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Apr 23 17 7:20 AM
Niece of Fatima visionaries reflects on her remarkable family (CNA/EWTN News).- The niece of Blessed Franciso and Jacinta Marto has voiced excitement for the coming canonization of her relatives, sharing stories of the time of the Fatima apparitions and personal memories of what it was like growing up in a family that had saints among its members.“My family, my grandparents, my parents, all of us always accepted it as a gift from God,” Jacinta Pereiro Marto told CNA in an interview.“God chose my uncle and aunt because this is what he wanted, so much that my grandfather used to say that the Virgin wanted to come to Fatima and she chose his children, but that we didn't deserve anything,” she said.Because of this attitude instilled in the family by her grandfather – father to Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto – “we always lived very simply because God chose, and he chooses who he wants. We don't deserve anything.”Marto, 74, is the daughter of Joao Marto, the brother of Fatima visionaries Bl. Francisco and Jacinta, and she shares the exact same name as her saintly aunt.Just two years older than Francisco, Joao was the closest in age to the two out of the many Marto siblings.Bl. Francisco and Jacinta this year will become the youngest non-martyrs in the history of the Church to be canonized after witnessing apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as the Our Lady of Fatima, alongside their elder cousin Lucia dos Santos in 1917.In her interview with CNA, Marto said that she had “the joy” of being born in the same family home as Francisco and Jacinta, and to grow up there, since her father Joao continued to live in the house with his elderly parents.“They always instilled in me a great love for God and for the Virgin, a life of simplicity, of belief and of religiosity,” she said, speaking of her grandparents.Their home remains the property of the family, but is now open for visitors and pilgrims to see where the visionaries grew up. Across the street, Marto runs a souvenir shop and a small museum-of-sorts containing original photos and artifacts belonging to the family, including shawls used by Jacinta, the rosary Francisco prayed with before dying, and the bed he passed away in.Marto said that it is thanks to her grandmother Olimpia Marto, mother of Franciso and Jacinta, that she received the same name as her aunt. Olimpia had wanted a grandchild that shared the exact same name as her saintly daughter, and was told by Joao's wife that the next girl they had would get the name.So when Marto was born, her grandmother, who was also asked to be her godmother, chose to call her Jacinta.“I feel very happy to be Jacinta,” Marto said, explaining that “I feel a very strong presence and a great protection from my uncle and aunt. I think that Jacinta and my uncle are protecting me.”“I am no one, I sin like the whole world,” she said, “but I believe they are protecting me, I feel that they and Our Lady protect me.”Recalling memories shared by her father, Marto said Joao had been present with Francisco and Jacinta at the apparition of Mary in Valinhos, which took place in August, “but he didn't see anything.”“It was only Francisco, Jacinta, Lucia and my father, but he said that even though he opened his eyes and looked, he saw nothing,” she said.Around the time Mary was to appear, Jacinta wasn't there at first, she said, explaining that when Lucia asked him to go find her, Joao “didn’t want to, because he wanted to see.” He eventually went to find Jacinta, and when she arrived Mary appeared, but even though he waited with them, Joao couldn't see anything.Two months later when the “miracle of the sun” took place Oct. 13, 1917, Marto said her father, who was only 11 at the time, stayed behind that day because rumors were spreading, likely from other children, that “if the miracle of the sun didn't happen the whole family would die.”In order to help the people believe in the authenticity of the apparitions, Lucia had asked Our Lady during the apparition of July 13, 1917, to perform a miracle so people would see that they were true.However, on that occasion Mary responded by saying that should the children continue to come each month until October, the miracle would occur. So on Oct. 13, the last apparition of Mary to the children, 30-100,000 people gathered to witness the miracle.News reports and witnesses from the time said the miracle took place when the formerly cloudy sky parted and the sun appeared as an opaque, spinning disk in the sky. Multicolored lights flashed across the landscape and those present before the sun then spun toward earth and then zig-zagged back to its normal position in the sky. Additionally, clothes and mud previously wet from the rain had dried.But while many members of their family were present for the miracle, Marto said her father “stayed at home (because) he was afraid to die” if the miracle didn't happen, as the rumors had stated.At just 11 years old, Marto said her father didn't understand everything that was going on, but that after Francisco and Jacinta died, “my father said that he cried a lot, a lot. Because he saw that everything they said was happening.”Speaking of her grandparents, Marto said her grandfather Manuel, father of Francisco and Jacinta, didn’t initially understand some of what was happening either, but had always believed his children were telling the truth.Jacinta was the first one to tell her parents about seeing Mary after coming home from the first apparition, Marto said, explaining that when people began to say the children had made everything up, her grandfather would respond saying: “My children are not liars. I taught them, so if they say they saw, I think they saw.”After the first appearance Manuel accompanied his children to the following apparitions, and although he didn’t see anything, “he said that he heard a sound, like a bee inside a jar.”He was also present for the miracle of the sun, Marto said, explaining that “if he believed before, he continued to believe” after.Marto said that for her, this belief was extraordinary, because “my grandparents weren't at the beatification, none of it. When their children died they were known, but not with the fame of sanctity.”“So they thought their children were a little different from the others, but they didn't know how it was going to be. It was a question every day,” she said, but noted that her grandfather in particular “always believed.”Referring to news of the acceptance of a second miracle allowing for the canonization of her uncle and aunt, Marto said she feels “a big joy” knowing they will be proclaimed saints. The two will be canonized May 13, during Pope Francis’ two-day visit to Portugal.However, she stressed that the news “is not only for the family, it’s for Portugal and the whole world. Because Our Lady came for the world, and they were a message for the world.”“I sometimes ask myself how two children that were seven and nine years old managed to capture and respond to the message of God. They had a message and assumed this message,” she said, noting that Francisco was all about “praising God, adoring God, worshiping God.”Jacinta, however, was primarily concerned with conversion, and wanted that “everyone return to God, that everyone convert, that everyone went to heaven.”“She lived this in anguish,” Marto said, explaining that she often asked herself: “we who have all these means of communication, we know what is happening in the world, all the suffering in the world, we see it on television…and what do we do?”At just 7-years-old Jacinta had visions of wars, famines and persecutions, and as a result she “assumed the responsibility” of offering and making sacrifices so that everyone could be saved.“And us? What are we doing?” she said, stressing that with television and social media it's not necessary to have a vision of the suffering and tragedy in the world, but “we are part of this humanity and we are a bit responsible for everyone. Sometimes we don’t think well about this.”Marto said that for her, she believes the core of the Our Lady of Fatima's message is that she came “that we might return to God. That we don’t forget that God loves us, but that we have to praise him and must give thanks to him.”In addition to this, “we must pray for each other,” she said, explaining that in her instructions to the children, Mary “didn’t ask many things that we can’t do.”Pointing to the rosary, she said that according to Lucia, Mary asked that people pray it because “it's an easy prayer,” and can be recited at church, in the car or while walking.If someone isn't able to pray the rosary, Marto suggested at least trying to pray one Hail Mary and Our Father a day, to honor Mary and give thanks to God “for being our friend.”“God loves us very much and at times sends us his mother to refresh us a bit in order continue,” she said, explaining that “God wants us to be a bit better every day. Because we are always sinners, we are not perfect, but try to be a bit better every day.”Marto said that she hopes to be present for Pope Francis' visit to Fatima for the centenary of the apparitions in May. Having attended the beatification of her uncle and aunt in 2000, she said she also hopes to be present for the May 13 canonization of the visionaries.She received communion from Bl. Pope Paul VI when he became the first Pope to visit Fatima in 1967, and was also present for the visit of St. John Paul II in 1982, but was farther away.Although she wasn't able to attend Mass when Benedict XVI came in 2010, she hopes to have a good seat at Mass with Francis, and “to be close to him.”
Apr 24 17 9:04 PM
Some adjustments and possible transfers of some competence among congregations, potential new mergers, the powers of the Holy See Courts, and the central issue concerning the selection and formation of the ecclesiastical and lay personnel working in the Vatican. These are the themes on the C9 agenda, which on the morning of Monday, April 24 started their 19th meeting, which will be held in the morning and in the afternoon until Wednesday 26 April. The Council of the Nine Cardinals, instituted by Pope Francis one month after his election, helps the Pontiff in reforming the Curia and in managing the universal Church. These days, discussions about some possible adjustments to the competencies of some congregations, such as those for the Oriental Churches and the Evangelization of Peoples, will be finalized while other possible mergers will be taken into consideration On the agenda also the powers proper to the courts of the Holy See, from the Penitentiary to the Apostolic Signature. There are no novelties, but a decentralizing and thus an enhancing of the role of the local Churches is expected as Francis had previously anticipated in the apostolic exhortation “Evangelii gaudium” (November 2013), the programmatic document of his pontificate. The central theme of the nine cardinals’ meeting will be the selection and training of the staff working in the Holy See, both ecclesiastical and lay. With regard, for example, to the pastoral activity of the priests outside of Rome whose services should continue, as well as to professional preparation. Among the interlocutors of the Cardinals and the Pope there will be the Office of Work of the Apostolic See (Ulsa) and the Secretariat for Economics.
Apr 25 17 5:09 AM
Jesuit-educated Macron favourite to beat Le Pen as Catholic bishops warm to him as next presidentCentrist candidate leads after first round as both established parties endure miserable election campaignOn the evening of Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round of France’s presidential election, the French bishops’ conferences issued a guidance note for Catholic voters that — while not naming candidates or parties — can only be read as an argument against his second-round opponent Marine Le Pen. The message recalled the basics of Catholic social teaching and urged Catholics to welcome refugees, respect the environment and support European unity. “Today, the main risk would be to give up fighting for the future and give in to the temptation of fatalism,” it concluded. “Our Christian faith calls us to hope.”Since Macron began running last November, the dynamic centrist newcomer — who is only 39 years old — has embodied a can-do hope in a future based in Europe. He scored best in the cities and more prosperous regions of western and southwestern France.By contrast, Le Pen, head of the far-right National Front, represents a resentful France opposed to immigration, Europe and globalisation and focused on national solutions. Her support was stronger in the rust belt north and east and in the southeast. Macron won an impressive 23.9 per cent of the vote last Sunday ahead of Le Pen at 21.4 per cent, slightly less than expected. Conservative François Fillon, the frontrunner early this year before financial scandals stymied his campaign, was third at 19.9 per cent and far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon close behind at 19.6 per cent.The miserable 6.3 per cent result for Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon reflected both the deep unpopularity of outgoing President François Hollande and widespread voter rejection of the two large parties that have headed French governments since the Fifth Republic was founded in 1958. Initial polls for the second round on 7 May give Macron 62 per cent of the vote, but Le Pen could tilt the balance to win more than the 38 per cent she registered.Macron, who comes from a medical family in Amiens, attended a Jesuit secondary school there and decided to be baptised at 12 years old. He says spirituality influences his thinking but he is an occasional churchgoer. He studied philosophy, graduated from the elite ENA school of administration and worked at the finance ministry and Rothschild bank before going into politics, first as an aide to President François Hollande, then as his economics minister.Macron is a social liberal who accepts the legalisation of same-sex marriage without making it a central policy. He takes a moderate line on France’s policy of laicite, upholding it [but] refusing to “make a secular religion out of it,” as he says.That contrasts with Le Pen, who would roll back gay marriage and tighten "laicite" policies separating church and state, mostly to push back against Muslim demands for more public recognition of their religion.While Macron has the advantage, Le Pen could still present a strong challenge if enough disappointed voters on both the left and right abstain or vote for her. While most mainstream parties promptly lined up behind Macron, far-left Melenchon and Common Sense — the conservative network behind Fillon — held off from endorsing him.In this long-shot strategy, Le Pen could sweep up votes on the right and left among groups as diverse as social conservatives, eurosceptics of all stripes and far-leftists allergic to his banking background.
Apr 26 17 3:36 AM
The leadership of the Knights of Malta has recommended that the members of the order voting to elect its new leader decline to appoint a new permanent head of the group. It has asked instead that they consider electing a temporary leader with a one-year appointment.Knights were informed of the recommendation Tuesday in an email from the order’s headquarters, which was obtained by NCR. The email included a lengthy opinion from the order’s juridical council that the members voting in the election have the possibility of deciding to elect only a temporary leader.The Knights of Malta, a prestigious chivalric order founded in the 11th century, is holding an election for its new leader Saturday. The order’s previous leader, Briton Matthew Festing, resigned Jan. 25 following months of tension between the order and the Vatican.The leader of the order is known as its Grand Master and is normally given a life appointment.Several Italian language reports indicate that Pope Francis asked the order to consider the possibility of electing a temporary leader. Website Faro di Roma reports that Francis will be meeting at the Vatican Wednesday afternoon with some of the members taking part in the election.Tensions between the Vatican and the order mounted in late December after Festing fired the order's Grand Chancellor, German Albrecht von Boeselager.The firing sparked a two-month dispute, with Francis creating a commission to investigate the move and Festing originally pledging non-cooperation with that commission, saying it did not respect his group's historic status as a sovereign entity.Following Festing’s resignation, the order’s governing council appointed Austrian Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein as its interim leader until Saturday’s election. Von Boeselager was subsequently reinstated in his role.Tuesday’s email informed Knights that the order’s current governing council had recommended to the members voting for the new leader that they elect a leader with a one-year mandate, known as a Lieutenant of the Grandmaster.The opinion from the juridical council says that von Rumerstein, who will be acting as the chairman of the meeting electing the new leader, can open a discussion before the election on the idea of electing a temporary leader. It says he can then call for a simple majority vote on the matter among the electors.The opinion is 17 pages long, dated March 25 and was signed by five Knights.
Apr 26 17 6:57 AM
India's Church remains in denial over clergy abuseThere is an urgent need for sensitizing the church hierarchy and Catholic educators in human resource management.The issue of how the church deals with officials who abuse women has been brought to the fore in India once more when a Catholic priest was arrested in February.Father Robin Vadakancherry of Manathavady Diocese in Kerala was arrested for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old parishioner of his and a student of a school under his management.The girl delivered a baby boy in a church-run hospital. The infant was moved to a church-run orphanage, all without informing the authorities of the fate of the girl, a minor under Indian law.Police said the hospital's doctor and five nuns in the hospital and orphanage colluded to cover up the crime (Completely and utterly outrageous!), a charge they now contest in court.An anonymous call, obviously from someone within the circle who could not stand the cover-up, to a child helpline resulted in a police investigation and arrests. The police also said the priest used money and threats to force the girl's father to take responsibility for raping his own daughter. (Great balls of fire! That priest should be laicized immediately and thrown into jail!)It was an elaborate institutional response to protect the reputation of the church which most officials believe depends on the reputation of individuals in the hierarchy, starting from parish priests. This institutional response is not isolated but is actually the rule rather than the exception, say several women within the church structures. (Why am I not surprised?)A group of such women, who have been trying their best to get the church to address this issue, met in September 2016. The subject of their discussion was "Impact of Religion on Women in India" including women from other religions and walks of life. Several of these women shared instances of abuse in the church. (Which means that there are more cases - one can only wonder how many more! - out there, God help us!)Some were heads of church institutions and religious congregations in which these cases had come to light. Others, both male, and female had worked on high-level committees on the issue and offered suggestions to the church hierarchy.Presentation Sister Shalini Mulackal, who teaches theology at a Jesuit seminary in New Delhi, said although men and women were equal at the start of Christian history, the egalitarian vision of Jesus was subsumed within the hierarchical structure.Over the centuries, celibacy emerged as an essential component of the Catholic priesthood, placing priests, all of them men, on a pedestal. Further, women began to internalize patriarchy and become comfortable in their situation of submission.The meaning of the existence of the all-male hierarchy emerged as safeguarding the exclusivity and self-ascribed values of hierarchy. The value of the priesthood was then lost to the values of hierarchy. Then they began to protect their system at the cost of human values, as we seen in the latest case of the Kerala priest.The women discussed at the September gathering how hierarchs dissuade victims from taking legal action. One case that came up was a young nun who was filmed through her bathroom window by a theology-student-seminarian.The matter was brought to the notice of her superiors and local bishops, who convinced her not to take legal action. She later left the convent in frustration as the seminarian was allowed to continue his studies, the meeting was told.We see a complete internalization of male domination here. The nuns' superiors opposed exposing a case that would offend church officials while the hierarchy supported the misguided young man and allowed him to continue his studies. This was done despite having proof of his misdeed, said the participants, most of them having a detailed knowledge of the case that happened in 2015. (This is just too ludicrous for words - that seminarian could well become a textbook example of a predator priest.)The narrators, all senior religious women, were all deeply concerned about the lack of support women victims of abuse have within church institutions. Church authorities neglecting victims of abuse is likely to have a long-term impact on the church and its institutions and their survival and progress in the future especially at a time when fewer candidates come forward to the priesthood and religious life.Religious people take vows and make their congregations their home for the rest of their lives. Therefore, isn't it incumbent on the institutions to do their best to protect their dignity and integrity? When the church establishment victimizes and, in some cases, demonizes the whistle-blower, it only succeeds in driving the contagion deeper underground and silences anyone who dares stand up for justice or support the victim.Any case of clergy abuse that comes to light is labeled as a "stray' and "isolated" effectively dismissing the existence of a larger issue that needs attention, the participants noted. Several cases have been covered up and the church officially has no record or study on clergy sex abuse. The church behaves as if there is absolutely no issue of clergy sex abuse in India.A tactic of discrediting is also at work against those who stand up for justice when they are projected "anti-Christian". The hierarchs often have this question: When minority Christians are under severe socio-political pressure, what benefit do you add to the church by accusing it of sex abuses? The indirect demand is this, join us in covering up the issue."Since there is so little response to the situation in the church, we must treat the incidents as crimes and seek legal recourse," says Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a lay theologian who champions the cause of women in the church.Reporting individual cases or bringing out case studies piecemeal may not be sufficient to address the problem in India. The Catholic Church has issued a gender policy but it is yet to be implemented by dioceses. The issue is a lack of will.At this time, the church needs to display commitment on the issue and send a clear signal by enabling detailed, multifaceted research into the issue in a time-bound manner.[This must be done] by a high-level, empowered, professional and impartial team of scholars, both men, and women, to bring out the extent of the problem and to suggest solutions.At the same time, there is an urgent need for sensitizing the church hierarchy and Catholic educators in this all-important area of human resource management, not to speak of the ethical and moral issues of which they are the guardians and standard-bearers.As an outcome of this process, the church must also take steps to set up strong institutional mechanisms against deviations from the highest standards of moral and ethical behavior by its members with vulnerable sections of the community.If not urgently carried out, the rot within will have serious repercussions not only for the church especially but for the Christian community overall and not only in India.
Apr 26 17 3:09 PM
The soap opera at the ancient Knights of Malta religious order took on new drama Wednesday as its ousted leader returned to Rome on the eve of the election for his successor in defiance of the pope’s wishes.Fra’ Matthew Festing, whom Pope Francis effectively ousted as grand master in January, is technically eligible to be re-elected during Saturday’s vote. But he told fellow knights he merely wants to cast his ballot.In an April 15 letter, Francis’ delegate running the order, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, had specifically told Festing to stay away from Rome, saying his presence at the election “would reopen wounds and prevent the event from taking place in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.”But Festing told the order he planned to vote, and two knights told The Associated Press he was back in Rome on Wednesday.The developments added new drama to the Knights of Malta saga, which erupted in December after Festing ordered his foreign minister, Albrecht von Boeselager, to resign. Boeselager’s stated crime was that condoms had been distributed by the Knights of Malta’s humanitarian branch in Myanmar under his watch. Church teaching forbids artificial contraception.The Vatican got involved after Boeselager complained, launching what became a very public spat between Festing and Francis. While ostensibly about the internal affairs of the order, the battle laid bare the conservative criticism of Francis, given that Festing had been backed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, a leading conservative critic of the pope.Festing, though, lost.Francis asked him to resign, ordered Boeselager to be reinstated and appointed Becciu as his envoy to help run the order until a new grand master could be elected.The Vatican takeover was a raw display of papal power and put into question the Knights’ fiercely guarded sovereign status. Francis added to the impression of heavy-handedness by inviting more than a dozen senior knights to a pre-vote huddle Wednesday evening at the Vatican hotel where he lives.The order’s leadership has recommended that the 56 knights eligible to cast ballots Saturday elect a temporary “lieutenant” to run the order for one year, rather than the life term of a grand master. That will give the order time to reform its constitutions to broaden the pool of eligible future grand masters. Currently, the rules limit the pool to “professed knights” — who take religious vows of poverty, obedience and chastity — who hail from noble lineage.Currently, 12 men fit the bill, but many of them are in their 80s.The Knights of Malta is an ancient lay Catholic religious order that runs hospitals and clinics around the world. It counts 3,500 members and 100,000 staff and volunteers who lend first aid in war zones, natural disasters and conflict areas; members also make regular pilgrimages bringing the sick to Catholic shrines.
Apr 26 17 3:11 PM
The group of cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforming the Vatican bureaucracy spoke in their latest meeting about how to decentralize authority in the Catholic church and improve relationships between the Vatican and local bishops’ conferences.The nine member Council of Cardinals spoke in their April 24-26 meeting about how the Vatican can “be more at the service of local bishops” spokesman Greg Burke said in a short briefing Wednesday.Burke said the Council also continued its work examining the different offices of the Vatican bureaucracy, commonly known as the Roman Curia. He said they spoke specifically about the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.Burke also said Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the only American serving on the Council, gave an update on his work leading the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.The spokesman said O’Malley briefed the pope and other cardinals about the last plenary session of his commission, held in Rome at the end of March, and about its work hosting various education seminars around the world on how to protect children from abuse.Burke was asked if the Council had discussed the resignation from the commission of Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, who left March 1 due to frustration with Vatican officials' reluctance to cooperate with its work to protect children.The spokesman said O’Malley discussed “the importance of having the voice and input of victims on the commission” but “in what form is left to be seen.”Asked how Francis conducts the meetings with the cardinals’ group, Burke said the pontiff acts as "one who listens and asks many questions."The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals is scheduled for June 12-14.
Apr 27 17 5:17 AM
The ex-Grand Master of the Order of Malta is expected to defy Pope Francis’ wishes and attend a meeting to elect the group’s next leader.A spokeswoman for the knights in Rome told The Tablet the order are expecting Fra’ Matthew Festing to attend Saturday’s conclave-style election with another report saying he has already arrived in Rome.The spokeswoman could not confirm whether Festing had arrived in the Eternal City and calls to the Grand Master this evening went unanswered. His own spokesman did not return requests for comment. Senior members of the order are currently gathering in Rome ahead of the crucial vote, with a select group meeting with the Pope tonight as Francis will be in Egypt when the election takes place. Festing, only the second Englishman to hold the position of Grand Master, resigned in January after a bruising public battle with the Vatican over the sacking of one of his top aides, Albrecht von Boeselager, in a row over the distribution of condoms.Since his resignation Festing’s allies have been pushing for him to stand again as Grand Master: he is one of 12 eligible candidates who could be chosen as leader of the organisation which runs a global charitable network and is made up of around 13,000 knights and dames. But Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, Francis’ delegate to the order, wrote to Festing ordering him under obedience not to attend the election, adding this was also the Pope’s wish. “Your presence would re-open wounds, only recently healed” the senior Vatican prelate wrote. “And would prevent the event from taking place in an atmosphere of peace and regained harmony.” It is possible that Festing, a 67-year-old former Sotheby’s executive from Northumberland, is in Rome for pre-election meetings although will not attend the actual election. The spokeswoman explained that under the knights’ rules he is allowed to attend. Inside the order there is a strong faction that remains loyal to the former Grand Master while claiming that Francis and the Holy See have been guilty of unwarranted interference in the order’s affairs. The 11th century crusader-era knights are both a religious order with members who make a vow of obedience to the Pope and a sovereign, autonomous entity. At least one of those meeting with Francis at his Casa Santa Marta residence tonight is an ally of Festing. “I expect him [the Pope] to give us our marching orders,” Fra’ Ian Scott, a senior knight from England told The Tablet. “Whether we pay any attention, I don't know.”The dispute between Festing and the Vatican ended up becoming a proxy war over Francis’ reform agenda: prominent Pope-critic, Cardinal Raymond Burke, the order’s patron, pushed for von Boeselager to be dismissed claiming the Vatican backed such a move. The cardinal has also, however, denied asking for the German knight’s sacking. It was Burke giving Holy See approval to von Boeselager’s removal from the position as Grand Chancellor that sparked an inquiry by the Vatican and which led to Festing resigning. Von Boeselager has now been reinstated to his position. While the former leader of the knights has claimed the Pope told him he could be re-elected such a move would open up another rift between the order and the Holy See.The Pope has also told Festing he wants to reform the knights and has appointed Archbishop Becciu, the Vatican’s Deputy Prime Minister, to oversee the task and be his sole liaison with the order. This was a job that had been undertaken by Burke: he remains as the knights’ patron and sources inside the order say he may attend the election although does not have the right to vote. The cardinal reportedly tried to dissuade Festing from resigning. Archbishop Becciu is a details focussed official who is trusted by the Pope. He will, however, be in Cairo with Francis when the election takes place.It is likely that the order will choose to elect an interim leader for a year to institute reforms such as a change in requirements that the Grand Master must demonstrate 300 years of noble ancestry. This means that there are just 12 eligible candidates, including one who is 97-years-old. Frontrunner for the role include Fra’ Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein, the current interim leader, Fra’ Giacomo dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto, an Italian aristocrat with strong Holy See links who used to look after then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s cat when the former Vatican doctrine chief was out of Rome. There is also an outside chance that French knight Fra’ Pierre de Bizemont could be chosen.During the process, the professed knights compile a list of three possible candidates to choose from, with the new Grand Master needing a simple majority to be elected. The order’s code states that after “the fifth undecided ballot” the council can then decide to proceed to an election of a temporary leader known as the “Lieutenant of the Grand Master.”The new leader will be sworn in at a Mass this Sunday - the day after the Pope returns from Egypt - while the announcement of who has been chosen is expected on Saturday.
Apr 27 17 8:18 AM
Pope Francis' Syrian refugees are flourishing in RomeOne year ago, Nour Assa, her husband Hassan and their son Riad, were brought to Rome from the island of Lesbos, where they were refugees, at the express request of Pope Francis. Since then, Nour has found work in her specialist field of biology.Pope Francis made a commitment last year to cover the costs of accepting and integrating Nour and her family as well as nine other Syrian refugees who had been brought to Rome by plane. Since then, the Sant’Egidio community worked together with Greek and Italian authorities for this desire to be realized. One year later, the pope’s promise has been honored as Nour’s testimony indicates.Her family is now lodged in a small apartment rented by the Vatican near the Campo de’ Fiori. It is a lively area with a daily market that always attracts a crowd of tourists. However, Nour preferred to meet La Croix at another location that she likes, namely the school of Italian language and culture founded by Sant’Egidio.We are in the heart of the picturesque neighborhood of Trastevere. The school, which was once a hospital, is surrounded by a garden bursting with flowers radiating the joy of spring.Nour, a pretty brunette, who is a “not very practicing” Muslim, arrives in jeans and a light blue-gray sweater with her smartphone in hand. She gained a degree in biochemical engineering in Damascus and in microbiology in France, where her uncle is a researcher at the Pasteur Institute.Although her French is flawless, Nour tends to mix French and the Italian that she now speaks fluently.“Learning the language of the host country is one of the keys to breaking down the fear of the other,” she says.She is as reserved as she is determined. The wounds that she tries to hide are still visible in her gentle demeanor. She does not stop repeating that she is “very happy". That she wants to thank the pope, “a great, simple man who changed our life", and the “ever helpful” Community of Sant’Egidio.“To live in peace again is the most important gift that has been given to Riad, my son,” she says full of emotion.Her daily life is that of a “normal” woman. Now enrolled at the University Roma Tre to validate her Syrian degree, Nous has just been recruited as a researcher in biology at the Bambino Gesù, the Vatican pediatric hospital.“The work gives me the opportunity to help advance research in the field of genetic illnesses, it’s fantastic,” she exclaims.From Monday to Friday, before coming to the hospital, she brings Riad to the Sant’Egidio creche. However, her husband, a landscape architect, has still not found work in his own field. Very proud of her son, Nour shows off a few of his drawings.“Riad is the one of us who suffered the most when we had to flee Damascus and ISIS with the means used by the smugglers such as ambulance, moped, truck, etc.” she says.After arriving in Turkey, they stayed there for several months. When their request for a family visa was rejected, they took a raft to Greece.“There were 63 of us on board. It was a nightmare trip at night,” she recalls.Currently, their attention is focused on Riad “who needs to feel protected", she says. Overall the family has integrated well into Roman life and its eternal chaos.“We feel free. Relations with the Italians are getting much easier as we master their language and we are trying to share their culture. I am not a great cook but I have learned some pasta recipes and to make some typical cakes!” she adds.The family’s greatest moments of happiness come on Sundays when all three go out to discover ancient Rome. They then have the opportunity to share “the luxury of a craft-made gelato.” Nour also loves the spectacle of street artists.“We stop in the various squares holding hands and imagine a world without walls,” she says.Occasionally, they meet friends, both refugees, and Italians, for a plate of kebbeh, made from bulgur wheat and subtly spiced mince meat.“We talk about our country, our childhood, our families. It’s difficult. I lived in Syria for thirty years and I still have my mother and a brother in Damascus,” she explains.“However, their request for a visa to come to France has been accepted,” she reveals with a luminous smile. “They should arrive in May.”After the war, she hopes to return to Damascus “if only to see the neighborhoods that I love and to smell the perfume of the jasmine".Nour and Hassan speak Arabic between themselves.“The native language needs to be preserved like a treasure. Riad is still small and he needs to soak it up,” she explains.Nour shares these intimate details often with a lump in her throat, sometimes punctuated with laughter. But her nostalgia for her homeland is clear.As political refugees, however, Nour and Hassan have specific objectives in Europe.“Our aim is for Riad to grow up and study in a peaceful setting. And we in our turn want to be able to help others rebuild their lives,” she concludes.
Apr 28 17 8:17 AM
Knights of Malta draw battle lines after clash with popeThey will not be drawing swords like their predecessors did 1,000 years ago, but battle lines have been drawn between conservatives and reformers in the Knights of Malta, the Catholic chivalric order and global charity.Its former leader, Briton Matthew Festing, has returned to Rome for a decisive boardroom confrontation over its future this Saturday, defying a request to stay away by a representative of Pope Francis, who ordered his resignation in January.Festing will be among 56 men who will vote on the leadership of an organisation with a budget of billions of dollars and 13,000 members, 80,000 volunteers and 20,000 paid medical staff running refugee camps, drug treatment centres, disaster relief programmes and clinics around the world.His supporters have been moving behind the scenes to reassert their power and perhaps even try to reinstate him, against the wishes of the Vatican, which demanded he step down after he fired the organisation's number two.Reformers, backed by the Vatican, want to re-vamp the order's constitution to make its government more transparent and better able to respond to the massive growth it has seen it recent years. They also want to make it possible for commoners to reach top positions.Under the current monarchical hierarchy, the top Knights are required to have noble lineage.Dressed in black robes with a white Maltese cross on them, the 56 electors, known as the Council Complete of State, will meet in the Magistral Villa on Rome's Aventine Hill with a view of the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.The infighting has demoralised the frontline volunteers and medical workers in the organisation, and, according to the order's health minister, Dominique Prince de La Rochefoucauld-Montbel, led to a drop in donations.Condoms DisputeThe Knights of Malta is unique in the Catholic world because it is at once a religious order made up mostly of non-clerics, a chivalric order and a sovereign entity that is run like a small monarchy and recognised by 106 statesOn Jan 24, Festing, 67, became the first Grand Master in several centuries of the Order of Malta, which was founded in 1048 to provide protection and medical aid for pilgrims in the Holy Land, to step down instead of ruling for life.In December, Festing and conservative U.S. Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, the order's chaplain and a vocal critic of Pope Francis, had summarily fired Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager, who was administratively Festing's number two.They accused Boeselager of having violated Catholic teaching by turning a blind eye to the distribution of condoms in an aid project in Myanmar when he was in a previous post.Boeselager retorted that it was a ruse for a power grab. In an unprecedented intervention, the pope appointed a commission to investigate the events.Festing, who like other "First Class Knights," had taken a vow of chastity, poverty and "service to the Holy Father", told members not to cooperate with the commission, although many did. Festing said it was unwarranted interference in the order's internal affairs.The pope sided with Boeselager and ordered Festing to resign. Boeselager, a German, was re-instated as Grand Chancellor and a "Lieutenant ad interim" was named to run the order.The Boeselager bloc backs the pope's call for the order to chose an interim leader with a one-year term to enact constitutional changes before electing the next Grand Master.But Festing, who returned to Britain, said in an interview published in the Catholic Herald on March 23 that he did not rule out being re-elected. He is one of 12 eligible candidates for Grand Master, all of whom must have taken vows to be "professed knights" and come from noble heritage."I have no intention of running a campaign. However, if they re-elect me, I would have to consider agreeing to it," he said.Papal Travel BanOn April 15, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, the Vatican's deputy secretary of state, who the pope named to be "special delegate" to the Knights after Festing was ousted, ordered the former Grand Master not to travel to Rome for the election."Your presence would re-open wounds, only recently healed, and would prevent the event taking place in an atmosphere of peace and regained harmony," Becciu said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters from a Vatican source.Becciu said the pope "shared" his decision and asked Festing to stay away as "an act of obedience."But three days before the vote, Festing told organisers he would attend, effectively disobeying a direct papal order and throwing the entire election into uncertainty. He has since been seen in Rome by members of the order."Until 24 hours ago, we had several possible scenarios," a senior source in the order said. "But now there is no agreement and anything can happen."
Apr 29 17 4:00 AM
The Vatican’s quiet reformerThe President of the Vatican Information Authority (AIF), René Brülhart, was speaking at Oxford University’s Blavatbik School of Government on reforming Vatican finances on Thursday night. Brülhart has sought to create a “tailor-made” system of regulation — a term he used often in his talk — that brings the Vatican into line with contemporary European standards but without sacrificing its uniqueness.It was an unusual way for a Vatican official to begin a talk at Oxford University’s shiny new school for public policy wonks: By commemorating a dead cardinal. And even more unusual when the official is a layman.After beginning with a joke that the Vatican had rather more thick walls and fewer windows than the glass-and-steel Blavatbik School of Government - “but still we hope we are introducing transparency in our own way” - René Brülhart asked the students and professors to observe a moment’s silence for his predecessor as head of the Vatican’s financial watchdog, Cardinal Attilio Nicora, who died earlier this week.The Swiss regulator, president since 2012 of the Vatican Information Authority (AIF), has had remarkable success in creating and implementing new laws and regulations to prevent Rome’s finances ever again exploding in scandals. After seeing him talk to students of change management, I think I know why.The auditor - who came to the Vatican after a remarkable success in clearing up that other traditional European money-laundering center, Lichtenstein - is an instrument of reform and change. He should be a major threat to the Vatican old guard, always suspicious of outside experts who think they know best.Yet that gesture towards his predecessor shows his sensitivity towards the culture of the curia. Many of the questions from the audience, predictably, were inviting him to share stories of the tensions involved, but he never criticized anyone.He had been given a warm welcome, he said (“walls may be thicker, but people in the Vatican are very warm-hearted”), there was a “big curiosity to learn and understand,” and he was only able to introduce change because of the huge backing from the top he had received.Brülhart has succeeded in the Vatican in large part because of his sensitivity to its singularity as both a sovereign and global institution. Rather than aggressive talk of “modernizing” the Vatican, Brülhart has sought to create a “tailor-made” system of regulation - a term he used often in his talk - that brings the Vatican into line with contemporary European standards but without sacrificing its uniqueness.At the same time, he stresses the end of the reform as the good of the institution, the moral obligation to the world’s Catholics to ensure their money is well managed. And protecting Vatican sovereignty: Getting the regulation right means making it less vulnerable to foreign (especially Italian) control.“There was a big temptation to seek to change everything” when he arrived in September 2012, he told students of government in soft, accented English.One of Benedict XVI’s two key financial appointments on the eve of his resignation, Brülhart faced a dramatic scenario: The Vatican’s credit card and cash machines had been frozen by the Banca d’Italia, relations between the IOR - the “Vatican Bank” - and correspondent banks had deteriorated to the point where its cash transfers had been frozen.The IOR’s reforming director, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, had been ousted, and MoneyVal, the European anti-money laundering watchdog was breathing down Rome’s neck, pressing for change. And unlike Lichtenstein, which mostly passes unobserved, the Vatican financial scandals were assiduously tracked by big global media.Yet Brülhart moved slowly, keeping a low profile, listening and observing.“I tried to understand what had happened. How could it happen that cash machines were frozen? I was trying to understand how this could have happened. Who are the key actors? Was the legal system sufficient? Could we execute the work we had to do?”In 2013 and 2014, what he calls the “building blocks” of Vatican financial oversight were put in place: A new system of supervision, reforms to the penal code, and changes to the AIF’s statutes to give it clear powers of regulation.Then, in mid-2014, came the new Secretariat for the Economy and the creation of the auditor general role.“But once you have the legal and regulatory framework in place, then comes the challenge of implementation,” said Brülhart, who is proud of what has been achieved but continually stresses that it’s a “process.”What has been achieved is easily trackable in the AIF’s annual reports. There were just a dozen information-sharing exercises - when the AIF shares information with regulators in other countries - in 2012, compared with more than 1,500 by the end of 2016. Similarly, suspicious activity reports (flagging up money that might be connected to criminals or terrorists) has increased from just one in 2012 to more than 1,000 in 2016.IOR funds no longer get frozen.There is international cooperation. Financial regulations pertaining elsewhere in Europe are applied in the Vatican. For the fifth year, the AIF will in a couple of weeks issue an annual report, and be quizzed on it by reporters at a press conference.And, of course, the IOR has been cleaned up, not least by closing 5,000 accounts whose holders’ connection with the Vatican was tenuous. It was the existence of these shadow accounts that allowed not just money-laundering but the exploitation -with the connivance of corrupt Vatican officials - of the Church’s financial instruments by criminal, even Masonic, networks.Now the IOR, says Brülhart, “is now going back to its roots, to its statutes, to what it really stands for, which is serving the Church’s religious works around the world.”But what about prosecutions? I ask. There has been plenty of cooperation with Italian authorities that has enabled its police to investigate and arrest wrongdoers - but none, so far, in the Vatican itself.In December 2015, Moneyval complained that there had been “no real results” in prosecutions of financial crimes by Vatican law enforcement, nor even confiscations of assets. There are said to be 40 cases that Brülhart has put on the desk of the Vatican’s chief prosecutor, the so-called Promoter of Justice, but so far without a single conviction.Brülhart says the current reporting system really only started to work in 2013-14, meaning that the AIF probes suspicious activity reports and where it finds evidence of wrongdoing, passes the case onto the Promoter of Justice.Brülhart doesn’t say so, but many fear that these cases - fiendishly complex, as white-collar crime tends to be - lie beyond the competence of the Promoter of Justice, which lacks the resources and the know-how to prosecute them.But then Brülhart surprises me: He will be announcing soon that there have been the first prosecutions for financial crimes. (Will there be any prominent names in the list, I wonder?) “In the last year we have started to have the first prosecutions, and I’m not talking about dozens, but we’ve taken our first steps, it’s a process but this has been addressed, and we will publish the relevant figures very shortly.”He agrees with MoneyVal that this is a “key issue.” If, as a result of the new regulatory framework, no one ends up being prosecuted, there is little point. “It’s started somewhere and it has to end somewhere, you have to play the whole chain,” is how he puts it.But while there are such obstacles - “sometimes there are stones and mountains” - Brülhart never makes the mistake of seeing himself as against the system. “It’s a path we’re on together” is how he describes it.So what lessons - he is asked - can he share about leading change in established institutions?Brülhart begins by exhibiting the attitudes that have won him friends in Rome - he’s not the reformer, he is “just a humble servant,” change is teamwork, and so on. Nor does he mention the pope, or make out that all is driven from the Santa Marta. The key driver of transformation, he says, is that it’s the right thing to do - which is why he doesn’t think that it will unravel under a future pope.That said, he did have two suggestions.The first was to communicate constantly, building bridges by explaining clearly what you are doing and why it needs to be done, and the consequences of not doing it. The main reason for resistance in any institution is fear of losing what you have, of ceding power to another. (Sounds like the Vatican old guard, as well as a number of hangers-on.)Yet once people understand the need of acting, they overcome their fears. “People who block you at the start can become your greatest supporters,” he says.The second is to “take emotion out of it.” Change always provokes emotional reactions, which are poor guides. His advice? “Go with an objective approach. Be boring. Go with the facts. How can we improve this?”As a recipe for Vatican reform, it may not be the most headline-grabbing approach to reform. But it’s working.
Apr 29 17 4:16 AM
Belgian church apologizes for role in mistreating mixed-race peopleThe Catholic Church in Belgium recently apologized for its role in separating mixed-race children born to African mothers and European fathers from their families and putting them up for adoption in Belgium. The bishops expressed "regret for the part played in this by the Catholic Church."OXFORD, England - Belgium’s Catholic Church has apologized for its role in mistreating mixed-race people, who were born in colonial times to European fathers and African mothers and later taken away for adoption.“The history of many metis, born of a Congolese, Rwandan or Burundian mother and a white father (serving) in one of these countries, is an obscure episode of Belgian colonization,” the bishops’ conference said in an April 26 statement.“These children were long designated pejoratively as ‘mulattoes,’ while the colonial authorities, both civil and ecclesiastical, considered them a real problem. … We express regret for the part played in this by the Catholic Church.”The statement was published after an official church apology was delivered by Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp during an April 25 symposium in the Belgian Senate.It said many mixed-race people had been placed in orphanages and boarding schools run by Belgian religious orders, permanently cutting them off from their families.“This was the beginning of a sorrowful separation and long search,” the bishops said. “All the good intentions and motivations behind their placement in institutions led to an alienation, which was even greater given their origin and true identity.”While colonial segregation was in force, up to 20,000 people were believed born to white fathers and African mothers in Belgian-ruled Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Many were forcibly fostered by Catholic orders and sent to Belgium for adoption in 1959-62 without their mothers’ consent.In 2016, the Metis de Belgique association, representing mixed-race adoptees, appealed for state recognition of their mistreatment and discrimination.The bishops’ conference statement said all organizations with historical documents, including birth and marriage certificates, were asked to make them available to researchers, and it said the church counted on the Belgian government to find solutions.Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, spokesman for the bishops’ conference, said information was being sought from church groups in Rome and Africa for help in establishing the true identity of mixed-race citizens and would be coordinated by the Belgian church’s family commission.“It took till last year for this issue to be raised - and the church wishes to apologize for the whole of society, not just for itself,” Monsignor Scholtes told Catholic News Service April 27.“Although no firm statistics are available, we know a lot of these children came from Catholic missions, who did good charitable work but failed to preserve (the children’s) identity,” he added.
Apr 29 17 6:51 AM
Knights of Malta elect temporary leader for reform period VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The ancient Knights of Malta religious order on Saturday elected a temporary leader during a period of reform after the last grand master was effectively ousted by Pope Francis.The secret ballot by 56 knights eligible to vote means the order will continue a period of Vatican-mandated reform before electing a grand master to replace Fra' Matthew Festing, who resigned in January in a dispute with the pope over the order's sovereignty.The new temporary leader is Fra' Giacomo Dalla Torre with the title of lieutenant of the grand master. He most recently has been the grand prior in charge of the order's Rome chapter.Knights garbed in black robes gathered for a Mass inside the order's Villa Magistrale on Rome's Aventine Hill ahead of the secret balloting. Knights eligible to cast ballots must choose a leader from a pool of people who, according to the order's rules, must have taken religious vows of poverty, obedience and chastity and hail from noble lineage.The planned reforms are expected to broaden eligibility in the next election.The Vatican took over the sovereign lay Catholic order after a dispute over condoms led to the resignation of Festing, who traveled to Rome for the election in defiance of the pontiff.
Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto elected Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of MaltaFra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto was this morning elected Lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta. The electing body, the Council Complete of State, met in the Magistral Villa in Rome, one of the Order of Malta’s two institutional seats.The newly elected Lieutenant of the Grand Master will swear his Oath before the Pope’s Special Delegate to the Sovereign Order of Malta, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, and the members of the Council Complete of State tomorrow morning in the Church of Santa Maria in Aventino.Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto succeeds Fra’ Matthew Festing, 79th Grand Master, who resigned on 28 January 2017.Pope Francis has been informed by letter of the election result. (No doubt, however, Francis will have already been informed by some other far more expeditious means of Fra' Dalla Torre's election.) All the Order of Malta’s Grand Priories, Subpriories and National Associations around the world have been informed, as well as the representatives of the 106 countries with which the Order maintains diplomatic relations.The new Lieutenant of the Grand Master, elected for a one-year mandate, affirms his commitment to work closely with the Order’s Sovereign Council in advancing the diplomatic, social and humanitarian activities and to nourish the spiritual life and the commitment of its 13,500 members as well as that of its more than 100,000 volunteers and employees.Profile of Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di SanguinettoFra’ Giacomo was born 1944 in Rome. He graduated in Humanities from the University of Rome, specialising in Christian Archeology and History of Art. He took up academic posts at the Pontifical Urbaniana Institute, teaching classical Greek. He was also Chief Librarian and Archivist for the Institute’s important collections and has published a range of essays and articles on aspects of medieval art history.He became a member of the Sovereign Order in 1985 and took his Solemn Vows in 1993. From 1994-1999 he was Grand Prior of Lombardy and Venice and from 1999 to 2004, a member of the Sovereign Council. At the Chapter General of 2004 he was elected Grand Commander of the Order and on the death of the 78th Grand Master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, he became the Lieutenant ad interim. From 2008 Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre has held the post of Grand Prior of Rome.The first official engagement of the new Lieutenant of the Grand Master will be the 59th Order of Malta International Pilgrimage to Lourdes, which will take place from 5 to 9 May. Every year, over 7,000 members and volunteers from all over the world take part in the pilgrimage, assisting around 1,500 sick and disabled pilgrims. The pilgrimage to Lourdes represents one of the most significant moments in the spiritual life of the Order’s members and volunteers.The Constitutional reformOne of the most important tasks of Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto during his one year mandate, is to work on the reform process of the Constitution and Code of the Order.The Constitutional Charter was promulgated in June 1961 and was amended in 1997.In particular, the proposed Constitutional reform will address potential institutional weaknesses. The recent crisis has shown some weaknesses in the checks and balances in governance: the reform will take this into consideration. The reform will also focus on strengthening the Orders spiritual life and to increase the number of its Professed members. Consultations have already begun and all members of the Order have been invited to offer their suggestions.Lieutenant of the Grand MasterAccording to the Order’s Constitution, the Lieutenant of the Grand Master remains in charge for one year with the same powers as a Grand Master. The Lieutenant of the Grand Master must reconvene the Council Complete of State before the end of his mandate.The Lieutenant of the Grand Master is the sovereign and religious head of the Order, and must fully dedicate himself to the development of the works of the Order and to set an example of living by Christian principles to its members. He is vested with supreme authorities. Together with the Sovereign Council, he issues the legislative measures not covered by the Constitution, promulgates government acts and ratifies international agreements. The Lieutenant of the Grand Master resides at the Order’s seat of government, the Magistral Palace in Rome.
Apr 29 17 9:29 PM
A Knight of Malta and his millenary vocationRome (AFP) - "I am a monk who has taken a vow of chastity, poverty and obedience," says Emmanuel Rousseau, one of 56 "professed knights" of the Order of Malta.Founded during the Crusades as a military organisation that also ran hospitals, the world's oldest chivalric Order these days is engaged in providing humanitarian aid in crisis zones around the world.On Saturday, one of Rousseau's colleagues in the top tier of membership will be chosen as the new leader of an Order whose last Grand Master, Britain's Matthew Festing, was ordered by Pope Francis to resign in January.Rousseau, alias Fra' Emmanuel, has nothing in common with the traditional image of a monk dressed in sombre habit and cloistered away in a monastery.He lives alone in a posh part of Paris, likes steak tartare and has a high-flying career at France's national archives.The only clue as to his parallel life is the discreet, white Maltese cross he spots next to the button hole of his lapel.His is an active life, just like colleagues who include a New York lawyer and an Italian doctor who studies the "miracles" associated with the French pilgrimage site of Lourdes.But to honour his vows as a professed knight, Rousseau also devotes long hours to prayer, has already made over his residence to relatives, makes breakfast for the homeless and joins the sick and the afflicted on an annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.Modern and revolutionary"It's about feeling a calling to live in the image of Jesus Christ," Rousseau says of his atypical vocation.The tradition of the order, he explains, "is to seek an intense experience of the act of charity by putting yourself at the service of others, particularly the sick, and setting an example through the life you lead".Rousseau's career as a knight has its roots in childhood, when his businessman father would take him to the Citeaux abbey in Burgundy. "I spent a week milking cows and listening to Gregorian chants," he recalls. Years as a boy scout also helped pave the way to his adult life.Fra' Emmanuel Rousseau, at the headquarters of the Knights of Malta in Rome.AFPWith no inclination to become a priest delivering sermons to the faithful, he opted for the heritage business. After writing a thesis on Cistercian monks, he ended up supervising 380 kilometres of archives and some 200 staff.Then, at 27, while helping the sick in Lourdes, something clicked. "I was paired with a member who had taken his vows and it was just as if we were joined as one." After years of charity work, Rousseau took his vows at the age of 41.Until the end of the 18th Century, all the Knights of what is officially "The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta," took vows. At the time, to be a monk at the service of the sick was both modern and revolutionary, Rousseau says.Last of the MohicansIn 1798, when Napoleon took control of Malta -- the Knights' last bastion in the Mediterranean where they battled Muslim pirates to keep trade routes open -- there were still 2,500 religious knights in Europe.Today, the 56 professed ones appear a little like the last of the Mohicans, lost amid an order of 13,500 members ranked by their noble titles and expected to lead an exemplary Christian life while participating in the charity activities of the Order.Rousseau's family comes from humble farming roots but he has been given noble ranking (Hmmm ... I wonder who "ennobled" Fra' Emmanuel, considering that the French monarchy was abolished more than two centuries ago?) to become one of the 11 members of the "Sovereign Council" that counsels and supports the Grand Master, who is still required to be born noble.In the devout society of the 12th Century donations of land and farms to the Order were common and it remains one of the biggest landowners in Italy.And the religious identity remains central today to donors who fund charity work in 120 countries, with one significant departure from its past.The Order founded on what it saw as the need to defend Christendom from Islamic invaders and pirates is now involved in helping migrants around the world - including the many Muslims rescued in the Mediterranean.
Apr 30 17 8:16 PM
As the Knights of Malta prepare to elect a new Grand Master – the situation is well analysed here – my mind has turned to a previous crisis in the order. It was in 1798, when they lost the island of Malta. At the time the Grand Master was Ferdinand von Hompesch, the only German ever to have held the office of Grand Master, and generally regarded as the worst leader the Knights have ever had.Before his election to the Grand Magistracy in June 1798, Hompesch, a Rhinelander, had held most of the important posts in the Order, and his election may well have seemed like the natural thing to do. However, he inherited a ruinous situation. The order, thanks to the French Revolution, had lost most of its income, which came from properties in France – all of which had been secularised in 1792. Moreover, of the 300 Knights vowed to defend Malta from the infidel, some two thirds were French and had been infected by Jacobin ideas. Thus, when Napoleon turned up on his way to Egypt in July 1798, perhaps a majority of the Knights were ready to welcome him, and the order as a whole was in no shape to resist. The Knights surrendered with hardly a shot being fired, and the mighty fortifications of Malta, which had never been put to the test since 1565, were meekly handed over to the invader.Napoleon could hardly believe his luck, and after just a few days in Malta, sailed off to Egypt. Hompesch and the Knights were allowed to leave the island, and sailed to Sicily and then on to Trieste. They were compelled to leave almost all their property behind, apart from their archives, their most precious icon of Our Lady, and their most valued relic, the hand of John the Baptist. The said hand wore a ring, which Napoleon himself is supposed to have pulled off, saying: “It looks better on my hand.”Once in Trieste, Hompesch shouldered the blame for the debacle and was deposed; he later moved to Montpellier, where he died in poverty in 1805, at the age of 60. As for the Knights who had deposed Hompesch – an event unprecedented in the Order’s history – they rapidly dissolved into factions, with one faction offering the Grand Magistracy to Tsar Paul of Russia, who was not even a Catholic, but who wanted to get hold of Malta and thus gain a port in the Mediterranean. (Russian foreign policy does not change much over the centuries.) But some Knights wanted to go along with this, given that Paul had money, of which they were now very short, and seemed the only person who would enable them to retake Malta.In fact the Congress of Vienna, in its desire to restore order in Europe, did propose giving Malta back to the Knights, but this never happened, largely because the British then occupying Malta had other ideas, as did the Maltese themselves. As the inscription over the Main Guard in Palace Square, Valetta, says:MAGNÆ ET INVICTÆ BRITANNIAEMELITENSIUM AMOR ET EUROPAE VOXHAS INSULAS CONFIRMAT A.D. 1814“To great and unconquered Britain, the love of the Maltese and the voice of Europe confirms these islands, 1814.”As for the Knights, despite the disastrous flirtation with Russia, they did survive, though for a time that looked unlikely. Hompesch did not kill the order off. The only monument to him, apart from the names he gave to three villages, is the Hompesch Arch, which was built to mark, among other things, his acceding to the Grand Magistracy and which was only completed after the expulsion of the Order. It is a lovely thing and a fitting and elegant coda to all the fine public buildings with which the Knights endowed Malta. Indeed, looking at the Arch, one feels only compassion for the Grand Master, who is said to have been personally popular in Malta, and was the only Grand Master ever to bother to learn Maltese.Let us hope that, just as the survived the crisis of 1798 and the succeeding years, the Knights will survive their present difficulties.
May 1 17 9:22 AM
Helping those who have broken away from the Catholic Church come back into full communion is a noble endeavor. But such reconciliations cannot be conducted as if they were the ecclesiastical equivalent of labor negotiations: You give a bit here, we’ll give a bit there. For the only Church unity worthy of the name is unity within the full symphony of Catholic truth.Which brings us to the rumored reconciliation between the Church and the followers of the late French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. While the Lefebvrists’ complaints about the post-Vatican II liturgy are often thought to be at the heart of their schism, the more fundamental break-points involve the Council’s teaching on the fundamental human right of religious freedom and the Council’s embrace of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue—including the conciliar affirmation that there are elements of truth and holiness in other Christian communities, and indeed in non-Christian faiths.Now, according to Archbishop Guido Pozzo, a senior Vatican official involved in discussions with the Lefebvrists, it may be possible to heal the breach Archbishop Lefebvre created by conceding that the teachings of Vatican II do not all have the same doctrinal weight. On this scenario, the Lefebvrists would be given a pass on the Council’s affirmation of religious freedom, ecumenism, and interreligious dialogue, and would return to full communion through the mechanism of a “personal prelature,” the same structure that governs Opus Dei.This is a very, very bad idea.Vatican II did indeed speak of a “hierarchy of truths” within the one Catholic and apostolic faith. But that does not mean that some of what the Council taught is more-or-less true (which would mean that some of Vatican II is more-or-less false, or at least more-or-less dubious). To speak of a “hierarchy of truths” simply means that some of the truths the Catholic Church teaches are closer to the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ crucified and risen than are other truths the Church teaches.The Church teaches the truth of the Virgin Birth and the truth of Mary’s Immaculate Conception; both doctrines are true, but the Virgin Birth is closer to the Paschal Mystery than is the Immaculate Conception. Similarly, Vatican II taught that divine revelation is real and that religious freedom is a fundamental human right. The reality of divine revelation is a truth closer to the center of the faith than is the truth that religious freedom is a right of persons that should be recognized in law; but both are true.Following the lead of Archbishop Lefebvre, the clergy of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X (SSPX)—the ordained members of the Lefebvrist movement—have long claimed that what the Council taught on religious freedom is false because it contradicted settled Catholic teaching—a claim that has more to do with the agitations of post-1789 French politics than with a serious account of the history of Catholic church-state doctrine. The basis of the SSPX’s rejection of religious freedom is of less importance than the fact of it, however. To restore SSPX clergy to full communion with Rome while letting them cross their fingers behind their backs on religious freedom (and ecumenism) when they make the profession of faith and take the oath of fidelity would, by a bizarre ultra-traditionalist route, enshrine a “right to dissent” within the Church.And that would make for shipwreck. Such a “right” of “faithful dissent” has long been claimed by Catholic progressives, not least with respect to Humanae Vitae, Paul VI’s encyclical on the appropriate means of regulating fertility, and Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, John Paul II’s apostolic letter reaffirming that the Church’s authority to ordain extends only to men. Claims to “faithful dissent” have always been rejected by the Church’s highest teaching authority.To make a deal with the SSPX and the Lefebvrist movement on Archbishop Pozzo’s premise—that this new personal prelature would be conceded a right to reject certain teachings of the Second Vatican Council—would be to make the symphony of Catholic truth discordant rather than melodic. It would validate even more dissent on the Catholic Left. It would reinforce the notion that doctrine is not about truth, but about power.And in doing all of that, it would immeasurably damage the New Evangelization.
May 1 17 10:13 AM
In December 2016 the Vatican announced that the lay board of the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR), also known as the Vatican Bank, had added three new members bringing the total count to seven.This represented an effort to think outside the box for the IOR in the sense that it showed not only a strong support for reform and change within the Vatican institution, but also openness toward world-renowned lay experts and professionals to bring attention to the balance sheet.The newbies are American Scott C. Malpass, Spaniard Javier Marín Romano and the German Georg Freiherr von Boeselager. They all have in common a vast experience in the banking and financial fields as well as the fact that none of them is Italian.The latter caused a bit of patriotic indignation on behalf of Italian media outlets that pointed at the board as in the conspiratorial hands of “Americans, Opus Dei, and the Germans.”In Italy, a strong stereotype exists describing the money-savvy American who comes to saves the day. It’s the same in the Vatican, though in this case he is a lay money-savvy American who sweeps in to save the day.And that is precisely what Malpass, from Indiana, one of the three new board members, is here to do.“As a life-long committed Catholic, I can’t imagine many things more important for me to support in any way I can the life of the Church and its mission of evangelization in this way,” Malpass told Crux. “Just as my faith life gives expression to other aspects, I have found that service to the Church illuminates my vocation more broadly.”Malpass was called to the IOR after board members Clemens Börsig and Carlo Salvatori offered their resignations. Only a few days prior, Pope Francis had turned down a proposal by the board to create a Vatican investment fund in Luxembourg.After the event the Vatican in a statement thanked the two former members for their contribution, adding that the resignation “can be seen in light of legitimate reflections and opinions concerning the management of an Institute whose nature and purpose are as particular as those of the IOR.”Malpass: the American Money-ManMalpass is not a complete stranger to the inner workings of the IOR; In the early days of Pope Francis’s pontificate he served as an external advisor to the Holy See banking reforms.But most of his life has been dedicated to his Alma Mater, Notre Dame University in Indiana, where he serves as Vice President and Chief Investment Officer since 1989. Under his supervision, the Notre Dame endowment stepped up from the minor league to become the 12th largest in American higher education and the largest at a Catholic university.The fact that Malpass was able to make this happen at a time when financial markets have been more volatile than ever and investors struggle to find substantial returns, only strengthens his image as a man with a keen eye for growth and profitable investments. A true American money-man.“The appointment comes at a time when Pope Francis is more determined than ever to make the Vatican Bank a financial engine for good works around the world,” said Notre Dame President Reverend John I. Jenkins soon after the apointment. “The pope has placed enormous and well-deserved confidence in Scott’s integrity and investment acumen. Notre Dame could not be prouder.”When Malpass returned to Notre Dame in 1988 after working for the Wall Street firm Irving Trust Company, the University’s endowment stood at $425 million. At the end of the 2016 fiscal year the university’s capital, pension and life income assets amounted to $10.4 billion.The investment guru moved in and redeployed the portfolio toward global equities and alternative investments. “We are not speculators or traders. We’re investors looking for value, cheapness and inefficiency,” Malpass told Forbes in an interview.“We have a long time horizon and attempt to do well in various economic environments.”His long-term approach is partly responsible for his incredible success, which placed Notre Dame as one of the five high-performing big university endowments, according to Forbes.It has been about 30 years since Malpass took the helm of the Indiana University endowments, a very long time compared to most other realities, which prefer to switch CIO’s more frequently. But Notre Dame backs the decision to have a continuity of leadership. This comes as no surprise since Malpass has guaranteed an impressive 12 to 14 percent annualized return during his tenure.Your average U.S. bank will offer less than a 3 percent return and in most of Europe such a number is only a memory. Even big players such as the S&P 500 have been averaging 8 percent returns for the last decade, making Malpass a bit of a unicorn in the financial world.But the Vatican is not interested in returns or in complicated financial solutions as shown by the resignation of Börsig and Salvatori. Of course Malpasse’s sophisticated navigation of the financial realm comes in handy, but his past in Catholic institutions and ethical approach is what sealed the deal.“Just as my faith life gives expression to other aspects, I have found that service to the Church illuminates my vocation more broadly,” Malpass told Crux. “In addition to my almost 30 years managing Notre Dame’s endowment, I have had a longstanding passion to help dioceses, small catholic charities, religious orders, Catholic high schools, etc. improve their investments.”Back in 2014, Malpass co-founded the Catholic Investment Services Inc., a non-profit that offers investment solutions to Catholic organizations in the U.S. in compliance with the USCCB’s guidelines for ethical investments.It was “designed to bring superior asset management combined with appropriate screens for Catholic Socially Responsible Investing to all types of Catholic organizations,” Malpass said. “It’s very fulfilling for me to use my expertise in this manner.”What’s the deal with the IOR?The truth is that anyone “in the know” cannot truly define the IOR as an actual bank. It is more like a Chimera with a really shady past. It can be defined as a financial institution, theoretically independent from the Vatican Curia. The IOR’s main purpose is to provide financial services to members of the Catholic Church globally.In simpler terms, a missionary in Chad (ranked the worst country to do business by Forbes in 2016), is able through the IOR to safely withdraw and deposit money given through donations and charity without fear of seeing the funds taken away by malfeasance or red tape.The thing is that the IOR does not provide some of the main banking services: loans and financing. The inappropriately named Vatican Bank only handles assets by investing in long-term and low-risk portfolios as well as handling deposits and providing credit cards.And here we come to the second Italian stereotype: not long ago it was well-known in Italy that if you wanted some money laundered and lived in the North, you would go to the Swiss, if you lived in the South you would approach the Mafia and if you lived near Rome you would turn to the Vatican bank.But a lot has changed since Benedict XVI began cleaning up the IOR, following the Vatileaks scandals and the betrayal of a limelight-loving papal butler (true story).Pope Francis later stepped-in with his now traditional hands-on approach. He assigned Monsignor Battista Ricca as the prelate and papal representative in the IOR. As of 2014 Jean-Baptiste de Franssu is the president of the IOR.The bank is run by a “frocked” board and a lay board, called the Board of Superintendence, of which Malpass is a new member. Since beginning its journey toward reform in 2010 the bank has been working to define its role and function.Pope Francis directed the bank’s reform toward its original mission to offer financial assistance to religious works, away from “capitalistic” enterprises. In the beginning of April, Italy finally placed the Vatican on the “white list” of states with cooperative financial institutions.This was partly possible by getting lay people out and lay people into the IOR. The bank has closed thousands of accounts belonging to people who are not Vatican employees, religious orders or charities.But the Vatican also included professionals in the banking and financial systems to come and be a part of the necessary reforms in the IOR. “Personally, I believe the Holy Father’s decision to reach out to lay people with certain experience and expertise in finance speaks very favourably of the kind of professionalization that Pope Francis hopes to see overseeing the patrimony of the Church,” Malpass told Crux.“We are called to be stewards of the goods that God has entrusted to our care, and this effort can only improve the stewardship we can provide,” Malpass added. The inclusion of professionals and lay people in the IOR “is merely a new expression of a rich heritage of the Church engaging with laity.”Malpass is joined on the Supervisory board by Georg Freiherr Von Boeselager who, apart from being well versed in banking policies, is also the brother of Albrecht, the Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta.Javier Marín Romano is the other new arrival at the bank and has held various offices with the Spanish Santander Group. Some speculate a tie between the group and Opus Dei, and it is known that the former president of the lay board Ettore Gotti Tedeschi who was kicked out of the IOR in 2012 also had relationships with the Spanish bank.
May 2 17 5:27 AM
The nearly thousand-year-old Order of Malta is bracing for major reforms in the wake of the election of an Italian nobleman to lead the Catholic chivalric order that carries out charitable works around the globe.The election of Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto came in a closed-door vote in a Roman villa on Saturday, April 29 and followed a bitter internal clash that led Pope Francis to oust the previous leader.That dispute—ostensibly sparked by disagreements over the inadvertent distribution of contraceptives through an aid program in Myanmar—set up a proxy battle between traditionalists opposed to Francis and reformers who want to see the church take a more flexible approach.It also proved to be a classic Vatican soap opera that featured out-sized personalities while casting a harsh light on a quietly influential church charity — one which is also a bastion of clerical and aristocratic privilege.Dalla Torre—who is known as Fra’ Giacomo—was elected as “lieutenant” of the Grand Master, a temporary position with a one-year term instead of the long-standing custom in which a Grand Master held the job for life.The 72-year-old Roman was chosen from a list of 12 candidates by the order’s council in a secret ballot held at its 14th century villa on a hill in Rome that has a stunning view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica across the Tiber River.Dalla Torre—who is known as Fra’ Giacomo—was elected as “lieutenant” of the Grand Master, a temporary position with a one-year term.Some 56 “professed knights” from European nobility—men who are not clerics but take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the pope—were eligible to vote.Dalla Torre replaces the former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, who resigned from his position in January after open conflict with the Holy See over Festing’s removal of a senior deputy, Albrecht von Boeselager.Festing and U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the group’s chaplain and a frequent critic of the pope, had accused von Boeselager of violating church rules by turning a blind eye to the use of condoms in aid projects in the developing world when he was in a previous post.But the pope and his allies thought von Boeselager, who is German, had been railroaded and directly intervened in the governance of an order that jealously guards its own sovereignty.Festing, who is British, resigned at the pope’s behest and Francis sidelined Burke by naming an archbishop to oversee the order through the period of reform.The papal delegate, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, had ordered Festing not to come to Rome for the election to avoid a scene and prevent any chance that he would be re-elected.But Festing defied the Vatican order and came anyway, though his camp apparently lost the vote.“Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto was this morning elected lieutenant of the Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of Malta,” the order said in a statement.It said that Francis, who was returning from a brief but closely-watched visit to Egypt, was “informed of the election by letter.”An expert in art and archeology, Dalla Torre taught at Rome’s Pontifical Urban University for many years and published several articles on medieval art.He previously served as the order’s lieutenant for an interim period after the death of a previous Grand Master, Fra’ Andrew Bertie, in 2008.He has deep ties to the Vatican and reportedly used to care for one of the cats that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger—a longtime Vatican chief who was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005—took under his wing. (Cardinal Ratzinger did not have a cat in his Rome apartment. Perhaps Dalla Torre fed the strays)The order said one of Dalla Torre’s top priorities would be reforming the order.“The recent crisis has shown some weaknesses in the checks and balances in governance: the reform will take this into consideration,” the order said in its statement. “The reform will also focus on strengthening the Order’s spiritual life and to increase the number of its Professed members.”Founded in Jerusalem in 1048 to protect pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land, the Knights of Malta is a Catholic charity that operates in 120 countries.It is a sovereign entity with 13,000 members and 80,000 volunteers and runs refugee camps, drug treatment centers, disaster relief programs and clinics around the world.But only the professed knights can hold positions of authority; the Vatican would like the order to, among other things, broaden the pool of eligible future grand masters, perhaps Reformers would also like the order, which has seen steady growth in its numbers in recent years, to be more transparent and less insular in its governance.Wearing the order’s traditional black robes with a white Maltese cross, the 56 electors celebrated Mass at the Church of St. Mary of the Priory inside the villa’s spectacular gardens early Saturday before marching solemnly to the villa next door to cast their ballot.Despite the pageantry—and drama—some of the electors could be heard chatting and laughing from the villa balcony before the vote began.The pope had met with senior officials from the order at the Vatican late Wednesday and in another unusual move, Francis also sent a letter to the order offering “a word of encouragement and some reflections” ahead of the vote.He also sought to explain his unexpecte“You are embarking on an important path of spiritual renewal in a spirit of fidelity to your tradition and with vigilance to the signs of the times and needs of the world,” the pope said.In another blow to Burke, who technically remains the papal envoy to the order, the new leader will be sworn in by Becciu, under the pope’s orders, at the Church of St. Mary of the Priory at the order’s historical seat on Sunday.The organization has unusual diplomatic status, including bilateral relations with 106 countries and permanent observer status at the United Nations.
May 2 17 6:27 AM
Indian Catholics frustrated over clergy sex abuse casesNEW DELHI A rash of recent alleged sex abuse cases involving Catholic priests in Southern India have left Christians distraught and frustrated over the local church's lack of response. More than 100 theologians, women religious, priests and feminists have written to India's bishops to demand they react quickly in accordance with the pope's call to end such transgressions."We are trying every way to get the bishops to act. We thought this is a good opportunity," says Virginia Saldanha, a theologian who was part of the team that drafted the March 22 letter to the bishops.Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, another theologian who coordinated the letter's drafting, says the Feb. 28 arrest of a Catholic priest who allegedly raped and impregnated a young teenage girl in his parish in Kerala state spurred them to go to church authorities.Police apprehended Fr. Robin Vadakkumcherry, 48, of the Mananthavady Diocese while he was trying to flee the country after the alleged crimes. Vadakkumcherry is now in jail awaiting trial, police said.Fr. Thomas Therakam, another priest from the diocese, and five nuns were charged for allegedly helping Vadakkumcherry cover up the scandal. The six religious, along with a few alleged lay accomplices, went into hiding to evade arrest but later surrendered to authorities and are now out on bail.The case outraged members of several Catholic religious and justice groups. They wrote to Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, saying they were "deeply concerned about the integrity and mission of the Indian Church."Cleemis told NCR on April 22 that he had received the letter but was on a tour in the United States in April and had fallen ill on his return. He declined to comment on the contents of the letter but said he plans to present it to the Standing Committee of the conference when it meets May 2-5 in Bengaluru, Southern India. The cardinal said the bishops' conference has no direct control over the bishops and deals only with general matters the Catholic jurisdictions in India have in common. (While that may be true, doesn't the cardinal have some kind of moral authority over these bishops? Saying that he "has no direct control" sounds like he's dodging responsibility.)Gajiwala told NCR that she does not expect an individual response from church leaders. She said she hopes they at least will issue a statement to express concern over the issue and list the steps they will take to prevent such cases.She added that Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who heads the Latin rite wing of the Indian church, has promised her that he, too, would raise the matter at the May meeting.The letter outlines six areas of concern for the church, prompted by the Vadakkumcherry case:Eroded fiduciary trust between priests and parishioners who consider the priest as "another Christ";Failure to comply with Indian criminal laws on abuse of minors and shielding the abusers;Need for a diocesan structure to follow up on clergy sexual abuse cases and to include women on the oversight committees that would conduct inquiries;The release of a bishops' conference policy to prohibit, prevent and redress sexual abuse in the church;Greater care in selecting candidates for the priesthood, improved seminary training and ongoing clerical formation on questions of sexuality and celibacy;Examination of the relationship between clergy and women religious, and the possibility that sisters might cover up cases of abuse by priests.The 122 individuals signing the letter include members of the Indian Women Theologians Forum, Satyashodhak (discernment), Streevani (women's voice), the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, and the Conference of Religious India. More than half of the signers are Catholic nuns. Copies of the letter were sent to the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro; the heads of three ritual churches in India; and several bishops' conference officials.The letter expressed disappointment that "it took an outside agency to blow the whistle on the crimes that had occurred." A child helpline agency notified police after receiving a tip about the case after the 16-year-old girl delivered her child in a church hospital on Feb. 7. Her baby boy was taken without her permission to an orphanage managed by nuns in Kannur district, police said.Vadakkumcherry was the parish priest of St. Sebastian Church in Kottiyoor and manager of a school where the girl was an 11th grader. The priest had allegedly offered the girl's family 1 million rupees ($15,600) to coerce her father to claim he impregnated her.The church hesitates to expose its criminal priests because it fears its enemies would exploit the situation, the letter says, charging that the church's clandestine management of sexual abuse cases causes more harm because "delayed corrective action festers the wound."A demand for bishops' conference guidelines to tackle abuse cases was raised a year ago by 75 members of the Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace, a progressive group. Their request to all bishops and major superiors to check priests abusing Catholic religious women has gone unanswered.Saldanha says she has been involved in the issue since the first clergy abuse complaint came to her in 2010. "Since then, we formed a group to try and get the church to deal with this issue in-house, but in a just manner, especially doing justice to victims."The group drew up guidelines for how priests should deal with women, drafted a policy based on government laws, and in 2013 presented the documents to the bishops' conference through the bishops' Commission for Women."We were promised action," Saldanha said. "But we are still waiting for these documents to be made public."Conference officials said they had passed guidelines to address clergy abuse cases at their biannual meeting last September and would release them publicly after fine-tuning them. The guidelines have not yet been made public.The bishops' silence has irked some Catholics. "We don't need any wishy-washy guidelines from bishops for such heinous acts. As citizens, it is our incumbent duty to report a crime and not aid or abet it," said Chhotebhai, a former president of the All India Catholic Union who goes by a name meaning "little brother."He says the church tends to hide in fear from abuse cases in hopes the controversy will somehow be resolved. "The church must be humble enough to admit error or wrongdoing in its ranks," the lay leader said. "Otherwise today's injury will become tomorrow's septic wound that would necessitate amputation."Gajiwala wants the final policy from the bishops to focus on justice for the victim, rather than safeguarding the reputation of the church or the priest.Saldanha, who was secretary of the bishops' Commission for Women and the office of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences, said bishops fear a "tsunami of complaints" if the guidelines are made public.The Indian church has faced a plethora of clergy abuse cases in the past year.On March 21, police arrested Fr. Thomas Parackal, rector of a seminary in Kerala's Punalur Diocese, on charges of sodomizing three seminarians who were minor boys. On Dec. 9, 2016, a court in Ernakulam, Kerala, gave a priest a double life term for raping a minor girl.To add to the church's shame, Outlook, a New Delhi-based weekly English newsmagazine, carried a cover story titled "Priestly Predators." The Jan. 30 article cites several clergy abuse cases over the years and remarks that Francis "atoned for the sins of his clergy. But the Indian Church showed no signs of remorse for pastors' sexual crimes."The sexual abuse cases have severely shaken ordinary Catholics, especially in Kerala. E.M. Baby, a parishioner of Kottiyoor, says that their priest's "double life" has shocked them. He says Vadakkumcherry wore the mask of a strict moral disciplinarian in the parish. The priest's arrest took place as the Oriental Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, began their Lenten period of prayer and fast."Very few people, especially women, went for the annual confession during Holy Week this year. People have lost faith in going to a priest," he added.N.K. Thomas, a college professor and a Catholic in the Palai Diocese, says priests and their waywardness have become the topic of discussion in his parish. "The problem the church faces today is not want of a priest but unwanted priests," he said.Young people join seminaries seeking the comfortable life of their priests, he added. "Our priests have lost the service mentality as they get entangled in the worldly way of life."Fr. Babu Kalathil of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese, which is the seat of Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, says the people of Kerala, where Christianity was introduced 2,000 years ago, used to hold priests and nuns in high esteem. "That image has taken a severe beating," Kalathil told NCR.Jesuit theologian Fr. T.K. John, who signed the letter to the bishops, says the scandals have already sullied the Indian church's face, dimmed its moral and spiritual credibility and reduced its witnessing power and opportunity. The cases have brought upon all a corporate feeling of guilt, says the priest, who has taught seminarians for more than four decades.John and Chhotebhai want the church to pay more attention to priestly formation. The Jesuit priest wants candidates for the priesthood to learn in a free atmosphere the demands of celibate life and get guidance from competent persons to make free decisions."Confront as unhealthy the uncalled for secrecy and touch-it-not attitude," John told NCR. "Maturity calls for acknowledging every form of urge as normal, like hunger, thirst, etc., and deal with them openly."Chhotebhai warns that the church should not recruit immature teenagers to become priests. He also finds fault with the laity's subservient behavior. "Like a thoroughly domesticated dog, they are so loyal to their masters that they can see no wrong in them; and if there is, they choose to turn a blind eye," he says.Kochurani Abraham, a leading woman theologian in Kerala, says the Vadakkumcherry case has created "palpable fear" among people because they can no longer trust the church as a safe and holy place. She is disappointed that some church spokespersons have tried to dismiss the controversies as media hype meant to tarnish the church.Abraham hopes the church will learn from the scandals, urging it to shed its "pretensions to be a 'heavenly' institution and become one with the suffering humanity, as Jesus did through his life, passion and death."
May 3 17 5:33 AM
Archbishop George Niederauer, the eighth archbishop of San Francisco and a leader in the contentious 2008 battle to pass Proposition 8 that banned same-sex marriage in California, has died.Archbishop Niederauer died Tuesday of lung disease at Nazareth House, a Catholic senior care facility in San Rafael, at the age of 80.“Religious leaders have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy,” Niederauer wrote a month after the closely-fought measure passed on a 52-to-48 percent vote. “Catholic bishops have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this The archbishop was praised by parishioners and criticized by opponents for his passionate backing of the ban and for persuading leaders of the Mormon church to join the Proposition 8 campaign and to donate $20 million to its passage.After that most divisive campaign that drove a wedge within families, voters, congregations and fellow clergy, Niederauer declared that “tolerance, respect and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval.”“We need to stop hurling names like ‘bigot’ and ‘pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now,” the archbishop said.The same-sex marriage ban backed by the archbishop remained on the books in California until a federal court overturned it in 2010, a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.The archbishop, praised by colleagues for his devotion, service and spirituality, spoke boldly at the time of his 2005 appointment in support of gay priests and disputed allegations that gay priests were a cause of sexual abuse of minors by priests.“Some who are seriously mistaken have named sexual orientation as the cause of the recent scandal regarding the sexual abuse of minors by priests,” Niederauer said in an interview with a Catholic newspaper in Utah.Retired Cardinal Roger Mahony praised his old friend for his “engaging wit and humor (and) open and loving personality.“He always had just the right words and the turn of a phrase to help defuse tensions and to uplift people — no matter what cloud was overhead,” the cardinal said. “Archbishop Niederauer was one of the most intelligent people I have ever known. His command of English literature, his love for reading — he devoured books and articles weekly, and his abilities as a spiritual leader and director equipped him well.”Archbishop Niederauer, formerly the bishop of Salt Lake City, was a native of Los Angeles, where he attended Catholic elementary school. As a student at St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, he met 14-year-old William Levada, the future San Francisco archbishop and cardinal, who remained his lifelong friend.The current bishop of Utah, Oscar Solis, praised his predecessor for his “humility, generosity, kindness, ecumenical spirit and embrace for the least important of the community.”Archbishop Niederauer studied briefly at Stanford University before receiving a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, a bachelor’s degree in theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., a master’s degree in English literature from Loyola University in Los Angeles and a doctorate in English literature from the University of Southern California.He was a bridge player, a lover of independent movies, a reader of the New Yorker magazine and a well-intentioned high school trombone player.“I was a dreadful musician,’’ Archbishop Niederauer said in a 1995 interview. “Whenever they had four trombones, I was the fourth. When there were five, I was fifth.”He was ordained in 1962, served as a parish priest and then as a teacher at St. John’s Seminary College, where he was appointed rector in 1987.In 1995, he was ordained bishop of Salt Lake City, where he served until being appointed archbishop of San Francisco in 2005, succeeding Levada in the post. Archbishop Niederauer retired in 2012, a year after undergoing emergency heart bypass surgery. He was succeeded by current archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, another fervent backer of Proposition 8. In his retirement, Archbishop Niederauer devoted himself to conducting retreats and counseling for fellow clergy.A mass of Christian burial will be held on May 12 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 1111 Gough Street, San Francisco.
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