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ACI Prensa's latest initiative is the Catholic News Agency (CNA), aimed at serving the English-speaking Catholic audience. ACI Prensa ( is currently the largest provider of Catholic news in Spanish and Portuguese.

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Tucson bishop speaks up after border agent cleared in Mexican teen's death

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 15:28:00 -0600

Tucson, Ariz., Apr 26, 2018 / 03:28 pm (CNA).- The ‘not guilty’ verdict for a U.S. border agent who shot and killed a Mexican teen is “deeply troubling” and raises “serious issues of justice and accountability,” said Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz. “I find myself in a close bond of fraternity and solidarity with the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez and the many who have been unable to achieve the kind of authentic justice upon which our nation was founded,” the bishop said April 24.   “While we are privileged to live in a nation whose greatness is rooted in its democracy and fair treatment of all, such decisions reveal that our democratic institutions are not without flaws and occasionally grave injustices,” he said. The bishop also acknowledged the difficult job of border patrol agents, as well as their important contributions.   Elena Rodriguez, 16, was reportedly among a group on Mexican territory throwing rocks across the border at the border fence in the city of Nogales the night of Oct. 10, 2012. Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz was accused of shooting through the fence, killing the teen. The agent allegedly fired his pistol 16 times in 34 seconds from three different locations. Rodriguez was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head. Federal prosecutors said the fact that Swartz continued to shoot after the teen was on the ground showed that he acted deliberately or recklessly in disregard of human life. The agent’s attorneys said the shooting was justified and given that the teen was killed by one of the first shots, the other shots are legally irrelevant. They said the agent was in a chaotic scenario in a dangerous area known for smuggling. Swartz in his testimony said he had to make a split-second decision whether to defend himself and his fellow law enforcement officers at night. Jurors deliberated for four days after a weeks-long trial in U.S. District Court, finding Swartz not guilty of second-degree murder. On April 23 they told Judge Raner Collins they did not believe they could reach a unanimous verdict on the two lesser charges of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Bishop Weisenburger reflected on the situation of both the border patrol and of the treatment of other people on the border. “We must keep in mind that customs and border control agents are oftentimes placed in situations of great danger,” he said. “Too, there are times when their efforts have resulted in saving the lives of those in great peril. We rely upon their high degree of professionalism and integrity.” “However, I respectfully call for continued scrutiny of the methods and procedures employed by those who secure our nation’s borders, for transparent accountability, for a renewed sense of dignity and the humane treatment of all persons regardless of their legal status, and for authentic justice when human rights are denied.” The bishop said that although law enforcement is the primary issue in the jury decision, the case is “yet another reminder of our broken immigration system.” The U.S. bishops and the Arizona Catholic Conference are both committed to advocating comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, he said. This proposed reform is based on key values like affirming human dignity regardless of persons’ legal status, the right to have a well-regulated border, the right of people to immigrate, and “an orderly process to welcome new immigrants whose inalienable human dignity must always be respected.”   [...]

Pope Francis: The Last Supper teaches us three foundational truths

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:53:00 -0600


Vatican City, Apr 26, 2018 / 11:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pointing to Jesus’ words during the Last Supper, Pope Francis offered meditations on love, service and humility during his homily at daily Mass on Thursday.

The Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel, John 13, which recounts the moments of the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the Eucharist and washed the feet of his disciples. Christ’s actions in these moments, Pope Francis said, teach the Church three“foundational truths.”

The first lesson is the commandment of love, which is exemplified in the Eucharist, the pope said April 26.

“Love is without limits. Without it, the Church cannot move forward; the Church cannot breathe. Without love, she cannot grow, and is transformed into an empty institution, made up of appearances and actions without fecundity,” the Holy Father said.

“In his bodily actions, Jesus tells us how we should love, that is, until the end,” he continued, saying that just as Jesus gave himself “to eat and drink, he tells us to love one another in this way.”

The second gesture of washing His disciples’ feet points to another commandment: service.

“Washing the feet, he tells us to serve each other in like manner,” the pope reflected.

In this gesture of service, he noted, lies the third lesson of humility, because “no servant is greater than his master.”

“The awareness is that He is greater than all of us, and that we are servants who cannot go beyond Jesus,” Pope Francis said. “He is the Lord, not us. This is the Lord’s will.”

“But beware: no servant is greater than the one who sent him, the master. These blunt words and actions are the foundations of the Church. If we proceed in like fashion with these three points, we shall never fail.”

The pope additionally underscored the witnesses of the saints of the Church whose actions radiate what it means to truly serve and who lived “with the awareness of being servants.”

Pope Francis ended his homily inviting the faithful gathered to enter into silence, so as to welcome the gaze of the Lord.

“Let Jesus’ gaze enter into me. We will feel many things: love, maybe nothing… we might feel trapped there or feel shame,” he said. “But always let Jesus’ gaze in. It is the same gaze with which he looked at his disciples at supper.”


The Catholic Association voices support for Alfie Evans' parents

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 11:42:00 -0600

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2018 / 11:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A group dedicated to offering a Catholic voice in the public square has spoken out on behalf of Alfie Evans and his parents, as the court battle surrounding the toddler continues. “It’s confusing and disappointing to see the Catholic leadership in the U.K., both the bishops and lay leaders like Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices U.K., abandon Catholic social teaching and split from the Pope by defending the government instead of Alfie and his family,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “The Church has long been the first and only voice to speak out for truth and defend the vulnerable. True to that legacy, the Pope spoke out in defense of Alfie Evans and the fundamental human rights of his parents to do all they can to save the life of their child.” In an April 26 statement, McGuire thanked Pope Francis for his leadership and called on UK Catholics “to join him in standing for Church teaching.” The Catholic Association, a group that is “dedicated to being a faithful Catholic voice in the public square,” voiced support for the parents of British toddler Alfie Evans, who has been at the center of a months-long court battle. Just shy of two years old, the young boy is in what physicians have described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, England have not been able to properly diagnose. He has been hospitalized since December of 2016. Although Italian officials have granted Alfie citizenship and a Vatican-linked hospital has offered to take the toddler for further diagnosis and treatment, UK courts have repeatedly refused to allow the transfer, ruling that it is not in the child’s best interest. With permission of the court, but against the will of Alfie’s parents, the hospital earlier this week removed Alfie’s ventilator and withheld food and water from the child. Although the toddler was only expected to live for a few minutes, he was able to breathe on his own for a number of hours, until doctors administered oxygen and hydration. They later administered nutrition as well, after the boy went almost 24 hours without food, according to Alfie’s father. Local Archbishop Malcolm McMahon has defended the hospital, saying that it has done “everything humanly possible” for Alfie. UK commentator and co-founder of Catholic Voices Austen Ivereigh also defended the arguments of the courts on Twitter. Pope Francis, however, has been outspoken about supporting the child’s parents. The pope, who met with Alfie’s father last week, has offered public prayers for Alfie and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts. “Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday. Rallies in support of Alfie’s parents have been held in London, Washington, D.C., New York, and other locations in recent days. “The Catholic faithful along with citizens of good will around the world have rallied and stood with the Pope and with Alfie and his parents in defending their rights and defending the beauty of Catholic social teaching – which expressly condemns exactly what the U.K. government is doing: denying Alfie’s parents their rights to what is best for their child and forcing the child to suffer in his last moments,” McGuire said in her statement. “The parents of Alfie Evans have a natural right to accept the Vatican hospital’s offer to try to extend the life of Alfie and provide more humane car,” added Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, policy advisor for The Catholic Association.&nb[...]

New report paints worrying picture of global religious freedom

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 10:45:00 -0600

Washington D.C., Apr 26, 2018 / 10:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Religious freedom conditions worsened across the globe in the past year, according to the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom’s 2018 report, released April 25. Violations against religious freedom were particularly acute under authoritarian regimes in the Eastern Hemisphere. With the exception of Cuba, all of the 28 countries USCIRF designated as the worst perpetrators in 2017 lie east of the prime meridian. The worst abuses against religious freedom included genocide, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, forced displacement, forced conversions, property destruction, and bans on religious education of children. The commission recommended that 16 countries be recognized by the State Department as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a label that identifies foreign governments that engage in or tolerate “systemic, ongoing, and egregious” religious freedom violations. Receiving this designation from the State Department opens the door to consequences including trade and funding sanctions. These 16 are the same countries that USCIRF recommended last year with the State Department going on to recognize 10 as CPCs in December 2017: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. However, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom urges that religious freedom violations in Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Central African Republic were so severe that these countries also merit CPC designation. Of these six unrecognized countries, USCIRF Chair Daniel Mark is particularly concerned about the state of religious freedom in Pakistan. “What we have said for many years is that Pakistan is the worst country in the world that's not designated for CPC. Pakistan is a world leader in imprisonment and convictions, prosecutions for blasphemy and apostasy, and those sorts of things,” Mark told CNA. According to the report, approximately 40 people sentenced under blasphemy laws are awaiting the death penalty or serving life sentences, including Asia Bibi, a Christian mother and field laborer. In December 2017, Islamic State affiliated suicide bombers attacked a church in Quetta, Pakistan killing nine people. The upcoming national elections in July 2018 have exacerbated religious tensions in the country. “Conditions in Pakistan are not just bad at the level of law, where for example, Ahmadis are out in the constitution for second-class citizenship, but also at the level of civil society where a culture of impunity has grown,” continued Mark, who explained that vigante mobs have been attacking people on the basis of blasphemy accusations. In lieu of CPC designation, Pakistan was placed on a “Special Watch List” by the State Department in December 2017. This list is a new category created by the 2016 amendments to the International Religious Freedom Act. “Matters concerning Pakistan are very sensitive on account of the fact that they are a partner of ours in combating terrorism around the world in the war in Afghanistan and so on. But, given the rise of extremism in Pakistan...we really do think that pressure should be kept up, notwithstanding the cooperation that our two countries need,” said Mark. The USCIRF chairman told CNA that he is concerned that both Russia and China intensified repression of religious freedom over the course of 2017. “Russia, which we recommended for designation for the very first time last year, continued to deteriorate. The repression in some of the post-Soviet Central Asian states have followed Russia's model, sadly,” said Mark. The report notes that Russia is the only country to have expanded its repressive policies to a neighboring territory by means of military invasion. Crimean Tatar Muslims are being kidnapped, tortured, and imprisoned in Russian-occupied Ukraine. “Russ[...]

Nigerian herdsmen kill 19 in Catholic church attack

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 03:16:00 -0600

Jos, Nigeria, Apr 26, 2018 / 03:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At least 19 people, including two priests, were killed on Tuesday when nomadic cattle farmers in central Nigeria opened fire at morning Mass in a Catholic parish. Reports indicated that Fulani herdsmen attacked Saint Ignatius Church in Ayar-Mbalom, a town within Nigeria’s Benue State, on April 24. According to officials, the herdsmen killed 17 worshipers and two priests: Father Joseph Gor and Father Felix Tyolaha. After the attack on the church, the herdsmen proceeded to shoot residents in the area and set fire to around 50 homes, according to survivor Peter Iorver, whose stepmother had been a victim. “The herdsmen came and opened fire on the church while morning mass was going on,” Iorver told New Telegraph, a local newspaper. “After they attacked and killed those in the church, they left and started shooting sporadically, killing residents around the area.” “They burnt over 50 houses and destroyed food and farm crops as they retreated to their base. My stepmother was one of the victims; she was at the mass when the attack happened.” The attack took place near Nigeria’s middle belt, where the Muslim north meets the southern Christian area. While none of the attackers have been arrested so far, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to find those responsible for the shooting. “This latest assault on innocent persons is particularly despicable. Violating a place of worship, killing priests and worshippers is not only vile, evil and satanic, it is clearly calculated to stoke up religious conflict and plunge our communities into endless bloodletting,” he tweeted.  U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the House Subcommittee on Africa, also decried the violence. “Tuesday’s killing of priests and parishioners on the grounds of St Ignatius Catholic Church in the Makurdi Diocese signals that the religious violence in Nigeria is escalating,” he said. “It’s imperative that Nigerian authorities punish those who are culpable, lest violence worsen during the upcoming election cycle.”   “Nigeria should explore justice system reforms that address grievances so that herdsman – the perpetrators of much of the recent violence – cease targeting farmers, exacerbating religious and ethnic tensions in the process,” Smith continued, adding that the creation of a religious equity commission would also be timely. Violence between Fulani herdsmen and farmers has increased in recent years, as climate issues have pushed herders further south. By mid-January this year, more than 100 deaths had been attributed to the herdsmen. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria voiced grave concern about the violence in a January statement. They recognized the challenges faced by the herdsman, but expressed the need for better alternatives to open grazing. “Government should rather encourage cattle owners to establish ranches in line with international best practice,” the bishops said. “Farmers and herdsmen have a lot to contribute to the socio economic prosperity of our nation. A more enduring strategy must be[...]

Argentina homeless shelter named after bishop who loved the poor

Thu, 26 Apr 2018 00:35:00 -0600


Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 26, 2018 / 12:35 am (ACI Prensa).- A men’s homeless shelter in Zeballos, Argentina has been named after a local bishop known for his attention to the poor.

The Jorge Novak, Friend of the Poor Homeless Shelter was inaugurated April 24.

The name commemorates the first bishop of Quilmes, Jorge Novak, who denounced the human rights violations committed by the military during the 1970s and ‘80s.

Bishop Novak loved the poor and led an austere life of deep spirituality. He was co-founder of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights. In late 2017, the investigation to initiate his process of beatification was begun.

The Jorge Novak Homeless Shelter is run by Caritas Quilmes. It welcomes men over 18 years of age.

Men hoping to benefit from the shelter’s services must have an admissions interview and accept the shelter's rules. Opportunities are offered for bathing, eating, and sleeping.

When fully functional, the shelter will also offer job training, spiritual and ethical formation, and counseling on health and employment.

The hope is that in addition to providing for basic physical needs, the shelter will be able to help homeless men regain self-esteem, reestablish ties with the community, and eventually reintegrate.

The Jorge Novak Homeless Shelter has a capacity for 30 people and is supported by donations from individuals, institutions and the Diocese of Quilmes.

The diocesan secretary for communications asked for prayers “so this work may be a real concrete commitment to the poorest and most needy.”

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.



US bishops endorse bill to provide legislative fix for DACA recipients

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 18:02:00 -0600


Washington D.C., Apr 25, 2018 / 06:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A federal judge ruled on Tuesday evening that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must be re-opened to new applicants, and the following day the USCCB announced support for the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018,” which would codify DACA into law.

DACA is an Obama-era federal program that protects people who were brought to the United States illegally as children from being deported and also provides for work permits. DACA recipients, who are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” must renew their DACA status each year.

President Donald Trump has sought to end DACA, saying that the initial program was only an executive order that went beyond the scope of presidential powers.

While other court decisions have ordered that the federal government begin to accept DACA renewals, the April 24 decision by Judge John Bates was different in that it re-opened the program for new applicants. Bates said that he did not believe the Trump administration provided a strong enough case for why the program should end.

Trump has urged Congress to pass a law that would combine some of DACA’s provisions along with immigration reform, but so far these efforts have not been successful.

Bates’ decision will go into effect in 90 days, unless the Trump Administration issues new reason as for why it is ending DACA.

The USCCB’s Committee on Migration issued a letter of support April 24 for H.R. 4796, dubbed the “Uniting and Securing America (USA) Act of 2018.”

The bill would shield “Dreamers” from deportation and would provide for a path to citizenship for certain qualified persons. Additionally, the USA Act of 2018 would increase border security and would seek to address corruption in Central America – a major cause of “irregular migration.”

The bill was introduced by Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA), and is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of representatives.

The letter is signed by Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin, who is chairman of the USCCB’s committee on migration.

“While a larger solution is still needed to fix our broken immigration system, we urge Congress to first focus on passing H.R. 4796, as written, or similar bipartisan and narrowly-tailored legislation,” said the letter.

“Any legislation passed should provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship, not undermine our family-based immigration system or terminate existing protections for vulnerable migrants, and ensure that border security measures are just, proportionate, and humane.”

Vasquez said it was a “moral duty” to protect Dreamers, and that they are “valuable members of our communities.”


In Northern Ireland, anti-abortion graffiti hits Catholic churches

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 17:09:00 -0600

Armagh, Northern Ireland, Apr 25, 2018 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two Catholic churches in Northern Ireland have been targeted with graffiti bearing a message opposed to abortion, ahead of a key referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Between the late hours of April 22 and the early morning of April 23, a vandal painted on St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh a slogan “Save the 8th. Save Ireland.” The Eighth Amendment protects unborn children under the republic’s constitution and could be repealed in a May 25 vote. Another slogan was tagged on St. Columcille’s Church in Carrickmore in County Tyrone sometime between April 23 and April 24. It appeared to say the traditionally Protestant Democratic Unionist Party’s stand against abortion would benefit the unborn who will play in the Gaelic Athletics Association and those who will speak the Irish language, the promotion of which is a subject of controversy among DUP members. “Only DUP speaks for Irish unborn to speak Irish and play GAA vote DUP,” the slogan said, according to the Belfast Telegraph. Police are investigating criminal damage at both churches. Sinn Fein, a nationalist party with significant Catholic support, has endorsed the repeal effort in the Republic of Ireland, which would legalize abortion up to 12 weeks into pregnancy. Its party has endorsed legalized abortion in cases of rape, fetal abnormality, and where a woman’s mental or physical health faces serious threat, the Irish Times reports. Garath Keating, a Sinn Fein counselor, said he was “absolutely horrified” at the graffiti in Armagh. He suggested that anyone who objected to Sinn Fein’s stance on the abortion referendum should “protest at our office or in a public forum, not write it on a church wall.” “I can’t comprehend how anybody could think this is a useful way to convey their point of view,” Keating continued. “There is plenty of opportunity and forums for public discussion in respect of any of the matters, but to take to spreading your message by writing on a place of worship is horrifying and despicable.” Thomas Buchanan, a DUP member of the Legislative Assembly, said, “there are strong feelings among members of the community about Sinn Fein's policy on abortion, however that does not excuse anyone engaging in criminal damage.” “It is totally wrong and inappropriate to smear a place of worship, or any public building, with graffiti to make any sort of political point,” he said, according to BBC News. Another Sinn Fein candidate, Órfhlaith Begley, said the incident was “blatant sectarian vandalism” and a “sectarian hate crime.” Pro-abortion rights campaigners have also acted at churches. In the grotto of the Mary Immaculate Church in Inchicore, Dublin, some activists placed upon the altar a sweater bearing the phrase “Repeal.” They took a photo and shared it on social media. Abortion advocacy is also underway in Northern Ireland, which has its own laws. The Department of Health on April 25 released a new report advocating abortion in cases where the unborn child has physical abnormalities. “Women and babies in Northern Ireland do not need abortion. What women really need is access to holistic, life-affirming and compassionate healthcare that cares for both lives when faced with a difficult prenatal diagnosis,” said Bernadette Smyth, spokesperson for Northern Ireland's leading pro-life group, Precious Life. [...]

Australian nun to be deported from Philippines for alleged political activism

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 16:01:00 -0600

Manila, Philippines, Apr 25, 2018 / 04:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An Australian Catholic nun who has been working as a missionary in the Philippines for nearly 30 years has been ordered to leave the country on the grounds of allegedly joining protest rallies. Sister Patricia Fox, 71, will be deported within 30 days, after the immigration bureau revoked her missionary visa. Her deportation order stated that she was “found to have engaged in activities that are not allowed under the terms and conditions of her visa,” according to Reuters. “She has not participated in any partisan activity. She is a nun,” said Jobert Pahilga, one of Fox’s lawyers, in a report from Reuters. “We will file a motion for reconsideration on this order,” Pahilga continued. While her missionary visa was cancelled on Monday, Fox will still be able to enter the Philippines as a tourist, but not as a missionary. Fox’s deportation comes only a week after she was arrested at her convent and detained for 22 hours by authorities. She was later released after “no probable cause” was found for her arrest. Fox has been a legally documented alien in the country with a missionary visa, who has served as the Philippine superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. Her primary focus has been working with the rural poor for the past 27 years. Allegations brought against Fox have included participating in political rallies, which according to Philippines immigration law, would violate her right to stay in the country. However, Pahilga has denied these claims, saying she “has done nothing wrong or illegal,” that would warrant her deportation. Fox did travel to Tagum City in an effort to gather data on human rights violations against farmers within the region. Fox noted that she stood in solidarity with the farmers during a rally in an effort to promote human rights – not politics. “I would call it religious because we are called to stand beside the poor,” Fox said, according to CBCP news, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ news outlet. “I haven’t joined partisan political rallies but I have been active in human rights issues,” she continued.   CBCP also reported that they were told Fox was primarily arrested for being an “undesirable alien” within the country because she participated in the farmer rally protests. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines originally ordered an investigation into Fox for “disorderly conduct” and brought claims against her for involvement in political activity reaching beyond the scope of her missionary work. “It’s a violation of sovereignty,” Duterte recently said, noting that Fox does “not have that right to criticize us. Do not insult my country.” Duterte’s administration has recently barred several human rights activists from re-entering the Philippines in a campaign to limit foreigners in the nation. The president has also made headlines with his crusade against drugs within the nation, which has caused international controversy and left thousands of apparent users and dealers dead.   One activist group, Bayan (Nation), spoke out against Fox’s deportation, calling it “despicable and utterly shameful.” “The Duterte regime is paranoid and afraid of an elderly nun working for human rights and social justice for the poor,” said Renato Reyes, a leader of the group, according to Reuters. Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila also recently said that the actions brought against Fox were a “form of persecution and harassment.”” “This is political,” Pabillo said. “The government is trying to intimidate individuals and groups who are in pur[...]

Franciscan University highlights sexual assault policies following criticism

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 14:27:00 -0600

Steubenville, Ohio, Apr 25, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- Franciscan University in Steubenville has said it is committed to reporting and investigating all allegations of abuse in alignment with Title IX requirements and the school’s Catholic identity, following claims that it has mishandled abuse cases in the past. “While many schools provide Title IX training that meets requirements, here, we hold our students to a higher standard,” David Schmiesing, vice president of Student Life, told CNA in email comments. “We frame our Title IX training within the context of a Catholic understanding of human sexuality and the dignity of the human person. For example, during Orientation Weekend for all new students and parents, we provide a talk on the truth and beauty of human sexuality that sets the stage for our online training on the specifics of our sexual misconduct policy,” Schmiesing said. Schools that receive federal funding are obliged to comply with Title IX, a federal law that requires schools to have appropriate reporting procedures in place for allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. Franciscan University came under fire in an April 16 article in the National Catholic Reporter, which included claims from some alumni of the University, who alleged that some instances of past sexual harassment or assault were mishandled by the school. The article's publication was supported by a grant from The Media Consortium, which has partnered with Bitch Media to produce the “DIShonor Roll,” a series of stories on the handling of sexual assault at college campuses following the #MeToo campaign. Jenn Morson, the freelance journalist who authored the Reporter article, told CNA that she was only made aware of the grant after she had filed her story. The Media Consortium is a 501c3 non-profit “dedicated to values-driven journalism. Founded in 2006, the Media Consortium's mission is to support and grow the impact of the independent and community news sector.” Its leadership includes Julie Falk, Executive Director of Bitch Media, and Caitlin Hendel, CEO of the National Catholic Reporter. The Media Consortium has reportedly been the recipient of several grants from the Open Society Foundation, funded by progressive billionaire George Soros. According to the description on Media Consortium’s website, the DIShonor Roll project, launched in February, seeks “to solve the problem of sexual violence on campus” with “consistent, powerful storytelling that puts a human face on campus sexual violence.” “To that end, the Media Consortium, partnering with Bitch Media, is launching #DishonorRoll. Twice a month, a wide consortium of news outlets, working with project editors at Bitch Media, will publish stories on different aspects of campus sexual assault.” Grants of $500 are available through Media Consortium to any media outlets or journalists who want to participate in the project. Other articles in the project include “Is Campus Rape Activism Accessible?”, “I Kissed Consent Goodbye: Purity Culture and Sexual Violence on Evangelical Christian Campuses” and “Everything Scold is New Again”, published on Bitch Media, and “Christendom College alumni call for Title IX response to sexual assaults” published by the National Catholic Reporter. According to its 2016 tax filings, the mission of Bitch Media is “to provide and encourage an engaged, thoughtful feminist response to mainstream and popular culture.” Morson's article detailed several alleged stories of mishandled sexual assault or harassment incidents at Franciscan on an alumni Facebook page. According to the Reporter, Annie, a Franciscan alumna whose name had been changed, shared [...]

Dominican priest: Lack of belief within the Church enables the diabolical spirit

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 13:56:00 -0600

Rome, Italy, Apr 25, 2018 / 01:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- According to one exorcist working in Italy, the average time needed for a person to be freed from demonic influence in an exorcism is taking much longer than it did in even the recent past. Whereas before it was common for a person to be liberated in one session, even if the blessing lasted several hours, now on average sessions are growing longer and multiple meetings are required for a person to be completely freed from the devil's grasp. Fr. Francois Dermine, O.P., an exorcist of nearly 25 years, told CNA he believes the prolongation can be attributed to a few basic elements: the high diffusion of atheistic attitudes in society at large; the reduction of the understanding of faith as merely an intellectual concept; and a growing lack of belief within the Church, even among priests and bishops, in the devil and his actions. Though there are no set rules for how long it should take for someone to be liberated from demonic obsession or possession, Fr. Dermine said that “some people can be liberated with very few blessings, though many require months.” Others, if they are serious cases of possession, “can take a year.” However, longer sessions like this did not really happen until recently, after the 1960s, he said. “One blessing was enough – a blessing of one hour, two hours, three hours, six hours, but one blessing was enough to liberate one person of a possession. But now it's different. It's becoming very long.” “I think the reason for that is our society is becoming more and more atheistic, people are going away from prayer and the sacraments … so there are fewer defenses against the devil.” Another important, but “abnormal” factor, he said, is a lack of faith within the Church itself, because during an exorcism, “the exorcist prays in the name of the Church.” “If, within the Church, you have the clergy and also a certain number of bishops who do not believe in the devil or his actions, then the exorcist is deprived of the power of the prayer of the Church.” Because of this, “the exorcist is liberating [people] more slowly. Before it was not the case.” Fr. Dermine was ordained a priest in 1979 and has been an exorcist since 1994, He currently serves as the exorcist for the Archdiocese of Ancona-Osimo, and was one of the speakers presenting at an April 16-21 course on exorcism offered by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome. In his comments to CNA, Fr. Dermine said there is a general lack of formation on exorcism and the actions of the devil in the Church today. Noting how this year's course on exorcism had 295 students most of whom are priests studying at pontifical universities, enroll, Fr. Dermine said the high number can be attributed at least in part to the fact that courses on exorcism and the devil are not included in theological curricula. “There is a void,” he said, “so they want to learn what is not taught to them but should be taught.” In the past, it was common for a theological curriculum to include courses on angels, demons, and their influence. “It was very important for moral theology and also for the theology of exorcism, but now it does not exist anymore,” Dermine said. “So it's a sign that within the Church faith in these things is not as strong as it was before.” However, the exorcist said that while it is crucial that priests be instructed on the topic, it is important not to dwell on the devil too much, in order to avoid superstition. Fr. Dermine also voiced concern that the practice of the faith is becoming more intellectual, but less spiritual, and is therefore at ti[...]

Court of Appeal rejects plea from Alfie Evans' parents

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 12:49:00 -0600

Liverpool, England, Apr 25, 2018 / 12:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An appeal by the parents of ailing toddler Alfie Evans was dismissed by the UK Court of Appeal Wednesday, leaving the child to remain at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in England. Tom Evans and Kate James had been appealing to take their son, Alfie, to Italy for treatment, after the child survived the removal of life support, against their will, at Alder Hey Hospital. “It’s disgusting how he’s being treated. Not even an animal would be treated this way,” Evans said earlier in the day, adding that Alfie is “fighting.” Alfie is a 23-month-old toddler who is in what physicians have described as a “semi-vegetative state” due to a mysterious degenerative neurological condition that doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in London have not been able to properly diagnose. He has been hospitalized since December of 2016. Against the wishes of his parents, Alfie’s life support machine was removed on Monday, and hydration was withheld from him. Although he was expected to die within minutes, he began breathing on his own, and several hours later, doctors re-administered oxygen and hydration. The hospital also withheld food for nearly 24 hours before allowing the toddler to again receive it, Alfie’s father said. In a hearing on Tuesday, Judge Anthony Hayden of the High Court again denied Alfie the right to travel elsewhere to seek continued treatment, saying his ruling would be the “final chapter in the case of this extraordinary little boy.” That ruling was upheld when the Court of Appeal dismissed appeals from Alfie’s parents late Wednesday. Alife’s case first attracted international attention in March, when London’s Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s decision to end life support for Alfie. Judge Hayden of the High Court had ruled that “continued ventilator support is no longer in Alfie’s interests.” Alfie's parents had repeatedly made requests to transfer him to the Vatican-linked Bambino Gesu Pediatric Hospital in Rome, for further diagnosis and treatment. Tom Evans traveled to Rome to meet with Pope Francis in person April 18, where he plead for asylum for his family in Italy, so that his son could be moved. Earlier this week Alfie was granted Italian citizenship in hopes that he would be allowed immediate transfer to Rome to be treated at Bambino Gesu Hospital. However, the UK judge ruled that the transfer would not be in Alfie's best interest, and he would not be allowed to travel to Rome or Munich, where another hospital had offered to treat him. An air ambulance had been ready and waiting to transport Alfie to Italy if the transfer was approved. Pope Francis had offered prayers for Alfie and his family several times, including at a general audience and in several Twitter posts. “Moved by the prayers and immense solidarity shown little Alfie Evans, I renew my appeal that the suffering of his parents may be heard and that their desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted,” he said on Twitter Monday. [...]

Analysis: Pope’s personal theologian expected to lead major Argentine archdiocese

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:54:00 -0600

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 25, 2018 / 11:54 am (CNA).- The Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina announced this week that Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez, Pope Francis’ personal theologian and ghostwriter, will be replaced at the helm of the university by Miguel Ángel Schiavone, a long-serving lay professor at the university. The April 23 statement announcing his replacement said that the Fernandez will “collaborate with the new rector as an adviser, in waiting for his next pastoral destination.” Officials from the pontifical university (UCA), speaking on background, told CNA that Fernandez has long hoped to leave the university and become the head of an Argentinean archdiocese, while remaining a close advisor to Pope Francis. The same sources told CNA that Fernandez would like to be named Archbishop of La Plata, considered to be the second most important archdiocese in Argentina, after Buenos Aires. Archbishop Héctor Aguer, the current Archbishop of La Plata, will turn 75 in May 2019. 75 is the age at which diocesan bishops are required to submit letters of resignation to the Pope. Archbishop Fernandez is a controversial figure in the Church in Argentina, because of some of the publications of his past, and because of his open claim that he can interpret Pope Francis at almost every turn.   In fact, in 2014 he published the book “Il Progetto di Francesco, Dove vuole portare la Chiesa” (“Francis' Project: Where does he want to lead the Church") with Italian journalist Paolo Rodari, and he regularly appears in the Argentine press as to interpret the gestures or words of the Pope. Fernandez was born in 1952 in the small rural town of Alcira, in the Province of Córdoba. He was ordained a priest in August 1986 in Río Cuarto, a mostly rural diocese. In 1988 he obtained a degree in theology with a biblical specialization at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and then obtained a doctorate in theology at the UCA in 1990. With the recommendation of then-Archbishop Bergoglio, he moved in the early 90’s to Buenos Aires, where he was appointed a consultor to several commissions within the Argentinean bishops’ conference and the Latin American Bishops Council (CELAM). According to a source close to the Argentine bishops’ conference, Fernandez showed a great capacity for writing, and especially for incorporating into the drafts of official documents positions that seemed completely opposed, thus appeasing bishops of various ideological positions. This ability is reportedly what convinced Cardinal Bergoglio to bring Fernandez as an expert to the V General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, held in 2007 at the Brazilian Marian shrine of Aparecida. It is said that Cardinal Bergoglio, head of the drafting committee of the General Conference, relied heavily on Fernandez’ ability to synthesize a diverse set of viewpoints in his writing. Aparecida, many sources have claimed, solidified the relationship between the future Pope and the theologian. On December 15, 2009, Cardinal Bergoglio appointed Fernandez as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. However, much to the frustration of Cardinal Bergoglio, Fernandez was not able to take the oath of office until May 20, 2011, after he had answered objections to his appointment raised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which assessed concerns about the orthodoxy of certain elements of his scholarship. An avid writer, by the time Fernandez was chosen by Cardinal Bergoglio to head the UCA, he had written more than 100 articles and books, many of them combining biblical passages with “self-help&rdqu[...]

Council of Cardinals prep new constitution for Roman Curia

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 08:17:00 -0600


Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 08:17 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis and his Council of Cardinals met this week to continue their discussion of curial reform and to work on the draft of a new apostolic constitution outlining the structure and duties of the Roman Curia.

There is no predicted release date for the apostolic constitution, but the drafting and editing “will take some time,” according to an April 25 Vatican communique. When finished, it will be presented to Pope Francis for further consultation and final approval.

The major part of this week’s meetings, which took place April 23-25 at the Vatican, were dedicated to re-reading the current draft of the constitution, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in a briefing April 25.

The Council of Cardinals – who advise the pope on matters of Church governance and reform – also discussed how the Roman Curia can be at the service to the Holy Father and the particular Churches; the pastoral character of curial activity; and the institution and operation of the third section of the Secretary of State, which was established in November to oversee the Holy See’s diplomatic corps.

They also conversed on the announcement of the Gospel and the missionary spirit as a perspective that characterizes the activity of the whole Curia.

During the meetings, the pope and cardinals received an update on the progress of the reform of the Vatican communications system by Msgr. Lucio Ruiz, secretary and acting prefect of the Secretariat for Communications.

Notably, there was no update on the state of the Vatican’s financial reforms, a typical topic of the council’s reunions.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), gave a report on the work of the commission on behalf of children and vulnerable adults, including an explanation of what took place during the PCPM’s recent plenary meeting in Rome.

O’Malley also welcomed a group from the United Kingdom, called the “Survivor Advisory Panel,” and reiterated the PCPM’s commitment to begin their work with first listening to victims of sexual abuse and their experiences.

All members of the council were present throughout the week except for Cardinal George Pell, prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, who has been in Australia since last summer facing charges of historical sex abuse. Cardinal Reinhard Marx was absent Monday.

As usual, Pope Francis was present for all sessions apart from Wednesday morning, when he holds the weekly general audience.

Established by Pope Francis shortly after his pontificate began in 2013, the Council of Cardinals – also known as the “C9” – serves as an advisory body on Church governance and reform, with special emphasis on the reform of Pastor bonus, the apostolic constitution which governs the Roman Curia.

The council’s next round of meetings will take place June 11-13.


Pope Francis will visit Bari to host ecumenical day of prayer for peace

Wed, 25 Apr 2018 07:36:00 -0600

Vatican City, Apr 25, 2018 / 07:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will travel to the Italian town of Bari July 7 for an ecumenical gathering with the heads of other Christian churches to pray for peace in the Middle East. According to the April 25 Vatican communique announcing the visit, the event will primarily be “a day of prayer and reflection on the dramatic situation of the Middle East which afflicts so many brothers and sisters in the faith.” The pope has invited faithful to prepare for the event with prayer and will invite heads of the Christian churches and communities in the region, which is home to several different Catholic and Orthodox rites. Located in Italy's southern Puglia region, Bari is home to the relics of St. Nicholas. Widely known by his more commercialized title of “Santa Claus,” St. Nicholas is one of the most important saints in the Russian Orthodox Church. Pope Francis lent relics of the saint, which consisted of several bone fragments, to Russia last summer in a bid to build further bridges with the Russian Orthodox Church. The relics were sent from Bari to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow from May 22-July 12, 2017, marking the first time in 930 years that a part of St. Nicholas' body left Bari for veneration abroad. While in Russia, the relics were venerated by more than two million Orthodox faithful, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Francis sent the relics after Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill made a specific request during the historic meeting with Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba in February 2016. Since the Bari encounter in July is designed to be an ecumenical gathering, it is likely that Patriarch Kirill will attend alongside other leaders. It is also likely that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will also attend, given how frequently he and Francis meet. St. Nicholas was one of the most venerated saints in Christianity even before his relics were taken from Myra, Turkey, by 62 sailors from Bari in 1087. At the time, the sailors made an expedition to Myra to save St. Nicholas’ relics from Muslims who had conquered the city where the saint had lived and served as a bishop in the fourth century. At the same time that the pope lent the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia, he also lent the relics of St. Philip to Patriarch Bartholomew in Turkey. St. Philip's relics arrived in the Turkish city of Izmir, also known as Smyrna in ancient Greek, May 8, 2017, where they remained for the summer. During his life, St. Philip evangelized the area and was also martyred there. His relics had been secured in Rome’s Santi Apostoli Church since the sixth century; however, in 2016, they were taken out and underwent an examination. They were then exposed for public veneration. The common veneration of saints and relics is one area where ecumenism is practiced today. Pope Francis himself has often spoken of prayer as a way to build bridges and bring members of different rites and confessions together. [...]