He was freed Sept. 12, 2017.
In an interview with ACI Prensa the priest recalled the experience he went through in Yemen.
“The churches in Yemen had been attacked and vandalized, but in the days prior to my kidnapping the situation had stabilized somewhat,” he said.
However, on the morning of March 4, 2016, when he was praying in the chapel of the Missionaries of Charity, he heard gunshots outside. He saw jihadists killing four of the sisters.
“I prayed for God's mercy on the sisters who had died and also for those who had killed them,” he said. “They then told me to come outside and asked me if I were a Muslim. I told them no, that I was a Christian. And they put me in the back seat of the car.”
“A little later they opened the door again and threw in something metallic wrapped in some cloth. I knew that it was the tabernacle that the sisters had in the chapel,” he explained.
While Uzhunnalil said his captors did not physically harm him, he did suffer psychological torture.
“They took everything away from me, although they gave me a little water and food,” he recalled.
During that time, they changed his location five or six times, and he said that he never knew the exact location where he was being held.
In the 18 months he was held captive, Uzhunnalil relied upon prayer for perseverance.
“It was thanks to the prayers of everyone who prayed for me that I was able to endure what I was going through. It wasn't because of my personal fortitude but because of the prayers of my brothers and sisters in the faith,” he said.
Uzhunnalil also relied on personal prayer during his captivity.
“Every day, I prayed the Angelus; three or four Rosaries; an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be for the sisters who died; the Chaplet of Divine Mercy; I meditated on the Way of the Cross; and I celebrated Holy Mass spiritually - I didn't have any bread or wine but I said the prayers from memory,” he said.
“I prayed for my captors and I thanked God for the seed of goodness they could have in their hearts. Thanks be to God, I don't hold any rancor or hatred for them,” he added.
“God knew everything that was happening, because they should have killed me in the beginning, but they didn't. They kept me alive even though I said I was a Christian. Here I am now, free, to bear witness that God is alive, that he has heard our prayers and has answered us. I have witnessed the power of prayer,” he told ACI Prensa.
After his release on September 12, 2017, he met with Pope Francis, a moment that was “tremendously emotional.”
“During the meeting with Pope Francis, I cried and I thanked him for the prayers he had prayed for me that he had asked to be prayed for me.”
Uzhunnalil encouraged all Christians who are suffering persecution today to be steadfast in prayer and in faith in God.
The priest currently lives in Bangalore, India, since Yemen is still at war. However, he assures that he is ready to go back to the country “if that's God's will.”
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA).- As Americans headed to the polls on Nov. 6 to vote in midterm elections, much of the media focus has been on how the results will shape the national political landscape. But in three states voters will be considering proposed state constitutional amendments that would protect the rights of the unborn and promote religious liberty.
In Alabama, voters will be deciding on amendments which would change the state constitution to protect religious liberty and to establish a right to life of unborn children.
Amendment 1 would specifically protect the right to display a monument of the Ten Commandments on public property, something which has been challenged in state and federal courts.
“Amendment 1 does two things,” reads a description of the measure on the Alabama Secretary of State website.
“First, it provides that a person is free to worship God as he or she chooses, and that a person’s religious beliefs will have no effect on his or her civil or political rights. Second, it makes clear that the Ten Commandments may be displayed on public property so long as the display meets constitutional requirements, such as being displayed along with historical or educational items.”
The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case regarding the legality of a cross-shaped monument on public land. Previously, in 2005, the court found that a monument of the Ten Commandments at the Texas State Capitol was constitutional and did not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Amendment 2, if passed, would amend the Alabama Constitution “to declare and otherwise affirm that it is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”
While strongly worded, Amendment 2 will not be legally enforceable unless the Supreme Court overturned its decision in Roe v. Wade, which found a legal right to abortion throughout a pregnancy. If that were to happen, and the legality of abortion became a state-by-state issue, Amendment 2 could make abortion illegal in Alabama.
Oregon residents will vote on Measure 106, a citizen’s initiative to amend the state constitution to prohibit public funds being used for abortion, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, such as an ectopic pregnancy.
Current Oregon law states that “abortions may be obtained, when approved by medical professional, under state-funded health plans or under health insurance procured by or through a public employer or other public service.” If Measure 106 passes, this will no longer be the case.
Unlike many abortion restriction measures, in the Oregon proposal there is no exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.
Measure 106 narrowly qualified for the ballot in September with fewer than 300 signatures more than the legal minimum.
According to Americans United for Life’s annual “Life List,” which ranks states by pro-life laws, Oregon has some of the loosest abortion laws in the country. Oregon came in at 46, ahead of only New Jersey, Vermont, California, and Washington.
In West Virginia, voters will be considering Amendment 1, which would “amend the West Virginia Constitution to clarify that nothing in the Constitution of West Virginia secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.”
This amendment was sponsored by 15 Republican members of the West Virginia legislature, and was passed with bipartisan support so that it could appear on Tuesday’s ballot. Unlike Oregon’s Measure 106, West Virginia Amendment 1 has an exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest.
Currently, West Virginia law actually criminalizes both the procurement of and performance of an abortion, but this law is not in effect due to Roe v. Wade. If Roe were to be overturned, and Amendment 1 were to pass, it would prevent judges from interpreting the West Virginia constitution in a way which would protect legal abortion in any subsequent court battle.
Abortion is legal in West Virginia until 22 weeks gestation.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is considered to be one of the country’s more vulnerable Democratic senators, does not support Amendment 1. While he has often been seen as a pro-life Democrat, recent votes to continue funding for Planned Parenthood have undermined this position.
Jerusalem, Nov 6, 2018 / 01:58 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Top Catholic prelates in Israel are asking the government to repeal the recent Nation State Law, which they say paves a path for discrimination against non-Jewish citizens.
“Although the law changes very little in practice, it does provide a constitutional and legal basis for discrimination among Israel’s citizens, clearly laying out the principles according to which Jewish citizens are to be privileged over and above other citizens,” the Catholic leaders said in their statement, dated Oct. 31.
“We, as the religious leaders of the Catholic Churches, call on the authorities to rescind this basic law and assure one and all that the state of Israel seeks to promote and protect the welfare and the safety of all its citizens.”
The Nation State Law’s provisions, which have the weight of a constitutional amendment, define Israel as the “historic homeland of the Jewish people” who have “a singular right to national self-determination within it.”
The passage of the law by a 62-55 vote July 19 with the support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition drew widespread international criticism, including from influential groups like the American Jewish Committee.
Following the passage of the law, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem voiced concern that it had downgraded Arabic from an official language to a language with a “special status.” It also objected to the law’s “commitment to work on the development of Jewish settlement in the land, with no mention of the development of the country for the rest of its inhabitants.”
The Oct. 31 joint statement was signed by more than two dozen Catholic ordinaries of the Holy Land, representing Roman, Syrian, and Armenian Catholic, as well as Greek Melkite churches. Signatories included Archbishop Georges Bacouni of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in Israel, Maronite Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of Haifa, and Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate Pierbattista Pizzaballa.
The bishops warned of the focus on Jewish identity at the expense of equality and democracy.
They particularly criticized a clause in the law that promotes “the development of Jewish settlement as a national value,” saying that by doing so, “the law promotes an inherent discriminatory vision.”
The law ignores the Palestinian Arabs living in the region, as well as the Christian, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i communities – all of whom should be treated as equal citizens, the bishops said. They added that the law violates international law standards.
“As Israelis and as Palestinian Arabs, we seek to be part of a state that promotes justice and peace, security and prosperity for all its citizens,” they emphasized.
Sioux City, Iowa, Nov 6, 2018 / 01:54 pm (CNA).- A New Mexico man says that an Iowa diocese neglected to tell him about the extent of abuse committed by a priest living in his home. Leaders in the diocese told CNA they tried to warn the man about the priest’s past, and that current leaders have attempted to do everything possible to manage the priest’s situation, within the confines of canon law.
Fr. Jerry Coyle is a priest of Sioux City, Iowa, but he has lived in New Mexico for 32 years. He moved to the state in 1986, to take part in a treatment program at a facility for priests run by the Servants of the Paraclete. He was sent there after telling Bishop Lawrence Soens that over 20 years of priesthood he had abused about 50 male adolescents.
Coyle was removed from ministry and his faculties were revoked after that admission; he was not dismissed from the clerical state.
After Coyle’s time with the Paracletes was completed, he remained in New Mexico. There, more than 10 years ago, he befriended Reuben Ortiz.
Ortiz is a pious and practicing Catholic: he and his family do pro-life ministry, go to homeless shelters, feed the poor, pray the rosary frequently, and even performed music at a World Youth Day. Until recently, Ortiz was a daily Mass-goer.
When Coyle got into a car accident last year, Ortiz invited the priest to move into his Albuquerque home, to live with him, his wife, and his three teenaged children. Coyle lived with the family until June 29.
In a recent Associated Press report, Ortiz’ attorney said that the diocese did not disclose important information about the priest until he was already living in the Ortiz family home. The diocese, however, told CNA that it repeatedly discouraged the Ortiz family from taking in the priest.
Ortiz acknowledged that when he invited Coyle, 85, to live in his home, he already knew that the priest had committed an act of sexual abuse.
“He had told us that he had fondled a kid, and that, it wasn't, you know, that he knew, he went through treatment for it, and he, he was ok,” Ortiz told CNA.
Ortiz said that even though he knew the priest had sexually assaulted a minor, he wasn’t nervous about his own children.
“No, because he was very secure about the fact that he was wrong about it. And he was also very secure that he wasn't ever going to do it again,” Ortiz said.
“Because we asked him right out, 'Well Jerry, what does that mean for our kids?' And he said, 'No, no, no, that was wrong, that's the reason why I'm not doing [active ministry] anymore, I'm not going and serving at Mass; they didn't take away my priesthood, I'm good that way.'”
“He really, he did have a certain way about him that looked like it was okay. But for him to go and deceive us from the very beginning was already wrong,” Ortiz added.
‘Redemption and forgiveness’
In November 2017, shortly after Coyle got in a car accident and had his license revoked, Ortiz phoned Bishop Walker Nickless of Sioux City, to let the bishop know about Coyle’s accident, and to inform him that the priest had come to live with the Ortiz family.
“Reuben Ortiz called me after Jerry had his automobile accident, and wanted me to know he couldn't drive any more, and he needed a place to live because he couldn't take care of himself, and he wanted to take him into his own home, because they were good friends and he wanted to help Jerry recover from the accident, and he told me he can stay here as long as he wants,” Bishop Nickless recounted to CNA.
“I said to him, 'Reuben, do you know his history?' And he said, 'Yes. Father and I have talked about it; I know that he has abused minors in the past, and I believe in redemption and forgiveness.'”
Nickless said the diocese told Ortiz that because his minor children lived at home, “we think … that is not a good place for Jerry to be, and we'd like him to move.”
“He clearly said he wanted to keep Jerry living with him. We asked him to at least inform his children of Jerry's history – he said he hadn't done that – and he said, 'I'm not going to do that to my children.'”
The problem of where Coyle was to live was taken to the diocesan review board. The review board met Feb. 5, 2018, to discuss Coyle's living situation, and suggested that he go to a nursing home in New Mexico.
“They immediately recommended that he leave the house,” Nickless said. “I told Reuben that.”
The Diocese of Sioux City encouraged Ortiz to look for a nursing home for Coyle in the Albuquerque area.
“He refused to do that,” Nickless explained. “He kept saying, 'No, no, I want him here, I want him here, I want him here.'”
On Feb. 8, Fr. Brad Pelzel, vicar general of the Sioux City diocese, spoke with Reuben and his wife, Tania, on the phone, relating what the review board had decided.
At the request of the review board, Pelzel also wrote to Reuben and Tania Feb. 12, following up on their phone conversation. Pelzel’s letter urged that Coyle move to a nursing home. It was thought that one in New Mexico would be most appropriate, because the priest had lived there for so long.
The letter said that the review board was seriously concerned about “Coyle's self-revealed history of sexual attraction to and contact with boys.”
“When he self-reported his situation … Fr. Coyle admitted that, for a period of about 20 years, he victimized approximately 50 school boys, varying from 7th to 10th grade,” Pelzel wrote.
“The Review Board is grateful to you and your family for your kindness and the Christ-like attention and care you have provided Fr. Coyle, most notably your willingness to welcome him into your home following his traffic accident,” Pelzel wrote.
“While acknowledging the grace of Fr. Coyle's repentance and the 30-plus years of apparent success he has experienced in living out celibate chastity since moving to the Albuquerque area, the Review Board cannot condone the risk you take by allowing Fr. Coyle to reside in your home and recommends in the strongest of terms that the best form of assistance you can provide Fr. Coyle would be to help him find an institution with Assisted Living facilities.”
Ortiz said that it was shocking to see the letter that said Coyle admitted to abusing 50 adolescents. While he was comfortable with having Coyle around his family when he believed the priest had abused one or two adolescents, he felt he had been misled.
“You know the shock that was, what we took on? It traumatized us to see these pages of who this guy was. It shocked us to such a degree that I didn't want to let my wife know how scared I was.”
He related that he slept downstairs near Coyle, while the rest of his family was upstairs, from the time they received the Feb. 12 letter until Coyle left in June.
Ortiz told CNA fears that Coyle could have abused his son, who is 15.
Although Ortiz chose not to help Coyle find a nursing home, he did accept money from his boarder. Ortiz told CNA he asked the priest for financial contributions to the family home.
According to Nickless, Coyle gave Ortiz almost $30,000 during the eight months he lived in the family home.
Nickless said that Ortiz first told Coyle he needed to buy a larger car to take him to Mass; his family and Coyle could not all fit into their existing vehicle.
Coyle gave Ortiz $25,000 to buy a new car, Nickless told CNA.
A few weeks later, Ortiz said he needed some more money to handle some expenses.
Coyle gave Ortiz another $2,000, Nickless said.
Later, Ortiz said he needed an additional $3,000, “at which point Jerry balked,” Pelzel told CNA.
“Then Reuben demanded that Jerry give him power of attorney and access to his saving and checking account,” according to Pelzel.
“So then Jerry called us and said, 'This is strange, I think I'm coming back',” Nickless said.
Asked how much money the priest had given him, Ortiz declined to answer.
“Let me ask you something, okay? What do you, how do you think money has anything to do with this? How does money come into play? I curse the day I ever met him and if I could take back every time that we met, and everything that was spent, both ways, I would do it, gladly, just to avoid that one meeting with him,” Ortiz told CNA.
After Coyle decided to leave, the diocese began making arrangements for Coyle to return to Iowa. Within five days, on June 29, Coyle left the Ortiz' home.
Month after Coyle left his home, lawyers representing Ortiz told diocesan officials and reporters that the Diocese of Sioux City was guilty of a cover-up.
“You know what it's like when you go to your Church officials and they do absolutely nothing for you?” He asked. “They are totally bankrupt when it comes to morals.”
While Nickless told CNA that he tried to explain to Ortiz the allegations against Coyle from the beginning, Ortiz disagreed.
“They're accepting sin, in such a way that it's ok, and so they are shameless in this sin to such a point that they think we are going to agree with a letter of that magnitude. See, they told me that; they had gone and said that he had abused; I said he told us he abused a couple kids, we don't know the extent. But they said, well you know, they didn't really make it quite clear until the letter … do you know how scary it is to have somebody like this in your home?”
Although he acknowledged inviting Coyle into his home, Ortiz maintains he was used.
“I was used, as far as I'm concerned. I was used for the purpose of people who released this into our society as a plague, and it upsets me, it does. I don't think I'm ever going to recover from it.”
Ortiz also said that his spiritual director, whom he described as “no slouch in the priesthood” also failed him, because he did not sufficiently warn him not to allow an admitted perpetrator of sexual assault into his home.
When Coyle returned to Iowa, he was placed at Marian Home, a diocesan retirement home in Fort Dodge.
While the board of directors at Marian Home wasn't notified of Coyle's past, several staff members at the residence were.
Pelzel says he told the activities director “explicitly what Jerry was accused of, and she promised to be vigilant.”
Marian Home is located across the street from both St. Edmond Catholic School and Fort Dodge Senior High. Students at St. Edmond's sometimes visit Marian Home, but they did not have contact with Coyle as they do not go to the area in which he lived.
The schools were not informed when Coyle moved to the residence; “it did not occur to us that the school was there at that time,” Nickless said, acknowledging that “We made a mistake in not notifying the school … we should have done a better job of that.”
Coyle has since left Marian Home, and has been taken in by an acquaintance. Nickless said the priest is living “a life of prayer and penance.”
Nickless wrote a letter to the Sioux City diocese Oct. 31 discussing Coyle's situation, noting that “No one presently at the diocese has firsthand knowledge about Jerry Coyle and that includes me. For the past few months, we have been attempting to put the pieces together about what happened during the 1980s with the files and records that we do have on Jerry Coyle.”
“During the ensuing 32 years, there were no complaints of any misbehavior by Jerry Coyle. Psychologists in Albuquerque advised the diocese that Coyle was highly motivated to change. We know that many disagree with this point, and so do I.”
The bishop wrote that police “were not contacted when Coyle self-admitted, but policies have changed since 1986. Now the policy is to contact civil authorities, which we will follow, since we have [now] named victims of Jerry Coyle.”
In a Nov. 6 statement, the diocese elaborated.
“The issue that is most important for the public to understand is that many of the allegations made in the past, prior to the 2002 ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ were not followed up with an investigation by civil authorities. The Church often sent priests to treatment, in hopes that any actions of misconduct could be cured. We know now that is not the way to handle any allegation of sexual misconduct, and with the 2002 Charter to guide us, we have protocols in place to follow, which we do,” the statement said.
“As far as Jerry Coyle, he has had no criminal charges made against him. He self-admitted, and there was not one allegation until 1986, and this individual was an adult, so the statute of limitations had run out. We recognize that when Coyle self-admitted, each parish should have been notified, and we should have asked victims to come forward. We apologize that this did not happen under the leadership of the Diocese of Sioux City at that time.”
Nickless wrote to the diocese last month: “If you are a victim of Jerry Coyle or any priest or person associated with the Diocese of Sioux City, please come forward.” In recent weeks, several alleged victims of Coyle have come forward to the diocese.
But in 2002, when the diocese initially reviewed its records with local prosecutors, there were no identifiable victims of Coyle. Pelzel said that at that time, a student at a local university had made allegations against Coyle to another priest; but the allegation was anonymous and the diocese had no way to contact the alleged victim.
Another individual had said Coyle had acted “kind of weird” in the sacristy, but didn't remember “anything else much.”
While Coyle was removed from ministry in 1986, he was not dismissed from the clerical state, and remains a priest of the Diocese of Sioux City. As such, the diocese is obliged under canon law to provide housing and board for him. The diocesan conduct review board is now discussing the possibility of pursuing a dismissal from the clerical state for Coyle.
However, “once a priest is elderly and frail and sick, as Fr. Coyle is, most of the time it's recommended [by the Vatican] that he live a life of prayer and penance,” Nickless explained.
In fact, the Sioux City diocese attempted to have another elderly priest dismissed from the clerical state, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused, citing his advanced age.
The review board has also been discussing the preparation and release of a list of credibly accused clerics of the diocese, especially how to make sure that such a list would be accurate. The diocese has stated that a list of credibly accused priests will be published “as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”
The Nov. 6 statement said that Coyle’s case raises important questions about how the Church addresses sexual abuse.
“Bishop Nickless inherited many issues from the past. These are the ones we are dealing with today. One of the most difficult issues is this: where do we put known alleged abuser priests that are still alive, but have no charges against them? What do we do with these men? We know that you do not want them in your community. Many care facilities will not, or cannot, take them. Their families sometimes will take them in, but not always. They cannot go to a prison, as civil authorities say that the statute of limitations has run out to prosecute them. This leaves us with very few choices. We understand that the many members of the public are anxious and fearful about sex offenders, because the crime is so egregious. However, if they are not charged and sent to prison, there are few options for housing them.”
“Local Bishops do not have the authority to ‘defrock’ a priest, properly known as laicization. Laicization is a complicated process that is handled by the Vatican; however, a Bishop can remove a priest’s ability to function as a priest, and this has been done. Additionally, once laicized, Diocesan officials lose all ability to supervise formerly accused clergy,” the statement added.
“The Diocese of Sioux City does follow the Charter’s guidelines for all claims of abuse in the present day. As we follow up on past cases, we want to do that in a way that helps victims to feel that have some peace and justice. We set up a meeting on December 6, 2018 with the Attorney General of Iowa to discuss matters further. A list of credibly accused priests will be published, as soon as we know we have all of the information we need to move forward.”
Birmingham, Ala., Nov 6, 2018 / 12:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- EWTN released Thursday a box-set compilation of Mother Angelica’s spiritual writings.
The Spiritual Wisdom of Mother Angelica is a seven-book box set made up of pamphlets and mini-books she had written during the late 1970s. The writings were compiled by EWTN and the box set was released Nov. 1.
Father Joseph Wolfe, the chaplain for EWTN, said Mother Angelica's advice was relatable because she had undergone such sufferings as the divorce of her parents.
“She could speak to people because she understood. She could have compassion on their suffering because she knew what it was to suffer, lose heart and hope,” he told CNA.
“She wanted to speak to the man in the pew so her teaching is not high theology… It was something that was practical, living it out in your day to day life.”
The seven books are titled: Praying with Mother Angelica, Christ and our Lady, Suffering and Burnout, Guide to the Sacraments, Prayer and Living for the Kingdom, Guide to Practical Holiness, and God: his Home and his Angels.
Wolfe said a good portion of these pamphlets were written by Mother Angelica during adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The first book, Praying with Mother Angelica, involves her meditations on the rosary and other prayers.
“She would describe it as these booklets were born of light. That’s how she would describe this inspiration she would get when she was in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament,” he said.
After she would write down a spiritual topic, other sisters of Our Lady of the Angels monastery would copy them down in pamphlets and booklets. Wolfe said the distribution of these booklets helped promote Mother Angelica to the media world and create EWTN.
“She would write down these different spiritual topics and then … these little spiritual teachings were put into little booklets. These eventually got spread around and Mother started to get invitations to radio and television interviews, which led … [to] the beginning of EWTN.”
Wolfe said one of his favorite spiritual tidbits from the book involves a consistent theme Mother Angelica used throughout her ministry – the search for God in the present moment.
“Every moment in life is like a clean white sheet of paper on which we can write a new love song to the Lord,” Wolfe quoted from Prayer and Living for the Kingdom.
He explained that resentment can cause someone to live in the past and anxiety can force someone to live in the future, but neither of these states are really living.
“We can live in the past, we can live in the future, but all we have is right now this present moment …which is all I have, is how I show my love for [God],” he said.
EWTN Global Catholic Network was launched in 1981 by Mother Angelica of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration. The largest religious media network in the world, it reaches more than 275 million television households in more than 145 countries and territories.
In addition to 11 television channels in multiple languages, EWTN platforms include radio services through shortwave and satellite radio, SIRIUS/XM, iHeart Radio, and over 500 AM & FM affiliates. EWTN publishes the National Catholic Register, operates a religious goods catalogue, and in 2015 formed EWTN Publishing in a joint venture with Sophia Institute Press. Catholic News Agency is also part of the EWTN family.
Bamenda, Cameroon, Nov 6, 2018 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Armed separatists kidnapped 79 students from a Christian boarding school in Cameroon Monday.
The principal, a teacher, and one other staff member were taken hostage Nov. 5 with the students aged 10 to 14 from the Presbyterian Secondary School in Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region.
A Catholic residing in Bamenda told CNA that “this hostage crisis,” along with the recent killings of a seminarian and U.S. missionary have “left all denominations in mourning and wondering when this crisis will end.”
Violence in Cameroon’s Northwest region has grown since 2016 as a separatist group from Cameroon’s English-speaking minority continues to clash with the nation’s security forces. The armed secessionists have demanded independence for the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon, citing their lack of political influence in the largely Francophone country.
As the search for the kidnapped students continues, Fonki Samuel Forba, moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, told BBC that he spoke with the kidnappers and they did not demand a ransom.
“All they want is for us to close the schools. We have promised to close down the schools,” he said.
The separatists had previously decreed a boycott of schools in protest of the bias toward the French language over English in the educational system.
“We hope and pray they release the kids and the teachers," Forba added.
On. Oct 30, an American Baptist missionary was shot in the head amid the fighting in Bamenda.
“This tragedy occurred in the midst of the Anglophone crisis that affects the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Both the separatist fighters and government security forces have used violence against innocent civilians,” State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino said Oct. 31.
Earlier in October, a seminarian in Bamenda was shot by Cameroonian soldiers outside of a church following Mass.
Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda called the 19-year-old seminarian, Gerard Anjiangwe, a “martyr of the Anglophone crisis” in his funeral Mass Oct. 16. Anjiangwe died holding his rosary.
More than 160,000 people have been forced out of their homes by the conflict according to Caritas International.
Archbishop Samuel Kleda of Douala announced a special collection Nov. 4 for the “thousands of displaced people who have abandoned their cities, villages and properties in the hope of finding shelter, survival and relief” in his archdiocese.
As president of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Cameroon, Kleda signed a statement denouncing the violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions, along with Protestant and Muslim leaders in September.
“We, the religious leaders, commit ourselves to denounce and fight together all forms of violence, injustice and the desecration of human rights and dignity until justice and peace return to the entire territory of Cameroon,” it reads.
Kleda recently voiced concern that the election of Cameroon President Paul Biya was marred by fraud. Biya was sworn in to his seventh term Nov. 6. He has ruled Cameroon for 36 years.
Washington D.C., Nov 6, 2018 / 09:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston was elected chairman of the Papal Foundation’s board of trustees during a meeting in Washington, D.C. Oct. 30, taking over from Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who served in the position for eight years.
O’Malley has been a member of the foundation’s board for 12 years. He is also president of the Pontifical Council for the Protection of Minors and a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals.
The Philadelphia-based Papal Foundation gives grants in support of projects and proposals recommended by the Holy See. Since 1990, the foundation has given over $100 million in grants in service to the Catholic Church.
In a statement on his election, O'Malley praised the work of the foundation, through whose grants, he said, “families and individuals in underserved areas around the world have experienced profound improvements in their lives.”
“Churches, education and health care programs, evangelization and vocation efforts all have been made possible through the extraordinary generosity of the women and men who work closely with the Holy See in providing funding for our brothers and sisters in need,” he stated.
The foundation’s board of trustees voted Oct. 30 to approve $13 million in new scholarships and grants to go toward 127 projects worldwide.
The Papal Foundation is managed by a three-tiered board of trustees. American cardinals residing in the U.S. serve as ex officio members, and bishops and elected laity serve as trustees. Its members are Cardinals Sean O’Malley, Blase Cupich, Daniel DiNardo, Timothy Dolan, Roger Mahony, Adam Maida, Justin Rigali, Joseph Tobin, and Donald Wuerl.
In March, the Papal Foundation announced it would re-evaluate its mission and approach to grant-making following controversy over a $25 million grant from the foundation to a Rome hospital.
In 2017 Pope Francis asked CardinalWuerl for a $25 million grant through the foundation for the Church-owned hospital Istituto Dermopatico dell’Immacolata, which specializes in researching and treating skin diseases.
The Holy See later declined half the grant after objections from some board members. The critics went to the media, resulting in news coverage that questioned the integrity of the hospital and the wisdom of the foundation’s grant-making process.
The foundation responded to criticism by committing to taking any necessary corrective measures and pledging to provide members with the facts of the grant and a clearer understanding of the foundation’s mission and governance. It also committed itself “to renewing its bond of trust with the Holy See.”
San Francisco, Calif., Nov 6, 2018 / 12:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As San Francisco prepares to consider a ballot measure to boost taxes for services to aid the homeless, a U.N. investigator has classed the treatment of the homeless in San Francisco and the Bay Area as a human rights violation.
Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, visited the Bay Area and spoke with about 50 homeless people in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.
She said she “can’t help but be completely shocked” by the treatment of the homeless.
“Every single person, whether it was in passing or in a long conversation, said they just want to be treated like a human being,” said Farha, a lawyer who lives in Canada. “What does that say? That is bleak.”
“I’m sorry, California is a rich state, by any measures, the United States is a rich country, and to see these deplorable conditions that the government is allowing, by international human rights standards, it’s unacceptable. I’m guided by human rights law,” she said, according to the news site SFGate.
The last count of homeless people in San Francisco alone estimated 7,500 people, though some believe they number between 10,000 and 12,000.
The city now spends $300 million annually on homelessness. In August 2016 it launched a unified Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The department has said its new counseling centers that aim to move people into permanent housing, known as Navigation Centers, have helped move over 1,500 very vulnerable people out of homelessness.
The median cost of a house in the city is $1.7 million, with an average salary for a tech worker $142,000, The Atlantic reports.
On Election Day 2018, San Francisco voters were set to decide on a ballot measure, Proposition C, which would fund homeless services by raising taxes on the largest companies to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.
Due to complexities of San Francisco payroll tax, the ballot measure would mean higher taxes for bigger businesses with a high concentration of employees or revenue in San Francisco.
The measure has drawn opposition from several influential technology leaders, such as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, but has the support of Mark Beinoff, CEO of Salesforce. The two have argued about the proposition on Twitter, with Dorsey saying the proposition could cost his payment processing company Square $20 million in taxes in 2019.
San Francisco mayor London Breed is worried the tax will cause companies with headquarters in the city to move elsewhere and take jobs with them. While saying its supporters are “well-intentioned,” the predicted long-term impacts on the city made him decide to oppose the measure.
A September poll showed 56 percent of voters backing the measure, though support dropped almost 10 points when pollsters told respondents how much it would cost in taxes, according to The Atlantic.
Farha’s report from the U.N. General Assembly, dated Sept. 29, is titled “On Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living.”
It addresses the Bay Area homeless situation in one section.
“Attempting to discourage residents from remaining in informal settlements or encampments by denying access to water, sanitation and health services and other basic necessities, as has been witnessed by the Special Rapporteur in San Francisco and Oakland, California, United States of America, constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment and is a violation of multiple human rights, including the rights to life, housing, health and water and sanitation,” the report said.
“Such punitive policies must be prohibited in law and immediately ceased,” it added.
The report said that after the U.N. Human Rights Committee voiced concern, the U.S. government introduced funding initiatives for municipalities to rescind laws that “criminalize homelessness.” However, the report advocated “more robust measures.”
Among those Farha spoke with were people living in an encampment before city officials ordered them to move during a “tent sweep.”
Such actions have negative consequences for people suffering homelessness, Farha said.
“It’s damaging because they always have to move,” she told SFGate. “They’re treated like nonentities.”
While officials sometimes say their confiscated belongings are put in storage, “more often they’ll dump everyone’s possessions into one dumpster.”
Farha said that in other countries of the world, such as the global south, there is a struggle to legalize encampments.
“Here, the struggle is simply to be able to create an encampment. In the south, there’s sort of a blind eye that has turned. Once an informal settlement is created, it’s established. Whereas here, they can’t create them.”
Resident complaints about tent encampments, needles and human feces topped 22,000 in 2016, five times the number reported the previous year.
Some tourism leaders in the city have said the homeless population and hygiene problems are causing a significant slow-down in tourism.
A 2016 count from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found almost 550,000 people to be homeless on a single night in January 2016. About 65 percent were individuals, while 35 percent were homeless as a family. About 40,000 were veterans.
California had about 22 percent of the total homeless population in the U.S., followed by New York with 16 percent and Florida with 6 percent.
The U.N. report criticized laws in rich countries that prevent the construction of rudimentary shelters by the homeless and criminalizes them even for eating and sleeping. States must help implement the right to basic housing as soon as possible, it said.
States must ensure that discrimination, harassment or criminalization on the basis of housing status are prohibited, the report continued. Informal settlements’ rights must be protected, and there must be rigorous action against forced eviction. The report said the judicial system should hear “systemic claims” related to inadequate budget allocations, failure to comply with homelessness response timelines and goals, and inadequate community engagement or collaboration.
The report was critical of police and security forces’ treatment of residents of informal settlements. In one instance cited, Canadian authorities spread chicken manure and fish fertilizer on an encampment to enforce a prohibition on overnight shelters in parks. After residents protested, a court ruled this prohibition a violation of constitutional rights.
Those who resist forced eviction and claim their right to housing must be treated as “human rights defenders” by authorities and security forces, said the U.N. report. The international community “should respond accordingly when their rights are violated.”
Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 05:32 pm (CNA).- The Diocese of Buffalo is adding to their public list of clergy with credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor.
Diocesan officials, including Bishop Richard Malone, held a press conference Nov. 5 during which they fielded questions from reporters about the investigation process for allegations of sexual abuse. Malone held a meeting with priests from across western New York earlier that day to discuss the current situation.
The new list contains an additional 20 names of clergy with “substantiated claims of sexual abuse of a minor,” as well as 16 names of clergy who were or are members of religious orders and had served in Buffalo.
The original list, published in March, included 42 names of accused priests. Leaked diocesan documents suggested that the diocese had received complaints against more than 100 priests when the list was created. Siobhan O’Connor, a former executive assistant to Malone, leaked the documents to a local television station.
Following O’Connor’s disclosure, Bishop Malone and diocesan officials are facing accusations that they culled a list of accused clergy in order to produce a “much lower number for the public to digest,” according to the investigative report from WKBW Channel 7.
Diocesan lawyer Lowler Quinlan stated at the press conference that the diocese had received 191 complaints of sexual abuse during 2018 alone; usually the diocese received an average of 11 complaints per year. This influx of cases meant the diocese had to take on additional staff, Quinlan said.
Bishop Malone admitted last week that he made mistakes in dealing with sexual abuse cases where adults were involved, but maintains that he has not mishandled allegations involving children. He also reiterated his decision not to resign.
The diocese has not released a list of clergy accused of sexual misconduct involving adults.
Sister Regina Murphy, chancellor of the diocese, is responsible for the files on accused priests. She told the press conference that she did an inventory in April of all the files in the diocese’ possession, and that they are “much better organized now.” She stated that there are no priests ordained in the last 20 years with an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor in the diocese.
Of the 132 clerics the diocese said its investigators had looked into so far, a total of 62 have now been publicly listed, and 45 are still living.
The list does not include the names of 48 deceased priests and 18 religious order priests with a single allegation against them; nor does it include 18 priests removed from ministry but whose cases have not yet been resolved. In some cases, abuse by a religious order priest did not occur within the Buffalo diocese, so their names also were not included.
In response to questions about why religious order priests were left off the original list, Quinlan said it was because the Diocese of Buffalo did not have the authority to discipline them. Regarding deceased priests with one allegation against them, Quinlan said that it would be unfair to the priest’s family to put them on the list since they would be unable to do anything to defend their own reputation. Beyond a single allegation, however, Quinlan said the bishop “made the call” and decided that it would be reasonable to include those names.
The list also does not include the names of four clerics whom the Diocesan Review Board cleared of sexual abuse charges.
Austin, Texas, Nov 5, 2018 / 04:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a pro-life leader said she is voting for a pro-choice Senate candidate because she believes he will best advance the cause of life, another pro-life advocate rejected this approach to fighting abortion.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, founder of New Wave Feminists, said in an Oct. 31 column for the Dallas Morning News that she is voting this year for Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is challenging incumbent Republican Ted Cruz for his seat in the Senate. O’Rourke has gained traction in the normally red state, and polls show a tight race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Currently a U.S. Representative, O’Rourke has said that he opposes efforts to limit abortion access. He is endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, which gave him a “100% pro-choice” rating last year, noting his opposition to more than a dozen pro-life measures during that time.
Herndon-De La Rosa said that despite his voting record, she believes O’Rourke’s cooperative approach in seeking common-ground solutions will do the most to advance the pro-life cause.
She described O’Rourke as a “different” kind of candidate who “talked about working with Republicans and independents alike.”
Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, said that he believes this line of thinking is “deeply flawed and very unfortunate.”
He told CNA that it is a “fallacy” to believe that voting for candidates who favor legal abortion will bring about an end to abortions.
In her Dallas Morning News column, Herndon-De La Rosa explained that she had long accepted the belief that being pro-life meant voting Republican.
“[F]or years I reluctantly supported candidates who talked about making the sand glow in other countries with bombs and who advocated taking children away from their mothers, simply because unlike us, they hadn't won the geographic lottery,” she said.
These votes often felt difficult for her as an independent who does not completely agree with either major political party, and as a “consistent life ethicist,” who opposes “all forms of violence against other human beings, including war, torture, the death penalty and abortion.” But she believed that compromise was necessary, because the right to life was so foundational.
However, Herndon-De La Rosa said the 2016 presidential election was eye-opening for her, showing her “just how deep the GOP had its hooks in the pro-life movement.” She stressed that “while I am 100 percent pro-life, I'm also 100 percent feminist, and I saw the way Trump treated women as an absolute deal-breaker.”
“I saw the way these politicians used unborn children's lives to get out the vote but then oftentimes forgot about those lives soon after,” she said. “I saw the way pro-lifers compromised so many of their own upstanding ethics and morals to elect a man thrice married, who bragged about his infidelities and predatory behavior. And why? So they could get their Supreme Court seats.”
She said the final straw was watching Republican Senator Susan Collins agree to vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh only when he said that Roe v. Wade was “settled law.”
This convinced Herndon-De La Rosa that abortion must be eradicated on a cultural, rather than legal, level – “by creating a post-Roe culture while Roe still stands.”
O’Rourke’s proposed policies and willingness to work across party lines, she said, will help address the factors that lead women to feel that they must choose abortion.
“Abortion becomes unnecessary when women have so much support from within their community that the one violent choice never even becomes an option in their minds,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Abortion becomes unthinkable when women of color realize that having their children will not cost them their own lives because we have men like O'Rourke actually addressing the disproportionate number of minorities and children dying during childbirth.”
However, Pojman countered that Texas already “provides a tremendous amount of help for pregnant women” and does much to offer alternatives to abortion.
The state has more than 200 pregnancy resource centers that offer free to help to women in need, he said, and some half of these centers receive state funding. In addition, the state’s social service network provides health care for more than half of the minors in Texas, and the majority of childbirths in Texas are funded by Medicaid.
Rather than advancing the pro-life movement, Pojman argued, “O’Rourke would be a disaster.”
“He has shown himself to be entirely hostile to protecting unborn children from abortion. He has voted to allow late abortions, he has voted to support tax funding for abortions. If he became senator and had his way, he would eliminate the Hyde Amendment, which has been demonstrated to have saved some 2 million babies from abortion since it was first implemented in the ‘70s.”
Texas Alliance for Life has enthusiastically endorsed Ted Cruz for Senate. Pojman pointed to Cruz’s consistent record of voting for pro-life measures, including a ban on late-term abortions and an end to federal funding of Planned Parenthood.
The U.S. bishops’ guide to political engagement, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, stresses the importance of examining issues rather than voting automatically for any political party. The bishops emphasize the right to life as a foundational human right in evaluating candidates and issues.
“As Catholics we are not single-issue voters. A candidate's position on a single issue is not sufficient to guarantee a voter's support,” the document says. “Yet if a candidate's position on a single issue promotes an intrinsically evil act, such as legal abortion, redefining marriage in a way that denies its essential meaning, or racist behavior, a voter may legitimately disqualify a candidate from receiving support.”
New York City, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- As negotiations begin on the annual United Nations humanitarian assistance omnibus resolution, the United States will remain committed to protecting the fundamental right to life for the unborn, a spokesperson for U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told CNA.
Each year, the United Nations drafts a resolution that outlines various priorities they would like to see member states promote or protect regarding humanitarian aid and human rights. Since 2015, this resolution has encouraged member states to ensure that women and girls had access to “sexual and reproductive health-care services.”
Included among the United Nations’ definition of “reproductive health-care services” are the promotion of safe abortions and access to contraceptives, which sit alongside treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, access to pre- and post-natal care, and the prevention of female genital mutilation.
These resolutions are not binding in international law, but do reflect internal United Nations priorities and policies. The repeated inclusion of “sexual and reproductive health” in resolutions could result, over a period of time, in the United Nations adopting abortion as a human right.
Some have speculated that Haley could move to strike the phrase from the resolution, which currently appears twice in draft copies.
When reached for comment, Haley’s press officer Andrea Stanford declined to comment on specific actions that the ambassador may take regarding the language of the resolution, citing the recent start of negotiations.
However, she told CNA that “in general the United States is a world leader in advancing the cause of human rights, the first and most fundamental of which is life.”
Stanford said that the United States would be “committed to advancing policies that protect the lives of the unborn,” in “all multilateral forums, including the United Nations” in which it is a member.
Haley, who served as United Nations ambassador since the beginning of the Trump presidency, announced in October that she will be stepping down from her position at the end of this year. During her resignation announcement, she denied rumors that she was considering a presidential run. President Trump praised the ambassador’s service, and said Haley was welcome back in his administration at any time.
Trump indicated on Monday that he is planning on announcing his new pick for U.N. ambassador at the end of this week.
Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 5, 2018 / 03:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The husband of the Pakistani Catholic woman who was recently acquitted of blasphemy charges is asking several Western nations to provide asylum for his family, whom he says is in danger of death.
In a video message, Ashiq Masih requested asylum for his family from the U.S., Canada, and the UK. His wife, Asia Bibi, had her death sentence overturned in a high-profile case last week, but riots following the verdict have endangered the lives of the entire family, Masih said.
Bibi was previously found guilty of making disparaging comments against the Islamic Prophet Muhammad during an argument with some neighbors. In 2010, she was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging. Defaming Muhammad carries a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan.
After the Pakistan Supreme Court overturned verdict on Oct. 31, noting Bibi was free to leave the prison, violent protests erupted throughout the predominantly Muslim country.
In a move to appease the riots, the government made an agreement with the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), the Islamist political party which coordinated protests against Bibi’s release.
The agreement requested an end to the protests in exchange for the government to review the acquittal and add her name to the country’s “exit control list,” which would bar her from the leaving the country. Several arrested protestors were also released.
Bibi is no longer allowed to the leave the jail, but her security has reportedly increased, and she is being kept in an undisclosed location.
Masih told German broadcaster DW that the agreement has sparked fear in his family, noting they have consistently changed locations to hide during this dangerous time. Bibi’s lawyers, Saif Mulook, fled the country on Saturday.
“The agreement has sent a shiver down my spine. My family is frightened, my relatives are frightened and my friends are also frightened. This agreement should never have been struck,” he said.
He expressed worry that the review of the verdict could be influenced by outside forces, who are heavily pressuring the court to convict Bibi.
“Now during the review petition, the clerics might gather outside the Supreme Court and try to influence the verdict. It is wrong to set a precedent in which you pile pressure onto the judiciary,” he said. “I went to session court, where I could see that the judge was under tremendous pressure to convict Asia.”
“My wife, Asia Bibi, has already suffered greatly. She has spent 10 years in jail. The verdict of the Supreme Court had created a ray of hope; we were excited that we would meet her soon,” he added.
Bibi was accused of making derogatory comments about Muhammad in 2009, when an argument broke out between her and some other farm workers when they were harvesting berries.
The argument stemmed from Bibi taking a drink from a cup of water which previously had been used by Muslims. An onlooker informed her that she could not do so, as she was “unclean” due to her faith. An argument ensued, and Bibi was then reported to Muslim clerics.
According to the BBC, Bibi was later attacked at her home, where she confessed to blasphemy, her accusers said. However, the Supreme Court said this was inadmissible evidence, as her confession was spoken in front of a mob who threatened to kill her.
Although the government has never executed a person under the blasphemy law, accusations alone have inspired mob and vigilante violence.
Blasphemy laws are reportedly used to settle scores or to persecute religious minorities. Many of those accused of blasphemy are murdered, and advocates of changing the law are also targeted by violence.
“The situation is dangerous for Asia. I feel that her life is not secure,” Masih told DW.
Buffalo, N.Y., Nov 5, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA).- The former Diocese of Buffalo employee who leaked internal diocesan documents to the press wrote in an op-ed Sunday that she shared the documents “out of love for the survivors, my diocese, my community and my Church.”
“What I was witnessing boggled my mind, broke my heart and burdened my soul. My conscience felt as though it were in a vise that was tightening at an alarming rate,” Siobhan O’Connor wrote Nov. 4th in the Buffalo News.
O’Connor wrote that while she was executive assistant to Buffalo’s Bishop Richard Malone, she would often field calls from survivors of sexual abuse.
“After hearing survivors’ accounts of the abuse they suffered and the trauma they are still enduring, I was overcome with the desire to assist them with more than a sympathetic ear and the promise of prayer.”
Some of the documents O’Connor leaked suggest that Malone worked with diocesan lawyers to avoid releasing publicly the names of some diocesan priests accused of misconduct.
Ultimately the diocese culled down a list of over one hundred clergy accused of “criminal, abusive or inappropriate behavior” to a final, publicly released list of just 42, the documents show.
O’Connor wrote that she was approached in late July by local reporter Charlie Specht from WKBW Channel 7. The local news station published an exhaustive investigative report Aug. 22-23, citing documents leaked by O’Connor indicating that Malone allowed priests to stay in ministry, despite multiple allegations against them.
O’Connor revealed her identity in the week leading up to her Oct. 28 interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” She said in her op-ed that she loved working for the diocese, and previously held the bishop “in the highest esteem,” as emails released by the diocese Oct. 30 showed.
“As I have stated publicly, I bear no ill will toward Bishop Malone...Indeed, I still care about him and pray for him with a sincere heart,” she wrote.
Malone said in a Nov. 2 interview on local radio station WBEN that he believed no laws were broken when the documents were leaked, and that he trusted O’Connor followed her conscience in doing what she did.
O’Connor thanked the diocese’ “many wonderful priests and deacons, who have suffered deeply throughout these long months...for their faithful fortitude” and expressed her wish to work with them to “rebuild our local church with courage and charity.”
She concluded by imploring Malone to live out his episcopal motto, “Live the Truth in Love;” while she reiterated her call for his resignation.
“Be truthful with us, Bishop Malone. Put an end to this toxic secrecy and painful silence,” she wrote.
“And, if you love us, begin the process of allowing new episcopal leadership to come to our diocese.”
Though Malone apologized to victims in his Nov. 3 radio interview, but said he does not plan to resign. He stated that while he admits he mishandled allegations of sexual abuse involving adults, he maintains that his “record handling misconduct allegations with children is good.”
Also on Nov. 3, the diocese placed two more priests, Msgr. Frederick R. Leising and Father Ronald P. Sajdak, on administrative leave after receiving abuse complaints against them. The investigation is ongoing, and the diocese did not specify whether the alleged abuse involved children.
Oakland, Calif., Nov 5, 2018 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- A Catholic designer has spoken about how God and his faith inform his work. As a visual set designer at Pixar Animation Studios, Philip Metschan helped create the environment of “Incredibles 2,” most notably, the superhero Parr family’s new home.
Metschan told CNA that one of his favorite parts of being an environment builder is getting to take inspiration from the real world, filtering it through his own experience “to produce a world that’s never existed – fantastic things that no one has ever seen before.”
“I am definitely someone who likes to be out in nature and out in the world and experiencing it, because I think there are strong narratives that are created just from the existence of these places,” he said, adding that for him it is not possible to separate creation from the Creator.
“In a sense, I feel like whenever I’m using [real-world environments] as inspiration, I’m using [God] as inspiration,” he explained.
“Incredibles 2,” a sequel to the 2004 “Incredibles” movie, follows the adventures of a family of superheroes living in a world which is losing faith in people with incredible abilities.
A feature he appreciates about the stories told by Pixar, he said, is the importance placed on very universal themes, such as family, friendship, and other core principles. “Though we use these fantastic characters to do it, universal emotions are all very central,” he stated.
Though the stories are secular, Metschan also said he thinks each person can bring his or her own faith background to the viewing and find something to take away.
In “Incredibles 2,” for example, the goal of the movie’s villain is to “get rid of superheroes, because of her notion that having special people among us makes us weak, that we rely on these people instead of relying on ourselves,” Metschan said.
“As it relates to our Catholic faith, I would say that [the world’s] current heroes are not made of the stuff we would want them to be made of,” he said. “They’re not heroes for the reasons that I think we as Catholics look to our ‘heroes’ for, and the reason we venerate them.”
Thankfully, “I think we still have the choice to choose our heroes,” he said.
As an artist, too, Metschen said it is easy to be aware of the existence of divine inspiration, and that this insight comes with a responsibility to create something which serves others.
As an artist, “you feel like you’ve been given some kind of special skill, or a special view of how to execute these new things and you also feel a responsibility that these things you create will be positive and enlightening.”