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Vatican abuse prevention event 'extremely important' for Church

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 02:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday a Vatican event on the prevention of child abuse narrowed in on the importance of education in schools and parishes in the safeguarding of children – not only for teachers, but for parents and children – and on the Church's role.

Led by Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, he told CNA at the March 23 event that Catholic schools are, of course, a very important part of the Church’s and Commission's ministry.

There are “60 million children in our care in Catholic schools and so this kind of a conference is extremely important for the ministry of the Church,” O'Malley said. “And we were very gratified that so many cardinals made time to be a part of this.”

The seminar was attended by five different cardinals in addition to O'Malley, including Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, head of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life; Cardinal George Pell, Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, were also in attendance.

Additionally, every Vatican department was represented in some way.

Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, who heads the Center for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and is also a member of the commission, told CNA that it was a “very successful event, in drawing many high ranking members of the Curia, including a number of cardinals…all the dicasteries represented.”

“This is taking shape and the formation that we have offered to dicasteries has also been very fruitful.”

Sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) and the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection, the day-long educational seminar focused on what the local church and institutions are doing to combat abuse of minors specifically in schools and the home.  

It included a presentation by Kathleen McCormack, Chair of the PCPM Working Group on Education of Families and Communities, and presentations by representatives from the South American countries of Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, as well as Australia and Italy.

One participant, Fr. Luigi Gritti, a graduate of a CCP course on child abuse, told CNA that it was important that South America was a focus of the seminar, since the Western world is usually the focus when discussing this issue.

“It tells you that the problem is present and acknowledged by the people, but also that something is being done to address the problem. So I think it's a good development,” he said.

The presentations on South America all highlighted the importance of including children: speaking with and listening to them, teaching them about what is safe and appropriate behavior from adults, as well as becoming familiar with the visual and verbal signs that could indicate the occurrence of abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual.

The presenters for each country explained the unique cultural challenges they face in preventing abuse and in handling allegations, as well as what policies are currently in place.

In the presentation on Australia, Francis Sullivan, CEO of Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said that in the end, the question of why the sex abuse crisis happened in our Church comes down to cultural problems and to corruption.

Australia’s sexual abuse crisis has been one of the most shocking and widely known in the Church. Feb. 6, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its final three-week review of how the Catholic Church in Australia has responded to sex abuse allegations.

Referencing a quote from Pope Francis where he said that we don’t only need to reform the Church, but also the heart, he said that “child sexual abuse has broken the heart of the Church.”

“We have never fully appreciated that the decisions that our leaders made in order to facilitate and cover up (abuse), actually broke the heart of what it means to be Catholic, and we need to go back and fully confront that,” he said.

“Let’s not distract Church leaders from recognizing that this is a Church problem. Sure, it might happen in other institutions, sure, it happens in families. But the fact that it happened within the Catholic Church says something about the corruption within our Church… That we are not true to what we are meant to be.”

Friday the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors begins their next Plenary Assembly, and one of the central topics will be how to ensure that survivors and victims are always the first priority, O’Malley said in his introductory remarks.

“The assembly begins tomorrow and of course that is one of the things we'll be talking about,” he told CNA. A meeting of survivors is planned for June that the commission will also be involved in, he said.

Regarding the participation of survivors, Fr. Zollner told CNA that “we need to be informed by survivors and victims, we need to listen to them, and we need to take into account what has been and is their experience.”

Other topics at the Plenary Assembly will include how the commission will continue after the mandate concludes at the end of the calendar year, he said, and “we will see what are the structural steps, or the development, we will need so that our journey continues,” he said.

Pope approves second miracle for Blessed Francisco, Jacinta Marto

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis approved the second and final miracle needed to canonize Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the shepherd children who witnessed the Fatima Marian apparitions.

The Pope approved the miracle in a March 23 audience with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, during which he advanced six other causes, approving one other miracle, two causes for martyrdom and three of heroic virtue.

In addition, the Pope also approved a positive vote from members of the canonization causes for six martyrs who are already Blessed, but do not yet have a second miracle attributed to them.

However, the most significant of the causes approved is that of Francisco and Jacinta Marto. With the approval of the second miracle, the two may now be canonized Saints. It is likely Pope Francis will preside over their canonization himself while in Fatima May 12-13 for the centenary of the apparitions.

Francisco, 11, and Jacinta, 10, were the youngest non-martyrs to be beatified in the history of the Church.

The brother and sister, who tended to their families’ sheep with their cousin Lucia Santo in the fields of Fatima, Portugal, witnessed the apparitions of Mary, now commonly known as Our Lady of Fatima.

During the first apparition, which took place May 13, 1917, Our Lady asked the three children to say the Rosary and to make sacrifices, offering them for the conversion of sinners. The children did, praying often, giving their lunch to beggars and going without food themselves. They offered up their daily crosses and even refrained from drinking water on hot days.

In October 1918, Francisco and Jacinta became seriously ill with the Spanish flu. Our Lady appeared to them and said she would to take them to heaven soon.

Bed-ridden, Francisco requested his first Communion. The following day, Francisco died, April 14, 1919. Jacinta suffered a long illness as well. She was eventually transferred to a Lisbon hospital and operated for an abscess in her chest, but her health did not improve. She died Feb. 20, 1920.

Pope John Paul II beatified Francisco and Jacinta May 13, 2000, on the 83rd anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, teaching us that even young children can become saints.

In addition to Francisco and Jacinta, the Pope also approved a miracle for Bl. Angelo da Acri, a Capuchin priest who died in October 1739, allowing for his canonization.

Causes for martyrdom approved by the Pope – meaning they can be beatified – include Fr. Giuseppe Maria Fernández Sánchez and his 32 companions, who were priests and coadjutor brothers of Congregation of the Mission, as well as six laypersons from the Association of the Miraculous Medal of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who were killed in hatred of the faith in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War.

Another martyrdom cause approved by the Pope was that of Servant of God Regina Maria Vattalil, a Poor Clare nun killed in hatred of the faith in 1995.

The martyrs who were already Blessed but may now be canonized based on the Congregation’s vote are: Andrea de Soveral and Ambrogio Francesco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Matteo Moreira, layman, killed in hatred of the Faith in Brazil in 1645, and Cristoforo, Antonio and Giovanni, teenagers, killed in hatred of the Faith in Mexico in 1529.

He also declared the heroic virtue of the following people: Daniele da Samarate, a Capuchin priest; Macrina Raparelli, founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Basiliane Daughters of St. Macrina; and Daniela Zanetta, a laywoman.

Pope Francis prays for victims of deadly London attack

Vatican City, Mar 23, 2017 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After four people died in an apparent terrorist attack in London yesterday, Pope Francis has voiced his sorrow and solidarity for the victims and their families, entrusting them and the nation to God’s mercy.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy,” a March 23 letter signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin read.

The Pope commended the souls of those who died “to the loving mercy of Almighty God,” and prayed for “divine strength and peace upon their grieving families,” while assuring of his prayer for the entire nation.

Francis’ letter comes the day after a deadly March 22 attack on London’s Parliament took the lives of four people.

During the attack, a car apparently plowed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into the fence surrounding the Parliament building. The assailant then attempted to enter the Parliament building with a knife, stabbing one police officer before being shot by other officers on the grounds.

According to the Guardian, four people were killed, including the police officer who was stabbed and one man believed to be the assailant. About 20 others were reported injured, some severely.

Nearby government buildings were placed on lockdown while authorities worked to ensure the safety of the area. Scotland Yard said the attack is being treated “as a terrorist incident until we know otherwise.”

The incident marks the first mass-casualty terrorist attack in Britain since the 2005 bomb attack on London that claimed the lives of 52 people when four bombers blew themselves up in the city’s public transportation system.

March 22 also marks the one-year anniversary of the Brussels airport bombings that left more than 30 dead and 300 injured. Those bombings were declared the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium's history.

The use of a vehicle as a weapon yesterday’s London attack is reminiscent of the methods used last year by terrorists in Nice and Berlin.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, issued a March 23 statement to the priests and parishes of his diocese saying yesterday’s attacks “have shocked us all.”

“The kind of violence we have seen all too often in other places has again brought horror and killing to this city,” he said, and urged pastors to lead their people in prayer, particularly for the victims and their families.

He offered special prayers for victim Aysha Frade, who was killed by the car on Westminster Bridge and whose two young children attend the diocese’s St. Mary of the Angels Primary School.

He also offered special prayers for Frade’s husband and a group of French students who were injured in the attack, as well as police officer Keith Palmer, the officer who died, and his family.

“Let our voice be one of prayer, of compassionate solidarity and of calm,” the cardinal said.

“All who believe in God, Creator and Father of every person, will echo this voice, for faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a strength and a foundation on which we depend.”

Pope Francis to meet EU leaders in Vatican

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis is set to receive 27 European Union heads of State and government at a private audience in the Vatican’s Sala Regia on Friday evening.

The encounter takes place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome.

Leaders will be joined at the audience by representatives of EU institutions.

These include Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission.

Pope Francis will address the group after speeches made by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Antonio Tajani.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope recognizes Fatima children miracle ahead of May visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children - Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs.

The Pope will visit Fatima in Portugal on 12-13 May. Click here to see the schedule of his visit.

During an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the following decrees:

- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Angelo da Acri (né Luca Antonio Falcone), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 19 October 1669 and died 30 October 1739);

- the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francisco Marto, born on 11 June 1908 and died on 4 April 1919, and Blessed Jacinta Marto, born 11 March 1910 and died 20 February 1920, children of Fátima;

- the martyrdom of Servants of God José Fernández Sánchez and 32 companions, priests and coadjutor brothers of the Congregation of the Mission, alongside six laypeople of the Association of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war;

- the martyrdom of Servant of God Regina Mariam Vattalil (née Rani Maria), professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, killed in hatred of the faith on 25 February 1995;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniele da Samarate (né Felice Rossini), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 15 June 1876 and died 19 May 1924;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Macrina Raparelli (né Elena), founder of the Congregation of the Basilian Sisters, daughters of Saint Macrina, born 2 April 1893 and died 26 February 1970;

- the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniela Zanetta, layperson, born 15 December 1962 and died 14 April 1986.

The Holy Father also approved the favourable votes of the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops, member of the Congregation, regarding the canonization of the following Blesseds:

- André de Soveral, and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Mateus Moreira, layperson, alongside 27 companions, martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on 16 July 1645 and 3 October 1645;

- Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, adolescent martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: We are "Catholic Atheists" if we have hardened hearts

(Vatican Radio) Listen to the Word of God to avoid the risk of a hardened heart. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. The Pope pointed out that when we turn away from God and are deaf to His Word, we become unfaithful or even “Catholic atheists.”

Pope Francis drew inspiration from the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah to meditate on the importance of listening to the Word of God. “When we do not stop to listen to the voice of the Lord we end up moving away, we turn away from Him, we turn our backs. And if we do not listen to the voice of the Lord, we listen to other voices.”

The Holy Father suggested that if we do not listen to God’s voice, then in the end we listen to the voices of idols. He noted bitterly that eventually, “we become deaf: deaf to the Word of God.”

“And all of us, if we stop a little today and look at our hearts, we will see how many times – how many times! – we close our ears and how many times we have become deaf. And when a people, a community, but we can also say a Christian community, a parish, a diocese, when they close their ears and become deaf to the Word of the Lord, they search for other voices, other lords, and it ends with idols, the idols of the world, the worldliness that society offers. That community distances itself from the living God.”

If the heart hardens, we become “Catholic pagans”, even “Catholic atheists.” As we move away from the Lord, the Pope added, our hearts harden. When someone “does not listen, the heart becomes harder, more closed in on itself, hard and unable to receive anything; not only is it closed: there is a hardness of heart.” That person lives “in that world, that atmosphere that doesn’t do him good. He moves further away from God every day.”

“And these two things – not listening to the Word of God and a hardened heart, closed in on itself – cause infidelity. You lose your sense of fidelity. The Lord says in the First Reading: ‘faithfulness is gone’, and we become unfaithful Catholics, Catholic pagans or, uglier still, Catholic atheists, because we have no reference to the love of the living God. To not listen and to turn our backs – that makes our hearts harden – takes us on the road to infidelity.

The Pope then asked, “This infidelity, how does it end?” He answered by referring to the Gospel passage from St Luke, in which Jesus is accused of healing people through the power of Beelzebul. “It ends in confusion; you do not know where God is or where He is not, you confuse God with the devil.”

His Holiness said we should ask ourselves whether we really listen to the Word of God or whether we harden our hearts. “This is blasphemy. Blasphemy is the final word on this path that begins with not listening, with the hardening of the heart.” This failure to listen and this hardening of the heart “leads to confusion, making you forget fidelity and, ultimately, blaspheming.”

To those who forget the wonder of the first meeting with Jesus, he said: “Each of us can ask ourselves today: ‘Have I stopped listening to the Word of God, taking the Bible in my hands and talking only to myself? Has my heart been hardened? Am I far from the Lord? Have I lost my fidelity to the Lord and do I live with the idols that offer me worldliness every day? Have I lost the joy of the wonder of my first meeting with Jesus?’. Today is a day to listen. ‘O that today you would listen to His voice! Harden not your hearts!’’. We ask for this grace: the grace to listen so that our hearts will not be hardened.”
 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis receives President of Cameroon

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, in a private audience at the Vatican on Thursday.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were "cordial".

"During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Cameroon were evoked, as was the important contribution the Church offers to the development of the country, especially in the fields of education and healthcare. Taking into consideration the peaceful co-existence and mutual respect between the various religious groups, attention was focused on the importance of promoting national cohesion, enhancing the richness of the various historic and cultural traditions of the country, with respect for human and minority rights."

The Pope and the president also exchanged "views on some themes of international interest, with particular reference to the current challenges affecting the region".

President Biya subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: telegram of condolence for London attack

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the terror attack at the House of Parliament in London on Wednesday, in which an attacker killed four people before armed police shot him dead.

Addressed to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the telegram conveys the Holy Father's promises of prayers and spiritual closeness to the grieving families, as well as his spiritual solidarity with the whole people.

Below, please find the full text of the Telegram, in English

******************************************

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.  Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State

(from Vatican Radio)

USCCB President’s Statement on the Passing of Cardinal Keeler

 WASHINGTON—Cardinal William H. Keeler, retired archbishop of Baltimore and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) from 1992-1995, was a "servant of priestly virtue and gentlemanly manner," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of USCCB. He was greatly known for his work as a faith leader in ecumenism and interreligious affairs.

Cardinal Keeler, who retired in 2007, died March 23 at St. Martin's Home for the Aged in Baltimore. He was 86.

Cardinal DiNardo's statement follows:

This morning, the Lord called home His Eminence William Cardinal Keeler, a servant of priestly virtue and gentlemanly manner.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops remembers his generosity of spirit in service to his brothers and the people of God, especially the Cardinal's time as president from 1992 to 1995. We offer prayers of gratitude for Cardinal Keeler's return to the Lord he so dearly loved.

As a priest, Bishop of Harrisburg, and Archbishop of Baltimore, the Cardinal worked to bring the hope of Christ to people's lives. He also built bridges of solidarity to people of other faiths as a leader in ecumenism and interreligious affairs. Cardinal Keeler was a dear friend. The most fitting tribute we can offer is to carry forward his episcopal motto in our daily lives: "Do the work of an evangelist."

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Keywords: USCCB, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Pope Francis, Year of Mercy, Jubilee Year, mercy, apostolic letter

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Norma Montenegro Flynn
O: 202-541-3200

Watch this little girl steal Pope Francis' hat

Vatican City, Mar 22, 2017 / 10:57 am (CNA).- A cute moment was captured on camera Wednesday, as a 3-year-old girl “stole” Pope Francis’ zucchetto – or skull cap – at the papal general audience.

Little Estella lives in Georgia. She was in Rome with her godfather, Mountain Butorac. Waiting in St. Peter’s Square at the general audience, she was invited by a member of the papal security team to go greet the Pope as he came by.

Pope Francis offered the young girl a kiss on the cheek, and she reached up and grabbed his zucchetto. A moment later, she returned the hat to a laughing pontiff.

Took my Goddaughter to meet the pope. She stole his hat! pic.twitter.com/SdSorop3uN

— Mountain Butorac (@MountainButorac) March 22, 2017 Meanwhile, Butorac captured the incident on his phone camera, and posted it to Twitter, where it quickly received more than 8,000 likes.

“It’s exciting!” Butorac told BuzzFeed News. “I’m sure every godparent would love for their godchild to meet the Holy Father. Mine just did and it was not only a special holy moment, but hilarious too!”