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Pope Francis encourages Hispanic ministry in North America

Pope Francis addresses the executive committe of CELAM at the apostolic nunciature in Bogota, Sept. 7, 2017. / Alvaro de Juana/CNA.

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

In a video message on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged the Pontifical Commission for Latin America to continue its mission at the service of the Church in Latin American Church and of Hispanic ministry in the United States and Canada.

The pontifical commission is called to "a service, a diakonia, which should mainly show the affection and attention that the Pope has for the region" and explained that this consists in a "service that helps the various dicasteries to act in synergy and better understand the Latin American social and ecclesial reality,” the pope said May 26 to the plenary assembly of the dicastery.

In addition, the Pope urged the members of the pontifical commission to continue promoting “Hispanic pastoral car in the United States and Canada, in communion with the universal Church.”

“I am convinced that … the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean has made 'the path by walking,' that is, it has shown that a correct interpretation of the conciliar teachings implies relearning to walk together,” the pope affirmed.

Likewise, Pope Francis indicated that the Pontifical Commission for Latin America “is not called to be a customs office, which controls things in Latin America or the Hispanic dimension of Canada and the United States, no. Its existence as an instance of service is justified by the peculiar identity and fraternity that the nations of Latin America live.”

The Holy Father underlined the importance of ecclesial communion and stated that the synodal process is called to remember the universal call to holiness because “we are all disciples called to learn and follow the Lord. We are all co-responsible for the common good and for the holiness of the Church.”

“Synodality should lead us to live ecclesial communion more intensely, in which the diversity of charisms, vocations and ministries are harmoniously integrated animated by the same baptism, which makes us all sons in the Son. Let us beware of one-person protagonism and let us bet on sowing and encouraging processes that allow the people of God, who walk in history, to participate more and better in the common responsibility that we all have to be the Church”, the pope stated.

He noted recent lay appointments to the commission, which he made “to help us all to generate new dynamics and uninstall us a little bit of some of our clerical uses and customs, both here in the Curia and in all places where there are Latin American communities.”

The pontifical commission, “through all its members, must promote true synodality as widely as possible,” he said. “Communion without synodality can easily lend itself to a certain undesirable fixity and centralism. Synodality without communion can become ecclesiastical populism.”

The Church asks Colombia, Venezuela to resume diplomatic relations to address migration

Migrant child has lunch at the Casa de Paso "Divina Providencia" in Cucuta. / David Ramos/ACI Prensa.

Lima, Peru, May 26, 2022 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

The Church has asked the governments of Colombia and Venezuela to resume their “truncated binational relations” in order to respond effectively to the challenges involved in serving migrants.

The call to restore diplomatic relations was made during a May 24 press conference in the Diocese of Cúcuta, where a meeting of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry was held with the border dioceses of Tibú, Ocaña, Cúcuta, Nueva Pamplona, Arauca, and Riohacha, as well as Jesuit Refugee Service, in order to address the situation of Venezuelan emigration.

Reading from a statement,  Father Rafael Castillo Torres, director of the National Secretariat for Social Pastoral Ministry in Colombia, said that "there have been not a few signs of concern … that challenge our humanitarian and pastoral action.”

Among these are "human trafficking, the recruitment of minors into armed gangs, the exploitation of workers, illegal economies, widespread violence, people disappearing, the absence of government institutions abandoning our borders and the ongoing presence of organized crime, capable of controling people and organizations.”

Therefore, he said, "from this city of Cúcuta, so historically united with our sister nations, we call on our governments to resume the truncated binational relations.”

The breaking of diplomatic relations goes back to when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president in January 2019 after winning a contested election in which opposition candidates were barred from running or were imprisoned. Venezuela's bishops called his new term illegitimate, and opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the country's interim president.

Since Maduro succeeded Hugo Chávez as president of Venezuela in 2013, Venezuela has been marred by violence and social upheaval. Under the socialist government, the country has seen severe shortages and hyperinflation, and millions have emigrated.

Guaidó set Feb. 23, 2019 as the date to try to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela overland from Brazil and Colombia and by sea from Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela. However, the Maduro regime forcibly blocked the aid from coming in, sparking clashes at border crossings.

The same day Maduro announced he was breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia and gave Colombian diplomatic personnel 24 hours to leave the country.

However, the Colombian Foreign Minister at the time, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, pointed out that since Colombia no longer recognized the Maduro regime and was supporting Guaidó as interim president, diplomatic relations could not be broken.

Nevertheless, in practice there have been no bilateral relations between the states since then.

Fr. Castillo said it is necessary for the two nations “to be able to rebuild their binational relations with all that that means and involves.”

“Not only because of border traffic, but because we believe that two sister nations that have grown together, that have progressed together historically, have to rebuild their relations as sister peoples. Especially in the face of this migratory challenge that we have on our border that must put the life and dignity of our migrant brothers in first place,” the priest said.

According to a World Bank article from November 2021, some 5.6 million people have left Venezuela since 2015, and of these, 1.7 million are in Colombia.

The director of the National Secretariat of Social Pastoral Ministry of Colombia expressed his desire that it be possible to “have a joint strategy of Church and nation to be able to respond to these pastoral challenges” with migrants.

"Regardless of who the Colombians elect as president," the priest said, "we believe that it’s imperative to be able to reestablish those bilateral relations because we need it.”

"It’s almost a moral imperative to do so, because our peoples are suffering and because of the need we have to rebuild these relationships with a sense of fraternity, solidarity and hope, because that is what we want as a Church.”

Texas shooting victim's husband dies of heart attack; archbishop prays for Catholic family

People arrive to drop off flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the Robb Elementary School on May 26, 2022 in Uvalde, Texas. - Grief at the massacre of 19 children at the elementary school in Texas spilled into confrontation on May 25, as angry questions mounted over gun control -- and whether this latest tragedy could have been prevented. The tight-knit Latino community of Uvalde on May 24 became the site of the worst school shooting in a decade, committed by a disturbed 18-year-old armed with a legally bought assault rifle. / Allison Dinner/AFP via Getty Images.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 15:23 pm (CNA).

The husband of one of the nearly two dozen victims of a mass shooter in Texas died Thursday, reportedly of a heart attack as he was preparing for his wife’s funeral. 

50-year-old Joe Garcia dropped off flowers at his wife’s memorial on Thursday morning, the New York Times reported. His nephew said that when he returned home, he collapsed.

Joe’s wife, 46-year-old Irma Garcia, was a 4th-grade teacher and one of the two adults killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, by an 18-year-old shooter May 24. The shooter also killed 19 children. 

Garcia reportedly died while trying to protect her students. 

Irma and Joe Garcia.
Irma and Joe Garcia.

Joe and Irma — reportedly high school sweethearts married for 24 years — leave behind four children: 23-year-old Cristian and three teenagers, Jose, Lyliana, and Alysandra.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio, who told CNA he met with Joe the day of the shooting, offered his condolences and prayers. He said a memorial Mass is set to take place at 6 p.m. CT at Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde, a four-minute drive from the elementary school. 

“We hold in prayer the three children of Irma Garcia, teacher killed in Uvalde,” García-Siller wrote

“Her husband Jose died today of a massive heart attack. Today, Mass at 6pm Sacred Heart Church, Uvalde. We pray for his soul and for their beautiful children. Pain increases so [does] love. Jose, Rest In Peace.”

John Martinez, the 21-year-old nephew of Joe and Irma Garcia, tweeted, “EXTREMELY heartbreaking and come with deep sorrow to say that my Tia Irma’s husband Joe Garcia has passed away due to grief, i truly am at a loss for words for how we are all feeling, PLEASE PRAY FOR OUR FAMILY, God have mercy on us, this isn’t easy.”

García-Siller told CNA on Wednesday that he met with the husband and the couple’s three teenaged children the day of the shooting. The family belonged to the community of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, he said.

“I was able to meet the husband of one of the teachers who was killed, and the two daughters and son,” García-Siller said of Irma Garcia’s family.  

He met with them at the SSGT Willie de Leon Civic Center, as they waited to hear what had happened to the wife and mother. 

“The husband showed a lot of strength,” he told CNA. The three teenage children, he said at the time, were devastated. 

The Uvalde shooting comes fewer than two weeks after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and another shooter killed one person and wounded five others on May 15 at a church in Laguna Woods, California.

Bishops across the country have responded with prayer and heartbrokenness as did Pope Francis. The U.S. bishops conference released a statement the day of the Uvalde shooting calling for prayer for the victims and wounded, as well as for the Uvalde community.

The incident is believed to be the worst school shooting since the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in which in the attacker killed 26.

Oklahoma City archbishop encourages 'culture of life' after governor signs abortion ban

Governor Kevin Stitt (R-OK) attends a roundtable at the White House in Washington, DC June 18, 2020. / Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead (public domain)

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 14:14 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City thanked state leaders Wednesday “for supporting pro-life measures” after the governor signed into law the strictest abortion ban in the country.

The Oklahoma law, prohibiting abortion from the moment of conception with few exceptions, comes ahead of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could leave abortion legislation solely up to the states. 

“Building a culture of life in Oklahoma that recognizes the inherent dignity of every person requires the protections afforded by pro-life legislation and a profound change of heart,” Coakley said May 25.

“I encourage Oklahomans to pray for women in crisis pregnancy situations, for their families and loved ones, for families waiting to adopt, for fathers, and for the many pregnancy resource centers serving these brave parents. Thank you to Oklahoma’s legislative leaders and to Gov. Stitt for supporting pro-life measures,” he added.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, said after signing H.B. 4327: “From the moment life begins at conception is when we have a responsibility as human beings to do everything we can to protect that baby’s life and the life of the mother. If other states want to pass different laws, that is their right, but in Oklahoma we will always stand up for life.”

The law makes exceptions for abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman as well as for cases of rape or incest reported to law enforcement. 

The legislation also specifies that an act is not defined as an abortion if it is performed with the purpose of saving the life or preserve the health of an unborn child; removing the body of a dead unborn child after miscarriage; or removing an ectopic pregnancy.

Lila Rose, the head of pro-life group Live Action, applauded Stitt for signing “one of the strongest pro-life bills in the country.”

“As of tomorrow,” she tweeted Wednesday night, “every abortion facility in the great state of Oklahoma will be shut down. Thousands of children’s lives will be saved.”

The Oklahoma legislature sent the bill to the governor’s desk following a vote that fell generally along party lines on May 19.

Like the Texas abortion law, this legislation relies on enforcement by private citizens through civil lawsuits that can be brought against anyone who provides abortion or who helps a woman obtain one. 

The law forbids civil action against a pregnant woman seeking an abortion and by anyone who impregnated a woman seeking an abortion through rape, sexual assault, incest, or any other act prohibited by state law.

It does not apply to morning-after pills or emergency contraception.

The law comes as a leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft in the abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that justices are preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973. If that happens, abortion legislation could be left up to each individual state.

In Roe v. Wade, the court ruled that states could not ban abortion before viability — the point at which a baby can survive outside the womb — which the court determined to be 24 to 28 weeks into pregnancy. Nearly 20 years later, the court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The 1992 ruling said that while states could regulate pre-viability abortions, they could not enforce an “undue burden,” defined by the court as “a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, the subject of the Dobbs case, bans abortion weeks before the point of viability and directly challenges both Roe and Casey.

San Antonio Catholic Charities accepting donations to aid those affected by Texas shooting

Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. / Archdiocese of San Antonio.

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio is offering financial, legal, and counseling services to people affected by the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The services, which became available May 25, are all being offered for free, according to the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Anyone who is in need of these services should go to or contact Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde.

The Catholic Charities donation page says that “emergency financial assistance” will be provided for “family members who need to travel to Uvalde.” The page says that “all donations will go toward supporting these services.”

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio told CNA Wednesday that Catholic Charities is also planning to use any fundraising to “provide funds for all the funerals.” 

Catholic Charities is accepting donations for its Uvalde Relief fund “to support the many families and individuals affected by this tragedy.” They are also accepting prayer intentions.

In addition, the archdiocese says that a team of priests is available to serve those in need of assistance. 

A gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, located about 90 miles west of San Antonio, on Tuesday.

In his message announcing the Catholic Charities initiative, Garcia-Siller said that “There are no words to adequately convey the deep sadness, sorrow, and overwhelming shock of the incomprehensible loss of life of 19 children and two adults.” 

“We pray that God comfort and offer compassion to the families of these little ones whose pain is unbearable. They must know that we are with them and for them,” Garcia-Siller said. “May the Lord have mercy on us all.”

Garcia-Siller told CNA that multiple victims were parishioners at Sacred Heart. He also said that many that responded to the shooting are Mass-goers.

The shooting has shaken the country and the world and many have responded with grief and sorrow, including Pope Francis, who said that his heart is “broken for the massacre at the elementary school in Texas.” He added that “I am praying for the children and the adults killed and their families.”

The tragedy comes fewer than two weeks after a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others on May 14 at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and another shooter killed one person and wounded five others on May 15 at a church in Laguna Woods, California.

The recent shootings have also reignited debates about gun control in the United States, with some U.S. bishops chiming in

Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville tweeted May 25, "Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them."

The spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Chieko Noguchi, said in a statement the day of the shooting that “There have been too many school shootings, too much killing of the innocent. Our Catholic faith calls us to pray for those who have died and to bind the wounds of others, and we join our prayers along with the community in Uvalde and Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller.”

"As we do so, each of us also needs to search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence," she said, "and implore our elected officials to help us take action."

Father Josh Johnson to lead discernment retreat: 'Representation matters'

Vatican Media

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 12:12 pm (CNA).

When Father Josh Johnson first felt called to the priesthood, there was an obstacle he had to overcome first — Johnson is Black, and he had never met a Black Catholic priest before. He says he didn't see the priesthood as realistic, because he had never seen a priest who looked like him. 

Racially diverse Catholics feel called to the priesthood or religious life, but may have rarely seen a priest or religious who is the same race as them, Johnson noted. 

"Representation really is important when it comes to promoting the consecrated life, religious life, and diocesan priesthood. Representation of charism, but also of ethnicity,” Johnson told CNA. 

Together with Sister Josephine Garret, a Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, and Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville, Johnson will soon be putting on a retreat for young Catholics featuring speakers of various races and ethnicities.  

Johnson, the vocations director for the Diocese of Baton Rouge, told CNA that he wants to expose young people to many kinds of religious life, and also to include a racially diverse set of speakers who can serve as inspiration for young Catholics of color.

"Representation of charism is important for this retreat, and representation of ethnicity is also important,” Johnson told CNA. 

“Because we want people to see the different charisms that are out there whether it's Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit, Josephite, Carmelite, diocesan, but we also want people to see black, and white, and Vietnamese, and Hispanic, so that when people come they can identify and say, ‘I can be that too.’"

The “Chosen Retreat” will take place at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, Louisiana, June 3-5. The weekend retreat is open to all 18-40-year-old men and women. Johnson said if this year’s retreat proves successful, he hopes to make it an annual event. 

Johnson said it was important to him in organizing the retreat that he make it a time conducive for prayer, fellowship, and study. Sister Garrett and Archbishop Fabre — who for the past several years has served a member of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference committee on cultural diversity in the Church— will be giving talks, and Johnson said the talk he will give will be very practical, discussing what the men and women interested in vocational discernment can do next. 

Johnson has been praying, fasting, and publicly advocating for an end to racism, and for racial reconciliation, for years. In ministering to the Black community, Johnson said a “ministry of presence” is key; the Church should be present in predominantly Black areas, inviting young people to consider the priesthood and teaching young people how to pray, because “a lot of people aren't rooted in the interior life,” Johnson noted. 

Johnson said he began to desire the priesthood after becoming friends with priests and seeing their ministry. He fell in love with the priests’ role of bringing Christ's Eucharistic presence into the world, and the opportunity that the priesthood brings to "accompany people on their walk to eternity."

"There's nothing better than knowing we can be used by our Lord to be a bridge for people to be with the Trinity for all eternity. Nothing compares," he commented.

Proposed Michigan abortion amendment has major problems, pro-life coalition says

Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan. (Official portrait) / null

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 11:00 am (CNA).

Advocates of legal abortion in Michigan have proposed a constitutional amendment that pro-life critics say is so poorly written it would do more than just remove legal protections for unborn children. 

It would affect almost everything related to pregnancy, threatening parental consent requirements for minors, bans on taxpayer funded abortions, and the state ban on human cloning.

“This is an historic occasion for the pro-life community and indeed all people in Michigan to oppose such an extreme amendment to the state constitution,” Paul A. Long, president and CEO of the Michigan Catholic Conference, said May 24. “We are eager to engage with all people of goodwill to clarify how dangerous this proposal is for unborn children, vulnerable women and families.”

The Catholic conference announced May 24 it has joined the pro-life coalition Citizens to Support MI Women and Children to oppose a far-reaching pro-abortion rights addition to the Michigan constitution known as the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment.

“Our unified and committed campaign is eager to promote the value of life and well-being of pregnant women as the abortion industry has set its sights on Michigan,” Long said. “The organizations pushing this constitutional amendment are actively seeking to overturn every common-sense statutory safeguard that regulates abortion.”

Backers of the Reproductive Freedom for All amendment must collect 425,059 valid signatures of Michigan registered voters by July 1. Their coalition is backed by the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, the ACLU of Michigan and Michigan Voices. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel are among the elected officials backing the proposal.

“The Reproductive Freedom for All constitutional amendment is not about protecting existing rights, but smuggling a radical proposal into the constitution that would repeal or drastically alter dozens of state laws,” Citizens to Support MI Women and Children said on its website. “The amendment would fundamentally change the relationships between parents and children, as well as women and their doctors.”

“This poorly-worded amendment would repeal dozens of state laws, including our state’s ban on tax-funded abortions, the partial-birth abortion ban, and fundamentally alter the parent-child relationship by preventing parents from having input on their children’s health,” the group continued.

The proposed amendment’s 92-word summary says it would “establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make and carry out all decisions about pregnancy, such as prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, contraception, sterilization, abortion, miscarriage management, and infertility.”

It would allow a ban on abortion after “fetal viability” except “to protect a patient’s life or physical or mental health.” It would “forbid state discrimination in enforcement of this right.” It would bar prosecution of individuals who seek to exercise a reproductive freedom right or who help a pregnant individual to do so. It would “invalidate all state laws that conflict with this amendment.”

Citizens to Support MI Women and Children said the details of the amendment deserve scrutiny.

“To quickly summarize, this proposed amendment is written so broadly and so poorly worded that it would harm every state law on abortion and everything else related to pregnancy,” the coalition said in its Feb. 3 analysis. “The only limit is consent, which is not limited to adults by the amendment.”

If the proposal becomes law, it would affect parental consent for children’s medical consent involving sex or pregnancy, including sterilizations. It could disallow any parental consent for children seeking abortions, and bar investigations of anyone who assists with an abortion, even if, for example, the accused person is a school counselor who takes a 13-year-old to get an abortion without parental knowledge.

The fact that the amendment does not define the age of an individual means its provisions “could apply to children as well as adults,” Citizens to Support MI Women and Children said. “If someone convinces a child to be sterilized, the parents have no say,” said the group.

The amendment could affect informed consent for women seeking abortion, and screening for cases where women are being coerced into abortion, as currently required by state law. It could affect requirements that only doctors perform abortions, and it could mean health insurance coverage must automatically cover elective abortions.

According to the group’s analysis, the “mental health” exception for late-term abortion bans would allow late-term abortion for any reason. As written, the amendment would allow any attending health care professional, not only medical doctors, to decide whether an abortion is medically indicated to protect a pregnant mother’s life or physical or mental health.

The amendment’s language protecting autonomy could strike down bans on human cloning, the pro-life coalition said, “since cloning oneself is an autonomous pregnancy decision.” Similarly, the buying and selling of babies through commercial surrogacy could be legalized, and the proposed amendment could make it impossible to impose health or safety regulations on the fertility industry.

As of May 4, state records indicate the Reproductive Freedom for All committee has raised over $1.4 million in cash and $500,000 in in-kind contributions. As of April, the pro-life committee had received only $103,000 in contributions.

The effort to gather signatures for the pro-abortion rights amendment has run into obstacles: Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers in early February rejected the coalition’s petition form for failing to meet state requirements, and again rejected the petition form in March, delaying the ability to collect valid signatures from supporters.

Michigan’s existing abortion law, dating to 1931, criminalizes abortion as a felony, except to save the life of the mother. In a 1972 ballot measure, 60% of Michigan voters rejected a proposal to allow abortion up to 20 weeks into pregnancy. In 1997, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that there is no right to abortion in the state constitution.

The state law has not been enforced since the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade mandated that all states legalize abortion. However, abortion advocates have filed legal challenges to the law in the event that Supreme Court precedents are overturned in a decision expected in the next two months.

On May 17, Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth L. Gleichner issued a temporary injunction against enforcement of the long-standing law, contending that the right to abortion is almost certainly protected under the state’s due process provisions protecting bodily integrity.

On May 20, the Michigan Catholic Conference and Michigan Right to Life, represented by Bursch, filed a complaint asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to intervene. They asked the court to issue an order of superintending control over Gleichner and either take over the case or require the judge, who previously represented Planned Parenthood in a failed challenge to precedent upholding the state abortion law, to recuse herself.

Whitmer has filed her own lawsuit, which asks the Michigan Supreme Court “to recognize a constitutional right to an abortion under the Due Process Clause of the Michigan Constitution.”

Long, the president of the Michigan Catholic Conference, reiterated the need to defend Michigan’s laws against abortion.

“In the courtroom and at the ballot box, human life in Michigan is being threatened by the most extremist abortion advocates this state has witnessed,” he said. “Together with our coalition partners, we vow to work with diligence – guided by prayer – to uphold the sanctity of life in Michigan and to ensure every vulnerable mother has access to the support and compassion she needs to care for herself and her child.”

Cardinal O’Malley urges Italian Catholic bishops to ‘make things right’ for abuse survivors

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2022 / 10:54 am (CNA).

Cardinal Seán O’Malley urged Italian Catholic bishops on Wednesday to work for a “pastoral conversion” in their approach to survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.

The head of the Vatican’s abuse commission made the appeal in a video message played on the third day of the bishops’ plenary assembly in Rome, taking place on May 23-27.

“We have nothing to fear by telling the truth. The truth will set us free. Acknowledging people’s stories of abuse, listening to survivors, and committing to working together is not easy, but I can tell you after 40 years that it is the only way,” the archbishop of Boston said.

He went on: “Sometimes, and perhaps rightly so, it seems there are no adequate steps we can take to make things right for those who have been abused.”

“It is perhaps the most difficult part of being a pastor: knowing that our listening and our efforts at healing and justice will likely fall short of what survivors are looking for. It’s a sober reminder that ultimately only God’s grace can make whole what sin has broken.”

O’Malley’s message came as the Italian bishops discussed whether to hold a national inquiry into abuse.

Italian associations joined together in February to coordinate a movement against abuse in the Catholic Church in Italy. The network, which calls itself #ItalyChurchToo, is pushing the bishops to carry out an independent investigation into clerical sexual abuse in Italy over the last 70 years.

The consortium sent a letter to the Italian bishops’ conference on May 23 at the start of its general assembly.

“We demand truth, justice, and prevention,” it said, calling for an investigation into abuse, the opening of Church archives, compensation for victims, and a strict application of Pope Francis’ norms on the handling of abuse cases by bishops.

In his message, Cardinal O’Malley said that “the reality is that we will be judged on our response to the abuse.”

He proposed seven areas where pastoral conversion was needed: “1. An effective pastoral care of victims; 2. Clear guidance (and vigilance) on training courses for staff in the diocese; 3. Adequate and accurate screening; 4. Removal of perpetrators of abuse; 5. Cooperation with civil authorities; 6. Careful assessment of the risks existing for priests guilty of abuse (for themselves and the community) once they have been reduced to the lay state; 7. Public verification of the protocols in place so that people know the policies are working. An audit and report on the implementation of the policies is very useful.”

“The good news,” he said, “is that where effective policies are adopted and effectively implemented, the number of cases is dramatically reduced.”

“Sexual abuse has always been wrong, for sure,” O’Malley continued. “But the response of leaders in the Church and in civil society has also been wrong. We have learned a great deal over these past 40 years. We have come to see and understand how it has ruined lives, led to substance addictions, and even the tragedy of known and hidden suicides.”

“There is a sea of suffering that we are called to face up to,” he said.

The cardinal told bishops that the “work of listening, healing, and justice is being asked of us since it belongs to the fundamental ministry of a priest and pastor: to welcome people and to be instruments of God’s grace for those who have been hurt by life, even when that hurt comes from within our own ranks.”

“One of the strongest desires of the human heart is to feel safe. Our people want to feel safe in our Church and that means they want to be strengthened in their faith by their pastors,” he said.

Cardinal Tagle: Missionary dioceses need support with abuse prevention protocols

Cardinal Tagle at the beatification of Pauline Jaricot in Lyon, France, on May 22, 2022. / In Your Name/Diocèse de Lyon Flickr photostream.

Rome Newsroom, May 26, 2022 / 09:40 am (CNA).

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle has said that the Church needs to support missionary dioceses with expertise to implement the sex abuse prevention protocols mandated by the pope.

The prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said in an interview with a French television station that his dicastery was working to “follow up” with Catholic bishops’ conferences on their abuse prevention measures.

“Maybe in established churches, it is easier for them to form the committees, the commissions, because then you have trained people,” Tagle said.

“And this is where we need to assist the young churches because some of them are just developing … They need psychologists. They need canon lawyers.”

He added: “And this is where also the universal Church would help each other. Those with expertise can help form the human resources in other parts of the world.”

Tagle said that he had seen the need to support developing dioceses without as many resources after his dicastery followed up and asked bishops’ conferences to submit what they had prepared in response to Pope Francis’ mandate to start writing protocols in line with what was required by the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi.

Last month, Pope Francis also asked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to produce an annual report on what the Catholic Church is doing around the world to prevent the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

Cardinal Tagle spoke during a 30-minute sit-down interview with the television station KTO published on YouTube on May 25.

In the interview, the cardinal also addressed the issues of poverty, the Ukraine war, and the beatification of Blessed Pauline Jaricot, which he presided over on May 22.

When the Filipino cardinal was asked about his tendency to get emotional and shed tears during his speeches, Tagle replied: “Well, I guess you know, shedding tears is part of human experience.”

“When people are in love, they shed tears. When they are happy, they shed tears. When they suffer, they shed tears. So tears is one of the languages that can speak of many human situations, you know?”

The 64-year-old former Manila archbishop added: “I don’t know if I am just emotional, but I guess when I am in a situation, I allow myself to be affected … But I’m not always crying ... Sometimes I laugh too.”

St. Philip Neri’s 7 Churches Pilgrimage returns after pandemic break

Pilgrims pray in front of St. Peter's Basilica / Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Rome, Italy, May 26, 2022 / 08:37 am (CNA).

When St. Philip Neri came to Rome from Florence in 1533, he encountered a city in upheaval. The Sack of Rome six years prior had left famine and plague in its wake. The Protestant Reformation was in full swing and the Church was rife with corruption.

The young Philip, who would spend around 16 years in Rome as a layman before becoming a priest, soon dedicated himself to caring for the city’s sick and poor.

The saint, whose feast day falls on May 26, also realized that Rome’s people were suffering from a spiritual sickness and tiredness as well, and so he set out to reinvigorate Catholics with the joy of the faith through song and dance — and jokes.

A historic illustration of the seven churches. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
A historic illustration of the seven churches. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Part of St. Philip’s outreach was the revival of the Seven Churches visit. He may not be the originator of the idea of the pilgrimage to some of Rome’s most important churches, but he is credited with renewing its popularity.

After it fell out of use once again, St. Philip’s congregation of secular priests, the Oratory, revived it in the 1960s, including holding the walk one night each year, as close as possible to the way the saint would have done it.

Fr. Maurizio Botta, who led the pilgrimage, speaks at the start in front of Chiesa Nuova. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Fr. Maurizio Botta, who led the pilgrimage, speaks at the start in front of Chiesa Nuova. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

After a two-year pause, on the evening of May 13 into the morning of May 14, around 800 people walked 15 and a half miles in the footsteps of the saint and his followers.

Police officers in cruisers drove ahead of the urban pilgrimage to block traffic as a sea of Catholics from around Italy crossed busy intersections and passed Friday night diners while praying the rosary in unison and singing the Taizé chant “Laudate Dominum,” whose words say in Latin, “Praise the Lord, all people, Alleluia.”

Pilgrims, including scouts, walk through Rome's Ostiense neighborhood. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims, including scouts, walk through Rome's Ostiense neighborhood. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

The rosary was prayed four times during the pilgrimage, which took almost 10 hours to complete, including stops for a sack dinner at midnight and short lessons on the virtues led by priests of the Oratory.

Pilgrims, including scouts, walk through Rome's Ostiense neighborhood. Hannah Brockhaus
Pilgrims, including scouts, walk through Rome's Ostiense neighborhood. Hannah Brockhaus

The seven basilicas were chosen by the saint for their importance to Christianity, and the walk on May 13-14 followed the path laid out in a 16th-century document almost certainly seen and used by St. Philip — and likely even written by him.

This document, recreated and printed into a booklet for use on the annual pilgrimage today, gives St. Philip’s guidance for those making the Seven Churches visit.

Eating a sack dinner in the courtyard of a church. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Eating a sack dinner in the courtyard of a church. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

“Before setting out to make this holy Pilgrimage, each of the Brethren must lift up his mind to God, offering him the sincerity of his heart, with the purpose of desiring the sole glory of his divine Majesty in all actions, and especially in this one,” it says.

Those participating can also earn an indulgence under the usual conditions, and are asked to pray for specific intentions. These include praying for the penance of sins, the amendment of lukewarmness and negligence in the service of God, in thanksgiving for the forgiveness of sins, for the pope and the Church, for sinners still in the darkness of an evil life, for the conversion of heretics, schismatics, and infidels, and for the holy souls in purgatory.

Pilgrims stop to pray on the way to St. Peter's Basilica. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims stop to pray on the way to St. Peter's Basilica. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

The pilgrimage began at Chiesa Nuova, the church built by St. Philip for the Oratory, and proceeded to St. Peter’s Basilica, reaching the site of St. Peter’s martyrdom at sunset.

From there, the group of 800 people followed a path along the Tiber River to stop at the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island (not one of the official seven churches) on the way to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

Pilgrims walk on a path next to the Tiber River. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims walk on a path next to the Tiber River. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Each of the seven churches is associated with a moment of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion. At each stop, an Oratory priest preached on a virtue and its opposing vice, before everyone joined in a prayer for an increase in that virtue and for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The virtues and vices were abstinence against gluttony, patience against ire, chastity against lust, generosity against avarice, fervor of spirit against acedia, charity against envy, and humility against pride.

A street sign marking Seven Churches Way. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
A street sign marking Seven Churches Way. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

After the Basilica of St. Paul, the pilgrimage followed an ancient street still called Seven Churches Way to arrive at the catacombs and the Basilica of St. Sebastian, a third-century Christian martyr.

As a layman in Rome, St. Philip Neri used to visit the catacombs of St. Sebastian to pray. One night in the catacombs, about 10 years after moving to Rome, as he prayed, a mystical ball of fire entered his mouth and went down into his chest, exploding his ribs and doubling the size of his heart with love of God.

St. Philip was changed, both physically and spiritually, by this event, which he only revealed shortly before his death.

Pilgrims outside the catacombs of St. Sebastian. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims outside the catacombs of St. Sebastian. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

Pilgrims next arrived at the Domine Quo Vadis Church after a silent, moonlit walk through the ancient Appian Way Park, flanked by the silhouettes of Italian cypress trees.

The small church of medieval origin marks the spot where, according to tradition, Jesus appeared to St. Peter as he was fleeing Rome to avoid martyrdom.

Peter asked Jesus, “Domine quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”), to which Christ said, “Venio Romam iterum crucifigi,” (“I am coming to Rome to be crucified again.”) This rebuke caused Peter to turn around and face his own martyrdom.

Pilgrims walk along the ancient Aurelian Wall on their way to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims walk along the ancient Aurelian Wall on their way to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

The next official pilgrimage church was the Basilica of St. John Lateran, followed by a 10-minute walk to the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.

The Basilica of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls was the penultimate stop. The church, which has the tomb of St. Lawrence, is located next to Rome’s Verano Monumental Cemetery, and was included among the Seven Churches by St. Philip Neri, Father Botta said, as a reminder of mortality.

The final stretch of the walk passed through Rome’s main train station, Termini, where pilgrims sang the Marian antiphon “Salve Regina.”

Pilgrims walk through Termini train station singing the "Salve Regina". Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims walk through Termini train station singing the "Salve Regina". Hannah Brockhaus/CNA

The pilgrimage finished shortly before 6:00 a.m. at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the traditional end of the walk, where the “Salve Regina” hymn was sung again in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Pilgrims sing the "Salve Regina" outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
Pilgrims sing the "Salve Regina" outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
A baby and his mom enjoy a moment with a new friend at the end of the pilgrimage. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
A baby and his mom enjoy a moment with a new friend at the end of the pilgrimage. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
A statue of Mary on a column outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Hannah Brockhaus
A statue of Mary on a column outside the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Hannah Brockhaus